After the many debacles that plagued the K-Pop industry this year, with scandal after scandal, it seemed like 2014 was the worst year since 2009, and possibly even worse. With members leaving well-established groups, personal scandals, and lost lives, 2014 was not a good year. However, we must not diminish the greatness in music that artists in 2014 delivered. One of the things that made 2014 great was the fact that companies and artists experimented with their sounds and there was little sentiment of repetition among the releases. This year saw outstanding comebacks, entertaining subunits, rising underdogs, and shocking debuts. Because, even if 2014 will go down in history as K-popcalypse, there’s no denying that we also got some great releases. And after much thought, KultScene came up with our list of top 20 K-Pop songs of 2014. The picks are simply based on our personal tastes and preferences and is only intended to recognize extraordinary singles of the past year.
20. INFINITE Last Romeo
Ending out our list is INFINITE’s Last Romeo, a song that is dramatic and theatrical. Heavy percussions and repetitive vocal sounds like “nanana” and “woohoo” open the dark pop song with an 80’s style synth-rock sound. Even without seeing a performance of the song, the chorus audibly builds up to powerful moments that were made with INFINITE’s perfectly synchronized dances in mind. INFINITE’s songs are typically very strong, and the sound and style of Last Romeo shows the group’s growth as a performance group in the best way possible.
19. Taeyang Eyes, Nose, Lips
After releasing Ringa Linga, Taeyang came back to his roots as an R&B singer with Eyes, Nose, Lips. The sad ballad starts with a melancholic piano tune, quickly transitioning into Taeyang’s heartbreaking voice for the first verse. Throughout the song, he makes the listeners feel as the man of the story from the song. He lets the listeners feel the sadness and anger of the situation stated in the track. The song was so popular that it gained recognition around the world, and was followed by covers by fans, K-Pop artists like Eric Nam and even YG Entertainment released a series of covers with Akdong Musician, Tablo, and Lydia Paek. This is Taeyang’s most vulnerable song and one that will go down as one of his best songs.
18. WINNER Empty
WINNER debuted this year differently than other bands. Usually when a new boy group debuts, they do so with an upbeat song and not a ballad. But WINNER came out with the sad ballad Empty, which talks about a man who feels completely empty after breaking up with his lover. The track starts with Mino rapping very softly with a very vulnerable voice. Then Kang Seung Yoon starts singing with his raspy voice, followed by the rest of the members to the beautiful soothing chorus. Nam Tahyun’s high falsettos in the background accompanied by guitar riffs and basses add to a very spectacular song.
17. Sunny Hill Here I Am
A soft ballad that rapidly develops into a tumultuous, whirlwind of a dance song before returning to a slower pace, the quartet’s Here I Am is one of the best songs of 2014. Here I Am is a storm of emotion that builds up gradually before settling down again before swiftly picking up. Sunny Hill’s range of vocal styles come together, soothing and heartfelt one moment then raspy and strong the next to emulate the swift changes of emotion that the lyrics describe. Sunny Hill has tried out many different styles of music throughout the years, and Here I Am is the zenith of that experimentation.
16. Girl’s Day Something
Girl’s Day fully embraced the sexy concept with the flawless Something. The song is smooth, sensual, and uses traditional instruments like guitars and pianos in an interesting and effective way. Having fully embraced their style, Girl’s Day have also found their most sophisticated sound. The video, which is an homage to Park Ji Yoon’s Coming of Age Ceremony, is also a defiant statement that this is their style.
Also on KultScene: 5 Standout K-Pop Underdog Rookies Of 2014
15. Rain 30 Sexy
Rain’s 2014 comeback was highly anticipated and he did not let us down with 30 Sexy. Rain’s smooth, alluring vocals and phenomenal falsetto make 30 Sexy one of the hottest songs of 2014. Although the music is repetitive, one hardly notices it over his singing. Rain is in his 30s, he’s sexy, and this song perfectly showcases his vocal ability and musical talent. I still think he says “dirty sexy” instead of “30 sexy”, but either way the song is top notch.
14. Crucial Star Paris
In a year where trap and other EDM music styles reigned supreme in music releases, there was a more mellow yet strong undercurrent that challenged the hype. Rapper Crucial Star, void of the club sound, released Paris this fall. The track, with its calm beat, is all about the rapper’s soft vocals and verses about comparing a girl to the city of lights. Paris is a refreshing song that stands out for its simplicity and emotion rather that an over production.
13. K. Will Day 1
K. Will gave us the perfect upbeat ballad this year with Day 1. The song talks about a guy that fell in love with a girl and he’s letting her know that out of all the ugly guys, he’s the best looking one and he wants to let her know how crazy she makes him feel. The song is an honest ballad that makes the listeners relate to it. The song showcases K.Will’s beautiful voice, with those heart melting falsettos. His singing is amazing and when he hits those high notes, he makes us fall in love with this song over and over again.
12. GD X Taeyang Good Boy
Offering the antithesis to BIGBANG’s Bad Boy, lyrics and sound wise, the group’s BFF ‘88 liners teamed up this year and delivered the EDM/hip hop hybrid Good Boy. GD and Taeyang showcased the awesomeness of their friendship and teamwork by coming out with such an outstanding, shoulder swaying, twerk inciting club jam. GD’s rap paired with Taeyang’s R&B vocals and melodies deliver the perfect pop song of the year. Expect to see similar songs next year…
11. Purfles 1, 2, 3
The three Purfles girls smashed onto the scene without much warning with the excellent 1, 2, 3. This sexy, confident electro banger showcased how good a rookie group can be. The vocals and choreography are executed perfectly and the high energy catchiness makes it infinitely listenable. Watch out for these girls as they have the potential to make a storm in the K-Pop world.
