10 old K-pop songs every K-pop fan should know

Ever wanted to know more about the first wave of K-pop of the late 90’s and early 2000’s but didn’t know where to start? Well, we’ve compiled a playlist of 10 of the most important songs to get you started! All the songs on this list are music are from idols who debuted after the start of K-pop industry as we know it today. There are of course lots of other great songs from before idol industry began but that’s a playlist for another day!

So without further ado, here are the 10 old K-pop songs every K-pop fan should know. Check out our YouTube playlist below:

1. H.O.T – Candy (1996)

H.O.T were the original ‘idol group’ and SM Entertainment’s first group who dominated the scene when they debuted. The cute concept and quirky dance moves of this song has influenced idol music throughout the years from Shinhwa to DBSK to B1A4. Every boyband worth it’s salt has covered this song at some point from BIGBANG to SHINee. It’s just a classic of the genre.

2. S.E.S – Dreams Come True (1997)

H.O.T’s labelmates S.E.S became one of the first female K-pop idol groups when they debuted a year later in 1997. What is interesting about this song is that, although there has been a lot of focus on SM buying in songs from other part of the world in recent years, this song was actually the first having already been a big hit for Finnish group, Nylon Beat. It’s also a good early example of the SM Performance musical style pioneered by Lee Soo Man and Yoo Young Jin which involves taking contrasting pieces of music, often from different styles, and mixing them together to create music which is designed with dance performance in mind (listen to the spacey-sounding rap break in the middle). This style has had a massive influence not only on SM Entertainment artists’ music but the whole industry. Dubstep break, anyone?

3. 1TYM – 1TYM (1998)

It’s debatable whether 1TYM were actually a K-pop group given that they wrote and produced a lot of their work but they were definitely influential in K-pop. The group was one of YG Entertainment’s first big hits and you can see the elements of performance and the mix of hip hop, RnB and pop which would later be refined for the company’s idol group BIGBANG. Plus, member Teddy would later be responsible for many of BIGBANG and 2NE1’s biggest hits.

4. Sechs Kies – Couple (1998)

Most K-pop fans are aware of the rivalries that can exist between groups (well, more their fans) but I doubt any will ever quite match the one that existed between H.O.T and Sechs Kies in the late 90s. Anyone who has watched Reply 1997 will already be aware of this but the tension between the groups’ fans and their companies at that time was huge. DSP may have become less influential in recent years but in the late 90s they were one of the most successful companies around with 2 of Korea’s most successful groups posing a serious threat to SM Entertainment.

5. FIN.K.L – Now (2000)

DSP’s other hugely successful group was FIN.K.L one of, if not the, most popular girl groups of the time. It featured member Lee Hyori who would go on to be one of Korea’s biggest stars. Initially debuting with a sweet and innocent ‘fairy’ concept in 1998 (which can be seen most clearly with ‘To My Boyfriend‘), FIN.K.L was one of the first to use a more mature concept to drastically change their image. This has since become standard practice for female idol groups. My personal favourite FIN.K.L single by far.

6. g.o.d – Friday Night (2000)

JYP Entertainment’s first idol group offered serious competition to the established boy bands when they debuted in 1999. In  signature JYP style, g.o.d became successful for their RnB Lite sound quickly becoming one of Korea’s hottest groups. Friday Night is one of their biggest early hits and perfectly encapsulates everything g.o.d.

7. Shinhwa – Eusha Eusha (1998)

The word Shinhwa means legend and this group has certainly lived up to its name having become Korea’s longest running boy band, still active after nearly 15 years. Although not as successful initially as SM’s older boy band H.O.T, their songs have always been popular and their second single ‘Eusha Eusha’ made it into the top 10 when it was released.

8. Baby V.O.X – Get Up (1999)

Baby V.O.X didn’t have the steadiest of careers. Initially starting off with a feisty Spice Girls-style image they weren’t accepted well by the public who liked the ‘fairy’ concepts of S.E.S and FIN.K.L and didn’t have any real success until they came back with much safer (and cuter) ‘Ya Ya Ya‘. Their big hit came with their 3rd album when they added popular member Yoon Eun Hye and brought back a (more approachable) ‘sexy’ concept with ‘Get Up’. It’s an extremely catchy track and one of my favourites.

9. BoA – Listen To My Heart (2002)

Many of K-pop biggest acts make most of their music revenue nowadays from successful promotions in Japan but this wasn’t always the case. The first artist to have real success in Japan was BoA in 2002 after a lot of hard work studying the language to the point where she could take part in Japanese variety shows and interviews and make herself known to the Japanese public. It proved to be an effective strategy and BoA has had many of her biggest successes in Japan and paved the way for others. This is her breakthrough Japanese single from her Oricon number 1 album.

10. Rain – Bad Guy (2002)

So JYP it hurts, this is Rain’s first single and was a big hit. As the first wave of K-pop started to come to an end, Rain’s debut marked a departure from the strategies used to promote previous acts focussing on developing an acting career as well as a music one and attempting to move into both other Asian and American markets. The results were mixed but he undeniably became one of Asia’s biggest stars.


You made it to the end of the playlist! For that we want to thank you and offer you a reward. It comes in the form of the traditional music-influenced eurotechno masterpiece that is Lee Jung Hyun’s 2002 song Dara Dara. If you think it sounds like the music from an arcade game, you would be right as much of her music has been used for arcade rhythm games. You are welcome.

Let us know in the comments what your favourite song is and if you have any others you would have included!

Click here to listen to our other BH playlists.

The following two tabs change content below.
  • http://twitter.com/NyNy_x NyNy ♛ ナイナイ

    Quite agree but I believe for 1TYM it should be HOT but I like this list :)

  • http://twitter.com/cloudduel_13 Eloy

    Nice to see Lee Jung Hyun getting some love. She is the reason why I got into kpop.

  • Yeon

    wheres Lyn?

  • hananohana

    Ahhh there he is. The reason I became interested in K-Pop. Rain.

  • James

    Whats that song that goes parapapapapara where they shake their jacket?

    • Quincy z

      Only 6 months late but i’m100% sure you mean Jo Sung Mo – Pledge

      famous for the jacket shaking dance :)