The 250 Greatest Idol Group Songs of All Time: #150-#126

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The 250 Greatest Idol Group Songs of All Time (2020 Edition)

Introductory post

150. SHINee – Everybody

From Everybody (2013)
SM Entertainment
Written by Jo Yoon-kyung
Composed by Thomas Troelsen, Coach & Sendo, Yoo Young-jin
Arranged by Coach & Sendo
Links: music video, audio, stage

SHINee’s work from this era – roughly 2012 to 2014 – revolved around explosive and visceral electropop: breakneck tempo, dense and metallic synths, soaring and full-throated melodies. “Everybody” was arguably the last hurrah for the style, featuring all of the above in an inviting singalong that evoked dazzling urbanity.

149. Soyeon ((G)I-dle), Miyeon ((G)I-dle), Madison Beer, and Jaira Burns as K/DA – Pop/Stars

From Pop/Stars [single] (2018)
Riot Games Korea
Written/arranged by Riot Games Music Team
Composed by Riot Games Music Team, Louis Harloe Valentine Tobin
Links: music video, audio, stage

Beyond the throbbing arrangement and addictive hook, “Pop/Stars” made people think more carefully about what K-pop had become and what it could be. It’s true that the global reach of League of Legends and this song’s own explosive reception expanded the genre’s audience directly. But even further: here was a song that wasn’t really produced in the K-pop ecosystem, yet looked and walked and sang like K-pop, following all the conventions that the genre had assimilated and some that it had invented – right down to a choreo practice video. “Pop/Stars” made a clear statement that K-pop’s strengths could be localized – not simply copied – elsewhere and find success.

148. NRG – Hit Song

From Hit Song (2003)
Music Factory
Written/composed by Chun Myung-hoon (NRG)
Arranged by Lee Hyun-woo
“Happy Song” sample by Abacap, Ottavio Bacciocchi, Ivana Spagna
Links: music video, audio, stage

After a fourth album mourning the death of Kim Hwan-sung, NRG made an uncommon transition from photogenic pretty boys to approachably comedic. That was made possible in large part due to this masterstroke from Chun Myung-hoon. “Hit Song”‘s composition was impossibly danceable, and though the rhythm and back melody were driven by the Boney M. sample, I shouldn’t understate the groovy appeal of Lee Sung-jin’s main chorus. Chun also hit it out of the park on the cheeky rap verses and hooks, arguably outshining his fellow main rapper Moon Sung-hoon.

147. Blackpink – 불장난 (Playing with Fire)

From Square Two (2016) [single]
YG Entertainment
Written by Teddy
Composed by Teddy, R.Tee
Arranged by R.Tee
Links: music video, audio, stage

Blackpink’s songs are as much spectacle as they are music: majestic scale, lavish and ostentatious production, and (intentional or not) even the scarcity of releases make each one feel like an event. “Playing with Fire” was the group’s first track to make a convincing argument in favor of that style. The massive echoes on the vocals and the squeaky synth textures created cavernous scale, which amplified the passion in the song’s simmering melody and relentless rhythm. Blackpink’s youthful but attitudinal performance fed the flames, and invited listeners into its brash and unapologetic fiesta.

146. Day6 – 아 왜 (I Wait)

From Every Day6 January [single] (2017)
JYP Entertainment
Written by Young K (Day6)
Composed by Hong Ji-sang, Collapsedone, Jae (Day6), Young K, Wonpil (Day6)
Arranged by Hong Ji-sang, Collapsedone
Links: music video, audio, stage

While facing down the same suspicious gaze that any idol band is quick to garner, Day6 achieved the rare feat of establishing itself in both the idol-pop and modern-rock spheres, and the consistently quality output of the Every Day6 project was a crucial stepping stone in that process. “I Wait” was its first and best at-bat, made effortlessly stylish by its varied pace and the members’ breathy performances. The driving refrain was deeply satisfying, the rhythm lean yet tough; it already had all the hallmarks of the Day6 style.

145. IZ*ONE – 비올레타 (Violeta)

From HEART*IZ (2019)
Off the Record Entertainment, Stone Music Entertainment
Written/composed by Choi Hyun-jun, Kim Seung-soo
Arranged by Park Seul-gi
Links: music video, audio, stage

“Violeta” inherited the opulent and spacious sound of “La Vie en Rose”, but in a charged-up form that had its choruses hitting harder, its lyrics more focused, and its tension more consistently taut than its predecessor’s. What you might call IZ*ONE’s signature sound was completed here, and the follow-ups haven’t yet surpassed it.

