As we head into the fourth quarter of the K-Pop season, it’s time to look back on the third quarter and its highlight songs. The third quarter (July-September) gave us comebacks from BIGBANG, HyunA, 9Muses, Girls’ Generation, Infinite, Girl’s Day, APINK, Ailee, Got7, SHINee, Wonder Girls, and Red Velvet among others, as well as debuts from LoveUs, Unicorn, April, Up10tion, iKON, and Day6. However, were their songs good enough to make our top 30 for the third quarter? Read on to find out!
- GD&T.O.P “Zutter” | August 5
“Zutter” was a nice return for the GD&T.O.P pair many love. “Zutter” has a more old-school hip-hop vibe to help it be a memorable song. T.O.P has the right tone which tempers GD’s sometimes off-putting sound. GD’s lower tones do match T.O.P better so everything balances.
- BIGBANG “If You” | July 1
T.O.P’s voice is perfectly imperfect; Seungri is raw and heartwarming; G-Dragon’s chorus is on-point. “If You” has issues with pitch and tone with Daesung and Taeyang feeling like they’re yelling more than singing and the lines being slightly shaky overall. The song is supposed to be emotional with many praising it for being one of BIGBANG’s best. The song is good, but it’s not great. However, it shows BIGBANG’s softer side, earning a spot on the list.
- D-Holic “Chewy” | July 7
D-Holic’s comeback wasn’t widely announced, so it went unnoticed for the most part, which is a shame because “Chewy” is a strong song with a great beat. The one downfall is the music tends to drown out the girls’ vocals. The overall composition made “Chewy” a legit summer track.
- Super Junior “Devil” | July 15
Super Junior can still do youthful, relevant music even though their vocals have matured. The combination provides a strong dynamic to help “Devil” stick around as an earworm of epic proportions. While it’s obvious there are voices missing due to military obligations, the remaining members do a great job covering for their absences.
- Infinite “Bad” | July 12
“Bad” tends to be one-note during the chorus. However, it maintains Infinite’s signature sound and gives each member enough time to shine. It’s a powerful dance track that gives fans the appropriate Infinite fix.
- Wonder Girls “I Feel You” | August 2
The 1980s are alive and well for “I Feel You.” Wonder Girls’ much anticipated comeback sported amazing vocals by Lim, Yenny, and Sunmi. Lim’s slightly breathy, sweet vocals somehow make the song feel more retro, while Yubin’s rap provides a modern sound. “I Feel You” is good, but other songs on Reboot were better.
- April “Dream Candy” | August 23
April’s sweet vocals and adorable song make them a breath of fresh air. The song feels like an opening to an anime, but that’s part of the charm. Songs that have innocent charms have more appeal because they feel more nostalgic. “Dream Candy” has the right amount of vocal strength and cuteness that made it stand out in the rookie rush.
- Purfles “A Bad Thing” | September 2
Purfles are one of 2014’s most underrated groups, which is a terrible tragedy given how amazing “1, 2, 3” was. They show how underrated they are again with “A Bad Thing.” The tone and feel of the song is perfect for their vocal abilities, and enough to keep their cult following thirsting for more.
- Ladies’ Code “I Smile Even Though it Hurts” | September 7
Zuny, Sojung, and Ashley perform a lovely tribute to EunB and RiSe in this highly emotional song. It’s easy to feel their heartbreak one year following the accident that took their friends’ lives. Ladies’ Code’s vocals are just as gorgeous as always, but the song does hit the heart hard.
- Up10tion “So Dangerous” | September 10
“So Dangerous” is a nice debut for Up10tion. The song isn’t too complex, so it provides a chance for fans to learn how to distinguish their vocals. The track follows a similar beat as LU:KUS’ “So Into U” at times, so it isn’t 100 percent original, but it’s enough to help Up10tion get noticed.
- Monsta X “Rush” | September 6
This is Monsta X’s first comeback since debut, and it’s a good one! Their first song was more hard-hitting, while “Rush” is slightly lighter while maintaining their hip-hop abilities. Each member is talented and helps carry the group well because they are multi-faceted. Monsta X proved they have staying power.
- Red Velvet “Dumb Dumb” | September 8
“Dumb Dumb” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s part of the appeal. Red Velvet tend to take songs and concepts that probably shouldn’t work and manage to turn them into hits. Yeri’s addition only strengthens the team, so we can expect more hits in the future.
- Hello Venus “I’m Ill” | July 21
It’s amazing how Hello Venus became a relevant group in a matter of a few months, even though songs like “Would You Like Some Tea?” will always be a cornerstone of cute perfection for them. But, as the saying goes: Sex sells. “Wiggle Wiggle” and “Sticky Sitcky” helped get them noticed and earned them fans, so it worked. “I’m Ill” tones down the sex while providing a fun dance track that’s impossible to ignore. Hello Venus found their groove, so here’s to hoping they continue to gain traction.
- The Legend “Shadow” | August 2
Taking out the “lose your head now” portion, “Shadow” is a solid song with one of the best choruses in a K-Pop song this year. The higher notes in the chorus are like warm, smooth honey. “Shadow” is easily one of the best songs this summer.
- BIGBANG “Sober” | July 1
G-Dragon’s vocals tend to be too high-pitched for the song. However, everyone else steps up to the plate to provide power and fun. The lyrics are interesting and ear-catching. The subtle rock elements strengthen the song nicely.
