20. Brave Girls – Deepened (변했어) (Deepened)
Brave Girls debuted all the way back in 2011 with a rather charming tune. Unfortunately, they lost a bit a steam and re-debuted in 2016 with a different line-up. Deepened brings us a steamy and sensual R&B/Hip-hop and what a return it has been. Definitely something that stands out from the other girl groups, the girls work with this rather emotional tune. I love how dragged out the verses sound, which helps bring the energy in the chorus despite it being on the slower side of things (at least compared to a lot of K-Pop). I also love the line “I’m thirsty for your love”.
19. B1A4 – Lie (거짓말이야) (GOOD TIMING)
B1A4 has always released quality tunes and Lie is no different. Definitely something that continues their general “sound”, Lie has one major highlight and that is the chorus. I actually find the verses to be somewhat forgettable and generic, but it’s that soaring chorus that really brings the whole sound together. I love the small touches in the music and I think they really help bring the extra punch to the song, especially the background vocals. It’s a magical song and their first to grab my attention in a while.
18. Rainbow – Whoo (PRISM)
Despite their disbandment later in the year, Whoo was a nice return for the girl group. It is a nice balance between the group’s cuter releases and their more mature ones. It’s catchy and a lot of fun. Definitely not their strongest 2016 song (Black & White), Whoo is just an explosion of energy. I love how the small rock elements that help keep the song afloat and give the song some edge, which is especially heard in the second half the chorus. I think every member is able to bring their own flavour to the song and it helps to provide a bit of individuality.
17. EXID – L.I.E (STREET)
EXID had a big year this year. A lot of pressure was placed on them to move away from the “Up & Down sound” that had been staple in their last three title tracks. L.I.E brings the fun edge of EXID, but provides a nice change of pace. Not as upbeat as their last few songs, this one took awhile for me to get used to, but I actually ended up loving it more and more. I love the how the song has such a big chorus that busts right into the breakdown and LE’s rapping with the more toned down parts bring a nice contrast. Definitely my favourite of their title tracks since Up & Down.
16. 100% – Better Day (지독하게) (TIME LEAP)
100% has had a weird history with the group’s line-up changes and hiatus. Fortunately, the group has made a return and they hit it out of the park. The group has always had title tracks that featured a darker feel to them and Better Day continues that and ups the antics. I love how dramatic and haunting the song is, which is helped by the piercing synth refrain introduced and the general ascending feel of the chorus. I also love how the vocalists change things up and showcase their upper registers.
15. KNK – U (Remain)
KNK was one of the many boy band debuts of the year and they came with a mature image that matched their more old school K-Pop boy band sound. While their debut wasn’t my cup of tea, Back Again and their follow-up are great. U has definitely grown on me even more as I love the extra hip-hop touches that pop up. I feel it is a bit more accessible than Back Again with its two prong chorus. I’m not the biggest fan of repetitive choruses, but I really enjoy how they execute it in this song. That and the overall dramatic sound really gets me jamming along.
14. LADIES’ CODE – Galaxy (MYST3RY)
LADIES’ CODE’s 2014 accident definitely took a huge toll on the group and it was uncertain whether they would return. Fortunately, the girls have returned and their sound is stronger than ever. While the group used to do more upbeat tunes, Galaxy provides a midtempo jazzy/R&B number that plays on the strengths of the members. Sojung especially flourishes in this kind of genre and her husky vocals really give the song some soul. It’s a bit slower, but I like the change of sound.
13. BLACKPINK – Playing With Fire (불장난) (Square Two)
One of the most anticipated debuts of the year, BLACKPINK saw success right out of the gate. While their debut single was fun, I found the song to be very similar in sound to YG’s previous girl group, 2NE1. Luckily, their second single helped to create the group’s own sound. Playing With Fire is definitely my favourite of all their releases this year. It’s mature and sensual while playing up the synths, but it is insanely catchy and matches the image of the girls’ well. I especially love the synth refrain during the instrumental sections. It’s slick and cool.
12. Red Velvet – Russian Roulette (러시안 룰렛) (Russian Roulette)
While many felt their ballad, One of These Nights, was a bit dull, I absolutely loved it. However, it is no doubt that the group really works great with their upbeat numbers. Russian Roulette is a nice change because it combines the fun characteristics of their “Red” songs, while also providing something a bit more streamlined like their “Velvet” tunes. This is all sorts of catchy and I actually really enjoy how fun the verses are. The chorus isn’t as bombastic, but it slides right in and provides some cute hooks with the funky and robotic backdrop. It’s a girl group doing old school video game music.
11. PLEDIS GIRLZ – WE (WE)
PLEDIS GIRLZ have already planned their debut under the name, PRISTIN, for later this month, but last year the group released this pre-release number. Riding off the success of Produce 101, WE features the members that didn’t make it into I.O.I and a few new faces. Synth paradise, WE dwells in the realm of the more innocent sounds, but don’t let fool you. This is one heck of a song. I think what I enjoy most of the song is the feeling it gives. It is difficult to explain, but it really helps to create a nice united sound and image for the group, which especially felt by the last chorus where things are brought up a level. It’s a bit generic, but it’s a well-crafted pop tune.