144. Seventeen – 아낀다 (Adore U)

From 17 Carat (2015)
Pledis Entertainment
Written by Woozi (Seventeen), Vernon (Seventeen), S.Coups (Seventeen), Bumzu
Composed/arranged by Woozi, Bumzu, Yeom Dong-geon
Links: music video, audio, stage

This school-uniform Seventeen is really jarring to look back on now, and this debut song was appropriately green too – but with plenty of the same characteristics that would define the juggernaut group for years. The audacious chorus, centered around the three chiseled syllables of “adore you”, was so irresistibly brazen as to make you laugh; the sense of escalation was absorbing; and the members were well represented in the writing, shown here through the boyish flairs in the expressions.

143. Sistar19 – Ma Boy

From Ma Boy [single] (2011)
Starship Entertainment
Composition/Writing/Arrangement: Brave Brothers
Links: music video, audio, stage

As soon as Hyolyn started spelling out “S-I-S-T-T-T-A-R” and the austere yet punchy beat dropped, it was game over: this one was going to be catchy. One pleasant piano accompaniment was more than enough to set the stage, as Hyolyn and Bora proved plenty of vocal presence and just took over the track. In that sense, “Ma Boy” was a case of brilliant moderation from Brave Brothers.

142. Wonder Girls – One Black Night

From Reboot (2015)
JYP Entertainment
Written/composed/arranged by Yeeun (Wonder Girls), Frants
Links: audio

“One Black Night” was heady and frantic, juxtaposing a descending bell synth and trance-like pulses with breathy vocal performances. Even though Reboot was supposed to be a band album of sorts, the rap played a much bigger role in this track. Yubin held her own as always, but when the sleek sequencer cut in as Hyelim joined her for the percussive “One black night, getting dark dirty naught-y” postchorus – that was the best moment of this entire fantastic album.

141. Beast – 숨 (Breath)

From Mastermind (2010)
Cube Entertainment
Written by Shinsadong Horangi, Choi Gyu-sung, Yong Junhyung (Beast), Rado
Composed by Shinsadong Horangi, Choi Gyu-sung, Rado
Links: music video, audio, stage

A K-pop song that has both an extended intro and extended outro is relatively rare, and the intro of “Breath” was particularly memorable with Yong Junhyung’s rap charging up the mood before the electric synths even began to crackle. It was essentially “Shock 2”, but I’ve come to appreciate the additional drama in this one more, from the angst-stricken verses to Yang Yoseob’s sky-high solo.

140. NCT Dream – Ridin’

From Reload (2020)
SM Entertainment
Written by Jang Jung-won (Jam Factory), Rick Bridges
Composed by Moonshine, Julien Maurice Moore, Tay Jasper, Adrian McKinnon, Darius Martin, Hautboi Rich
Arranged by Moonshine
Links: music video, audio, stage

The looping chorus was insidiously addictive, slowly but surely persuasive with its falsetto lift and jam-packed vocal rhythm. There was understated energy in the sizzling wobble bass and engine-revving synths that lived up to the theme, a pleasant tension enveloping everything from the double-timing rap to the delicate prechorus. Despite (okay, maybe because of) a lyrical direction that did the bare minimum gearing up for a metaphorical ride, eventually, inevitably, NCT Dream had us captive in the endless “ridin’ and rollin’, oh baby (reloading)”.

139. The Grace (CSJH) – 한번 더, OK? (One More Time, OK?)

From 한번 더, OK? (One More Time, OK?) (2007)
SM Entertainment
Written/composed/arranged by Kenzie
Links: music video, audio, stage

Pulled between the demands of many past concepts, from the vocal showcases of “Too Good” and “My Everything” to the sensuality of “The Club” and “Boomerang”, SM’s choice for The Grace’s first full album was a rocking dance number embedded in frantic atmosphere. (In retrospect it was more akin to BoA than any of the label’s girl groups, past or future.) The performances were the definition of charisma, and it’s more than a little bittersweet to think that this was the group’s last real Korean promotion.

138. Laboum – Hwi Hwi

From Miss This Kiss (2017)
Global H Media
Written by Kamen Rider
Composed by Kamen Rider, Andreas Öhrn, Chris Wahle
Arranged by Andreas Öhrn
Links: music video, audio, stage

It’s a shame that “Hwi Hwi” is mainly remembered today for a chart manipulation scandal, because it was genuinely a great track. The whistles and bouncy instrumental melody set up an energetic patch, and soon the song’s gorgeous chorus blossomed with verve. Yujeong and Soyeon gave powerful and infectious performances there, the sinews that reinforced the song’s cheerful veneer. Laboum has had a tough career despite good releases – I thought last year’s “Firework” was underrated even by critics – but “Hwi Hwi”, musically, was a particular moment of brilliance.

