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New To The Korean Music Scene? Here Are 25 Songs To Get You Started!

The Korean entertainment industry is booming, and the music coming out of it each day is constantly changing the game. If you're finally ready to plunge head-first into the trending music scene, here's a list of some great songs to start with. From Korean pop, to slow ballads, to folk/acoustic, there's something in here for everyone, gathered from my own playlist of favorites. WARNING: once you start, there's no going back!

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Get ready to delve into the Korean music scene, and if you like what you’re hearing, check out the K-Pop Spotify station! Its playlists are updated daily and are a good way to learn about popular and upcoming artists. (Parental Advisory is recommended for viewers under 18 for videos marked with an asterisk*)

1. 'Gee' by Girl's Generation (2009)

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Let's start with the Queens of K-Pop! Now a group for almost 10 years, their songs are staples in the industry. You'll be hard pressed to find a karaoke bar that doesn't offer this tune.

If you love fast, solid beats that you can easily dance to, and '90s pop groups, like the Spice Girls and B*Witched, check out Girl's Generation, otherwise known as SNSD!

2. 'Blood, Sweat, and Tears' by BTS (2016)

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In the 4 years BTS has been in the public sphere, they have managed to take K-Pop to the next level, constantly releasing new songs in different styles, and wow-ing the industry with their dancing, singing, rapping, and songwriting skills. They are a 7 unit group that truly embody the merits of teamwork, and will only get bigger from here.

'Blood, Sweat, and Tears' takes a contemporary, repetitive pop beat, and makes it SO much more.

For fans of: club dance beats that blend into something much, much sexier.

3. 'TT' by Twice (2016)

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Twice is a girl group sweeping the nation right now, hitting the top of charts in multiple countries. Formed in 2015 through a reality TV show, and signed to JYP Entertainment, Twice has been coming out with hit after hit ever since.

'TT' features bubblegum pop with a twist of disco and solid, layered vocals. Their sound is original, but also stays true to the foundations of K-Pop, which is what makes Twice so loved.

4. 'Me Like Yuh' by Jay Park (2016)*

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Originally born in Washington, Jay Park has done it all. A member of a b-boy crew, CEO of his own hip-hop label (AOMG), and former member/leader of K-Pop group 2PM, his dedication to the craft is on another level.

'Me Like Yuh' gives you a little bit of everything: a slow jam that evolves into a steady, club beat. Let's be honest, how can you NOT dance to this?!

5. 'I Am You, You Are Me' by Zico (2016)

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Zico, leader of K-Pop group Block B, doubles as a solo artist and releases a wide array of tracks, from hard hitting rap to smooth ballads.

'I Am You, You Are Me' brings me back to the slow ballads of the '90s (something like the Spice Girl's 'Mama') but has its own unique twist that only Zico can successfully deliver.

6. 'Bonnie and Clyde' by Dean (2016)

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Dean is a singer and rapper who has been gaining a lot of traction in the scene as of late because of his unique offerings to the smooth Korean hip hop scene. He can also be seen collaborating with numerous artists in the industry, including Zico and rapper Heize.

'Bonnie and Clyde' is perfect for a pre-game or a night cap. It's insane how good this song is at relaxing you and pumping you up at the same time.

7. 'The 7th Sense' by NCT U (2016)

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NCT U, a subunit of NCT, came onto the scene in 2016 with two successful singles, 'The 7th Sense' and 'Without You.'

'7th Sense' uses simplistic, sexy beats and hushed vocals to create a memorable song that's become a date night hit.

8. 'Very Nice' by Seventeen (2016)

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Seventeen, who debuted in 2015, are largely known for producing their own image, sound, and even choreography. They are an incredibly talented and entertaining group to watch live.

'Very Nice' has more of a bubblegum K-Pop feel to it, although the heavy brass featured in the chorus gives it a really interesting twist with its obvious Latin influence. The sharp choreography is an added bonus that really compliments that overall feel of the song.

9. 'Just Right' by Got7 (2015)

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In the same style of 'bubblegum pop' is 'Just Right' by Got7, a group which debuted in 2014 and has seen success ever since.

If you're having a rough day, or have just woken up and want to start things off in a good mood, 'Just Right' is the perfect song to listen to. Its uplifting beat and body-positive message give you everything you need to be in the best mood possible.

If you enjoy Got7 and want to hear more, check out one of their newer singles, 'Hard Carry.'

