Chocolates and flowers are great, but Valentine’s Day is all about love — and what better to relay heartfelt feelings than a good pop song? Korean pop, in this case. K-pop is flooded with songs that address the ups and downs of relationships while trying to understand the emotion that makes people do crazy things.
For Valentine’s Day, Billboard has picked 35 K-pop songs that depict all sorts of romances: Happy ones, sad ones, lustful ones, innocent ones, and even one or two quirky ones. The whole range of the phenomena that we call love is included in this playlist.
Check out our picks below.
“Some” by Soyou & Junggigo
With this 2014 megahit, Soyou and Junggigo solidified the word “some” into K-pop fans’ vocabulary to describe the tricky in-between of a relationship that isn’t official, but has potential to grow into something more. Musically, the duet takes on that same sentiment as the duo trade off verses and varying feelings in a track that never gets too fast or too slow, but stays somewhere right in the middle. It’s undoubtedly a situation many may find themselves in on Valentine’s Day with this charming track relatable on so many levels.
“Symptoms” by SHINee
With high-flying vocals, the SHINee boys are lovesick and are trying to cope with all the dangerous signs that come from falling hard for someone. In fact, the guys’ love goes so deep, they end the moving R&B cut declaring: “I can’t live if I lose you.”
“Eat” by Zion.T
Korean R&B crooner Zion.T touches on what people really love the most in this snappy tune: food. “Take this song out and eat it like chocolate,” he sings, offering this jazzy song’s heartfelt lyrics up like the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, even if it’s not wrapped in a red heart-shaped box.
?One of Korea’s best live performers, Lee Seung Chul, broke his four-year hiatus away from the music scene in 2013 with this heartbreaking-yet-uplifting rock-pop tune to detail love torn apart and a situation where it’s too painful to even say “I love you,” much less goodbye.
“Gold” by Hyomin
The warm embrace of the hazy synths and layered strings paired with the T-ara member’s breathy cooing sounds a bit more like British pop or something Sia would try than K-pop, but it works incredibly well with “Gold.” As Hyomin earnestly expresses how love improves her, or makes her golden, it’s hard not to feel the power of love.
“Eyes, Nose, Lips” by Taeyang
Love may be over, but the BIGBANG member mournfully reflects on the beauty of an ex in this tender R&B ballad. His emotions overflow on this romantic track, surpassing its melancholic nature to become one of the most beautiful Korean love songs ever.
“Heaven” by Ailee
From her debut single, Ailee proved that she had an ability beyond her years to communicate the deeper experiences one feels in love. In this dedication track, Ailee’s partner protected her and “taught her how to love in a harsh world.” Or, as she describes it, it’s simply “Heaven.”
“Wild Flower” by Park Hyo Shin
It may be about getting over the past and moving forward, but there are few rock ballads more beautifully poignant than “Wild Flower.” Park’s tender vocals soar over the accompanying instruments, rising and falling to match the building strings as he wails in anguish to match the pain of a longing heart. Despite the intensity, the song crescendos then lands gently, with the promise of renewal hummed along by Park’s mellow “la la la” melody.
“Airplane” by f(x)
This standout album cut on their adored Pink Tape LP sees f(x) using an “Airplane” as a metaphor to a potentially dangerous yet important adventure in romance. It’s all done over a fascinating blend of soaring harmonies and melancholy electro-pop production to paint a picture both lyrically and sonically.
“Love In The Ice” by TVXQ
Although it’s over a decade old, the operatic “Love In The Ice” is still a chilling-inducing ballad. The sweeping melody and earnest, soaring vocals are filled with such overwhelming passion as to induce a visceral response from the performance’s intensity.
“Touch Love” by Yoonmirae
?With quivering vocals, the veteran rapper-singer describes how a love can create a true sense of warmth — even without touching — on this moving, piano-driven ballad.