137. Vixx – 사슬 (Chained Up)

From Chained Up (2015)
Jellyfish Entertainment
Written by Misfit, Ravi (Vixx)
Composed/arranged by Albi Albertsson, Hugo Solis, Farah Achour, Carl Arvid Lehne
Links: music video, audio, stage

The culmination of the musical phase that gave Vixx its first coherent identity, “Chained Up” was just as boisterous and provocative as its predecessors. It may actually have been the catchiest of them all – the ten-note na-na-nas were devilishly addictive – and developed its surprisingly risqué theme into meaningful metaphor rather than just empty fan service. In some sense it was self-preservation, given that many of its lines probably don’t survive the censor ratings if they weren’t interpreted in the context of a beast chained up by a master. Still, that made the song an outlet of creativity that I can’t argue with.

136. Dreamcatcher – What

From Alone in the City (2018)
Happy Face Entertainment
Written by We the Best, Tasco, Kim Hee-won, Dami (Dreamcatcher)
Composed/arranged by Kim Hee-won, Tasco, We the Best
Links: music video, audio, stage

Speaking of coherent identities, Dreamcatcher’s emotionally charged metallic sound was and is among the best examples of identity-building in the genre. By the time “What” rolled around the whole apparatus – production, performance, even styling – was pretty established, and we knew what to expect. And yet, the song was still breathtaking. The swirling orchestra and driving beat gave it that cavernous atmosphere, and the melody line shined with forlorn and burning desire. Dami’s brittle delivery of the rap break pushed the whole package over the top.

135. Sharp – Sweety

From 4ever Feel So Good (2001)
World Music
Written by Baek Jong-yeol
Composed by Park Geun-tae
Arranged by Lee Seung-hee
Links: music video, audio, stage

Far removed from the group’s most experimental fare, “Sweety” was more of a Lee Ji-hye and Seo Ji-young song than a Sharp song. The happy-go-lucky mood and melody were powered by an equally bubbly arrangement, and fun touches like the key changes and summery guitars made the song memorable. The stage was a facade, we now know – Sharp was already well on its way to splitting by this point – but the song was deserving of its lofty TV achievements.

134. WJSN – 이루리 (As You Wish)

From As You Wish (2019)
Starship Entertainment
Written by KZ, B.O., Exy (WJSN)
Composed by KZ, Nthonius, B.O.
Arranged by Nthonius
Links: music video, audio, stage

WJSN had cultivated a magical fantasy brand of dance pop for years by this point, and that know-how made for a truly spellbinding experience in “As You Wish”. Where “Dreams Come True” front-loaded its impact on the introductory motif, this one opted for a more gradual approach: the track began to expand with Luda’s “Obliviate”, did two more rounds of buildup, and then finally gave us the instantly-iconic chorus. The dreamy, distant synths in the chorus were the musical equivalent of a magic carpet ride, and an intentional mispronunciation of the titular “It shall be achieved” – iruri-la, not iruri-ra – was the inspired touch that turned a sentence into an incantation.

133. GFriend – 휘리휘리 (Flower Garden)

From Time for the Moon Night (2018)
Source Music
Written/composed/arranged by Mio
Links: audio

GFriend may have switched their overall direction into something called “passionate sentimentality” with this album, but “Flower Garden” was squarely a “power innocence” holdout from their earliest days – and it would easily have been among the best even in that era. The narrative of blooming dreams was as thrilling as it was surreal, and the string and guitars and bells roiled against each other in a beautifully intense storm. The pause between Eunha’s pick-up and the rest of the chorus, a breath held in anticipation of that tempest, was a clever and welcome touch.

132. Red Velvet – Bad Boy

From The Perfect Red Velvet (2018)
SM Entertainment
Written by JQ, Moon Seoul
Composed by Yoo Young-jin, Maxx Song, Whitney Phillips, The Stereotypes
Arranged by The Stereotypes
Links: music video, audio, stage

While I think Perfect Velvet was the first truly convincing mixture of the vibrantly jazzy “Red” and the smoothly soulful “Velvet”, the repackage showed us an even more sophisticated iteration in “Bad Boy”. The ponderous beat and coy melody made for a groovy yet alluring backdrop, while Red Velvet’s performance dripped with redolent, delicious tension. And dat “Who dat who dat who dat boy” is still iconic.

