While Drake and Justin Timberlake reign supreme over Billboard‘s Songs of the Summer chart, things aren’t quite as straightforward in South Korea. Thanks to the constant influx of music, each day brings a new trending song in K-pop, and because of that, it is nearly impossible to determine a single K-pop Song of the Summer.
Luckily, there have been some undisputed standout releases that have gained enough traction to form a soundtrack for the season. Leading the K-pop Summer of ’16 is a parade of girl groups, both old and new, that have risen to new heights through their addictive songs. Let’s take a closer look:
TWICE, “Cheer Up”
While technically it was released ahead of the season in April, “Cheer Up” is still an infectious summer pop anthem. With 60 million views on YouTube and counting, TWICE’s second single is arguably the most popular song of the year (so far). With its addictive chorus and memorable one-liners (Sana’s “shashasha” led to a meme throughout K-pop fan communities around the globe), “Cheer Up” can do no wrong: The song even turned things around from the gloom of a Sino-Korean political entanglement surrounding youngest member Tzuyu earlier this year. Fans attending KCON LA next week will be able to see this K-pop cheer firsthand.
Sistar, “I Like That”
It is simply not summer in South Korea without Sistar topping the charts. This year, the quartet returned with the passion-fueled pop track “I Like That” from their Insane Love EP, which peaked at No. 7 on the World Albums chart. In comparison to their more recent upbeat singles, “I Like That” brought Sistar back to their heyday of “Alone” and “Give It to Me” to seduce summer listeners with a slinky, jazzy sound. Since its release, Sistar has proven they’re queens of summer once again. With more than 10 million views on YouTube and still holding strong in the top 10 on Korean music charts, “I Like That” is the perfect slow burn for the season.
Wonder Girls, “Why So Lonely”
No girl group does retro K-pop better than Wonder Girls, who have been winning over audiences with their throwback style since their breakout year in 2008 with “So Hot” and “Nobody.” Following up last year’s ‘80s-inspired “I Feel You” is this year’s tropical pop song “Why So Lonely.” Building off their years of experience in the industry, members Yubin, Sunmi and Hyelim worked with producer Hong Ji-Sang to combine reggae beats and psychedelic melodies to create a chilling revenge track that will cool down the most brutal summer heat.
Unnies, “Shut Up”
There is very little that is girlish about Unnies, a team formed by popular celebrities at the behest of actress Min Hyo Rin to fulfill her dream of being part of a girl group. Joined by Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany, rapper Jessi, comedian Kim Sook, and actresses Ra Mi Ran and Hong Jin Kyung, Min acts as the frontwoman of the team of Unnies, or “older sisters,” in the entertainment industry as they silence their boyfriends’ never-ending excuses. The fierce disco song crossed boundaries thanks to its unique lineup of singers (plus producers Park Jin Young and Yoo Hee Yeol) and has overtaken the singles released by typical K-pop acts as a multigenerational summer anthem.
Athletic-cute has never sounded so good. For the fourth time since they debuted with “Glass Bead” last year, GFRIEND, or GodFRIEND, returned with their retro synth-pop style earlier this month. This six-member girl group, known for their sweet nostalgic style and demanding choreography, returned earlier this month with “Navillera.” The airy dance track is a refreshing summertime ode to youthful romance. After hitting No. 1 in Korea, the ladies of GFRIEND will take their spritely performance to the Staples Center next week as they make their U.S. debut at KCON LA.