“Pretty U” by Seventeen
If you’re looking for some sweet encouragement on Valentine’s Day, here you are. Beginning with an a capella harmony and propulsive rap before launching into a sweet pop sound, “Pretty U” is an upbeat, light-hearted song perfect for the start of new love. The song’s staccatoed pacing between singing styles reflects the bafflement that accompanies the beginning of a relationship and the lyrics ask all the big questions, like when should you tell someone you love them and what should you wear when you do so. It’s pure, saccharine bubblegum love.
“Friday” by IU feat. Jang Yi-Jeong
For this acoustic duet, the pair realistically describe the anticipation of counting down the hours to see a new beau again. IU decides “Friday” is the perfect day to reunite with her new love — more or less because she says so — and croons alongside History’s Jang Yi-Jeong while the duo ponder what makes the other so irresistible.
“Let’s Not Fall In Love” by BIGBANG
Less of a breakup song and more of the beginning of a tentative relationship, “Let’s Not Fall In Love” encompasses the scary moments that accompany the start of a relationship. The sentimental electropop track depicts the pressures and worries of starting a new relationship and committing to a person, and the potential pain that accompanies the risk of opening up to someone. But the song ends with the idea that if you like someone you still will want them to stay despite the fears.
“Closer” by Oh My Girl
The dreamy trance-pop single is an artistic approach to the longing feelings of love, when getting “Closer” to someone is all you can think about. The hazy melody and the powerful vocals relate the type of yearning of epic proportions, and is an impressive feat from a young K-pop act like Oh My Girl.
“I Need You” by K.Will
One of Korea’s king balladeers, K.Will appropriately released “I Need You” on a past Valentine’s Day and the track undoubtedly inspired a slew of lovers to reunite with the one that got away. The sweeping pop track sees the singer and past love admitting they miss one another, and K.Will taking things a step further by making a promise to always be the same person who will adore said ex.
“This Is Love” by Super Junior
The soulful “This Is Love” offers up a more mature approach to romance, diverging from the infatuation seen in many Korean love songs. Rapidfire synths shoot through the sleek chorus and a speak-rap verse courtesy of Heechul update the otherwise timeless sound of men singing about the person they love. The song’s layered instrumentals, especially the funky bass, are laidback and nostalgia-inducing but ultimately “This Is Love” thrives on the tender warmth of the seductive vocals.
“200%” by Akdong Musician
The sweet harmonies of this upbeat R&B melody, with a few hip hop moments courtesy of Chanhyuk’s playful raps, is a song great for those celebrating their first Valentine’s together. “200%” is quirky and lighthearted in its earnestness of knowing that this is “L.O.V.E.”
“Shampoo” by After School
Perhaps one of K-pop’s most fascinating metaphors for love, the girl group relate their presence in a relationship to that of a common shower item. Not only will the ladies be the lovely fragrance that stays with you throughout the day, but if you do them wrong, they’ll sting your eyes and you still won’t be able to wash away what happened. The message hits that much harder with a rush of gorgeous synthesizers and girl-group chants.
“Don’t By Shy” by Primary feat. Choa and Iron
Choa’s sultry vocals combined with producer Primary’s hazy tropical beat and Iron’s laidback flow does a K-pop double take with its overtly sexual nature: “White drawing paper body, I squeeze my paints on that,” raps Iron, countering Choa’s coyish pleas. It’s less ballad and more reggae, but the impassioned delivery and mellow rhythm is lush with temptation.
“Home” by Roy Kim
On this inspiring tune, the singer-songwriter softly croons to a distressed person to come to him and just be. What’s great about “Home” is how it’s never totally clear if Roy is singing explicitly to a lover making this track potentially one you dedicate to a friend (Galentine’s Day, anyone?), parent, co-worker, or anyone else — its universal message makes it all the more special.
“Lucky” by EXO
The EXO boys take the simple things in love — speaking the same language, being in the same area — and build them up sky-high for this exuberant pop track that undoubtedly had fans hearts fluttering on first listen. It’s the kind of song you forever attach to a first love when you’re just discovering these strong, unfathomable kind of feelings.
