The 250 Greatest Idol Group Songs of All Time: #125-#101

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

Introductory post

125. EXID – 위아래 (Up & Down)

From 위아래 (Up & Down) (2014)
Banana Culture
Written/composed by Shinsadong Horangi, Beom, Nang, LE (EXID)
Arranged by Shinsadong Horangi, Beom, Nang
Links: music video, audio, stage

The song that wrote the most legendary reverse-charting story in all of K-pop lore. It was richly deserving, too: the annoyingly addictive, slightly kitschy sax loop was a straight Shinsadong Horangi special, and motivated by this cheekiness, LE recorded an iconic hook by combining just two words. Hyerin and Solji’s smooth chorus also had a thoroughly satisfying power between their performance and the escalating brass.

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124. GD & TOP – 뻑이가요 (Knock Out)

From GD&TOP (2010)
YG Entertainment
Written/arranged by G-Dragon (Big Bang), T.O.P. (Big Bang)
Composed by G-Dragon, T.O.P., Diplo
Links: music video, audio, stage

Critical opinion of G-Dragon really did an about-face between the days of Heartbreaker and One of a Kind, and a big turning point was this album out of left field. “Knock Out” is remembered for its chewy (both sonically and lyrically) series of hooks, and for good reason – the kind of carefree swagger exhibited here is not made overnight. T.O.P was entirely in his element here as a charismatic rapper, the tune allowing him free roam to flex his tonal charms.

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123. Nine Muses – 휘가로 (Figaro)

From Figaro [single] (2011)
Star Empire
Written by Song Soo-yun (Sweetune), Han Jae-ho (Sweetune), Kim Seung-soo (Sweetune)
Composed by Kim Seung-soo, Han Jae-ho
Arranged by Han Jae-ho, Kim Seung-soo, Hong Seung-hyeon (Sweetune)
Links: music video, audio, stage

There’s a reason that this production squad is making so many appearances on this list (and will be making more). “Figaro” was just one example of the kind of spellbound moment that Sweetune’s brassy yet kinetic pieces could create, especially paired with Song Soo-yun’s caught-in-the-moment, snapshot storytelling. Nine Muses’ numbers and strong vocals gave the chorus a special vitality.

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122. Got7 – Eclipse

From Spinning Top: Between Security & Insecurity (2019)
JYP Entertainment
Written by J. Y. Park, Defsoul/JB (Got7), Mirror Boy (220Volt), D.ham (220Volt), Moon Hanmiru (220Volt)
Composed by Defsoul, Mirror Boy, D.ham, Moon Hanmiru, Daviid (3scape), Yosia (3scape), NeD (3scape), Moon Kim (153/Joombas), Vendors
Arranged by Defsoul, Mirror Boy, D.ham, Moon Hanmiru
Links: music video, audio, stage

Everything in this ambitious song seemed larger than life. The booming brass was a force that convinced the listener of its own primacy, carrying a deeply satisfying melody line. The frictional bass and vocal synths formed a constellation of tension, while the outstanding writing cast the narrator and his object in a precarious struggle between light and shadow. Sometimes you need scale to tell a story. “Eclipse” is the guide for that.

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121. god – 보통날 (An Ordinary Day)

From 보통날 (An Ordinary Day) (2004)
Sidus HQ
Written by J. Y. Park
Composed/arranged by Kwon Tae-eun
Links: music video, audio, live

“An Ordinary Day” was an ordinary composition, made special by the strength of its expressive lyrics and performances. The day’s mundane activities, documented by Son Ho-young and Joon Park, were written with warm detail. Kim Tae-woo’s remorseful chorus belayed the seeming peace, and set the stage for Denny Ahn’s climactic, breathless confession. The bittersweet aftertaste lingered, as it does on the kind of ordinary days when loss hits the hardest. (As a bonus, in 2014 the group put out a definitive edition at full strength.)

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120. Wonder Girls – Sweet Dreams

From Wonder World (2011)
JYP Entertainment
Written by Billion Dollar Baby, Noday, Yubin (Wonder Girls)
Composed/arranged by Shim Eun-ji, Thomas J. Heyerdahl, Jan Lindvaag, Billion Dollar Baby
Links: audio

Wonder Girls’ switch back to the 21st century through Wonder World allowed for such elegant works as “Sweet Dreams” to emerge. It benefited from the sleek production defining that whole album, with a chic string accompaniment leading the charge clad in the satin gloss of the beat. There was palpable synergy between the appropriately dreamy mood and lyrics that sang of an ephemeral reunion.