10. HA:TFELT Ain’t Nobody
Wonder Girls’ Yeeun’s solo song starts off pretty slowly with some simple instrumentals and then suddenly jumps to become an intense, dubstep-infused song that’s different than anything we’ve seen from her in the past. Wild jumps between soft singing and powerful belting makes the Ain’t Nobody seem all over the place, but the song’s diverse elements come together to be an evocative song about heartbreak.
9. BTS Boy in Luv
Boy in Luv starts off with the guys’ hard hitting and masculine vocals. The rapping is on point, the singing is on point, the dancing is on point. Boy in Luv showcases what boys in high school do when they want their crush to know they like them. The music has elements of rock, hip hop, and pop, which makes for an inviting song for many listeners. The breakdown toward the end of the song displays the softer side to BTS, but only for a moment, then it’s back to the hormone raging boys.
8. Girls’ Generation Mr. Mr.
It’s easy to forget that SNSD released a song this year ever since we’ve been crying ourselves to sleep every night since Jessica left. They did however put some music out, and boy was it good. Mr. Mr. marked the final move away (despite the lyrics) from the cute girls they became famous for. Now, they’ve embodied the strong women they have perfectly grown into. Mr. Mr. is a glossy urban pop delight, and vocally, the girls are at their best ever. Hopefully SNSD can get past all the hardships and get back to making more music like this next year.
7. Beenzino How Do I Look?
This year proved that the spotlight is no longer just on K-Pop and it is not the only exciting music coming from Korea. Korean hip hop took center stage in 2014, and in the middle of it all was Beenzino and his smooth, swagtastic track How Do I Look?. In his music, and especially How Do I Look?, Beenzino does the whole Drake thing by singing and rapping on his tracks, giving us one of the coolest choruses (in English, mind you) to sing along to all year.
Also on KultScene: Why Are K-Pop Year-End Comebacks Scarce & Disappointing?
6. EXID Up & Down
EXID’s catchy jam grabs you right from the beginning of the song. LE’s rapping is, as always, on point and perfectly fits the tone and rhythm of the song. The chorus changes pace slightly, but just enough to keep you interested and wanting more. The girls of EXID show off their vocal talents with this fun and addicting song. Up & Down was a strong debut release with their new entertainment company this past summer. And even though it gained recognition months after its released, the attention was well-deserved.
5. Hi Suhyun feat. Bobby I’m Different
Following a much suspenseful series of teasers featuring two girls and a guy, YG Entertainment debuted the sub unit Hi Suhyun comprising of Akmu’s Soohyun and Lee Hi, with Bobby delivering a rap verse. I’m Different is a cute jazzy and funky song that highlights the vocalists’ powerful voices, something reminiscent of Lee Hi’s 2012 solo work but paired perfectly with Soohyun’s light harmonies. What’s more, Bobby’s quick but decisive verse added that je ne sais quoi that brings the soulful song to a full circle. The song, while atypical from YG, won the ex K Pop Stars contestants their first number one on a music show, proving K-Pop is not only about the club banging hits.
4. Kyuhyun At Gwanghwamun
When it comes to idols debuting as solo artists, Kyuhyun’s At Gwanghwamun sets a high bar. The song begins in a soft, melodious way that builds up to an impressive show of Kyuhyun’s wide range of vocals. Soft piano and strings are a mainstay of the song, but powerful beats play a role later on. Kyuhyun’s breathy, emotive singing and the heartfelt lyrics of At Gwanghwamun made the song a hit in Korea, and earned it a spot in the top five of this list.
3. f(x) Red Light
When it comes to experimentation in K-Pop, we can always count on f(x) for that, and Red Light is the perfect example. The song uses jarring music and vocal changes within a fairly standard structure to keep us on our toes and make a statement. The siren-like electro riffs that run throughout the song act like a call to end conformity in music. The verses gradually become more normal before the chorus comes crashing back in. Innovation alone is enough to warrant Red Light’s place on this list, but the incredible production and delivery from the girls guarantees it.
2. KARA Mamma Mia
After losing members and gaining a new one, KARA came back with an amazing song this year. Mamma Mia showcased the powerful vocals that we are accustomed to from the members. The song is full of techno beats and seems come out of a late ‘70s, early ‘80s disco music video. Despite KARA returning with a member line-up change, the fans seemed to love the song and happily stated that KARA was finally back after a long hiatus. As the song says, “Hit the lights, let’s go!” So grab your dancing shoes and get ready to bust out to this wonderful track by KARA.
1. Beast Good Luck
Following the success the group received with Fiction, the guys seemed to had finally found their niche and spot in K-Pop, and Good Luck is a continuation of exactly that. The song utilizes multiple instrumentals and EDM sounds to create a unique overall sound not heard in K-Pop before its release. The guys’ vocals are rippling with emotion and the hook and chorus are easy to pick up and so much fun to sing at the top of your lungs. Not to mention the choreography is pretty killer for this track. Junhyung did his bandmates and fans well when he created this gem, proving to be the crown jewel in their discography. Or at least up until now. If Good Luck and 12:30’s success is indication of anything is that veteran groups like Super Junior, BIGBANG, and TVXQ! should watch their backs because BEAST is quickly escalating to the top spot in Hallyu.
Check out KultScene‘s top 20 K-pop songs of 2014 video compilation here:
What 2014 K-Pop songs are your favorites? Share your picks in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.