arcadey tvxq
I’m not typically a huge listener of boy bands because I generally find their music to be more generic than their girl group counterparts, but when the boys get it right, they really get it right.

There were a lot of great boy band singles this year, some that I probably missed, and many that I was unable to fit onto this list. Although I don’t listen to boy bands as much as I’d like (something I’m going to change next year), these are the songs that really stood out to me the most in 2014.

u-kiss quit playing
13. U-Kiss – Quit Playing

“Quit Playing” is a hideously misogynistic song that tells women that they shouldn’t look sexy because it might make a man feel insecure, and then makes it worse with a music video that shows the female leads acting promiscuous and having threesomes, on top of using female backup dancers as mindless sexual props.

With that said, there’s still no denying that Duble Sidekick’s catchy acoustic production is refreshingly simple in a time when so many K-pop songs are overly ambitious or electro-heavy. And as distasteful as the lyrics are, it’s a fairly accurate depiction of how many men feel. Sad, but true.

alphabat tantara
12. AlphaBAT – Tantara

AlphaBAT is a low-budget nugu group made up of idols that were either too ugly, too plastic, or too old to be accepted by any relevant agencies, leaving them to sign with the label that created G.I., the forgotten tomboy girl group. On paper they should be terrible, and they kinda are (their concept is built around the alphabet for fuck’s sake), but they’re also amazing as a cheap guilty pleasure. Their single “Tantara” is strangely hypnotic, with thunderous beats and $2 trap snares against a gibberish chorus of easy-to-remember refrains like “lalalala” and “ay-yo!”

Also, that nightstick choreography is really somethin’.

cross gene amazing bad lady
11. Cross Gene – Amazing Bad Lady

Cross Gene joined the sexy trend this year with the saucy “Amazing Bad Lady,” which saw the boy band humping the air and touching themselves to a soundtrack of orgasmic dubstep explosions and cheeky synths. Sex factor aside, it’s a damn good song–just get a load of that speedy intro on the second verse. And even without the mouth-watering choreography, “Amazing Bad Lady” is still hot enough to get your pulse racing.

toppdogg annie
10. Toppdogg – Annie

Toppdogg, despite their ridiculous name, had a number of incredible singles this year, but none were better than “Annie”; a retro patchwork that borrows from the best that pop music has to offer, from Janet and Michael to Seo Taiji and Boys.

MBLAQ Be a Man
09. MBLAQ – Be a Man

MBLAQ essentially remade NSYNC’s “Gone” with this breathtaking ballad, but were dynamic enough to incorporate elements of modern R&B into the composition to prevent “Be a Man” from turning into yet another straight K-pop throwback single (not that there’s anything wrong with throwbacks!). A stunning, nuanced vocal performance and progressive production allowed “Be a Man” to surpass the American song that so obviously inspired it.

history desire
08. HISTORY – Psycho

LOEN’s underrated boy band returned this year with a truly psychotic synth-pop single about raping an ex-girlfriend, complete with a homoerotic music video that was modelled after Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but felt thematically closer to A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. It’s weird and wrong, and I’m still not entirely sure what it’s really about, but it hasn’t left me all year.

Boys Republic Video Game
07. Boys’ Republic – Video Game

Ratchet hip-hop, neon synths, Tron-pop, and the best bits of every good VIXX song all rolled into one.

got7 a
06. GOT7 – A

It was incredibly difficult to pick between “A” and the excellent “Stop Stop It” for this list, but I went with the former because it’s the best ’90s revivalist single the year, on top of being one of the best feel-good tunes too. J.Y. Park also proved that he’s still got the magic touch with the song’s arrangement, which subtly shifts and changes without being obvious about it–something not often heard in K-pop.

infinite back
05. INFINITE – Back

Outside of B2ST and TVXQ, INFINITE was the best boy band in K-pop between 2011 and 2012, but they quickly went downhill after peaking with the still mind-blowing “The Chaser” (easily one of the best K-pop songs ever made). After a terrible 2013, the boys returned to form with “Last Romeo,” but it was the cataclysmic electro ballad “Back” that reminded me of just how incredible INFINITE can be.

drawing the line
04. Royal Pirates – Drawing The Line

The easiest way to describe Royal Pirates is to call them the non-shitty version of Maroon 5, but their sound is diverse enough to warrant more than that offhanded description. Their super catchy single “Drawing The Line” combines glossy pop-rock, strokes of blues, and disco; it’s both poignant and danceable at once, with affecting vocal melodies adding waves of emotion to a song that could sound like shallow radio fodder in the wrong hands.

tvxq tense
03. TVXQ – Something

I was floored by “Something” when I first heard it, but it sounds even more impressive now that various forms of retro-pop are starting to infiltrate the Americans charts, from Meghan Trainor’s doo-doo doo-wop to horn-y hits like Jessie J’s “Bang Bang”–all of which sound utterly infantile and basic when stacked up against “Something”. The song’s composition is masterful, effortlessly jitterbuggin’ its way through swing, big band, and jazz, without ever breaking a sweat. It also possibly ripped-off the bassline from “Stray Cat Strut,” which certainly ain’t a bad thing.

