The 20 Best K-Pop Songs of 2024 (So Far): Critic’s Picks

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In a packed first half of the year for the Korean entertainment industry, these are our expert’s picks for 20 standout singles from 2024 so far.

Best K-Pop Songs So Far

Design by Lyanne Natividad

As K-pop acts continue to set new records on charts like the Billboard Hot 100, the Billboard Global 200 and World Digital Song Sales, the artists are doing so with material that showcases them at their best and the unstoppable chart force that is K-pop.

ILLIT managed to set a new standard in the first half of 2024 when their “Magnetic” debut single broke into the Hot 100 — a first for a K-pop artist’s first-ever single. The feat spotlighted the increasingly strong material coming from the latest roster of rookie acts hitting the scene, including TWS, RIIZE and Gyubin.

On the Billboard Global 200, K-pop continues to make its presence known worldwide, as artists like ZICO and BIBI earn their first entries on the ranking. Meanwhile, Crush, (G)I-DLE, aespa and NewJeans earned additional entries on the chart, including aespa’s best ranking yet, with their super-charged “Supernova” nearing two months on the Global 200.

Plus, ZICO and Jennie of BLACKPINK hit No. 1 on the U.S.-based World Digital Song Sales, marking ZICO’s first time topping the chart and Jennie’s second after over five years. Meanwhile, Huh Yunjin of LE SSERAFIM also made her debut on the chart this year, showing the growing impact of her solo work that’s included top-notch collabs with the likes of BTS’ J-Hope, MAX, Groovyroom and Crush just in 2024 alone.

With so many major musical moments from the K-pop scene already this year, which songs stand out to rise among the best? Below, we offer our picks of the 20 best songs from the Korean pop industry released in 2024.

ZICO feat. Jennie, “SPOT!”

Image Credit: KOZ Entertainment

One of K-pop’s most dynamic collaborations this year, “SPOT!” blends ZICO’s and Jennie’s distinctive styles into a chart-topping fusion of hip-hop and pop. The track’s catchy hooks and clever lyrics could only be pulled off with two stars as charismatic as this duo — ensuring it became a standout hit, ultimately earning ZICO his first No. 1 on World Digital Song Sales and filling the K-pop vet with “joy.”

TRI.BE, “Diamond”

While elements of Afrobeats continue to influence K-pop across the industry, TRI.BE’s “Diamond” is a special example. The girl group collectively chants on the chorus, “Not every moment, but every day/ I’ll become happier,” almost hypnotizing the listener to embrace the song’s positive sentiment. With a universal message and lyrics in Korean, English and Spanish, “Diamond” marked a potential moment of global breakthrough for TRI.BE and collaborator Shinsadong Tiger — making it all the more heartbreaking we lost the creative K-pop producer in February. But the song remains a beautiful gift left to the group and listeners worldwide.

TEMPEST, “Lighthouse”

With powerful vocal performances and anthemic melodies that evoke a sense of hope and resilience, “Lighthouse” lets TEMPEST’s members shine as the versatile group they are — with the dynamic arrangement and uplifting lyrics sure to mark a special place in the group’s discography and in fans’ hearts.

Lee Junho, “When We Meet Again”

While Junho may be more active with his acting career today than music, “When We Meet Again” is a sweet reminder of the 2PM member’s sweet crooning style and ability to sound as if complicated pop productions are part of his personal story. Hopefully this track is a tease of more music coming from the multifaceted star later this year.

Groovyroom feat. Crush & Huh Yunjin of LE SSERAFIM, “Yes or No”

A masterclass in the blending of R&B and K-pop, “Yes or No” brings a sophisticated, atmospheric production via the beloved DJ-producer duo Groovyroom. Exploring indecision and vulnerability, Crush’s soulful voice comes to complement Huh Yunjin’s expressive delivery, giving a both effortless and emotional feel to their collab. A standout single, “Yes or No” exemplifies how GroovyRoom continues to push musical boundaries to become a leading force in bringing together the K-pop and R&B scenes.

Gyubin, “Really Like You”

Rising rookie soloist Gyubin proved herself one to watch with a fantastic debut single. “Really Like You” has some of the sweetest melodies in K-pop today with clever, relatable songwriting similar to the recent crop of rising pop stars like Gracie Abrams and Sabrina Carpenter: “You make me so hyped up/ Like when I had too much caffeine/ Everything feels so good / My heart beats so fast but I don’t care.”

Kep1er, “Shooting Star”

A song that almost felt overdue, “Shooting Star” embraces the planetary concept behind Kep1er’s name with otherworldly vocal effects followed by some of this year’s most vibrant K-pop hooks. While Kep1er announced that members Yeseo and Mashiro will depart in July and the rest of the group will move forward as seven, the then-nontet took the utmost advantage of their final release together with a song encapsulating the feeling of reaching for the stars.

BAEKHO & BigOne, “Love or Die”

A former member of NU’EST, BAEKHO showcases his emo-rock skills with the release of Love or Die, a collaborative EP with indie rap-rock sensation BigOne. The title track demonstrates the seamless synergy between mixing BAEKHO’s K-pop melodicism and BigOne’s edge — and keeps the party going with additional EDM and unplugged versions.

