Beyond PSY: 5 Essential K-Pop Tracks

Five songs that define one of the world's most lively musical genres

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Psy performs onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Sept. 21, 2012.

The other bit of big news coming from the Korean peninsula, one not involving nuclear-tipped missiles, is the release of the follow-up single to “Gangnam Style” by PSY—listen to the song, “Gentleman,” here. The song will be performed live for the very first time this weekend at Seoul’s World Cup stadium—the show will also stream on YouTube. But “Gentleman,” for all its global-hit potential, is just another track to spring forth from one the world’s most dynamic musical genres: K-Pop.

As you’re probably too busy working on your horsey dance to comb through past  Billboard‘s K-pop Hot 100 charts, we’ve selected five songs that, together, form a mini-history of K-Pop’s sonic delights.

1. Seo Taiji and Boys, “Nan Arayo”

This track doesn’t exactly sound like the K-pop you may hear today—it’s definitely from 1992—but it’s thought by many to be the beginning of K-pop. In this clip from a TV competition, you can see the band get low scores while changing Korean pop music.


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2. Wonder Girls, “Nobody”

In 2009, this track—here in its English version—became the first modern K-pop song to break into the Billboard Hot 100.


3. Super Junior-T, “Rokkugo”

One of the more unusual characteristics of K-pop is the proliferation of spin-off groups, and super-siezed boy band Super Junior is no exception. Their group-within-a-group Super Junior-T is worth listening to because their focus is on adapting the Korean pop genre known as “trot,” an older form of Korean pop music that took shape in the early 20th century that some see as the precursor to K-pop.


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4. Big Bang, “Bad Boy”

Big Bang scored the top-selling K-pop album of 2012 with the EP Alive, featuring songs like “Bad Boy.”


5. Girls’ Generation/SNSD, “

…and the top-selling girl-group album was Girls’ Generation’s The Boys. The group also scored two of the top five K-pop music DVDs of the year.


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