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119. Chakra – 끝 (End)

From Chakra’ca (2001)
Kiss Entertainment
Written by Lee Sang-min
Composed/arranged by Jang Won-ho
Links: music video, audio, stage

The concept of an album inspired by and recombining South Asian and Latin music was novel at the tail end of the techno boom, and “End” still kind of holds up today. Flutes, strings and synthetic bass made for a messy but strangely attractive arrangement. The shouted vocals (mostly Hwangbo) and syllable-replacing rap verses, bearing uncanny resemblance to an Internet fad a decade later, were undeniably impactful.

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118. Brown Eyed Girls – Hold the Line (Feat. Cho PD)

From Hold The Line [single] (2006)
Nega Network
Written by Choi Eun-ha
Composed/arranged by Yoon Il-sang
Links: music video, audio, stage

An older group (comparatively) even at debut, Brown Eyed Girls had the unique gravity to pull off the playfully condescending attitude that pervaded “Hold The Line”. Sharp and witty writing met easygoing and confident performances in a crisp summer jam, its unabashed melody the very definition of a “bop” long before the word had come to mean that.

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117. Secret – Magic

From Secret Time (2010)
TS Entertainment
Written by Kang Ji-won, Kim Ki-beom
Composed/arranged by Shinsadong Horangi, Kang Ji-won, Kim Ki-beom
Links: music video, audio, stage

In an era of samey hook songs, Secret dared to do something different. The debut single’s overt focus on brass and funk was refreshing. The sound was not as dense as that of other mainstream pop, but that actually made “Magic” feel less harried than its contemporaries. They would follow up with essentially a copy in “Madonna”, but for a few months, “Magic” was unique.

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116. Twice – Yes or Yes

From Yes or Yes (2018)
JYP Entertainment
Written by Shim Eun-ji
Composed by David Amber, Andy Love
Arranged by David Amber
Links: music video, audio, stage

Perhaps Twice’s strongest characteristic – that irresistibly bubbly yet tart attitude – fed every line of the unapologetic “Yes or Yes”. Though it channeled retro heritages across multiple eras, from Motown to synthpop, the track pulled together in the sparkling rush of a chorus that the group delivered with trademark sanguinity. From Dahyun’s breathy delivery of the meme-derived “I reject your rejection” to the giddy collective shouts: unlike the unshakably confident lyrics, this feel-good confession worked hard to win you over, knowing that the listener’s attention is fickle.

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115. AOA – 10 Seconds

From Good Luck (2016)
FNC Entertainment
Written by Innovator, Jang Yeon-jeong, Han Sung-ho
Composed by Matthew Tishler, Aaron Benward, Felicia Barton
Arranged by Aaron Benward, Felicia Barton, Matthew Tishler
Links: audio, stage

A career trajectory of going from a band setup to a dance group didn’t afford AOA many chances at serious ballads and jams, which made the glimpse in “10 Seconds” all the more scarce. As a gorgeous melody thrived on the members’ invested, emotional delivery, warm pastel pads and gently pulsing synths painted this “world of mystery, world of possibility”. Various vocal flairs – the light harmonies supporting the verses, the double-tracks murmuring in the background – were the sweet whispers that populated that world with life.

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114. Diva – Up & Down

From Naughty Diva (2000)
A&B Entertainment
Written by Lee Sang-min
Composed/arranged by Jang Won-ho
Links: music video, audio, stage

As the nation’s first hip-hop girl group, Diva would have been remembered as pioneers even if they had disbanded after two albums. But the group went on to produce a long discography that sounded like nothing else we had heard. “Up & Down”, one of their most unique tracks and the first without Chae Ri-na, saw an experimental spirit out of Lee Sang-min enacted over a tempo so fast that it often seemed a hair away from falling apart spectacularly. The steel drums, reggae bass and jazz winds accentuated the song’s raw energy, delivered by unkempt and barely contained rapping; it was a sonic onslaught that still remains unmatched in the sheer range of sounds harnessed.

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113. Sistar – 나혼자 (Alone)

From Alone (2012)
Starship Entertainment
Written by Brave Brothers
Composed/arranged by Brave Brothers and Crazy Park
Links: music video, audio, stage

As good as Sistar’s summer bops were, the group was also sublime in a tragedy of the spurned heroine. “Alone”‘s staccato beat and whistles illuminated the nebulous mood, and the vocal line played a seductive role while only using intentionally limited range. I think this old Brave Brothers archetype was already starting to showing its age in 2012, but the austerity endemic to this style turned out to have massive synergy with the theme of “Alone”.

