K-Pop

The 23 Best K-Pop Songs of 2023: Staff Picks

Here are HallyuSG's staff picks for the best K-pop songs of the year, with solo releases and tunes from both boy bands and girl groups.

HallyuSG

| December 29, 2023
K-pop
The 23 Best K-pop Songs of 2023. Photo: Press; Illustration: HallyuSG

In the K-pop sphere this year, there was an abundance of hit tracks and impactful choreographies, with a fair share of ballads and slower tunes. In short, K-pop continues to impress while pushing boundaries with experimental music.

We’ve seen solo debuts from BTS members and girl groups like IVE and (G)I-DLE were dropping anthemic tracks talking about self-confidence. On the other side of the house, boy bands also dished out fresh concepts and choreographies that left us in awe.

Talking about dance, some tunes like Smoke (Prod. Dynamicduo, Padi) (2023) and Chili (2023) have found themselves on our playlists because of their accompanying moves which made rounds on TikTok. Read on for HallyuSG’s staff picks for the best K-pop songs of the year.

Editor’s Note: The K-pop songs listed below are numbered in no particular order of merit.


1. NewJeans, ‘OMG’

A track that certainly made us go oh my god, K-pop girl group NewJeans took the world by storm with this iconic track. What sets the quintet apart here though, is their take on a call-and-response, one that is rarely heard in recent years; especially in K-pop. Not forgetting the addictive groove reminiscent of the sound of the 90s, giving the song a laid-back vibe. – DAYNA YAM

2. Jungkook, ‘Seven’

Jungkook is one of the BTS members who worked on his solo endeavours this year, pushing out his first debut studio album, Seven (2023). In particular, Seven is a testimony to his capabilities as a solo artist outside of the septet and it shows us that the golden maknae is out of his shell. The pop number, with its catchy lyrics and melodic acoustic guitar sounds, found the perfect viral formula. – BELINDA POH

3. SEVENTEEN, ‘Super’

A song that has everyone shouting darumdarimda, this number boasts SEVENTEEN’s wild energy through its powerful choreography, reverberant beats and fierce vocal delivery. The point choreography makes reference to the Monkey King, a mythological character from the Chinese novel Journey to the West, whom the song is named after. Its eccentric concept, integrated with oriental elements, proves the boy band’s overflowing creativity. – B.P.

4. ATEEZ, ‘BOUNCY (K-HOT CHILLI PEPPERS)’

Consistently impressing with both their music and lore, ATEEZ took things up a notch with Bouncy (K-Hot Chilli Peppers) this year. It has everything perfectly in place, from concept (we’re talking the Cheongyang chilli peppers) to music. There’s a lot going on in the song — it’s a bit of a dishevelled clutter but served up flawlessly, so much so that it makes you want to go in for another listen. – AVIER TAN

5. IVE, ‘I AM’

IVE has solidified their foothold in the K-pop sphere as one of the leading fourth-generation girl groups. And it’s almost unfair to talk about K-pop this year without giving some mention to I Am. This song is definitely not the easiest to execute, with soft verses which are immediately greeted by high notes. But the girls manage to pull this anthemic tune off time and time again. – A.T.

6. (G)I-DLE, ‘Queencard’

From their sixth EP I Feel (2023), Queencard is a ball of infectious, fun and positive energy packed in a less-than-three-minute track. Its chorus is particularly addictive; despite the girls incessantly chanting the same statement over and over again.

If there’s anything (G)I-DLE stands for, they are one to champion self-confidence and one’s individuality – a message they’ve pushed through in this track successfully. – A.T.

7. RIIZE, ‘Get A Guitar’

SM Entertainment’s newest K-pop boy group RIIZE isn’t here to play. While we haven’t heard much from them in general (since they just debuted in September), the two tracks they dropped were already sufficient to affirm their status as monster rookies.

Get a Guitar, as its title suggests, contains a fair bit of groovy guitar riffs. While the track exudes some retro vibes, it is neutralised with RIIZE’s vocals that scream invigorating and youthful. – A.T.

8. V, ‘Slow Dancing’

Like bandmate Jungkook, V also dropped solo music this year. In his debut album Layover (2023), he took on a different direction from the usual BTS sounds that we’re familiar with. Relatively more laid-back and relaxed, Slow Dancing mixes in some lo-fi beats and wind instruments. If anything, it’s a sultry slow-burner you’d want to tune in to on a rainy day, with a cuppa’ coffee in hand. – A.T.

9. aespa, ‘Drama’

A track paired with captivating cinematography in the music video, aespa’s Drama proved to be an earworm. The quartet takes on a darker concept as compared to their previously released Spicy (2023), opting for electronic synths in Drama.

With an edgier sound, the use of vocal fries was apt, along with their explosive vocals. Drama is undoubtedly a splendid take on their label’s long-running dystopian futurism concept. – D.Y.

10. NCT U, ‘Baggy Jeans’

The NCT boys are definitely in the know when it comes to the latest trends as they sing about baggy jeans. They also pepper the song with a word that Gen Zs are all too familiar with – slay. Baggy Jeans opens with a cheeky whisper of “Baggy, baggy, baggy, baggy / Baggy, baggy jeans”.

Repetition is heard throughout the song, which works in its favour to make an impression, rather than put listeners off. – A.T.

11. FIFTY FIFTY, ‘Cupid’

Shooting Fifty Fifty into stardom, Cupid first rose in popularity on short-form video platforms. Yes, we’re referring to the sped-up version that was making rounds on TikTok. Its lyrics in the English version also seemed to strike a chord with listeners.

