Top K-Pop Songs of 2013 (So Far)
In 2011, Billboard established a K-Pop songs chart to document the growing influence of Korean pop music in America. Last year, Psy broke through with the inescapable hit of the year, ‘Gangnam Style.’ In 2013, the genre continues to explode worldwide with a number of emerging artists and comebacks from established hitmakers.
Our rundown of the Top K-Pop Songs of 2013 includes names that are familiar to American pop audiences, like Psy and 2NE1, plus a host of superstars within the K-Pop world, such as Sistar, T-ara N4, and 4Minute. If you haven’t been following the K-Pop scene closely, here’s your chance to get caught up.
A runner-up on the reality show 'K-Pop Star,' 16-year-old Lee Hi is the youngest performer on our list of the Top K-Pop Songs of 2013. “Run away, just run away,” Lee sings in English, warning a potential flame that she may be a rose, but her thorns will hurt him. The breezy dance-pop track from her debut album ‘First Love’ hit No. 1 in Korea and on the U.S. K-Pop chart.
With a brand new album and a Chris Brown collabo on the way, T-ara N4 are one of the hottest K-Pop girl groups around. The dance-pop track ‘Jeon Won Diary’ (‘Countryside Life’) is clearly aiming for a ‘Gangnam Style’-style breakthrough, as the song utilizes a melodic structure similar to the one heard in Psy’s hit song and adds a saxophone into the mix. The colorful music video is also directed by the guy who filmed Psy’s viral smash.
‘Break Down’ is an urgent pop hit from Super Junior M, one of the subgroups of the veteran boy band Super Junior. In recognition of Super Junior M’s status as a mixed nationality band, the group released both Chinese and Korean versions of ‘Break Down.’ The album hit No. 1 on Billboard’s World Album chart in January, which tallies total record sales around the globe.
Like a South Korean Adam Levine, Lee Seung Chul is a strong-voiced singer who works as a judge on a reality talent competition show when he’s not cranking out hits. ‘My Love,’ the title track from his latest album, is a pleasant mid-tempo pop song that shot to the top of the charts, leading him to tweet (in Korean), “Wow, No. 1 on Billboard K-pop Hot 100. What an honor! Thank you my fans!”
Repeating the success of ‘Gangnam Style’ was never going to be possible, but Psy did quite well with ‘Gentleman,’ which racked up more than 482 million YouTube views in its first three months of release thanks to its bizarre video. The track topped Billboard’s K-Pop and Dance/Electronic Songs charts and hit No. 5 on the Hot 100, even though “I’m a mother father gentleman” never did take off as the next pop music catch phrase.
On her solo debut single ‘All Right,’ Lim Kim reveals restrained, breathy vocals that bear some resemblance to indie singers Cat Power and Bat for Lashes. The gentle melody stands in contrast to the up-tempo dance style of many K-pop hits. “Rather than dress myself up, I want to deliver the message contained in the lyrics with my own natural voice,” she explained in a recent interview.
The female fivesome 4Minute scored a major hit with ‘What’s Your Name,’ a fun 2013 K-Pop song that combines dance-pop, hip-hop and electronic effects. The music video even features a nod to ‘Thriller,’ with a scene in which the girls are surrounded by zombies. The question in the song title is answered by the name of the EP it came from: ‘Name Is 4Minute,’ which dropped in April.
Throughout the No. 1 K-Pop hit ‘BAAAM,’ a female voice repeats the line, “Bad girl gone badder,” putting a spin on Rihanna’s old phrase ‘Good Girl Gone Bad.’ The track from Choiza and Gaeko of hip-hop’s Dynamic Duo features a relaxed R&B groove with the use of a Daft Punk-style vocoder and rap lyrics in Korean about being infatuated with a girl who’s a total tease.
2NE1 are doing their best to live up to their billing as one of PopCrush’s Artists to Watch in 2013. After going nearly a year without issuing any music, the will.i.am BFFs are set to release four new singles this summer, starting with ‘Falling in Love,’ a sassy track that pairs hip-hop with reggae. We love the blend of styles – it sounds like No Doubt collaborating with Nicki Minaj.
When Billboard created its K-Pop chart in 2011, Sistar claimed the first No. 1 song on the chart, and since then the girl group has remained one of the genre’s biggest acts. ‘Give it to Me,’ the title track from their latest album, boasts an English chorus and infectious pop melodies. The song’s chart success was no doubt helped by the sexy music video that recalled ‘Moulin Rouge.’ Just listen to its catchy hook to see why the song tops our list of the Top K-Pop Songs of 2013.