10. 'Russian Roulette' by Red Velvet (2016)

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What better way to end the traditional pop streak than with the Queens of the Contemporary Bubblegum K-Pop scene, Red Velvet! Red Velvet rose to fame in 2015 with their single 'Ice Cream Cake' and have developed a distinct style which makes it very easy to tell them apart from the new groups springing up daily.

'Russian Roulette' is upbeat and catchy, and has an impressively stylized video to match.

11. 'Monster' by EXO (2016)

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EXO, formed by SM Entertainment in 2011, is riddled with double and triple threats. Their vocals and choreography are some of the best in the nation and have been recognized world wide as such.

'Monster' is one of the darker songs they’ve released, with a deep, memorable, and sexy melody that shows off each of the member’s talents beautifully.

If you enjoy this, check out their single 'Call Me Baby', for a lighter, but just as catchy, K-Pop tune.

12. 'Come Back Home' by 2NE1 (2014)

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Now for some girl power! Let’s celebrate the headstrong women who make a point of being comfortable in their own skin, despite what society tries to tell them.

Starting off with 2NE1, one of the most famous K-Pop groups in the nation, they swept the charts with hit after hit until their unfortunate disbandment in 2016.

‘Come Back Home’ is a slow pop ballad that carries a bit of a reggae flare, and memorable, unique vocals from each of the four women.

If you enjoy this, go check out their acoustic cover of 'Come Back Home' on YouTube, in tribute to the victims of the Sewol Ferry Disaster. They give a moving performance that's hard hitting and highly worth the watch. (https://youtu.be/dmo-_GCpoYw)

13. 'Bad Girls' by Lee Hyori (2013)

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Lee Hyori is an incredibly successful solo artist in Korea, who released her first album in 2003 and has been going strong ever since. Her distinctive vocal style is addicting, and it’s often hard to get her songs out of your head.

‘Bad Girls’ has a unique flare, staying true to a genuine pop rhythm while also giving off a hint of 50s/60s influence. It’s the perfect song to ask the Uber driver to play on your way to girl’s night!

14. 'Shake That Brass' by Amber (2015)

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The more you learn about Amber Liu, the harder it is not to love her. She serves as an amazing role model to girls around the world, and has never let gendered stereotypes define her. She’s a talented dancer and rapper, and has even been featured in quite a few Buzzfeed videos!

‘Shake That Brass’ has a great beat to it- it's a solid hip-hop song with, dare I say it… brass! If you enjoy her style, go check out her single, ‘Beautiful’, a slower ballad that shows she can do it all.

Fun fact: keep an eye out for all of the celebrity cameos in the video!

15. 'Roll Deep' by Hyuna (2015)*

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More girl power! Hyuna is an incredibly successful solo artist in the Korean hip-hop/pop genre. She began her career in the industry as a member of the girl group Wonder Girls, and subsequently went on to join 4Minute, before going solo in 2010.

‘Roll Deep’ is a hard hitting pop anthem, and the perfect song to turn on mid-party if you sense energy is low.

Fun fact: Look for Hyuna in Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ video!

16. 'Twenty-Three' by IU (2015)

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Is there anything IU can’t do?! Her acting is impeccable, and the music she releases is just as popular.

Twenty Three is a 2015 pop ballad with a disco flare that showcases her distinct style as an artist. It’s the perfect thing to listen to while getting ready in the morning, or if you need something to keep you in a good mood during that morning commute!

17. 'Boombayah' by BlackPink (2016)

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Black Pink is a new female group that was released out of YG Entertainment in 2016, around the same time as the disbandment of pioneering K-Pop group 2NE1. Relatively new, they’ve already won many awards on popular Korean music programs, proving that YG will always deliver true talent.

Boombayah has a very ‘edgy, tough-girl’ vibe, but it’s only one of their many dimensions, as proven with their latest release, ‘As If It’s Your Last.’

This is another song I DARE you not to dance to.

18. 'Reflection' by Rap Monster (2016)

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Maybe I’m biased, but I really do believe that BTS is one of the best musical groups I’ve heard, in any genre, in any country. Their release of the album ‘Wings’ in 2016 completely changed the worldwide music game.

Not only did that album feature incredibly popular singles like ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears’ and ‘21st Century Girl’, but each member has a song of their own on the album. No song is alike, and each one truly captures the individuality of the person who wrote it.