(G)I-DLE, “Super Lady”

Image Credit: Cube Entertainment

Opening with (G)I-DLE leader and “Super Lady” producer Soyeon’s piercing call to arms, this anthem made its mark by not only defining the girl group’s empowering messages but with a major range of musicality shown throughout. From the guitar-laden build-up to the dramatic electro-pop chorus, and then the big-room EDM breakdown to close out the track, (G)I-DLE proves that being a “Super Lady” means you can tackle all kinds of genres and styles in under three minutes.

AKMU, “Hero”

For its latest folk-pop triumph with “Hero,” the sibling duo’s signature harmony styles plays around with different echoing and layering — before the sunny “Shubi doobi love to you” hook enters, which feels like comforting aural sunshine in the warmer months.

BIBI, “Bam Yang Gang”

Image Credit: Natt Lim/Coachella

A mesmerizing blend of dreamy waltz rhythms with BIBI’s unique and emotive vocal style, “Bam Yang Gang” paired melancholic lyrics with a whimsical music video to further enhance one of the year’s most unexpected breakout K-pop hits. But the compelling narrative BIBI’s become known for in her visuals, combined with the track’s catchy, bittersweet refrain, helped this one linger in listeners’ minds.

Paul Blanco, “Every Night”

Capturing the essence of introspective longing that comes in the evening hours, the moody beats and Paul Blanco’s unmistakably smooth and soulful vocals make “Every Night” yet another R&B gem from the rising star. The track’s minimalist moments allows Blanco’s emotional delivery to shine as he declares, “I want to come home to you every single night.”

ILLIT, “Magnetic”

Image Credit: BELIFT LAB

A hypnotic fusion of electronic and pop elements, “Magnetic” was not only the perfect title to describe ILLIT’s sleek debut single, but also how it also pulled in listeners around the world. The track entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 91, a unprecedented feat for a K-pop group’s first song, while also landing in the top 10 of the Global 200 and Global 200 Excl US charts. A track that’s both futuristic and refreshingly nostalgic, these rookies should only attract bigger things moving forward.

RIIZE, “Impossible”

Image Credit: Munachi Osegbu

With its driving, Euro-house beat mixed with soaring and uplifting vocals, “Impossible” creates a sense of urgency and determination, making it one of the best inspirational K-pop anthems this year — only made greater by its high-kick spinning choreography.

CIX, “Lovers or Enemies”

As CIX approaches its five-year anniversary this month, the group’s discography has become so highly revered that multiple press outlets have made it a point to get the band’s favorite songs, since it’s all so recommendable. The guys’ comeback single “Lovers or Enemies” once again delivers a track that manages to bring a heartfelt quality to robo-style Auto-Tune. Expect the next interview to give this track even more shine.

NewJeans, “How Sweet”

Image Credit: ADOR

A break-up track with a refreshing feel, the breezy warmth of “How Sweet” is perfect for the summertime and as an anthem of freedom. With the group’s harmonies effortlessly gliding over one another, NewJeans’ latest infectious K-pop hit gets better with each listen.

ONF, “Bye My Monster”

With hauntingly beautiful orchestration attached to dramatic lyrics, “Bye My Monster” utilizes a storytelling theme of self-preservation to explain how to leave someone you love for a better future for all. With a new track begging to be performed live with a full orchestra at some point, ONF continue to be one of K-pop’s most exciting acts — refusing to follow trends and instead blazing new, creative paths.

TWS, “Plot Twist”

The song that broke out new HYBE and PLEDIS Entertainment boy band TWS, “Plot Twist” stays true to its name with unexpected-but-dynamic turns within the production, hooking listeners from the first note to the anthemic chant that closes the track. It’s a sonic adventure, embodying the excitement of not only K-pop creatives but of life’s overall unpredictability.

aespa, “Supernova”

Image Credit: SM Entertainment

aespa really couldn’t have asked for a better kickoff for its first full-length album Armageddon. A glittering cosmic dance track, “Supernova” introduces a new chapter of aespa’s storytelling into the group’s universe, and opens doors to a whole new dimension. Showcasing KARINA’s and GISELLE’s biting rap styles with WINTER’s and NINGNING’s vocals at their absolute best — and the members all able to blend roles — “Supernova” feels like the type of track only aespa could pull off. The whirring synthesizers that join midway through the second verse are a final cherry on top to show how “Supernova” isn’t using copy-paste formulas — a staple throughout aespa’s strongest music moments.

HUI, “Hmm BOP”

Image Credit: Courtesy of Cube Entertainment

A three-minute sonic journey strategically packed to showcase HUI’s full artistic versatility, “Hmm BOP” blends thumping funk-pop production with walking basslines and shiny brass, while the PENTAGON leader’s multi-octave vocal range shines for one of the best idol vocal performances of the year. The song’s unconventional structure only highlights how “Hmm BOP” can weave together classic inspiration and modern-day experimentation for an anthem that can appeal across generations.

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