From Billboard Korea's offices in Gangnam to the East and West coasts, check out the songs that the Billboard and Billboard Korea staff were blasting all year from K-pop veterans to the top boy and girl groups.
Girls' Generation, "I Got a Boy"
Released on New Years Day, the girl group phenom set the standard high for K-pop in 2013 with this genre-bending, tempo-changing smash. With a load of seemingly disparate aural elements -- clunky electro-pop, minimal drum 'n' bass, soaring diva vocals, fierce rapping, drastic tempo changes, xylophones -- Girls' Generation smoothes it all over with a sing-along chorus and ace, forward-thinking production.
BAE CHI GI feat. Ailee, "Shower of Tears"
The rap duo BAE CHI GI's 15 years of relentless hustle and hard work finally paid off this year with the group's hip-hop ballad hybrid "Shower Of Tears" featuring female vocal wunderkind Ailee. The folky, guitar-laden track is enhanced by French artist Oliver Monoury playing the bandoneon, Ailee's gooey vocals meshing along with the duo's lilting rapping.
4Men, "Hello It's Me"
Renowned for pristine vocal pipes, lush productions and soul-shattering lyrics, 4men rarely disappoints. The trio's "Hello It's Me" ballad soared into listeners' hearts while lead vocalist Shin Yong Jae's surging vocal approach reminded them of lost love.
SISTAR19, "Gone Not Around Any Longer"
The No. 1 overall song according to the K-Pop Hot 100 this year, Sistar19's sophomore single showcased a very different side to the duo from debut single "Ma Boy." Over a jazzy, saxophone accompaniment Hyorin and Bora coo their way through the melancholic track, each taking a verse to tell the story of longing for a lost lover and dealing with new realities.
Nell, "Ocean of Light"
After years of delving into dark subjects like depression and anger, the four-piece band brightened up with "Ocean of Light." An uplifting rock track with thundering drum and electronica showcasing frontman Kim Jong Wan's touching vocals demands the listener to "Just breathe in and breathe out your dreams with me."
Taeyang, "Ringa Linga"
Four of five BIGBANG members had major K-pop releases this year, but the one to truly shine was Taeyang with the hard-hitting, club banger "Ringa Linga." His smoky vocals poured over an elaborate production of pumping synths and chest-beating thumps (courtesy of Jose E. Luna and bandmate G-Dragon) -- plus the intense accompanying choreography -- make the solo single one of 2013's most addicting.
Cho Yong Pil, "Bounce"
After years of fans begging for new music, living K-pop legend Cho Yong Pil, at 63, delivered the unthinkable and captivated music fans of all ages with the pop-rock piece "Bounce." The spritely, feel-good track was released before the launch of his epically-anticipated 19th LP, "Hello," and ranked as one of 2013's biggest hits.
f(x), "Rum Pum Pum Pum"
If longtime f(x) fans were turned off by the quintet's by-the-numbers "Electric Shock" last year, the girls returned at their most experimental yet. Somehow, "Rum Pum Pum Pum" blends funky guitar riffs, elements of samba, hard-hitting beats, alien-like harmonies and the Christmas classic "Little Drummer Boy" into one accessible pop treat.
Drunken Tiger feat. Yoon Mi Rae & Bizzy, "The Cure"
The longtime collaborators teamed up once again for what might be 2013's most touching -- and at the same time soothing -- tracks. Tiger and Bizzy's deeply-reflective raps alongside Yoon Mi Rae's inspiring chorus makes for a track that will cuts deep into one's soul, but guides the listener back to the light.
"Growl" was the crown jewel in boy band EXO's fantastic 2013. While past singles like "Mama" and "Wolf" were based around complex concepts and busy production, "Growl" used a sparse, Southern hip-hop beat that let the 12 boys' talents shine through. A blend of rap, R&B melodicism and pop hooks, the breakout single had something for all listeners. Its accompanying video focused on a straight-forward, one-take video, again allowing for EXO's talents -- in this case, choreography -- to shine, not detracting from over-the-top high fashion. Along with high interest from the United States -- the boy band is the newest act to land among the top-selling K-pop tracks in America -- "Growl" solidifies EXO as the act to watch in K-pop's continuing international advancement.
[Written by Jeff Benjamin and Jessica Oak]