‘Reflection’ was written by Rap Monster, the leader of BTS. It’s intricate and if you have the time, I’d recommend reading the lyrics along with it. They are incredibly moving and poetic, making this song the 'most played' in my iTunes this year. It's an electronic rap ballad that is reminiscent of New Order. There's also a hint of the ocean in it (you'll see once you listen, I promise!)

Fun Fact: He has an IQ of 148, which is universally considered to be extremely high! But come on, we already knew he was a genius...

19. 'Born Hater' by Epik High (2014)

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Epik High is a group consisting of established artists Tablo, Mithra Jin, and DJ Tukutz. Each member brings his own personal musical style to the mix, and the result is consistently original music that's been popular in Korea since 2001. The group released this intense but simplistic rap anthem in 2014 and it quickly rose to the top of the charts.

Epik High have word-heavy songs with strong beats that are perfect to start off a house party. 'Born Hater' also features many famous Korean rappers, like Beenzino, Mino, B.I., and Bobby. If you’re a fan of the song, be sure to check out more of their work, like ‘Up.’

Fun Fact: Tablo, the leader of Epik High, went to Stanford!

20. 'Doom Dada' by T.O.P. (2013)

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Lead rapper in Big Bang, one of the biggest boy bands, if not the biggest boy band in Korea, TOP has a unique style of rapping. He seems to value the repetition of words and sounds, and his trademark deep voice only adds to the style.

‘Doom Dada’ is a brilliant tribute to many of the artists and thinkers who inspire him on a daily basis, the most glaring tribute being to the European art movement of Dadaism. If you consider skipping this one, think again. I can guarantee you, it's one of the most original songs you'll hear all year.

21. 'Coup D'Etat' by G-Dragon (2013)

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G-Dragon is the leader of Big Bang and a national icon in the fashion, music, and overall entertainment industry.

He is a huge trend setter with an enormous influence in many scenes, largely due in part to the fact that he isn’t afraid to think outside the box of what’s currently trending. His songs and music videos are always groundbreaking and original.

Coup D’Etat features producer/musician Diplo, and delivers a slow but powerful beat that can easily become addicting, and forces you into an almost meditative state.

22. 무제(無題) (Untitled, 2014) by G-Dragon (2017)

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G-Dragon just made waves with the release of his new EP this past June, self-titled ‘Kwon Ji Yong.’

‘Untitled’ one of the singles off the album, is a simple, moving ballad, performed with only vocals and a single piano. It’s a step outside of the usual material for G-Dragon, and fans are loving it.

I would recommend checking out the entire album- it’s a quick listen, only 18 minutes total, but well worth it.

23. 'Wi ing Wi ing' by Hyukoh (2015)

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Hyukoh, an indie band signed to YG Entertainment, is an interesting mix of folk, alternative, and indie. Every album they release differs slightly in style, but always carries the same smooth, pensive feel underneath.

Hyukoh’s sound is very unique, and I would recommend checking out more of their material if ‘Wi ing Wi ing’ is something you enjoy! 'Comes and Goes' and 'Mer' are some of my favorites by them; Hyukoh's diversity and originality in their song writing is one of the best things about the group.

24. 'Stand By Me' by SHINee (2012)

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SHINee, a K-Pop group that debuted under SM Entertainment in 2008, is a popular R&B/hip-hop group that are known for their strong vocals and harmonies.

While SHINee has much more popular singles, like 'Ring Ding Dong' and 'Lucifer', I had to include 'Stand By Me' in the lineup because it was my first K-Pop song.

It's the single that got me hooked!

25. 'Stupid Liar' by Big Bang (2011)

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The perfect bookend for a crash course in K-Pop. Big Bang, also known as the Kings of K-Pop, have been together for almost 11 years, and have never once failed to release quality music. The group, especially leader G-Dragon, are well known for having a hand in the creation of their own image and music, and love to develop their style without ever losing what makes them Big Bang.

‘Stupid Liar’ takes me back to my love for Backstreet Boys and early 90s pop. It’s one of Big Bang’s earlier releases, and truly captures K-Pop as it sounded when it finally hit the world stage.

The song has everything, and you can’t help but smile when listening to it. Have a wonderful rest of your day!

I hope you enjoyed, and discovered some new artists along the way to add to your music collection! Comment below with your first K-Pop song!

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