7 classic '90s Kpop songs every true fan knows
Children of the '90s, gather around! Here's a lesson for all of you Kpop lovers out there. Contemporary Kpop holds a special place in my heart (and in my playlists), but sometimes you just have to go back to the classics. So, in celebration of our new '90s throwback series Answer Me 1994, I've compiled a list of some classic early '90s songs that Kpop fans should know.
Keep in mind that this is by no means a conclusive list -- there are way too many amazing and iconic '90s k-pop songs to fit into one list! I've tried to stay within 1991-1995, since 1995-onward is probably the period where modern Kpop really took off (and that's a post for another day wink wink).
1. Kim Wan Sun -- "The Pierrot Looks At Us and Laughs" (1991)
Running Man fans may recognize Kim Wan Sun from the Legends Special (episode 33 on DF!), when the cast members fell over themselves at her arrival. And for good reason -- this 'Korean Madonna' still looks and sings as flawlessly as she did when she debuted as a 17 year old in 1986. Kim stole the hearts of her listeners with her charm and sensual charisma on stage, releasing hit after number 1 hit and selling over a million copies of her fifth album. With her ageless beauty and superb dancing skills, Kim is the original prototype of the female Kpop star.
You can hear her adoring fans screaming 'unnie!!' in this performance of her hit song 'The Pierrot Looks At Us and Laughs' :
And just to prove again how FLAWLESS she is, check out her performance from 2006 here. Omo, so yeppuh *____* Totally girl crushing here.
2. Seo Taiji and Boys -- "Nan Arayo" (1992)
Known as the man who changed the landscape of popular Korean music forever, music legend Seo Taiji created dance group Seo Taiji and Boys in 1992 with dancers Lee Juno and Yang Hyun Suk. Yes, you read that right. Yang Hyun Suk, aka YG, aka our fav CEO~~ After the breakup of his first band, a heavy metal group called Sinawe, Seo Taiji began experimenting with MIDI technology and ended up introducing a whole new genre of music to the South Korean public -- the precursor to what we now know as modern Kpop.
Watch the original MV for their debut single 'Nan Arayo' (I Know) and witness the birth of modern Kpop.
For added pleasure, here's YG looking extra fly in one-shouldered overalls. Very naice.
3. DEUX -- Turn Around and Look at Me (1993)
As one of the first groups to introduce hip hop to South Korea in the early '90s, no list of classic '90s Kpop would be complete without DEUX. Their debut single 'Turn Around and Look At Me' may have come out twenty years ago, but even the newest Kpop fan might recognize the catchy intro and iconic arm flailing choreography from all of the dance covers done over the years, including Hoya's version in Answer Me 1997. (episode 10, 4:56. You're welcome.)
Watch the full dance in DEUX's performance on MBC's Saturday Night Music Show from 1993:
Do the windmill... do the windmill... ~( ^o^ )~~ ~~( ^o^ )~
Or watch Hoya do this combination Harlem Shake / jazz hands over and over and over..
4. Park Jin Young -- "Don't Leave Me" (1994)
Most of us know Park Jin Young better as JYP, CEO of JYP Entertainment and producer/composer of many of his idols' songs (you've all heard that infamous 'JYP~~' whisper at the beginning of each track), but JYP actually started out as a performer himself! He debuted as a solo singer in 1994 and continues to release new tracks today, including last year's 'You're the One.' Famous for his unique fashion sense (plastic pants, anyone?) and dancing skills, Park Jin Young released hit after hit in the '90s, including his first single 'Don't Leave Me' from his first album:
5. Kim Gun Mo -- "Wrongful Meeting" (1995)
Ahhh, one of my favorites. A legendary Korean singer with 13 albums under his belt, Kim Gun Mo is easily recognizable by his one-of-a-kind voice, thick glasses, and powerful stage presence. Kim holds the record for most selling album in Korea -- his third studio album sold over 3.3 million copies -- and has consistently released top-ranking singles through the 90s and into the 2000s.
His classic on-stage look includes shades and baggy pants (like, really baggy) that highlight his short stature; in addition to being an incredibily talented musician, Kim also has a great sense of humor that he conveys in his performances and appearances on variety shows.
6. Solid -- "Holding On to the End of This Night" (1995)
Around the same time hip hop began filtering into Korea, its soulful counterpart R&B was also making its way into the country's music industry. A trio of Korean-American boys rode in at the front of the R&B wave as the ground-breaking band Solid, helping to introduce another sound into an industry heavily saturated by ballads. You can hear Solid's American roots in their hit song 'Holding On to the End of This Night,' which sounds delightfully similar to a lot of the R&B hitting the radio waves in America at that time. While Solid was only active as a group between 1993-1997, they paved the way for future singers to incorporate R&B into their music and carve out the genre's own niche in popular Korean music.
7. Turbo -- "Black Cat" (1995)
Dance music kings Turbo reigned as an immensely popular group from the mid '90s to the early 2000s, selling over a million copies of every one of their albums and consistently ranking top ten on the charts throughout their career. The duo quickly became synonymous with dance music thanks to their fast beats and catchy, easy-to-follow lyrics, but the combination of Kim Jong Kook's gentle, flute-like vocals and Mikey's energetic rapping allowed them to expand beyond the dance genre and release hit ballads as well.
Watch Running Man's Spartan warrior bouncing around the stage, pre-muscles, in their performance of early single 'Black Cat.' Feel free to giggle hysterically.
I'm going to be perfectly honest and say that part of the reason I included Turbo in this post (versus a late ' 90s post) is to compare and contrast Turbo-era KJG with current KJG. Hehehehehehe.
Many of these singers have other famous songs besides the ones featured here, but since this is an early '90s post I only highlighted singles from early on in their career. What other early '90s hits are your favorite? Anyone a fan of Kim Hyun Shik, Lee Seung Chul, and other classic '80s/'90s ballad singers? If you love '90s Kpop, don't forget to keep up with Answer Me 1994 on DramaFever :D~