tvxq spellbound
02. TVXQ – Spellbound

“Spellbound” wasn’t as ambitious as “Something,” but it was the smoothest, most irresistibly romantic song of the year. A classic R&B bounce with flourishes of funk and jazz, paired with Yunho and Max’s always impressive vocals and a catchy K-pop-style chorus of “surisuri masuri” made “Spellbound” an undeniable tear-inducing masterpiece and the greatest TVXQ single since the group became a duo. And don’t even get me started on the live performances, which are among the best I’ve ever seen in the pop field.

block b her
01. Block B – HER

I didn’t listen to “Her” when it first came out because I’ve never liked anything Block B has done before, and I didn’t really hear it properly until it came on the radio one day when I was in the shower and unable to change the station. I guess you could say I was forced to listen to “HER,” but once I did, I was completely blown away. The way it takes the gaudy, in-your-face pop production favored by most Korean boy bands, then stuffs it full of blues, gospel, rock ‘n’ roll, and Diplo-esque electronic hip-hop is awe-inspiring; it’s the stuff that only somebody truly gifted and versed in music could do. “HER” is so nuanced, with every squiggly riff and bassline carefully thought out: just listen to the way one of the deeper-voiced members unexpectedly steps in to sing second chorus, or the ham guitars on the outro. I feel like this song single-handedly made me fall in love with K-pop all over again by reminding me just what the genre is capable of. There just wasn’t a pop song anywhere in the world this year as brilliant as Block B’s “HER.”


  • Db

    Swap TVXQ’s Something with Infinite’s Back and that’s my top 3 for the boy groups.

    Boys Republic has won me over with the one two punch of Dress Up and The Real One.

    I always forget about Topp Dogg (justice for EVOL!). Annie is absolutely amazing. More groups need to revisit the new jack swing style.

  • KingBeaArthur

    As a longtime fan of Block B’s (pre scandal; back when Zico was still rocking the dreads) I’m proud of how far the group has come! For me, they topped their ‘rivals’ B1A4 (who bored me with “Solo Day”; admittedly cute/WTF mv) and Boyfriend (who never recovered after switching it up with “Janus”, imo) this year with both “HER” and the less stellar, but still fun “Jackpot”.

    -Boys’ Republic made the biggest turnaround post debut with “Video Game” I’ve ever seen! I still loathe “Party Rock” but they delivered gem after gem with VG, “Dress Up”, and “The Real One”!

    -HISTORY have yet to falter for me [*completely ignores “Tell Me Love”*]! After FIESTAR dropped their 3-way anthem, I was NOT prepared for HISTORY’s rape thriller! Summer 2014 was interesting to say the least!

    -The fact that MBLAQ flopped with “Be A Man” speaks less on the group’s ability to inconsistently release amazing songs, and more so on Korea’s penchant for flopping great songs!!! [*pours one out for “Sugar Free”*] I’m hopeful the remaining trio (or possible new member(s)) are able to deliver big things next year!

    -Infinite ALMOST won me back with “Back”! I miss them though…”The Chaser” is still flaw-free.

    -Thank Glob you put “A” instead of “Stop Stop It”! “A” is joyous and inescapable. One of the best JY compositions in a while.

    -Finally: “Something” + “Spellbound”. Both flawless songs, both expertly delivered live, both deserving of top 3 positions. TVXQ are the kings for a reason.

    • MBLAQ has flopped before with some really solid tracks lmao i wasn’t surprised that be a man wasn’t successful. it’s at least also partially because j.tune never knew how to promote them; the members are all individually pretty popular (esp joomir) but nobody traces it back to MBLAQ and all the amazing stuff they’ve been doing since they broke free of rain and released mona lisa

      • KingBeaArthur

        Exactly. It didn’t help that there was such a huge gap between “Smoky Girl” and “Be A Man”. If TS having BAP make 10 comebacks in a year was the extreme, J.Tune’s once-whenever-we-feel-like-it was definitely the opposite end of the spectrum.

        I’m hoping MBLAQ get some fresh blood, KARA/Youngji-style, and reinvent themselves for their return. I’m still rooting for them.

        • don’t even get me started on smoky girl or the 10000 other songs that deserved the spotlight that ‘wolf’ somehow got last summer
          ugh MBLAQ is one of my absolute all-time favourite pop acts and it SUCKS that two of them are leaving. i was half-hoping they could pull a shinhwa and just all go but mir’s brother in law runs jtc so it’s probably impossible :| yeahh i guess i would be happy if they continued making music with new members but i’m going to miss the five of them so much on variety shows; idol army, idol manager, hbb and the school one were all fucking golden ;_;

  • Nicole Naeun

    This list is RIGGED that SuriSuri aka Song of the Year isn’t #1

    Anyway, can I just say that Girlgroups >>>>>> Wall >>>>>> Boygroups. Half of these releases are so boring and uninteresting. Boygroups better up their game next year.