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112. Red Velvet – I Just

From Perfect Velvet (2017)
SM Entertainment
Written by Kim Bu-min
Composed by Hitchhiker, Kim Bu-min, Aventurina King, John Fulford
Arranged by Hitchhiker
Links: music video, audio

Even in the inventive Perfect Velvet, this song stood out for its sonic brashness. The massive metallic synths and the stutters that grew out of them practically leapt into your face, and often Red Velvet didn’t so much sing the song as channel it, becoming immersed in the contours of these highly nonlinear verses. Yet for all that “I Just” was also genuinely sentimental, reaching some surprising heights as part of its unpredictable path. The song is still a singular achievement in K-pop.

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111. Girls’ Generation – Mr. Taxi

From The Boys (2011)
SM Entertainment
Written by Jung Hye-young
Composed/arranged by Scott Pearson Mann, Chad Royce, Allison Veltz, Paolo Prudencio
Links: music video, audio, stage

“Mr. Taxi” was originally released as part of the Japanese debut album before being retooled into Korean and slotted in The Boys. The Korean version had pleasantly vigorous lyrics that maintained the original’s cadence and driving theme and scaled back the autotune, but the core appeals remained the same: an immensely catchy chorus and a dense, teched-up arrangement. It was one of those choruses where you just know what the choreography has to look like. The way it paired “taxi” with jeuksi (“immediately” – the one Korean word in both versions) was obvious yet effective, a descriptor apt for the whole song.

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110. Rainbow – A

From A [single] (2010)
DSP Media
Written by Kim Seung-soo (Sweetune), Song Soo-yun (Sweetune), Han Jae-ho (Sweetune)
Composed by Han Jae-ho, Kim Seung-soo
Arranged by Hong Seung-hyeon (Sweetune), Han Jae-ho, Kim Seung-soo
Links: music video, audio, stage

That booming brass and urgent beat were the attention-grabbers, but listen closer and there’s also sublime vocal design: the chorus made full use of the seven voices available to craft its main melody as well as the embellishments and accents that gave it rich dimension. The Sweetune folks understood Rainbow better than perhaps any other composer, and it showed in “A”‘s classy achievement.

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109. SHINee – 데리러 가 (Good Evening)

From The Story of Light Ep. 1 (2018)
SM Entertainment
Written by Jo Yoon-kyung, Minho (SHINee), Key (SHINee)
Composed by Chaz Mishan, David Delazyn, Bryan Jackson, Arnold Hennings, Daron Jones, Michael Keith, Quinnes Parker, Marvin Scandrick, Courtney Sills, Yoo Young-jin
Arranged by The Fliptones
Links: music video, audio, stage

As SHINee’s first after Jonghyun’s passing, The Story of Light was a tough but stirring album. It paid heartfelt and eloquent tribute through songs like “Our Page” and “Lock You Down”, while also charting a path forward for the group in ones like “Good Evening”. The track was a further evolution of SM’s familiar future-house digs, its arrangement more tropical and its melodic topology smoother than before. Along with the rest of Ep. 1 it constituted SHINee’s most summery collection, a testament to moving on in the face of irreplaceable loss.

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108. Mamamoo – 너나 해 (Egotistic)

From Red Moon (2018)
Written/composed/arranged by Kim Do-hoon (RBW), Park Woo-sang
Links: music video, audio, stage

The well-rounded vocal strengths of Mamamoo have allowed the group to try some music that most others wouldn’t dare to, but sometimes they just did the same stuff as everyone else but better. “Egotistic” was like that, set in the kind of sunny, passionate reggaeton that lots of artists experimented with at some point. It was as if Mamamoo was born to do something like this, the rich vocal timbres and nuanced expressions injecting colorful vigor. Moonbyul’s deep tone, both sung and rapped, lent the song a whole different weight.

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107. iKon – 사랑을 했다 (Love Scenario)

From Return (2018)
YG Entertainment
Written by B.I (iKon), Bobby (iKon), Motmal
Composed by B.I, Millennium, Seung
Arranged by Millennium
Links: music video, audio, stage

Perhaps the quintessential hum-along song in K-pop, “Love Scenario” married an unforgettable melody with down-to-earth atmosphere and a sentimentality that found purchase across multiple generations. That the sound was so crisp, from the tick-tock of the steel drum source to the wonderfully unexpected and reassuringly rich bass, reflected a departure from the fuzzier feel of Big Bang and Winner’s love songs. The collective final chorus added anthemic energy to a song that would go on to define a year.

