My Favourite Korean Songs of 2016

So much fun putting this together

Every once in a while it’s fun to write something just for the love of the topic/genre and top 10 lists are my gift to myself. I love top 10 lists. I like reading other’s best of or “top” lists and I love writing my own. Why? Two reasons – first, it’s fun to both share and read opinions, and there’s nothing I like better than a good discussion (as long as no one gets angry/upset) about just about anything. I’ll debate film, music, food… even politics. So every year I look forward to writing my “top 10 of [insert year]” articles.

But the music top 10 articles are the most fun. And that brings me to reason number 2 – I get to revisit all the music I’ve listened to and enjoyed all year. What’s not to like about listening to good music for a week or two as I whittle down the songs to a manageable list? Of course, there’s always a couple of songs that I already know will make the list because I’ve been listening to them non-stop since they were released. And I look at my play counts for 2016 to see what I listened to most (yay for Google Play as it makes it easier to keep track of plays). All in all, this is a fun article to write.

Unfortunately, as much as I love top 10 lists, I just couldn’t get this list down to 10 songs. So it’s a top 16 of 2016, kind of fitting I suppose. Regardless of the number, below is music I love.

My challenge(s) to you

Before we get to the music, I want to challenge all of you, our lovely readers. First, I challenge you to check out all the songs on this list. Your taste in music may not be the same as mine, which is perfectly fine, mine isn’t even the same as my friends half the time as I’ve always leaned more towards alt-rock and punk/pop-punk than most of them. But I invite you all to check out the songs on my list if you haven’t already. Because they are all amazing.

Second, I challenge you to tell me what was your favourite song (or songs) from 2016 in the comments. Because it’s a two-way street, I want to recommend the music I love but I always like to hear about the music you love too. And I promise to listen to each and every song you all suggest. Because you know I love discovering new-to-me music. So don’t be shy! Tell me which songs you love!

Without further ado, here are my top 10 top 16 songs from 2016… in no particular order. Whenever possible, I’ve included the music video or Bandcamp player and links to where you can buy the album or EP the song is from.

Cindy’s Top 10 Korean songs of 2016

“Stereotypes” by Riot Kidz

While I only started listening to Riot Kidz recently after reading a review, I’ve been making up for lost time with their new album, My Last Holiday. While I definitely recommend checking out the entire album, if I had to pick just one song, it would be “Stereotypes”.

“Ready or Not” by Big Phony

“Ready or Not” is my fav from Big Phony’s self-titled (and successfully crowdfunded) album, Big Phony and the whole album is a treat to listen to. “This Might Be Love” and “Shoot the Shit” are also amazing.

“Somewhere Anywhere” by Guten Birds

It was hard to choose just one song from Things What May Happen on Your Planet, but as “Somewhere Anywhere” was the song that set the tone and my opinion of the album, it got elevated to my fav. But like most, if not all of the songs on this list, check out the entire album it’s from because it’s good.

“My Leather Jacket (내 가죽잠바)” by No Brain

I’ve been a fan of No Brain for the past 10 years and can’t say enough about how much I love Brainless, the first of two new albums they released this year (they also released 20 to celebrate their 20th anniversary). If you want to see my full review, click here. Other songs to check out include “Mommy, The World Is Scary” (feat. JTONG) [2016 Ver.] and “Whisky Blues (위스키 블루스)”

“This Obsession” by HEO

It was hard for me to choose just one song from Actress as it’s such a fabulous album (I wrote about it here) but “This Obsession” edged the others out. But you should really listen to the entire album! Other notable songs include “The World is Calm Again” and ”

“Dead Beat Generation” by Love X Stereo

“Dead Beat Generation” from Love X Stereo’s latest EP, We Love We Leave: Part 2, is a fabulous song but it’s actually not my favourite – that title goes to “Hide and Seek” but it was released in 2015 prior to the EP (and made my best of 2015 list). Don’t worry, the rest of the EP is just as good so it wasn’t hard to choose another song.

