K-pop rising: A look back on the decade that brought us the music

As we enter a new decade of listening to world music, we can look back at 2010s as the decade when K-pop spread worldwide. Virally spreading from native South Korea to almost every corner of the globe mostly through video sharing platform YouTube, the 2010s saw the massive rise of the genre’s biggest superstars, but the last few years of it was marked by tragic loss and industry controversies.This is a short list of songs that defined the decade that made K-pop global. Please note that this isn’t a best-of list, to give as much diversity as possible.



At the start of the decade, the queen of K-pop BoA was already struggling with her North American promotions, eventually shifting her focus back to Asia with her seventh Japanese album, “Identity.” This strategy would provide insights on how agencies would later on promote their artists as K-pop gradually spread from region to region.•“Bad Girl, Good Girl” (Miss A)

• “Can’t Let You Go Even If I Die” (2AM)

• “Good Day” (IU)

• “Lucifer” (SHINee)



Year 2011 saw a number of firsts from the rise of dubstep and dance covers (“Bubble Pop”) to the first studio-recorded dance practice video (“Ma Boy”) It was also a year of top selling hits mostly from girl groups.

• “I Am the Best” (2NE1)

• “Step” (KARA)

• “Roly Poly” (T-ARA)

• “Bubble Pop” (HyunA)

• “Ma Boy” (SISTAR19)

• “Fiction” (BEAST)


The year that introduced the likes of Ailee, AOA, BTOB, NU’EST, Baek A-yeon, Lee Hi, Loco, B.A.P. and JJ Project, 2012 easily became THE year that K-pop exploded worldwide.

• “Gangnam Style” (PSY)

• “Fantastic Baby” (Big Bang)

• “Cherry Blossom Ending” (Busker Busker)

• “The Chaser” (Infinite)

• “Alone” (SISTAR)



This was a year made by Generation 2 acts established before the 2010s. But it was also the year that introduced a band that would later on establish its own era: BTS.

• “I Got a Boy” (Girls’ Generation)

• “Growl” (EXO)

• “ADTOY (All Day Thinking of You)” (2PM)

• “Bar Bar Bar” (Crayon Pop)


A year of experimentation, band departures, scandals and tragic accidents (some even calling it the worst year in K-pop), 2014 introduced variety with the debuts of Akdong Musician (AKMU), MAMAMOO, LABOUM, GOT7, Heize, Winner and Red Velvet. A fan video recording of a music show performance of Up & Down went viral and ignited the fan cam revolution.• “Eyes, Nose, Lips” (Taeyang)

• “Up & Down” (EXID)

• “Touch My Body” (SISTAR)

• “Catallena” (Orange Caramel)

• “Some” (Soyou x Jungigo)

• “Something” (Girl’s Day)



A big year for solo debuts such as Dean, Amber, Goo Hara, Baek Yerin, Jung Yong-hwa, Lee Hongki, Taeyeon and Jonghyun, the mid-2010s saw the rise in popularity of male bands outside Korea. iKon, Seventeen, Monsta X, UP10TION, DAY6 and N.Flying also debuted this year. But one particular girl group would revive the bubblegum concept and make a mark in 2015.• “Me Gustas Tu” (GFriend)

• “I Need U” (BTS)

• “If You Do” 4(GOT7)

• “Call Me Baby” (EXO)


With the formal disbandment of 2NE1, KARA and 4Minute and the likes of I.O.I., Blackpink, Cosmic Girls (WSJN), Momoland and Gugudan rising in popularity, plus the introduction of Sam Kim, NCT127, Victon, Astro and Pentagon, 2016 seemingly marked the beginning of the Third Generation of Kpop. But two groups would noticeably dominate the year and continue to do so in the next years to come.• “TT and Cheer Up” (Twice)

• “Blood, Sweat, Tears” (BTS)

• “Very Very Very” (I.O.I.)

• “Breathe” (Lee Hi)



BTS in Billboard was the headline of the year, but 2017 also saw disbandment left and right, many as a result of expiring agency contracts. Much like in 2014, the year 2017 saw experimentation such as the solo debuts of Chung-ha, Suzy and Punch as well as group debuts from Wanna One, KARD, Weki Meki, Dreamcatcher, The Rose and A.C.E.

• “Energetic” (Wanna One)

• “Palette” (IU)

• “Red Flavor” (Red Velvet)

• “Spring Day” (BTS)

• “Gashina” (Sunmi)

• “I Will Go To You Like The First Snow” (Ailee)



Year 2018 was the year Momoland boom-boomed into the hearts of Filipinos, and Blackpink ddu ddu ddu-ed the world. It was also the year we got lost with Stray Kids, stanned Loona and went solo with Jennie.

• “Bboom Bboom” (Momoland)

• “Love Scenario” (iKon)

• “Ddu Ddu Ddu Ddu” (Blackpink)

• “Starry Night and Egotistic” (Mamamoo)

• “Fake Love” (BTS)

• “Bad Boy” (Red Velvet)



As the decade came to a close, 2019 will be known as a “Fancy” year for the “Boys With Luv” everywhere from Timbuktu to Tutuban. We also saw the birth of the “super”-group and other releases targeted toward the North American market. If there’s any indication that K-pop is not done conquering the world just yet, the decade ends as the year of the rookies—and a new blood of idols and performers are poised to continue the Hallyu wave into the next decade.• “Dalla Dalla and ICY” (Itzy)

• “Crown and 9 and Three Quarters (Run Away)” (Tomorrow X Together)

• “Adios” (Everglow)

• “Miroh and Double Knot” (Stray Kids)

• “Kill This Love” (Blackpink)

• “Jopping” (SuperM)