“You Are Me, I Am You” by Zico
The overwhelming calm of “You Are Me, I Am You” belies the intensity of the love professed on this groovy hip hop track from the Block B frontman. The low-key bop is an unlikely love song, but Zico’s lyrics are all about how romance changes a person (“I only ever listened to hip hop/ Now I’ve turned acoustic”) and filled with devotion.
“Only U” by miss A
The swaggering, taunting lyrics of “Only U” make it the perfect anthem for 21st century women (and men!) who know what they want and aren’t going to sit this Valentine’s Day out because a potential lover doesn’t have what it takes to ask you out. The sassy song layers swirling synths and snares over a hip hop beat to propel its take-charge message.
“Save Me” by BTS
The BTS guys may be young, but a song like “Save Me” indicates intense romantic experiences as the septet declare, “Save me, save me/ I need your love before I fall.” The song’s intense perspective is met by a melancholy, synth-driven dance breakdown on the hook to make this song as lovelorn as it is an undeniable jam.
“Make Me Love You” by Taeyeon
This atmospheric power ballad puts the Girls’ Generation singer’s emotions in the forefront, with the lush synths building into a demanding love song as Taeyeon requests that the intended listener takes action to make this romance come about. It’s tentative, and filled with both desire and self-doubt as the soloist expresses tentativeness based on her own inability to reach out and grab the love she wants.
“Dimple” by BTS
This gentle future bass track pulls out BTS’ sentimentality, with the group’s vocalists swooning over the titular facial feature. With clever word play alternating declaring the object of their affection “illegal,” or an “illegirl,” due to her her dimple-infused smile, it’s one of the Korean acts sweetest songs to date and serves as a gentle moment of their hit Love Yourself: Her EP.
“What U Do?” by EXO
This sleekly-produced song on the group’s The War album is a stand out for its boisterous rock, reggae, and tropical house elements, but this addicting song is more than just a hook-filled dance track: The song overflows with love and adoration, as the members of EXO sing about enjoying the traits of the person they’re with.
“Some” by BOL4
This airy indiepop confessional is a swaying ode to someone determined on turning a friendship into something more. It’s sweet and playful, and the perfect depiction of what innocent first love should sound like.
“I Won’t Let You Go” by GOT7
This Japanese single from the boy band is a sweet, synth-driven trop dance track that sentimentally features the group expressing the fervor of emotions felt by someone when in love. GOT7 sings about how they never want the day to end, since it means parting ways, a perfect feeling to celebrate Valentine’s Day with.
“Oh! My Mistake” by APRIL
A bouncy synthwave/retro pop/hip-hop tune from the girl group, “Oh! My Mistake” is all at once a hype track for a woman who knows her worth. It’s also a confession from that same person, as she expresses her desire to have a love like candy. It’s a saccharine, peppy imagining of what love is, but a whole ball of fun ready to get anyone bouncing around to celebrate the day of love.
“Way Back Home” by Shaun
With a simple, tropical rhythm, Shaun’s “Way Back Home” became a major hit in South Korea in 2019 thanks to its smooth melody and touching lyrics, through which the singer shares a longing for a love who is just out of reach but still feels like home. It’s evocative and heartfelt, and intensely addicting in its forlorn romanticism.
“Answer: Love Myself” by BTS
This sweet pop-rock track from BTS is all about the importance in self love. Whether you’re going solo this Valentine’s Day or spending time with a loved one, it’s always important to recognize your own emotional needs, and this track revels in the understanding of that.
“Only One For Me” by BTOB
The title says it all, as vocal pop group BTOB revel in the feelings of love, singing sweetly and playfully over a trop melody imbued about how they want to get it on with the “Only One.” It’s not too serious, but the intent is clear, and sets a festive tone for the day.
“Butterflies” by Red Velvet
A breezy electro pop track full of the group’s delicate vocal harmonizing, this sweet tune is all about the fluttering state one feels when enthralled by another. Whether it’s the first blooms of passion or a long-lived relationship, the beautiful picture painted through the poetic imagery of “Butterflies” about flying high on love is perfect for any Valentine’s romance.