10. Wonder Girls, 'Nobody'
If ever there was a girl group formulated in the warm bath of an industry test tube, it was the Wonder Girls, who originally spawned from the TV show 'MTV Wonder Girls,' which has aired for three seasons in South Korea. Their biggest single, which charted in the U.S. fuses techno beats with a classically R&B progression and the best premise for a girl band video either side of the Pacific.
9. Yoon Do Hyun Band, 'Oh! Pilsung, Korea'
When South Korea hosted the World Cup, the authorities that be anointed Yoon Do Hyun Band the "representative Korean music band" of the tournament. While the group does not fit snugly into the KPOP category, its brand of rock music--which is both slick and radio-friendly and at times devotes itself to traditional Korean instrumentation--has nonetheless won it a place in the South Korean establishment. The shout chorus-heavy anthem is backed by hair metal guitar riffage and hand claps. Guiltlessly delivered, and a temporary anthem for the country in 2002.
8. Kim Bum Soo, 'Bo Go Ship Da' ('I Miss You')
Kim Bum Soo is the first Korean performer to break the U.S. music charts with his 2001 single 'Hello Goodby Hello,' but his most famous KPOP songs in Korea is 'I Miss You,' which served as the theme song for the popular 'Stairway to Heaven' TV show and serves as an exemplary example of melodramatic KPOP ballads.
7. S-Blush, 'It's My Life'
S-Blush's mercilessly sassy 'It's My Life' recalls Justin Timberlake's sexy back filtered through the righteous girl crew telling off a crew of exes. Perhaps the best thing about this track is that when it hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart, the group was rumored in Korea Times to be the equivalent of pop star commandos, "covertly trained as part of the Global Project targeting overseas markets."
6. TVXQ (Dong Bang Shin Gi), 'The Way U Are'
TVXQ, who originally wanted to name themselves Dong Bang Bul Pae after the Korean translation for Wong Kar-wai's 'Ashes of Time' have been one of the most consistent chart-topping KPOP bands of the past half decade. Largely due to their ascendancy in Korea, they've concentrated much of their output into Japanese markets. 'The Way U Are' is one of their earlier Korean releases, and showcases the genre's long-term love affair with '90s mainstream hip hop instrumentals and Justin Timberlake-inflected R&B.
5. Jewelry, 'One More Time'
A KPOP song's success is measured not only by their own country's charts, but also those across the pond in Japan. After floundering through an unsuccessful freshman album and a lackluster sophomore release, this carefully calibrated girl group (who shed and replaced members with every commercial hiccup) traded in their "cute" images for the increasingly trendy "sexy" and "womanly." This worked, and by their fourth album (and numerous other recalibrations), the fine-tuned pop outfit released their most successful track to date, 'One More Time,' a Baltic-infused bilingual number with a slick key change at the one-minute spot and a perfectly-metered break down halfway through.
4. H.O.T., 'Candy'
Widely considered the predecessor to KPOP's current infatuation with idol groups, H.O.T. set the boy band paradigm that largely reigned for the next decade. The second single on their debut album 'We Hate All Kinds of Violence,' fused the hip hop influences of a predecessor like Seo Taiji with a Sublime-esque fusion of reggae and ska.
3. Big Bang, 'Lies'
Like the Wonder Girls, Big Bang were launched into the KPOP stratosphere through a TV show about them, called 'Big Bang Documentary.' Unlike Wonder Girls, Big Bang are widely credited for updating KPOP's sound, and signaling its latest interest in electronica, though still filtered through the lense of upbeat hip hop stylings, as evidenced on 'Lies' off their first mini-album, 'Always.'
2. Rain, 'It's Raining'
Rain has the distinction of being one of the Korean artists credited with building further hip hop and R&B influences into the KPOP universe in the tradition of Seo Taiji, perhaps most notably by inserting his moniker into the title of half his albums. So 'It's Raining' is a shoe-in as Rain's best KPOP song, and one of the top KPOP songs ever. Intended as a "comeback" track after a few year's absence from the charts, the single immediately hit number one upon release in South Korea, and eventually won U.S. MTV play in anticipation of two sold-out dates at New York's Madison Square Garden in 2007. Rain also has the distinction of having won Time Magazine's online poll for the 100 Most Influential People of 2009. He wasn't listed in the print version.
1. Seo Taiji, 'Nan Arayo' ('I Know')
Seo Taiji, the grandaddy of contemporary KPOP, shifted the paradigm of what Korean popular music should sound like in the early '90s. Prior to his arrival to the industry, KPOP had tampered little with cross-genre experimentation, remaining settled in the syrupy sweet realm of synthetic girl and boy band pop. Taiji became the first to include rap and R&B in his music, and is widely considered the Michael Jackson of Korean music. His break out single 'I Know,' released with his mid-nineties group Seo Taiji and Boys, marked the paradigm shift, and for breaking the ceiling wide open for what Korean popular music can sound like, it remains one of the top KPOP songs of all time.