This week we're traveling back half a decade to see the best K-Pop releases of 2015!
2015 was a great year for K-pop. It saw the return of the industrial kings when Bigbang flashed the market with no less than seven singles. It served as the launch pad for many of today's top acts (Twice, Seventeen, GFriend, Monsta X, Oh My Girl, DAY6, etc.) and fueled the growth and resurgence of others (BTS, Red Velvet, BTOB, GOT7). In fact, I think 2015 is the beginning of a whole new generation of K-Pop.
It was also a year without a definite musical trend. This enabled a diverse range of sounds and ideas. At the same time, many of K-Pop's modern genre touchstones (House, Tropical, EDM, Trap) really began to bloom in 2015. The year was transformative in many ways, and this list will only touch the tip of that iceberg.
Every day that week I count down ten of the best of the year until number one is announced on Friday.
** Note: This countdown is for January to December 2015 which means there may be some overlap with my old countdown from 2016 which also included the December 2015 releases.
Honorable mentions // 50-41 // 40-31 // 30-21 // 20-11
10. Sistar – Shake It
Shake It may be Sistar's last blatant summer single, but they ended the season on a bang. This exuberant pop beat is one for the ages and supports a range of chewing gum tunes that take full advantage of the girls' airy singing. This is a shot of pure serotonin.
9. AOA – heart attack
When I think of the best that a Brave Brothers production has to offer, I immediately think of Heart Attack. This is K-pop at its most crowded and never loses its driving force. It reveals hook for sharp hook, all wrapped up in a bubbly performance that oozes charisma. It just got stronger over time.
8. Lovelyz – Ah-Choo
Lovelyz have always tempered their cuter concepts with robust melodies and a killer line-up of singers. Ah-Choo strikes the right balance. It's a bubbling head rush of a track that soars gently to a knockout chorus. And although the song depends on a catchy novelty, its production and performance feel absolutely real.
7. Lovelyz – for you
"Healing" songs are pretty common in K-pop, but For You really deserves the award. It's a big musical hug, full of melodies and full of optimistic zest for action. This is the kind of sturdy, layered pop sound that I love. Just listen to the squeaky guitar that rounds off the chorus!
6. BTS – dope
It's hard to believe that dope isn't even technically a theme song. His influence is huge, both as part of BTS's career and in the K-pop industry in general. There's no escaping this hectic, tinny reef or breathless build. Dope is free running and fun, but dead serious when it comes to delivering a killer hip hop throwdown.
5. BTS – I need you
I Need U is BTS 'big breakout moment, even if the guys would move on to even more meaningful performances in the future. The sad, downbeat sound was a big change for her back then and took a while to get used to. But looking back six years later, this is as close as possible to modern K-pop standards. It's just bubbling over with emotions.
4. Seventeen – Mansae
If Adore U was an epic opening volley, Mansae proved Seventeen had dozens of tricks up his sleeve. The song gallops with an overwhelming funk energy, driven by the powerful performance of the guys. You are jumping around all over the video, and that sense of movement invades every moment of the song itself. For those who don't know, "mansae" means "hurray" in English. I can't think of a better exclamation for this track!
3. Wonder Girls – I feel you
Wonder Girls provided a convincing look back at the 80s with their reboot album and I Feel You set the tone. This retro synth pop bang is just the thing for me – stylish and shiny and full of personality. The song is so comfortable in its own skin and unfolds effortlessly over icy synth hooks and breathy choruses.
2. EXO – love me right
The immense funk backbone of Love Me Right has been a highlight of this excellent SM era from the start. The song has an addicting swing and hits with its mix of bold percussion and nimble rhythm guitar. By the time we hit that megawatt chorus, Love Me Right has truly left its mark. What a ray of energy!
1. SHINee – Reputation
With View, SHINee has ushered in a new musical trend and perfected it at the same time. The song's deep house bounce was a new twist in their style, more muted and streamlined than bombastic material like Sherlock and Dream Girl. But that serpentine rhythm and smooth, airy melody turned out to be attractive in the long term. View ruled for me the summer of 2015 – and ruled the rest of the year too! Sometimes simplicity is the most powerful tool a pop song has. View is trendy and timeless, just like SHINee itself.