131. FT Island – Pray

From I Will (2015)
FNC Entertainment
Written by Choi Jong-hoon (FT Island), Lee Hong-ki (FT Island), Lee Jae-jin (FT Island), Song Seung-hyun (FT Island)
Composed by Choi Jong-hoon
Arranged by Akkin
Links: music video, audio, stage

After breaking out of the sappy rock-ballad mold that defined their early career, FT Island dramatically expanded their scope and began to explore more serious sounds. “Pray” would have been right at home in a proper rock festival, burgeoning with volumetric distortion and dense strokes and relentless pace; Choi Jong-hoon’s songwriting talent was also on full display before his disgraceful exit, the tumultuous melody leaving multiple dimensions for Lee Hong-ki’s scorching vocals to shine.

Few idol bands, for all their talents, have been able to truly shed the dismissive attitudes from genre fans. But as FT Island took vigorous ownership of their music, “Pray” forced them to pay attention.

130. F(x) – Beautiful Stranger

From Electric Shock (2012)
SM Entertainment
Written by Misfit, Amber (F(x))
Composed by Amy Kabba, Jason Gill, Mich Hansen
Arranged by Lim Gwang-wook, Polar Monkeys
Links: audio

Electric Shock was committed to synthetic sound, so SM made the album’s only ballad electronic too. The sound was gorgeous as expected, an understated arrangement erupting and expanding out at the choruses. But lyrics are just as important to F(x) songs, and Misfit and Amber hit it out of the park with this story of learning to understand and falling in love with a sojourner. Lines like “You came riding a colorless light, in different appearance, from a different world far away” constituted a plangent, surreal fairy tale.

129. Oh My Girl – Cupid

From Oh My Girl (2015)
WM Entertainment
Written by Kim Eana
Composed by Shin Hyuk, Jordan Kyle, DK, Jarah Lafayette Gibson
Arranged by Shin Hyuk, Jordan Kyle
Links: music video, audio, stage

The heavy brass and marching snares made for an unusual and pumped-up presentation, and Kim Eana’s writing meshed perfectly with the burgeoning sound in fleshing out the love-struck narrator. Rarely does grammar play such outsize function in lyrics, but the tone of “Cupid” was practically defined by the declarative mood peppering these lines (“There you come / I collect my whole heart and fire”, and so on) and the instantly memorable past-perfect (“Cupid has shot my heart”). A debut that should have gotten much more fanfare than it did, but at least Oh My Girl is on top trajectory today.

128. April – 팅커벨 (Tinker Bell)

From Spring (2016)
DSP Media
Written/composed/arranged by E.one
Links: music video, audio, stage

The lush, verdant strings ushered in unmistakable winds of spring, while April’s vocals brought zesty energy to the elegant composition. There was nothing really special about the concept, done to death a decade before this song existed, but “Tinker Bell” was simply a triumph of good songwriting. From the palpable elation in the buildup to the not-ready-to-end-yet aftertaste in the lengthy final chorus, E.one knew the emotional notes they had to hit, and nailed it.

127. WJSN – 바램 (Where You Are)

From Neverland (2020)
Starship Entertainment
Written by Iggy, C-no, Woong Kim, Exy (WJSN)
Composed/arranged by Iggy, C-no, Woong Kim
Links: audio

Our second entry from Neverland (a strong contender for 2020’s best idol pop album so far) was a tasteful mix of operatic drama and WJSN’s trademark fantasia. The bitterly pretty melody and a snappy staccato rhythm made for an unlikely but powerful pairing, punching a sparkling trace through the layers of string. Adopting an age-old wordplay, the narrator spoke her wishes to the wind and the stars, and we heard her yearning in WJSN’s forceful performance, and again in the scattering synths.

126. 2NE1 – I Love You

From I Love You [single] (2012)
YG Entertainment
Written/arranged by Teddy
Composed by Teddy, Lydia Paek
Links: music video, audio, stage

Position-fluid 2NE1 could do things like put Dara at melodic rap and have Minzy and CL share main vocal. Genre-fluid 2NE1 could do things like leave hip-hop behind to do a groovy pop ballad that seemed to borrow equally from trot and trance. “I Love You” was a dreamy composition with its bouncy, modulated synths and an accompaniment that scattered and grew hazy; just as much fun was listening to the members who sounded as comfortable in their new digs as they did anywhere else.

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