Are you new to the world of K-pop and curious about what classic songs you should listen to? Well, you’re in luck! This list includes some of the first K-pop songs that I heard and some classic K-pop hits that every K-pop fan should know.
1. DBSK/TVXQ – “Hug” & “Mirotic”: DBSK is arguably the most iconic (and most talented) K-pop group of all time. The members are often referred to as ¨Asia’s stars¨ and the ¨Kings of K-pop¨. Billboard refers to DBSK as ¨K-pop royalty¨. They redefined and revolutionized the genre before their tragic split in 2010. DBSK now consists of the two remaining members, and the other three members formed their own group called JYJ.
2. SHINee – “Sherlock,” “Replay” & “Lucifer”: Since their debut in 2008, SHINee has steadily become one of the most popular K-pop groups in Korea and worldwide, with a dedicated and loyal fandom. SHINee cranks out hit after hit with ease. Their latest album ¨Odd¨ debuted at No. 9 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart and No. 1 on Billboard’s World Albums chart. Their latest single from the ¨Odd¨ album, ¨View¨, won nine times on Korean music shows. Their debut song ¨Replay” is one of best K-pop debut songs in my opinion.
3. Super Junior – “Mr. Simple”: Super Junior was the first K-pop mega-group with 13 members. 13 MEMBERS!
4. Hyuna – “Bubble Pop!”: Hyuna catapulted herself — and her group to some extent — to public recognition and fame with this single that was released in 2011. Since then, she has released more solo albums and albums with B2ST’s Hyunseung.
5. BIGBANG – “Lies”: BIGBANG is one of the most popular K-pop groups. They have more official fanclub members than any other group – male or female – except DBSK. They have been labeled by Korean media as the ¨Nation’s Boy Band¨. Their album ¨Alive¨ became the first Korean album to chart on Billboard 200. ¨Lies¨ is the track that made them popular with the Korean public in 2008. Since then, they have grown to become one of the most globally recognized and respected K-pop groups.
6. Kara – “Honey”: This song matches the group’s sweet image and the sweet success on the charts that they achieved when they released it. Kara’s popularity was at its peak after this song was released.
7. Girls’ Generation – “Gee” & “Oh!”: Girls Generation is most definitely the most popular female K-pop group in the world. They have more official fanclub members than any other female group and more than all but four male groups. From hostile beginnings (at the beginning of their career, this group was disliked by Korean K-pop fans), Girls’ Generation has reached global icon status.
8. 2NE1 – “I Am the Best”: This song is one of the most recognizable K-pop songs in the U.S. If an American person has heard only one K-pop song, there is a good chance that this is the song. After this song was featured in Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 commercial in August 2014, it took the number one spot on Billboard’s World Digital Songs chart.
9. EXO – “Growl”: This is the most recent song on the list, released in 2013. However, it has to be included because when it was released, it swept through Korea like no song had in a long time. Even people who weren’t fans of K-pop knew this song. This song also made EXO one of the most popular male groups in Korea and worldwide. The album that this song is on, ¨XOXO¨, broke records with its sales, records that had not been broken in over a decade in Korea. One million copies of ¨XOXO¨ were sold in seven months, making EXO the Korean artist to sell a million albums in 12 years. They broke their own record with the release of their album ¨EXODUS¨ earlier this year, selling one million albums in two months.
10. Wonder Girls – “So Hot”: ¨So Hot¨ is just one of Wonder Girls’s many 2008 hits. By the end of 2008, they had earned the equivalent of nine million USD as a group.
11. H.O.T – “Candy”: H.O.T is the original K-pop group. H.O.T. began the ¨idol group¨ trend that has lead to the K-pop industry as we know it today. ¨Candy,¨ released in 1996, was their first hit single.
12. CNBLUE – “I’m a Loner”: CNBLUE is one of two bands on the K-pop scene (the other being F.T. Island) and my personal favorite of the two. Their debut song ¨I’m a Loner,¨ in my opinion, is one of the best debut songs of any K-pop group.