10. EXO – Monster (EX’ACT)
Last year, EXO delivered the forever catchy, Love Me Back. While this time they once again released a slew of excellent singles, Monster takes the cake for me. While Lucky One is stellar and grabbed my attention the first time through, Monster took me quite a while to get into. When I was hooked, I was hooked. Monster is much darker and features a few more hip-hop elements on top of the usual synthed up explosion the group brings. The strongest part is definitely the chorus with its powerful hooks and thumping beats. I love the odd bits of English that pop up as well.
09. G-Friend – Rough (시간을 달려서) (Snowflake)
G-Friend’s popularity blew up in 2016 and this song really helped to propel them into the spotlight. Continuing the trilogy of powerful innocent pop tunes, Rough isn’t as “cute” as its predecessors, but it is just as stellar, if not more. The strings really help to give the song some edge and at times it does sound like the arrangement takes influence from J-Pop. I love that it is more melodic and there really isn’t much repetition in the melody. The vocals are also stellar and Yuju shines as usual.
08. NCT U – WITHOUT YOU (WITHOUT YOU)
I wasn’t particularly interested in NCT when I heard about the concept and the endless amount of members. However, I was definitely surprised when this gem showed up. WITHOUT YOU is a soaring synth-driven pop tune and a gorgeous tune. I was surprised with how emotional it actually sounds. I especially enjoy the chorus where the synths are brought in on top of the guitar foundation. The boys who sing here are really great singers as well and their tones really blend well into this style. It reminds me a bit of Younha’s “Run”.
07. Luna – Free Somebody (Free Somebody)
Criminally underrated, Luna transformation is astounding and her debut solo really helps bring out her charms and talent. Free Somebody is a pounding dance tune that is not only insanely catchy, but still works well in showcasing Luna’s polished vocals. I love the buildup of the song in the verses but switches it up but providing a bit of a resting zone before breaking out. The drop is also quite nice and I enjoy how it is still amplified by Luna’s soaring vocals. She works it.
06. VICTON – What time is it now? (Voice to New World)
VICTON has probably been my favourite of the 2016 boybands as their songs are quite solid. While I immensely enjoyed the charming “I’m Fine”, it’s the disco inspired What time is it now? that gets my feet moving. I do find it a little harder to differentiate the guys in this song, but the whole package is so well executed. The hooks are all so cleverly done and work so well over the gliding arrangement. Surprisingly, my favourite parts are the odd English lines placed at the start and end of the song.
05. K.A.R.D – Oh NaNa (K.A.R.D Project Vol.1 “Oh NaNa”)+
While they have only recently debuted, K.A.R.D has already made quite an impact on the international K-Pop fandom. One of the few (if only) Co-Ed idol groups out right now, their attractive looks, cool songs and talent have helped give them a growing fanbase. Oh NaNa was released as the group’s first release and it is amazing. The sound is very much influenced directly from the Billboard charts with its strong tropical house elements. I love how the guys and girls play off of each other and the tune is just so catchy. KARA’s Youngji is also featured, although I think this would have worked with or without her. It’s just such a strong song.
04. MAMAMOO – WooHoo (기대해도 좋은 날) (MEMORY)
MAMAMOO had quite a lot of releases last year, but WooHoo stuck out the most to me. It has an oldschool 90’s R&B feel to it and reminds me of something Mariah Carey would do, although a bit of a waterdowned version of it. I love how lighthearted it is and the vocals really help to give it this uplifting and soaring feel to it. I know a lot of people weren’t totally buying the rap, but I do enjoy the nice break that it brings and I feel the song easily gets back to its point. However, the strongest point is definitely the last chorus where the girls start belting it out. It’s a cute and fun tune.
03. Taeyeon – 11:11 (11:11)
I can always count on Taeyeon to release some strong music and she rarely disappoints. 11:11 was her last release of 2016 and what an amazing song it is. Unlike the soaring I, gorgeous Rain, or fun Why, 11:11 slows things down with an emotional acoustic ballad. The best part is that while Taeyeon is best known for her strong vocals, she holds back a lot in this song. There aren’t any big belts and the song mainly sticks to its more monotone delivery. I think Taeyeon does the perfect does bringing the right kind of emotion into the lyrics and its the song I go to when I break-up. It’s sad, but uplifting.
02. NU’EST – Love Paint (every afternoon) (CANVAS)
I know most fans enjoy NU’EST’s debut sound, but I was pleasantly surprised by their sound last year. The heavy electronic sound really works well for them and they have released two excellent title tracks. Love Paint is amazingly gorgeous. The music is really spectacular and I love the contrast of the airy verses with the powerful chorus. There are some interesting surprises that come up in the music such as the interesting background vocal arrangement. All the guys sound great as well. Stellar.
01. Cosmic Girls – Secret (비밀이야) (THE SECRET)
I wasn’t really that interested in Cosmic Girls when they first came out, but Secret sold me on them. Like NU’EST’s song, Secret plays a lot on synthed up electronic feel, although maybe not as urban. This one is definitely more straightforward. The best part about the song is its replay value though. It never seems to get tiring and actually becomes stronger with each listen. The music is gorgeous with its soaring synths and funky refrain. Tied this with the airy vocals and the song has this very mysterious, but intoxicating quality. I especially love the rap and the highlights that come popping out at the end. Excellent.