For K-Pop fans longing for a crossover moment, ‘Gangnam Style’ felt too good to be true. It was the worldwide Hallyu hit that could never have been planned or foreseen, and its success still feels like the happy accident that it basically was.
Whether you hate it or love it, ‘Gangnam Style’ was a watershed moment, and proved that the West will embrace K-Pop in all its idiosyncrasies. As shown this year with Wonder Girls’ lackluster Akon-featuring ‘Like Money’, it just doesn’t work when Korean acts try to play American pop at its own game.
Like Popjustice’s main Top 45 Singles list, I’ve been quite strict on what constitutes a K-Pop Single here. I haven’t included any Korean acts’ Japanese-language material, like the excellent ‘Scream’ by 2NE1 and ‘Paparazzi’ by Girls’ Generation. Equally, album tracks weren’t allowed, like 4minute’s iridescent ‘Dream Racer’ and f(x)’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’, which was co-written by A*M*E.
With a few “oo-wa-oooh, oo-wa-ooohs,” ‘I Love You’ combines the the best bits of pop into a rarefied cavalcade of amazingness. It’s essentially a Xenomania-style medley-in-a-song. The song starts off with an ‘I Feel Love’-esque disco gloss, but transforms into a monster about 40 seconds from the end with a spill-your-drink synth explosion. CL, Minzy, Bom and Dara also rhyme “I love you every day in every way” with “neol saranghae,” the Korean for ‘I love you.’ This is the song that made me most excited about pop this year. You hear something new every time you listen to it.
Best Bit: The shots of Dara among red lanterns in the snow from 1:04 – 1:16, among Mad Men sillhouettes, who – pouf! – disappear into thin air.