“Don’t Stop” by Adoy

While they’ve only released a few singles so far, I’m liking what I’ve heard from Adoy so far. Of course, it helps that I was already familiar with a couple of the musicians that make up this new group but you should definitely check them out.

“It’s You” by Neon Bunny

Her new album is good, especially “Romance in Seoul” and “Room 314” but “It’s You” just makes me smile. And while it was available as a single prior to 2016, it is on Stay Gold, so I’m including. Plus I like it.

“Genuine” by Bye Bye Badman

This is just such a sad song, but oh so good. It’s one of the few on the list that’s a single and not currently from an album.

“Asian Foul King” by Asian Chairshot

From the 사랑이 모여서 single (which is actually three songs), “Asian Foul King (동양반칙왕) is a great example of this rock band’s talent.

“I love It” by DEAN featuring Dok2

As the sole R&B song on my list, it’s a little out of place but I’ve been intrigued since I saw him at SXSW earlier this year and “I love It” featuring Dok2 is my favourite song from a solid album, 130 Mood: TRBL. And yes, the song technically came out as a single in 2015 prior to the release of the EP but give me this one please. ^^

“They Keep Silence (그들은 말이 없다)” by Jambinai (잠비나이)

This is just such a powerful song. Jambinai blend Korean traditional instruments so well with post-rock and bring such energy and passion to their music and performances. If you ever have the chance, catch them live! Oh, and “s from their A Hermitage album.

“Let the Hope Shine” by Nell

I’ve been a fan of Nell since I lived in Korea so I’m always eagerly awaiting new music by them and they never disappoint. With songs like “Day After Day” and “Home”, there’s a lot to like from their latest album, C, but “Let the Hope Shine” rocks in such a beautifully understated way that it chose itself.

[Sorry, I couldn’t find anything to embed for “Let the Hope Shine”]

“Nothing But You” by Dead Buttons

It was a hard choice between “Want It” and “Nothing But You” but the latter caught my attention right from the start. Of course, the whole album, Some Kind of Youth is good but those two were my favourite songs.

“Johnny” by Diealright

Like many of the bands above, there were several great songs on Diealright’s 2016 album, Minor World, like “Satellite” and “Hello” but ultimately, “Johnny” was my fav of the bunch. Seriously though, check out the entire album!

“Stream of Consciousness” by Wings of the ISANG

Love the entire album, it’s amazing to write to, but man, was it hard to choose just one song. I went with the title track of the album, Stream of Consciousness, but could have just as easily chosen “Cosmos” or “Void Circle”.

Final Thoughts

My criteria: the songs (or albums they are from) were released in 2016, Korean, and I could only select one song per artist/group). The last criteria was hard as there were several great albums where I liked several songs. I didn’t care about the genre, all genres were eligible, although I do tend to listen to more Korean indie (alt-rock, rock, punk, post-rock, electro-rock) so you’ll see that reflected in the songs I chose.

I was also lucky as several groups/musicians I like released new music this year which made my job easier – or harder as my list ended up bigger than expected. There was just so much great music to choose from! Can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us.

But don’t forget my challenge to you! I want to hear about your fav songs from 2016!!

And if you want to see some more best of lists – check out Chris from Korean Indie’s Best of 2016 (for Korean indie music) and Arnold over at Is This How You K-pop’s Top 100 Korean Songs of 2016 (for a very large mix Korean music).

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

7 thoughts on “My Favourite Korean Songs of 2016

  • December 21, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Fav songs of 2016:
    Monsta X – All in
    Twice – Tt
    Bobby – Holup!
    Mino – Body
    Astro – Hide & Seek
    Jimin (BTS) – Lie
    BTS – Cypher 4
    Amber (fx) – Breathe Again
    AOA – Good Luck
    I.O.I – Whatta Man
    24K – Superfly
    Got7 – Hard Carry
    BTS – Blood, Sweat & Tears
    Twice – Cheer Up
    4minute – Hate
    Kyuhyun – Blah Blah

    • December 21, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      As someone who listens to almost no K-pop, I’m looking forward to checking out your list. Pretty sure I haven’t heard any of the songs (although of course, I recognize all the artists).

