With our list of the 100 Songs That Defined the Decade, we aim to tell the story of the 2010s in the music business through the songs that were most critical to it 🎶
Below, read about why each song was essential to the fabric of the decade! https://t.co/Gb7RMpnKQ2
— billboard (@billboard) November 21, 2019
Find out which kpop songs made the list under the cuts
When looking back on the decade, much of the discourse about the end of it will undeniably be focused on the rise of non-English musical acts in the American market, and BTS will be at the center of this narrative.
When considering the South Korean septet’s legacy, 2015’s “I Need U,” the first single off of their-game changing The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt.1 album, was less of a song and more of a revolution -- laying the groundwork for the future of the group, and in turn their rise to international superstars.
As a stand-alone song, “I Need U” is an expressive dance track that soars with BTS’ emotive vocals as whistling synths, reverberating hi-hats, and R&B-inspired riffs build upon one another to create a sense of melodic despondency. It signaled a shift towards more of an ambient electronic-pop sound than anything they had previously explored on singles, after spending their first few years since their debut in 2013 focusing on more classically hip-hop-oriented singles.
“What impressed me personally was when Bang [Si-hyuk, Big Hit Entertainment CEO and producer] told me about what emotion he expected for overall songs. He presented me various artworks including movies and said, ‘We want the emotions that penetrate all these arts,”’ songwriter Brother Su tells Billboard. “It really served a big part in creating unique and distinctive atmosphere of ‘I Need U.’”
Brother Su added that he felt that the creative process that was split between BTS and their collaborators helped create such an impactful song. “Also, the whole process of the melodies that Mr. Bang, [the] BTS members, and I created were evenly and creatively combined or placed in different parts, which eventually created another melody that was a very unique and fresh experience.”
But “I Need U,” when viewed in the larger context of BTS’ career, is even more important than just as a milestone of sonic development: the song was a tonal shift for the act’s musicality, and also brought their long-standing creative narrative, typically known as the “BU” or “BTS Universe,” to the forefront through its music video.
“As an audio-visual experience, ‘I Need U’ inaugurated the Bangtan Universe -- the coming-of-age storyline that brilliantly integrates the Most Beautiful Moment in Life [album] trilogy and continues in music videos, “concept videos” (mini-films), and the multiform, open-ended narrative that’s been serialized in album liner notes and Twitter and Instagram posts,” says Michelle Cho, an assistant professor of East Asian Popular Cultures at the University of Toronto. “Although many K-pop groups now create concept albums, album series, and story worlds, none have done so as effectively and organically as BTS. And, while other North American and European artists have built similarly massive followings on social media platforms, none can match BTS's level of fan engagement.”
According to Cho, BTS’ way of weaving a story into their musical releases helps to strengthen the bond between audience and artists in a way nobody else is doing, either in the K-pop world or beyond. “This level of engagement with a musical act, both as celebrities and a trans-media franchise, is totally unprecedented.”
The video for “I Need U” has gone on to become just one moment from among a wide array of content, ranging from books to comic series to videos and social media posts, put out over the years by the group as they tell the story of The Most Beautiful Moment in Life. While the band was unavailable to comment for this piece, Big Hit Entertainment tells Billboard that they define The Most Beautiful Moment in Life as, “the start of one’s young adulthood, in which beauty coexists with uncertainty, and focuses on the uncertain future more than the glamour of youth.”
A constant theme throughout BTS’ discography, this exploration of youth’s reality as something both wonderful and fraught with anxiety and difficulties was already on center-stage as the act’s musical raison d’etre since their very first songs. But “I Need U” served as both a representation of their stylistic maturing, as well as a noted visual shift that emphasized their messaging in a way that anyone, regardless of language, could understand the intent of what BTS was trying to relay regarding the experience of youth through the theatrical video of “I Need U,” which is a cornerstone element in the BU storyline.
The combination was a major success, and though BTS already had a sizable, dedicated international ARMY following at this point -- and would bring their The Red Bullet Tour Stateside following the release of “I Need U” -- it propelled the act’s momentum further than ever before, with both local and international audiences taking note.
“I think BTS’ competence, passion, and skills grew towards The Most Beautiful Moment in Life series, and it exploded,” says Brother Su. “I remember the energy of both BTS and the producers was so intense when the group became even more popular after winning the 1st place in national TV music show for the first time.”
The act’s first runaway success, “I Need U” laid the groundwork for what was to come, thematically, creatively, and musically, and served as a launching pad for the late-decade rise of BTS as harbingers of a more globalized music scene. “The track set their music apart as vanguard and oriented towards global musical trends more than local ones," says Cho, "reinforcing the idea that BTS and Big Hit were breaking new ground in the idol-pop arena."
Regularly, listeners erroneously describe K-pop as a “genre” of music. But unlike Europop, the geographic notation of “K-pop” doesn’t immediately bring a single sonic style to mind. Instead, it evokes the idea of pristinely crafted pop perfection that blends a wide range of musical styles.
And though many, many songs coming out of the South Korean pop scene have played with tonal shifts and BPM switcheroos, few have done so with such aplomb as Girls’ Generation’s 2013 hit “I Got a Boy” -- which is often compared to Queen’s tone-hopping epic “Bohemian Rhapsody” due to its pristinely chaotic approach to jumping between musical elements.
