|The big hit song "Haru Haru" of South Korean boy band BIGBANG's "Haru Haru" which was released in 2008 sold more than five million copies and is the top-selling K-pop single of all time. / Photo credit via Wikimedia Commons|
K-pop singles and K-pop groups might have started pretty niche, but they’re now a global phenomenon. Granted, many K-pop groups are still not able to break out of the industry mold enough to appeal to many Western countries, but because of the efforts of the groups before them, at least the newcomers have a better shot.
In this article, we’re taking a little trip down memory lane to look at the groups that paved the way for K-pop as we know it now and list count down the biggest singles of all time in terms of copies sold. Get ready to reignite the flame for your old faves and reminisce the good old days when they dominated the music scene and your hearts.
7. “Sorry Sorry” (2009), Super Junior, 2,998,678+ copies
When the Korean Wave started off with a whole host of K-dramas, K-pop was not very far behind, and Super Junior was one of the first groups to really define what this South Korean music may look like within the next decades. Ten years after “Sorry Sorry” was first released, music news website MTV looked back on it and said that the single had to go through the more traditional route to stardom. It wasn’t able to rely on the internet to be promoted, but it was insanely catchy enough that it conquered many a listener’s heart.
This catchiness matched with the very core of the music video: dance. According to MTV, this gamble paid off, and now “Sorry Sorry” is recognized as the song that was the first to successfully develop “the pop formula of the day to perfection and delivered an earworm.” The infectious song spread like wildfire in neighboring Asian countries, taking first place in charts in South Korea as well as in Taiwan and Thailand, and landed in the Philippines’ top 10.
6. “Fiction” (2011), HIGHLIGHT/BEAST, 3,194,906+ copies
A runner-up to the emotional music video of “Haru Haru” is probably BEAST’s (now known as HIGHLIGHT) “Fiction.” It is arguably the song that well and truly made BEAST famous. With its heartbreaking lyrics and heartfelt vocals, not to mention a music video that was fully able to capture the nuances of heartbreak, “Fiction” is truly something to be remembered.
5. “So Cool” (2011), SISTAR, 3,980,185+ copies
If we really look at SISTAR’s discography and track to stardom, it was “Alone” that truly launched them into the mainstream. It all began with “So Cool,” their 2011 hit that appealed to people in part because of its subject matter. “So Cool” talked about “feeling liberated after a break-up.”
The song, which was co-written by group leader G-Dragon, according to music news website Billboard, was very sentimental and evocative for its time and appealed to many people because of its “romantic regrets relayed by strong raps and desperately delivered verses.”
|New K-pop idols such as EXO, BTS, GOT7, Monsta X among others now have a better shot in many Western countries all thanks to the first wave generation K-pop idols. / Photo credit by Korea Sale Festan 49 via Flickr|
4. “Mirotic” (2008), TVXQ/DBSK, 4,173,225+ copies
“Mirotic” has proven to be TVXQ’s most successful song, as these days there are only two of the band promoting or releasing songs. The song has definitely stood the test of time as to this day it is still well-loved by their fans and critics alike, who say it is “one of the best K-pop songs to ever be released.”
3. “I Don’t Care” (2009), 2NE1, 4,500,000+ copies
“I Don’t Care” is a hit that’s basically a love song or at least a deconstruction of it. It was released by 2NE1, often recognized as the angsty counterpart of Girl’s Generation. Its music video also holds a bit of a story behind it, although it might not be as impactful as that of “Haru Haru.” But since they are under the same entertainment company, the feel is a little similar as it dishes out love story tropes.
Selling more than four million copies, the single has become one of 2NE1 fans’ (known as “Blackjacks”) favorite songs. It was described by Australian public broadcasting network SBS as “a lot more relaxed than most of 2NE1, songs which allowed them to show a different style.”
2. “Gee” (2009), Girl’s Generation, 5,000,000+ copies
A year after “Haru Haru” came out, “Gee” was released by Girl’s Generation, which quickly became “probably the most iconic song in K-pop history.” Anyone you ask who might know Girl’s Generation outside of Asia will probably tell you that “Gee” is the song they most associate with the girl group. Their cute and bubbly personality as a group quickly endeared them to hordes of admiring fans of all ages.
1. “Haru Haru” (2008), BIGBANG, 5,433,290+ copies
With its emotionally poignant music video, dramatic storytelling, unique blend of hip-hop and ballad, “Haru Haru” is the one and only K-pop song and music video tandem that made an impact on the boys’ careers back then and even now. It will go down as the song with one of the best music videos in history.