  • JammySmoochie

    Great list! HISTORY! BOYS REPUBLIC! CROSS GENE! MBLAQ! You know the good nugus!

    Few things:
    – Boys Republic’s A Real Man also deserves to be on this list.
    – VIXX is somehow nowhere to be found. Eternity was quite good.
    – So was B1A4. Love my sajaegi princes!
    – GOT7 truly deserves to be here. Although in my opinion, they are definitely top 5. Maybe second to Suri Suri.
    – Glad you liked Last Romeo as well. But Back definitely was the better Infinite single. Not The Chaser-tier but nothing really is.
    – No B.A.P? It’s okay, 1004 (Angel) was okay at best.
    – I see you’re not riding that BTS ride. Yet.
    – I’ll listen to HER again because I didn’t really get it the first few listens.

    Thank you for making end-of-year lists again! They were sorely missed.

    • i thought ‘danger’ was amazing, but bts definitely need a push to take their songs to a “I WANT TO REPEAT THIS SONG ALL DAY FOR EVER” tier. i feel like NO came closest to that.
      lma o nothing bap ever did after their heavy metal pop stage will ever be as good as their heavy metal pop stage

      • JammySmoochie

        I generally agree. Boy In Luv and Danger were bops but didn’t have the repeat factor. I hope to see them come up with better hooks in 2015.

        Cute B.A.P slay tho! Crash and Stop It >>>>>

        • i like crash, but it will never top songs like voicemail

        • Nicole Naeun

          Boy in Luv fucking SLAYS and is better than 80% of these songs!

          • JammySmoochie

            LMAO chill! I love Boy In Luv too. But I get why Jacques may have overlooked it.

    • oneclearnight

      ia, bts are p good but have yet to release a really amazing single.

      re: vixx, i love them but idk eternity was really lacklustre to me. error was better, but sort of reminded me of beast’s fiction. i prefer their older stuff.

    • Hyuun

      VIXX this year was trying too much to be BEAST honestly.

      They were so good in past, idk what happened.

      • JammySmoochie

        I don’t know if they trying to be BEAST. But I must say, their pre-2014 stuff was really stronger. I mean, hyde >>>>>>>>

  • elibeans

    I love this list. So many of my nugu and flop faves.

  • Anthony

    I like all the songs on your list but no VIXX? Eternity and to a lesser extent Error were both very good.

    • meowmel

      Error is definitely the better song.

  • i refUSE to like A no matter what anybody says, good tonight should have been the song they promoted off got love.
    why did i think drawing the line had been released in 2013 o.O
    maybe it’s because i like shout out so damn much

    • oneclearnight

      omg yes!!! iyah should have been infinite’s for sure. i love that song, it was sorted of wasted on boyfriend as a repack single.

  • UncleFan

    TVXQ’s “Spellbound” gets my #1. How often do you get to see an MV that can accurately be described as a tour de force?

  • oneclearnight

    this list is amazing. her really is one of the best boy band singles in ages. it’s just such a really fun song with great, layered production. turned me into a fan of block b tbh.

    mblaq’s be a man is so underrated (i feel terrible for dismissing it as boring at first). it’s actually really good.

    best year for tvxq, breaking records left and right, selling out tours and releasing great music. whoever decided in sm to inject some jazz and soul into their music deserves a raise, it fits them perfectly. plus as you say, best performances of the year :’).

    at least infinite gave us destiny in 2013. i wouldn’t say it was a completely shitty year for them… back is the best thing they’ve done for awhile tho, ia.

    no love for overdose? i think b1a4’s lonely deserves to be on here somewhere. also i really missed shinee this year, i need a comeback from them asap. :(

    • fan

      yunho started it :’) he heard ‘something’ in the halls of sm, liked it so much he forgot to ask changmin’s opinion to include it in TENSE.

  • Marhaebwa

    Number #1 and #2 are spot on tbh.
    Spellbound is my most replayed boy group single (followed by the flawless Infinite Destiny b-side, Inception.) TVXQ hit the money with that – it feels like it encapsulates the maturity they’ve gained throughout their now-11 years.

    I only discovered HER a few days ago and I never even blinked at the thought of Block B but the production, the chorus, the “oh-oh”, the MV, the delivery…
    GIVE ME MORE BLOCK B TO LISTEN TO!!

  • TheFishHook

    Psychos definitely my number one, it’s good to see someone else mentioning it.

  • niyahhill

    I wish speed was more popular because they also released one of the best fucking songs last year!With dont tease me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLnQtELgH7Q

    • _craypopper

      I love them, but I prefer their ’13 releases.

      • niyahhill

        Me to in a way but this was still a really good fucking song!

  • MIKEE

    This is all i have to say…

    http://youtu.be/3TyKyeS3P-Q