  • December 21, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Cindy, I think you’re influencing my choice in music somehow. You’ve introduced me to Love x Stereo and Byebye Badman, and well they’re part of my top played tracks on my phone this year. Haha!

    A few comments on your faves:

    Stereotypes – reminds me of old school punk rock bands like Blink182 or Yellowcard. 🙂

    Somewhere Anywhere – wonderful expression of music! Like the title, i feel like listening to it on my way to “somewhere, anywhere”!

    Genuine – Byebye Badman – downloaded and loving it!

    Spotify has created a “Your Top 2016” playlist. And funny enough, some of my top resembles some indie vibe too:

    1. Reflection (BTS/Rapmon Solo/Album: Wings) – I’m a BTS noona-fan. Their new album is definitely worth listening too. But aside from the big hit, “Blood, Sweat, Tears”, the other solo tracks are fantastic. My fave came from Rapmon. The lyrics are wonderful (and a bit sad)!

    2. Toy (Block B/Album: Blooming Period) – I think 2016 was Zico’s year, and to be honest, he’s such a hard-working guy, I’m glad this album and his other tracks got recognition, and he got recognition as well!

    3. Dream Catcher (Nell/Album: C) – i feel like this should be everyone’s “anthem” for 2016. “Just hold on, from this moment I wont let go~”

    Out of my top-played, but definitely also some of my most loved tracks in 2016 come from dramas or my all-time YG faves:

    1. Console Myself (Roccoberry/Let’s Fight Ghost OST) – even my sister thinks this is a solo song. but i tell her this is a very soft duet between Roco and Conan (the members).

    2. Stay With Me (Chanyeol & Punch/Goblin OST) – I love the opening guitar riffs; definitely got goosies the first time I heard it!

    3. Can You Hear my Heart (Epik High ft. Lee Hi/Scarlet Ryeo OST) – Always been a huge Epik High fan, and Lee Hi’s too. I was hooked on the Scarlet Ryeo drama, and whenever this song comes on, it adds a whole new dimension to the scene.

    4. Lifted (CL) – I think this song was absolutely fantastic and I think it put CL in a very good light! I asked my co-worker to listen to it, and he’s not someone who’s familiar with the Korean music scene.. He thinks that this song is so catchy, with the lyrics and reggae vibe. I actually heard him singing it a few times after listening to it.


    • December 21, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      Hey Noreen, glad I could introduce you to some music and I hope you find some others to listen to from my list 🙂 And yeah, I heard some influences of Simple Plan and Blink 182 in “Stereotypes”.

      “Dream Catcher” is a nice song. I’m not a fan of CL or “Lifted” but I’ll check out the others. Thanks!

      • December 21, 2016 at 9:55 pm

        I hope you like some of the others! 🙂 I looked at my Spotify Top Songs 2016 again, and “Mistake” by Drug Restaurant (formerly JJY Band) was on there too. I didn’t think it was released in 2016 (but it was released last May according to Wiki)!

        I know that Jung Joon Young from 2Days-1Night is a singer but I’ve never actually been exposed to his music until this year when his band released a new album. Because 2D1N sometimes play their new track in their episodes, I heard snippets of it and became curious enough. You can imagine I played it quite a lot if it’s in my top tracks. LOL. If I can guess right, this may be the track that you might enjoy. 😉

  • December 23, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    Thanks for your list! I put the well-listened-to Full Moon by Nell (C) on my best of 2016 as well as Bye Autumn by MYK’s Saltnpaper on the Jealousy Incarnate OST. If I want something to work out to, well, that would be Hit Me by The MOBB.

    • December 25, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      Always happy to share great music. I’ll add you picks to my list of music to check out over the holidays

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