A medley of upbeat components blended together with a sense of frenzied vibrancy, “I Got a Boy” was imagined by Korean entertainment label as if it were pretty much a showtune, says songwriter Sarah Lundbäck. “They were so smart. ‘[People] get bored, you need to keep the interest up.’ They said they really wanted to make the song into a musical feel, in the storyline. Because they really wanted the song to be about a girl that meets a boy and all her friends are telling her, like, ‘You’re an idiot. What can you see in this boy? He’s not good for you,’ and she’s like ‘Well, I got a boy.’”
The result was a girlish discourse about dating wrapped in everything from pump-up chants to panicked raps to enraged pop-rock-fueled vocal belts. “In my head, it was like, ‘Okay, we can do something crazy,’” reflects Lundbäck, pointing to how the song goes through nine distinct tonal shifts. “And it really felt like it was crazy, and that was fun. It’s so not conventional.”
The track, which started out as a songcamp brainchild of Lundbäck, Will Simms, and Anne Judith Wik, nearly ended up with Missy Elliot -- but once SM Entertainment got its hands on it, the K-pop company’s producing division says via a joint statement that the A&R team, “came up with various ideas by editing the song day and night.”
A major success, the song debuted at No. 1 on South Korea’s Gaon singles chart. The music video for “I Got a Boy,” which won video of the year at the first, and only one of two, YouTube Music Video Awards, was a colorful explosion of visual confectionary that enhanced the audio elements, and helped spread it across the globe as a viral hit.
Tiffany Young, a Girls’ Generation member who is now pursuing her solo career based out of LA, says the song’s eclecticism came out of the act’s need to show a new side to themselves. It was in part inspired by two female managers they worked with at the time who empowered them to put forth a style of music that suited them more as they aged, something that felt different and bolder. “We had discussed that we wanted to do something more challenging,” she says. “This felt like it was it, because I had never heard anything like it yet. The song is a song that keeps giving.”
Overall, “I Got a Boy” showed the world what a little ingenuity could do without being hampered not only by genre limitations, but also by perceptions of an individual act’s artistic identity. As we approach the latter end of the decade, genre-blending is no longer only commonplace in K-pop but increasingly more and more musicians refuse to color in the lines resulting in more dynamic music than ever before. “I Got a Boy,” the epitome of this, set the standard for the industry moving forward, and upped the bar for 21st century musical experimentalism. “I think it was the first of its kind,” says Young.
It was the scream at a yoga butt seen ‘round the world. “Gangnam Style” had it all: dirty dancing in an elevator; a love-at-first-sight scene in slow-motion; men in yellow tracksuits holding dance-offs in a garage; elderly people on a party bus; children cosplaying as adults. This was the gif-worthy moment when Korean hitmaker Psy rode in with his Trojan horse dance, grafting K-pop onto America’s collective consciousness.
But don’t call the then-34-year-old an overnight success. With a stage name short for “Psycho,” Psy made his name in the early aughts -- and his boundary-pushing debut had lyrics so NSFW, he was fined for it. It was only a matter of time before his flair for showmanship caught on everywhere else.
This pop equivalent of an adrenaline shot was the prequel to K-pop’s rise in the States, currently led by the biggest boy band in the world: BTS. While Wonder Girls and BoA made the first gains out West, “Gangnam Style” -- read as a satire of the affluent Seoul district, though the artist told Newsweek that it "wasn't a criticism of Gangnam” -- achieved virtual omnipresence. The game irrevocably changed when it came to international crossovers. Suddenly, Korean-language music was not only on the general public’s radar, it launched a full-blown takeover.
The history of “Gangnam Style” is paved in firsts that no other artist can ever replicate. In a meme economy of instant forgettability, truncated attention spans bent to his will. For a while, this maximalist anthem had staying power -- eclipsing Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” it became the first-ever music video to reach the billion-view mark. Before it became a figure of speech, Psy broke the internet. Literally: The world’s biggest streaming service was not prepared for Psy-levels of viewership. When the music video hit 2.1 billion views in 2014, YouTube’s view counter had to undergo a redesign.
It’s easy to take the currency of online fame for granted in the TikTok era. While the Lil Nas Xs of the world are breaking chart records in 2019, the funnyman was one of the first stars to parlay virality into the upper reaches of the Hot 100. His climb to the No. 2 spot foreshadowed a chart system that would be ruled by streaming in the coming years. “YouTube has not only become a big deal for K-pop but also for pop culture worldwide,” Psy comments to Billboard.
HyunA -- the visual’s leading lady and a Korean superstar in her own right -- notes how the global ripple effect was felt back home. “It was an opportunity to put South Korea on the map for people around the world,” says the singer-songwriter, who signed to Psy’s P Nation label this year. “While it clearly had a huge influence on gauging worldwide interest in K-pop, it also attracted just as much interest in the Gangnam district.”
While Psy was many Westerners’ first exposure to K-pop, he’s not exactly emblematic of the idol industry currently investing in stateside crossovers. Amid the increasing self-seriousness of the idolsphere, this showman sauntered in like a chaos agent. The typical idol is limited to the boundaries of a squeaky-clean role model. But Psy’s oddball sensibility made him stand out, as he took the camp theatrics of K-pop to their illogical endpoint.
“The song is immensely symbolic, and its legacy lives on in the form of a figurative trophy the world has gifted me, displayed right here in my living room,” Psy says with a laugh. “I glance at it every so often, and it fills me with pride.”
source: billboard @ twt, billboard article : 1, 2, 3, 4, youtube : 1theK, SMTOWN, officialpsy
That's a lot of text, I'm sorry! Just enjoy the videos if you don't wanna bother reading - though I do like some parts of the articles, especially the one about SNSD because that actually reflects how I feel about that song!