Nostalgia can be so painfully sweet. We feel it every time that ten-year-old song plays on the radio or happens to show up on our playlists. Songs manage to capture old feelings and familiar times perfectly. K-pop, although a relatively young industry, happens to be rich in good music which is not only embedded with catchy tunes but lyrics that are important. Through the years, we’ve had many iconic songs that have managed to stay with us in spite of the countless new additions to our favorites list. Going back to them from time to time can be so refreshing, reminding us of a time long gone but so so special.
Want to relive all your memories? Fasten your seat belts and get ready to go through the whole K-pop journey one song at a time!
1. "Come Back Home" by Seo Taiji and Boys (1995)
Seo Taiji and Boys single-handedly made what we know of K-pop today. It is impossible for K-pop fans to be a part of the industry and not know of this boy group! “Come Back Home” challenged the traditional style of Korean music up until that point. Consisting of Seo Taiji, Yang Hyun-sik and Lee Juno, Seo Taiji and Boys went on to became the forerunners of the K-pop industry.
Channeling the struggles of the young generation, “Come Back Home” told the story of Seo Taiji himself. Many people from the generation resonated with this beat, much to everyone’s surprise, making this one iconic.
2. "Warrior's Descendants" by H.O.T. (1996)
Although H.O.T. couldn’t possibly be summarized with just one song, if it had to be something it would probably be this one! This song was a powerful retaliation against bullies in schools and set the tone for what H.O.T had to offer. H.O.T as a band stood for the important things and maybe that was an essential contributor to the amazing fanbase they had!
The five-member group had a reunion concert in 2018 at the popular reality show Infinite Challenge, leaving the fans reminiscent of old times.
3. "I’m Your Girl" by S.E.S. (1997)
S.E.S was among the First Generation girl groups. They debuted in 1997, and were on the receiving ends of a lot of success and appreciation among K-pop fans. This three-member group started out with their debut song “I’m Your Girl”. Clad in white and black denim jackets, the members broke out in perfect 90's dance moves.
"I’m Your Girl" is that one karaoke song you wouldn’t want to miss out on! This song eventually became widely known as a "school anthem" enjoyed by several young boys and girls at the time.
4. "Perfect Man" by Shinhwa (2002)
This song set the bar for a “Perfect Man” real high for many of us. A mix of strong vocals and intricate dance moves, served with end-of-the-nineties angst, made this song one whole nostalgia trip in itself!
Shinhwa debuted on March 24, 1998, and are one of the longest-running K-pop groups, celebrating more than twenty years in the industry. They have a thriving international fan base, and several K-pop groups have performed their songs as a part of their homage to this boy band.
5. "Mirotic" by TVXQ (2008)
Need a little pick me up? Well, I’m sure this song will be able to give you just that! "Mirotic" starts out strong with breathtaking visuals. This song hits the perfect balance of the right melody and powerful beats. "Mirotic" also has its Japanese and Chinese versions, catering to more than just the Korean audience.
TVXQ started out as a five-member group, and released several albums like Tri-Angle (2004) and Rising Sun (2005). They received a lot of international recognition for their music, and stand as an unforgettable band today.
6. "Rainism" by Rain (2008)
Jung Ji Hoon, popularly known as Rain, is a well-loved and respected singer who has had an immense career of seven albums, twenty-eight singles and more!
“Rainism” is marked with killer moves and an instant appeal, making it truly unforgettable. The dance moves complement the music perfectly. Rain manages to make music that stays with the audience for a long time, leaving them hungry for more!
7. "Ring Ding Dong" by SHINee (2009)
SHINee has been around for ten years now and has never disappointed us! SHINee debuted in 2008 when they were quite young, and what they had to offer was very fresh and unique for the K-pop industry, representing youthful spirit and energy. From their style of music videos to the quality of their songs, they showed the industry that they were here to stay.
“Ring Ding Dong” had an afro-electronic beat and is a K-pop classic. We're willing to bet on the fact that this song will never grow old!
8. "Sorry Sorry" by Super Junior (2009)
Everything from the name of the song to its lyrics and dance moves were so easily put together, it is no surprise that this song received extreme success both nationally and internationally.
Super Junior was among the few K-pop groups at the time who opened up the K-pop industry for the international market. This group debuted back in 2005, and has released several hits over the years. The hook step to this song is as addictive as the song itself. Put on your dancing shoes and get moving!
9. "Gee" by Girls’ Generation (2010)
“Gee” is probably the love anthem of the decade! The song manages to represent the awkward feelings of first love with bubble gum beats and addictive tunes.
Girls' Generation, also called SNSD, captures the spirit of the 2000s perfectly. "Gee" is a bubblegum pop track smothered with electronic upbeat music! If you have been following K-pop for a while now, it is impossible to not know about Girls' Generation, and chances are you’ve heard their songs already! Lovingly called “the nation’s girl group,” SNSD was what many fans grew up listening to.
10. "I Am The Best" by 2NE1 (2011)
This might as well be the bop of the century! “I Am The best” reeks of confidence in the best way possible. The video to this song was one of the most-viewed music videos of the time and for a good reason.
Members Park Bom, Sandara Park, CL, and Minzy are extremely talented artists who have given us countless hits. “I Am The best” is only one among several iconic songs!
For many of us, K-pop is more than mere songs and artists. It is a bundle of memories. Every song holds an era in itself reminding us of a time that has already passed us. These songs are only a few of the many hits that the industry produced over the years.
What is on your classic K-pop playlist?
Let us know in the comments below!
Cover Image: Girls' Generation (SM Entertainment)
Written by Sayantani Banerjee