This might be the hardest playlist I’ve done so far. Firstly, I didn’t want to fill the list with only one artist or group. I also didn’t want it filled with songs that most fans have already heard. While K-pop artists are working with Western artists more now, it’s still a pretty small field.
Second, collaborations are tricky things. If done well, you have a beautiful blending of two artists working together to give us great music. If done wrong, you have a song that can sound uneven, too dissimilar to their other work or worst of all, boring.
So for this list, I just wanted to highlight some great songs we’ve gotten over the years and what made them so impactful.
Play It Cool — Steve Aoki & Monsta X
I’m not the only one who does the fan chant when they listen to this, right? I honestly didn’t expect to like this when it was first announced. Don’t get me wrong, I love these artists, but I’m pretty picky about EDM and I’m not a fan of the current wave of it. It can feel too hollow to be fun or emotional.
That being said, Aoki and Monsta X proved me wrong. This sounds cool and flirty while giving me a chorus that makes it impossible not to dance. It feels like they spent hours of love and skills to make this a layered and balanced song. I especially love how Aoki uses their distorted vocals during the chorus to give it more life and keep the energy going.
I Wanna Be Yours — Pink Sweat$ & Crush
Confession time, this Crush and Pink Sweat$ collab might be my second favorite song on the list. The bossa-nova groove with the two-step drums in the pre-chorus. The smooth vocal with the pulsing bass. It’s a song that has you body-rolling in public without even realizing it. It never rushes the listener, just simply guides you into this pace that’s neither too fast nor too slow. This is the type of song you play for that skeptic friend you’re trying to get into Korean music.
If You’re Over Me (Remix) — Years & Years & SHINee’s Key
This song surprises me because I usually don’t like songs like this. Even years later, I feel the first verse is the weakest part. The singer doesn’t really sell how frustrated or done he is. And then Key shows up.
Key’s voice is the embodiment of sassy. When he starts his verse I can picture him rolling his neck and singing this to someone. He sings with this weightless ease and power that compliments the melody and message. I have to add this one to the list because Key made a pretty good song even better.
Don’t Look Back — PREP & Monsta X’s Shownu
I would like to thank Shownu for introducing me to a new artist. He mentioned to fans that he likes the band. PREP heard about it and approached him about doing a song together.
Immediately, I dug the smooth but darker melody and 1980s funk, city-pop groove to it. When I first heard it, I was halfway through Shownu’s verse before I realized that was him! His smooth delivery and emoting just sells the cautionary tone of the song. Not to mention he did an entire verse in English and sounds like it’s his native language. Of all the team-ups on this list, this might be the one I wish would happen again.
Pop/Stars — K/DA (Madison Beer, Jaida Burns & (G)I-DLE’s Mi-Yeon and So-Yeon)
This song is so good, it makes me angry some days. How actually dare “League of Legends” give us one of the best K-pop girl groups made up of all video game characters?! That’s just cruel.
As I mentioned before, team-ups can be fickle things. With this many artists involved, it could easily be uneven either in vocal or skills or just missing a certain X-factor. K/DA doesn’t have that problem at all. From its opening seconds, it starts with high energy and confidence and only propels itself from there. The song just burst onto the K-pop scene, proclaimed itself the greatest of all time and you couldn’t even fight it. All of the vocalists gel together, and (G)I-DLE‘s SoYeon just dominates her rap verse.
Going over this list, it’s amazing to see how many Western artists have worked with Korean artists over the past few years. Not just producing or writing music but doing singles and live performances together. True, there have always been collaborations, but they were few and far between. I’m excited to see what new team ups await us in 2020