15 Of The Best K-Pop Songs Of All Time

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Are you ready to embark on a journey through the captivating world of K-pop? This vibrant and infectious genre of music originated in South Korea and has mesmerized millions of fans across the globe.

With its irresistible combination of catchy rhythms, melodious tunes, and visually stunning music videos, Korean pop music is experiencing unprecedented popularity.

In this article, we’ll delve into this music genre and explore 15 of the best K-pop songs that have dominated charts. Let’s get started!

1. “Gangnam Style” By Psy

In July 2012, the release of “Gangnam Style” by Psy created a worldwide phenomenon. With its memorable beat and dance moves, the song quickly rose to the top of South Korea’s music charts.

However, it was the viral YouTube video that truly made history. The iconic horse-riding dance became a symbol of fun shared by people worldwide while raising awareness of Korean culture.

Despite attaining multiple #1 spots on Korean charts with songs such as “Bird,” “Gangnam Style” garnered unprecedented international fame due to its unique combination of satire and flashy visuals.

2. “Butter” By BTS

Released in 2021, “Butter” by the K-pop phenomenon BTS took the world by storm. The disco-pop track features lyrical nods to Michael Jackson’s iconic 1988 hit “Smooth Criminal,” showcasing BTS’s penchant for incorporating diverse musical influences.

Upon its release, “Butter” achieved remarkable success. It debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the song also broke several records, including the most streams on Spotify in a single day and the most-viewed YouTube music video in 24 hours.

“Butter” not only solidified BTS’s international popularity but also reinforced their ability to create catchy and infectious music that resonates with a global audience. The song’s upbeat nature and skillful execution contributed to its widespread acclaim, making it a standout hit in BTS’s discography.

3. “How You Like That” By BlackPink

The all-girl group BlackPink made a splash in June 2020 with the release of “How You Like That,” a record-breaking hit that captivated music fans worldwide. The song not only wowed audiences but also garnered widespread acclaim for its exceptional production and overall sound.

The song stands out for the powerful and dynamic vocals from the Blackpink members: Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa. Their voices convey a sense of confidence and attitude that resonates with listeners. The song also showcases their impressive rapping skills, adding a touch of intensity to the track.

“How You Like That” topped charts in various countries, including South Korea, Singapore, Hungary, and the US (Billboard World Digital Song Sales). It also landed eight awards, including the 2021 Golden Disc Award for Best Digital Song.

4. “I Will Go To You Like The First Snow” By Ailee

South Korea-based American singer Amy Lee—known as Ailee—released “I Will Go to You Like the First Snow” in 2017. Originally recorded for the soundtrack of the TV series Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, this song has deeply touched fans worldwide with its poignant emotions.

The lyrics express the longing and yearning of a person who is deeply in love. The title metaphorically compares the singer’s desire to reunite with their loved one to the purity and beauty of the first snowfall, symbolizing the hope and anticipation of a new beginning.

The song’s success extended beyond its initial release, as it achieved significant chart success in South Korea and became a beloved winter anthem. It has been performed in various live concerts and television shows, further solidifying its status as one of Ailee’s signature songs.

5. “Red Flavor” By Red Velvet

The Korean girl group Red Velvet has garnered a strong and dedicated fan base both in South Korea and internationally, with several releases that topped the charts. “Red Flavor” is among their best hit, debuting in 2017 as part of their first Korean special EP, The Red Summer.

With its catchy melody and irresistible chorus, “Red Flavor” received widespread acclaim, topping the Gaon chart and earning a nomination for the prestigious Song of the Year Award at MAMA 2017.

The bright melody of “Red Flavor” blends elements of pop, dance, and electronic music, and the Red Velvet members’ engaging delivery adds an extra layer of charisma to the song, further enhancing the song’s appeal.

6. “Dynamite” By BTS

One of the most sensational K-pop songs in recent years undoubtedly belongs to BTS, with their chart-topping hit “Dynamite.” This track showcases the group’s exceptional vocal abilities, impressive dance skills, and inspiring lyrics that radiate positivity.

Right from the opening notes, “Dynamite” instantly grabs the listener’s attention with its catchy rhythm and feel-good vibes. The song radiates positivity and optimism, serving as a source of encouragement and upliftment, particularly during challenging times.

It manages to effortlessly blend elements of funk, pop, and retro disco, creating a nostalgic yet refreshing sound that appeals to a wide range of listeners across different musical tastes.

“Dynamite” was a remarkable milestone for BTS. They made history as the first all-South Korean music group to have a song debut at #1 on the prestigious Billboard Hot 100 chart, setting a new benchmark for global recognition.

7. “Good Day” By IU

Since its release under the Eastworld label in 2012, “Good Day” by IU has been a K-pop sensation, leaving a mark on the industry. Produced by Lee Min Soo, the song received widespread critical acclaim for its captivating melody and commanding vocals.

The song begins with a gentle piano introduction, setting a melancholic tone that gradually transforms into an exuberant and powerful composition. It tells the story of unrequited love and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it.

IU’s heartfelt delivery adds depth and sincerity to the emotions expressed in the lyrics. Her performance garnered attention and admiration from fans and music enthusiasts alike, pushing the song to achieve remarkable success, both domestically and internationally.

In fact, the renowned Billboard magazine honored “Good Day” as the best K-pop song of the 2010s, a testament to its enduring appeal and excellence. What makes this track truly remarkable is its ability to blend traditional Korean folk music elements with modern pop beats.

8. “Bang Bang Bang” By Big Bang

Released in 2015, “Bang Bang Bang” by Big Bang quickly gained widespread attention and became a major hit within the K-pop industry. The energetic and anthemic song combines elements of electronic dance music (EDM) with hip-hop and pop.