- GFriend “Me Gustas Tu” | July 22
GFriend caught a lot of flak from SONES when they debuted with “Glass Bead” due to its similarities to SNSD’s “Into the New World.” “Me Gustas Tu” fared better, but some noted how it sounded similar to a number of APINK songs. GFriend can’t seem to win anywhere. However, they’re cute, cheerful, and bright. The song is refreshing and provides some much needed softness in the idol industry.
- Yunho (TVXQ) “Champagne” | July 20
Released prior to his enlistment, Yunho’s “Champagne” is addictive and catchy. Even though the chorus is a misheard lyric landmine, this song didn’t get nearly enough recognition. Too bad we have to wait nearly two years before TVXQ come back.
- GOT7 “If You Do” | September 28
“If You Do” changed a lot of people’s minds about GOT7. “If You Do” has a different soul about it that highlights what many knew GOT7 were capable of anyway. Hearing it puts a whole new light on the group and hopefully marks a shift to stronger songs that can reach multiple audiences.
- Girl’s Day “Ring My Bell”| July 6
Girl’s Day have a lot of haters that’s for sure, but that shouldn’t detract from the past three years where they’ve constantly put out good, memorable singles. Their vocals have gotten stronger also. “Ring My Bell” combines all their charms, vocal abilities, and fun personalities into one song.
- CNBLUE “Cinderella” | September 13
It took a while for the song to grow on some K-Pop fans, but that’s okay. The chorus is catchy and enjoyable, but the “somebody help me” lines sound the best. Jonghyun’s vocals are golden perfection, so it’s a shame he has so few lines. However, everything works well for the tune.
- Girls’ Generation “Lion Heart” | August 16
SNSD has a large fan base, so they can do no wrong. However, some of their songs haven’t been as sharp as older hits. This isn’t due to their singing abilities, but a lot to do with songwriters and producers. “Lion Heart” is a nice return to some of the magic that makes SNSD who they are. While there are some cutesy elements incorporated that many of the members are too old for (Translation: It would be nice to see more mature concepts), the song focuses on their vocals beautifully and provides some amazing choreography. Besides, Taeyeon and Tiffany sound awesome.
- VIXX LR “Beautiful Liar” | August 16
The plot! The chemistry! This song wasn’t promoted enough and definitely didn’t get the love it deserved. The lyrics are incredible, and Leo and Ravi carried them so well. “Beautiful Liar” is beyond perfection.
- Beast “YeY” | July 26
While it isn’t the strongest of Beast songs released the past few years, “YeY” provides strength in its dance beats and addictive qualities. It should have been the song that could have dominated summer, and it might have if it wasn’t for groups with much larger fan bases making their comebacks. However, Beast usually has two comebacks per year, so the best may still be yet to come!
- Day6 “Congratulations” | September 6
“Congratulations” should have been promoted on the music shows. Out of the tracks that came from JYP Entertainment artists this year, “Congratulations” is refreshing, different, and memorable. JYP has rock charm and infuses some Jason Mraz-type vocals. If you needed a song to introduce your friends to K-Pop, this is the one to pick because it is East-meets-West in the most positive of ways.
- Ailee “Mind Your Own Business” | September 29
Ailee always brings down the house with her fierce concepts and powerful vocals. There’s always a sense of empowerment in her music that helps her stand out. The instrumentals matched her vocals amazingly. The only shame in “Mind Your Own Business” is that Ailee couldn’t give 100 percent in live performances since injury prevented her ability to dance. We did get to focus more on her vocals: A definite plus!
- 9Muses “Hurt Locker” | July 1
2015 has been 9Muses’ year as they’ve crept up the charts and earned more attention (finally!). “Hurt Locker” was a surprise hit this summer and even charted internationally. While the MV concept wasn’t original, the song was, and it showcased some of the best 9Muses have to offer. Hopefully, they earn more attention as time goes by.
- Berry Good “My First Love” | September 22
“My First Love” is one of the prettier songs to come out this year. Berry Good’s vocals touch the heart, so it’s hard to not feel emotional while listening. The songwriter, Ju Taeyeong, passed away before the song came out, so it has an additional layer of emotion. This was the song Berry Good needed to gain attention, but it sadly hasn’t happened yet.
- SHINee “Married to the Music” | August 2
SHINee is quietly the best group SM Entertainment has to offer. Their concepts are always new and refreshing, and each member has a different style. “Married to the Music” provided one of the most creative moments in a K-Pop MV this year, and the song is just pure enjoyment! The song only gets better the more you listen to it.
- BIGBANG “Let’s Not Fall in Love” | August 4
“Let’s Not Fall in Love” brings the return of perfectly-imperfect-singer T.O.P, and he starts the song off so gloriously, it’s soul melting. BIGBANG’s best vocals are present in what is, by far, their best representation from the MADE series. It’s soft yet powerful while taking BIGBANG to a whole new level in their legacy.
- Nell “Star Shell” | September 17
“Star Shell” is probably a surprise number one, but it is that good. Nell never disappoints with their music on any level of production, quality, story, and performance. “Star Shell,” like other Nell songs before it, has incredible heart and soul. Nell is one of those groups that set the standard for superior music. What’s best about Nell is that they produce amazing music quietly without the glitz and glamour of K-Pop idolatry (that’s because they’re not a K-Pop band).