With a rollicking piano refrain, brassy melody, and folksy percussion driving much of it, “Love Scenario” is all about a break-up that can be looked back on positively, and it was exactly what 2018 audiences in South Korea were looking for. This song, which is allegedly inspired by the final scene of La La Land, is both exuberant and restrained, with this subdued hip-pop offering up iKON’s biggest hit to date. Minimalistic and melodic, it’s a Gen-Z update to the idea of easy listening. -- T.H.
28. Sunmi, “Heroine” (Warning, 2018)
Without “Heroine,” the ferocity of Sunmi’s “Gashina” and “Siren” don’t fully make sense; it’s the centerpiece of a trilogy of singles filled with drama and redemption. Inspired by the '80s film 9 1/2 Weeks, “Heroine” lays bare the mores of a s--tty, selfish boyfriend that Sunmi feels compelled to stay with. “Do whatever you want, even if you’re mean [...] even if it hurts me,” she aches. There’s a looming sense of sadness that underpins her triumphant vocal delivery, and it renders the title both poignant and grim: she’s only considered a heroine for staying obedient, for persisting through a hurtful relationship. -- J.M.K.
27. Red Velvet, “Bad Boy” (The Perfect Red Velvet, 2018)
While Red Velvet had played with the idea of something darker in the occultish extravaganza of “Peek-a-Boo,” their complete surrender to the darkness in “Bad Boy” had us reaching for Holy Water. Counted as their most daring release, the sultry, sensual, and tantalizing “Bad Boy” is the perfect representation of their mature “velvet” persona. Most remarkable, however, is how tactile the sonic and visual layering of the song is -- touching on the softness of each member before swelling into a sweeping chorus of harmonies. It speaks to the underlying emotion of donning your armor for a boy who’s obviously bad news. The Perfect Red Velvet, indeed. -- L.S.
26. BLACKPINK, “Whistle” (SQUARE ONE, 2016)
Producer Teddy Park’s most impressive feat this decade was the incorporation of country pre-choruses in otherwise non-country songs. You can hear it in BIGBANG’s “Bae Bae” and BLACKPINK’s “As If It’s Your Last,” but it’s most perfectly utilized in “Whistle,” one of two singles that introduced BLACKPINK to the world. As a debut, it succeeded in showcasing the four members as ineffably cool, something that can be attributed to Jennie and Lisa’s sneering rap verses and the instrumentation’s effective use of negative space. The song ends with a sudden melding of its disparate musical parts -- a quiet but resounding bang that overflows with confidence and made BLACKPINK’s “girl crush” concept feel impossibly fresh. -- J.M.K.
25. T-ara, “Roly Poly” (John Travolta Wannabe, 2011)