1. Deep House: Uhm Jung Hwa - Watch Me Move
Uhm Jung Hwa has always brought the heat with her dance-ready music, and her latest album came with some smooth and forward-thinking jams. With "Watch Me Move," Uhm Jung Hwa took on a sound not unlike that of the U.K.'s Disclosure, and the results are both dreamy and dazzling. Even though this sound is in one of the rare electronic styles that hasn't had a huge moment in K-pop, she sounds right at home and in control throughout.
2. Jersey Club, Future Bass: NCT 127 - Baby Don't Like It
NCT 127 is perhaps the "hardest" group on SM Entertainment right now. Their songs often feature aggressive raps and heavy hitting beats, with the debut track "Firetruck" really making a statement. That's why it was special when they slowed it down with "Baby Don't Like It," a song featuring sultry chords against the impossible-to-mistake "bed squeak" samples of Jersey Club. The mix is compelling and proves that SM Entertainment has stepped up its roster of composers by reaching across the aisle for collaborations.
3. Funk: Lovelyz - WoW
Lovelyz comes from Woollim entertainment, the same home as Infinite, therefore it's no surprise that they can pull off an intricate number with dramatic flair. This one is heavily influenced by funk, with twangy guitar and slap bass backing the girls' sweet vocals. Unlike other recent efforts by K-pop acts, this song leans more towards George Clinton's kind of funk than Maroon 5's.
4. Tropical House: BTS - Blood, Sweat and Tears
BTS is perhaps the single biggest group in K-pop right now, so the stakes are high every time they release new music. As it turns out, "Blood, Sweat and Tears" was a tropical house gamble that paid off for the group in a major way. Though they were already on their way up, this song's pulsing beat and wild synthesizer use elevated the boys to a new level - just ask the attendees of this year's sold-out international tour.
5. Garage Rock: Block B - Yesterday
It's taken them some time to settle in, but Block B has begun to win over the Korean public in recent years as they opted to experiment with the style of music they make. It helps that member Zico has been experiencing a long period of public favor for his heavy-hitting hip-hop efforts, and he sounds right at home on this track in spite of the drastic contrast it offers to his usual work. Anything that features heavy guitar or instrument use is a gamble in the dance-happy world of k-pop, so it's definitely respectable that the group made a hit out of this rocking song.
6. Hard Rock: Dream Catcher - Chase Me
A common refrain you'll see in comment threads and discussions about Dream Catcher is "they would be so well suited for the Japanese market." I can't help but agree - this hard rock number leans towards the visual kei sound of bands like X Japan, with heavy guitars and thumping drums backing the girls' vocals instead of the usual bubblegum pop synths. It's in such drastic contrast to the music released by their peers, and it's hard to say if it's "ahead of its time" or simply on a different timeline entirely. This is the kind of radical experimentation needed to expand the possibilities of the K-pop world; every color-by-numbers pop song could use some contrast in the form of rocking rebellion!
7. Hip-Hop, Tropical House: K.A.R.D - Don't Recall
Being the first co-ed group in a while to gain popularity in K-pop, the pressure is on K.A.R.D to release compelling material. They rose to the occasion with "Don't Recall," a song that takes your expectations of both DJ Mustard style hip-hop and tropical house and turns them on their respective heads. The group took something familiar and made it fresh, and it's no surprise that they continue to gain favor with fans foreign and domestic.