On the charts, “Bang Bang Bang” achieved significant success both in South Korea and internationally. In their home country, the song debuted at #1 on the Gaon Digital Chart, which measures the popularity of digital downloads and streaming. Its massive success quickly made it the best-selling and most-streamed single in South Korea that year.

The song’s high-energy dance routines and flashy visuals in its music video received positive reviews, further adding to its immense popularity. “Bang Bang Bang” is a shining example of K-pop’s ability to produce entertaining and unforgettable songs that leave a lasting impression on listeners worldwide.

9. “I Am The Best” By 2NE1

Released in 2011 by 2NE1, “I Am the Best” is undoubtedly hailed as one of the greatest K-pop songs ever created. This timeless track was part of the girl group’s self-titled second EP.

The lyrics of “I Am the Best” exude empowerment and confidence, celebrating individuality and inner strength. This resonated deeply with audiences worldwide, catapulting the song to tremendous success.

It took the top spot on both South Korea’s Gaon chart and Billboard‘s World Digital Songs chart in the US. Moreover, “I Am the Best” achieved even greater prominence through its use in advertisements for notable brands like Microsoft Surface Pro tablets and Maybelline cosmetics.

10. “Welcome Back” By IKON

The song “Welcome Back” by iKON, released in November 2015, holds great significance in the K-pop scene. Serving as the title track of their debut album, it marked the beginning of iKON’s musical journey and made a lasting impact on listeners.

The song’s theme revolves around welcoming someone back after a long time. The lyrics express the emotions of the person eagerly waiting for their loved one to return and how they plan to make up for all the lost time.

Upon its release, the song achieved notable success on various music charts. It soared to the top position on the Gaon Digital Chart, solidifying iKON’s presence in their home country of South Korea.

11. “Cheer Up” By Twice

Released in 2016 by the popular South Korean girl group Twice, “Cheer Up” played a significant role in solidifying their prominence in the K-pop industry. Serving as the title track of their second EP, Page Two, the song quickly gained recognition and became a standout hit for the group.

The song builds upon the success of Twice’s previous hit, “Like Ooh Ah,” by delivering an even more attitude-filled breakdown. It seamlessly blends bold pop sounds with infectious hip-hop beats, creating an irresistible, crowd-pleasing track.

From the moment the song begins, “Cheer Up” captivates with its lively and upbeat energy. This relatability and catchy melody make the song a feel-good anthem that transcends language and cultural barriers, earning its spot at the top of the Gaon chart.

12. “Roly-Poly” By T-ara

Since 2009, the all-girl group T-ara has released songs that captivate audiences. “Roly-Poly,” from their 2011 mini album John Travolta Wannabe, is one of them.

The song’s playful beat and lyrics propelled it to fame and to the top of Billboard Korea’s K-Pop Hot 100 chart. Notably, T-ara also released “Roly-Poly” as a Japanese single, gaining equal admiration overseas.

Due to its immense success, “Roly-Poly” became a cultural phenomenon in South Korea and helped propel T-ara’s career to new heights. The song remains one of the group’s most well-known and beloved hits, often recognized as a classic in the K-pop industry.

13. “Gee” By Girls’ Generation

Another song by a Korean girl group hits this list, this time “Gee” by Girls’ Generation. It is a trailblazing hit that revolutionized the K-pop industry. The song’s 2009 release propelled it to unprecedented heights of success, both domestically and globally. 

“Gee” established new standards for future K-pop groups, particularly in choreography and fashion, becoming a benchmark that other acts aimed to follow. As a result, the song earned a lasting place as an iconic and quintessential K-pop single that remains an essential part of the genre’s history.

The song went on to win several prestigious awards, including the Digital Daesang (Grand Prize) at the 2009 Golden Disk Awards and the Song of the Year award at the 2009 Melon Music Awards.

14. “Growl” By EXO

South Korean-Chinese boy group EXO released “Growl” in 2013. Featured in the repackaged album of the group’s eponymous debut album, the track stands out for its sleek and polished production, which accentuates the group’s mature and sophisticated image.

“Growl” showcases a blend of R&B, pop, and hip-hop elements, characterized by its smooth melody and addictive rhythm. It features a groovy bassline, catchy hooks, and powerful vocals, highlighting the members’ abilities and harmonization.

Its innovative composition and arrangement quickly propelled it to the top five of various music charts in Korea. It also earned several accolades, including Song of the Year at the 2013 Melon Music Award and KBS Song Festival. 

15. “Tell Me” By Wonder Girls

We end this list with the Wonder Girls‘ “Tell Me,” an iconic K-pop track that has withstood the test of time. Released in 2007 as the lead single from their debut album, The Wonder Years, this song propelled the all-girl group to stardom. 

The song became an instant hit and solidified their place in the K-pop scene. What sets “Tell Me” apart from other tracks is not only its infectious melody but also its significant historical impact. 

This song marked a pivotal moment for K-pop girl groups as they shifted from ballads to dance-oriented tracks, influencing the genre’s evolution and paving the way for future artists. 

Even to this day, “Tell Me” remains a timeless hit that represents the vibrant and influential era of K-pop’s growth and is a must-listen for any K-pop enthusiast, old and new!

Summing Up Our List Of The Greatest K-Pop Songs

To wrap up, K-pop is a treasure trove of creativity, filled with talented artists who consistently deliver mesmerizing melodies. From the iconic “Gangnam Style” by Psy to the record-breaking “Butter” by BTS, the K-pop industry has unforgettable hits. 

Moreover, with its vibrant choreography, captivating music videos, and diverse genres, K-pop offers an immersive experience transcending language and cultural barriers.

So whether you’re a fan of the latest hits or timeless classics, K-pop has an abundance of musical delights for you to explore and enjoy! 

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.