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106. Pentagon – 빛나리 (Shine)

From Positive (2018)
Cube Entertainment
Written by E’Dawn (Pentagon), Hui (Pentagon), Yuto (Pentagon), Wooseok (Pentagon)
Composed by Flow Blow, Hui, E’Dawn
Arranged by Flow Blow
Links: music video, audio, stage

There are lots of groups that you could describe as being versatile, but not many groups would pull off a “Shine”. Riding a happy-go-lucky (but still tightly built) beat, Pentagon’s narrator sheepishly called himself a “loser”, “fool”, and “leech” who can’t talk straight to the person he loves. It’s a fine balance to do this as a boy group while avoiding a saccharine or patronizing feel, but Pentagon pulled it off with endearing attitude and hearty vocal work. The fact that this was self-written made it even better.

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105. BTS – I Need U

From 화양연화 (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life) Pt. 1 (2015)
Big Hit Entertainment
Written/composed by Pdogg, Bang Si-hyuk, RM (BTS), Suga (BTS), J-Hope (BTS), BrotherSu
Links: music video, audio, stage

One day people will write a fuller history of BTS than what we can write now. And even though practically every release of theirs could be argued as a turning point of some kind, it’ll be hard to deny the importance of “I Need U”, the group’s first show-winning hit and the herald of that uniquely, aggressively sentimental and reflective style that became the BTS trademark. It was a sonically complete track, balancing the dazzle of its synthed-up refrains with the muted gray of its brooding rap sections, and delivering some truly brilliant moments in the titular refrain and the outro melody. I think it’s still got the most viscerally enjoyable chorus of the group’s discography as of 2020, which is saying a lot.

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104. Exo – 전야 (The Eve)

From The War (2017)
SM Entertainment
Written by Hwang Yu-bin
Composed by Kevin White, Henry, MZMC, Andrew Bazzi, Mike Woods
Arranged by Rice n’ Peas
Links: music video (dance practice, but close enough), audio

You could draw the connections to the rebellious, violent SMP music of Exo’s ancestors, but “The Eve” was a sleeker and more refined instrument for inspiration (and some light social commentary). Impossibly stylish bass and a muted beat formed the sparse bones of an arrangement, and this restless nocturne didn’t need much more than that to paint enthralling tension and raw, almost tribal spirit. Exo’s wiry vocals – and Chanyeol’s resonant tone in particular – burned like a signal fire in the dark, as they ushered in the “renewed morning”.

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103. B.A.P – Skydive

From Noir (2016)
TS Entertainment
Written by Bang Yongguk (B.A.P), Mafly, Ponde, Rjanah, Dear.D
Composed by Choi Jin-seok, Tim Hawes, Obi Mhondera
Arranged by Choi Jin-seok
Links: music video, audio, stage

Noir was particularly gushing with testosterone even for a B.A.P album, led by the hard-as-nails “Skydive”. The sound was both densely layered and packed, with an emphasis on distorted and compressed sources from harder EDM styles. Not to be outdone, Zelo and Bang Yong-guk positively roared out their rap interjections, and even the harmonies backing up the melodic sections were explosive belts. It could easily have been exhausting, but some clever organization and a striking, unifying chorus harnessed all this energy into a singularly cathartic track.

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102. CLC – Me (美)

From Me (美) (2019)
Cube Entertainment
Written by MosPick, Yeeun (CLC)
Composed/arranged by MosPick
Links: music video, audio, stage

The defiant buildup, huge drop and trap brass were satisfying already, but then this savory wall of synths came in to finish out the chorus melodically. “Me” was a sonic treat with its conspicuous elements tamed into stunning juxtaposition; even the lyrics, simple yet sharp in its ode to one’s own beauty, resolved in satisfying rhythm. And the way it ended with an extra, metallic outro? Perfection.

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101. F(x) – 첫 사랑니 (Rum Pum Pum Pum)

From Pink Tape (2013)
SM Entertainment
Written by Jeon Gandhi
Composed by Erik Lewander, Iggy Strange Dahl, Ylva Anna Birgitta Dimberg, Anne Judith Wik
Arranged by Erik Lewander, Iggy Strange Dahl, Ylva Anna Birgitta Dimberg, Anne Judith Wik, Jung Dong-yoon
Links: music video, audio, stage

Opening one of the greatest albums in the genre’s history was this unassuming, insidious, appropriately strange song. Every element contributed to its sweet unease: a narrative that compared the fever of first love to a wisdom tooth, the round-song device that kept the chanting prechorus going in endless overlap, a chorus that traded a straight melody in favor of a ringing and hazy din. The end result was unlike anything we’d seen in K-pop, an incredibly addictive cocktail that really became what it said: “Ow, your head will hurt / You won’t be able to sleep / You won’t forget me easily / Popping up suddenly, I’m your real first love”.

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