The upbeat pop tune is easy on the ears, and it’s nothing less than a mood booster and a jab of dopamine. When accompanied by their vocal harmony, we’d like to call it a recipe for success for the quartet. – D.Y.

12. LE SSERAFIM, ‘UNFORGIVEN’

The title of the track already sells itself. There is no doubt that a legendary producer like Nile Rodgers will produce nothing short of addictive. It samples Ennio Morricone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), which gives the track its retro slant. With catchy phrases and blends of Western cowboy pop, Unforgiven is an addictive hit, to say the least. – D.Y.

13. ENHYPEN, ‘Bite Me’

Bite Me starts off strong – listeners are treated to a beautiful harmony of voices as the boys sing acapella. The track is captivating in itself, with a good mix of vocals and rap that shows off the group’s all-rounded talents. The song takes on a sultry vibe that very well aligns with the boy band’s vampire concept, fitting for an album titled Dark Blood. – D.Y.

14. TXT, ‘Sugar Rush Ride’

Make no mistake, Sugar Rush Ride is an instant mood-lifter. Coupled with the members’ bright concepts and its electric guitar riffs, give it a listen and you ought to feel good. It’s not hard to recognise the track too, with its repeated whistles that add a good deal of vibrancy and colour to the song.

No doubt, Sugar Rush Ride might just be one of TXT’s most iconic songs, with it bagging awards even on the international stage. – D.Y.

15. Stray Kids, ‘LALALALA’

The title track for Stray Kids’ second album release this year, LALALALA is a funky and fun anthemic track. Powerful and majestic, it’s complemented by high-energy performances and strong rap lines, delivering a dopamine rush in true Stray Kids’ fashion.

LALALALA is the song for you if you’re in for surprises because each section is different from the other. But when put together, it makes for a good and experimentative piece. – B.P.

16. ZEROBASEONE, ‘In Bloom’

ZEROBASEONE’s debut single In Bloom is a synth-pop number that uses the familiar main riff from a-ha’s Take On Me. It’s a refreshing break from the numerous mature and powerful tracks from other boy groups we’ve heard. In Bloom, by comparison, is lighter on the ears, which gives more spotlight to the boys’ vocals in its pre-chorus.

Above all, the addictive number demonstrates the group’s clean vocals and sharp dance angles, emphasising the members’ growth since the reality programme Boys’ Planet. – B.P.

17. SHINee, ‘HARD’

SHINee’s first comeback after two years, this song is a nod to the current trend of songs which adopt a more hip-hop style. The track manages to stay catchy without losing the long-serving boy band’s unique colour, with its unorthodox background track, memorable spoken chorus and a bridge that effectively showcases SHINee’s vocal chops. – B.P.

18. Dynamicduo & Lee Young-ji, ‘Smoke (Prod. Dynamicduo, Padi)’

A collaboration between hip-hop duo Dynamicduo and Lee Young-ji, Smoke’s on-point and clean rap flows, together with its rhythmic beats make it the perfect hype song to groove to. Call it a musical chemical reaction, but there’s something in the voices of the duo and Lee that makes the song work.

Oh, and with choreographer Bada Lee’s choreography on Street Woman Fighter, this track has found itself viral on TikTok. – B.P.

19. TWICE, ‘SET ME FREE’

Dropped as the lead single of their 12th EP, Ready to Be (2023), Set Me Free marks another step away from the nonet’s bubblegum pop tracks. The girls sing about gathering the courage to confess, backed with some disco sounds and layered vocals.

What steals the show is the sound of synths that flawlessly mix in with the members’ voices. At the same time, its well-made choreography makes their entire performance a satisfying watch. – A.T.

20. Red Velvet, ‘Chill Kill’

Chill Kill marks Red Velvet’s first release after more than a year. And this pop-dance track touches more on the group’s velvet side, instead of the red, which we heard in Red Flavour (2017) and Power Up (2018). The dreamy backing track and strong but smooth vocals boast their sophistication and poise. The chord changes as they sing the line gonna change at the last chorus; a witty move which primes listeners for another listen. – B.P.

21. JISOO, ‘FLOWER’

Jisoo’s first solo track, Flower, demonstrates how softness can coexist with power without clashing. The track has some playful rhythms mixed with oriental elements, which emphasises her elegance and unique vocal colour. Though many listeners yearn for more, the beat-drop in the chorus made way for the iconic flower dance that made its rounds on platforms like TikTok. – D.Y.

22. HWASA X SWF2, ‘Chili’

A track made for the dance reality programme Street Woman Fighter 2, Chili might arguably be one of the best tracks that encapsulates Hwasa’s charms. The cherry on top here, though, is the use of Spanish, which helps set an alluring tone for the track. Chili is also dotted with strong beats; and rightfully so, since it’s made for a dance programme. But that also makes it easy for listeners to groove to it, especially with a trending choreography. – D.Y.

23. Jimin, ‘Like Crazy’

Inspired by the American film with the same name, this track is BTS member Jimin’s second single in his debut EP, Face (2023). The melancholic lyrics, coupled with synth-pop melodies, have got us completely hooked. Compared to his pre-release single Set Me Free Pt. 2, Like Crazy is more restrained and dark. Mainly filled with retro and R&B sounds completed by Jimin’s vocals, its EDM experimentation mid-track is a pleasant surprise. – B.P.

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