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BTS performing at the 2021 Grammy Awards
BTS performing at the 2021 Grammy Awards
Photo by Cliff Lipson / CBS
Culture > Entertainment

A Beginner’s K-Pop Playlist (For The Non-K-Pop Listener)

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

I’ve been an avid K-Pop listener since 2016 and in my years, I’ve learned that some people have this aversion to listening to music in a language other than their own. I’ve never understood this (and don’t lie, I know you all were bopping to Gangnam Style in 2012). In my opinion, when you limit yourself to the media of a single language, you’re missing out on so much great stuff (not just music, but movies, books, etc.). 

Contrary to popular belief, K-Pop is more of an industry than it is a genre. There’s a vast range of genres within K-Pop and I truly believe that there is something for any music taste. If you want to expand your playlists and add in something new, here are my top picks of K-Pop songs for the non-K-Pop listener: 

“Ditto”- NewJeans

Whether you realize it or not, you may have already heard a NewJeans song as they’ve gone viral over and over on TikTok. They have an early 2000s pop sound that is really unique in K-Pop (kinda similar to PinkPantheress’s sound). Any NewJeans song would be a solid pick, but “Ditto”is especially popular. 

“Seven”- Jungkook ft. Latto

This song is the fastest ever to reach a billion streams on Spotify, and for good reason. Jungkook’s solo work has a different vibe than his music as a part of BTS, but it works so well for him. When the world needed a pop song of the summer in 2023, Jungkook delivered. 

“Perfume”- NCT Dojaejung

NCT Dojaejung is a trio of members of NCT 127. With this being their first song, they debuted with a bang. When this song first came out, I couldn’t escape it on social media. 

“Nobody Knows”- Kiss Of Life

2023 was a year for girl groups and rookies Kiss Of Life contributed. This song leans more towards R&B, which is the vibe I like most in K-Pop.

Indigo Album- RM

I love this album so much, I couldn’t choose just one song. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with just hitting shuffle. RM is the leader of BTS, as well as one of the group’s rappers, writers, and producers. He calls this album an “archive of his 20s.” It’s rap and R&B heavy, with big name features such as Anderson Paak, Erykah Badu, and Tablo of Epik High. The vibes are just so good and this one was my most streamed album of 2023. 

“The Feels”- Twice

Personally, I consider Twice the it-girls of K-Pop. This song is guaranteed to put you in a better mood with its upbeat, bubblegum-pop vibes. This one is also the group’s first all English song.

Director of the film Parasite Bong Joon-Ho said something in his Oscar’s speech that I believe can be applied to music. He said “once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” I really do believe that once you start exploring non-English media, your world becomes so much bigger. 

Lily is a third year Political Science major at UCLA from Sarasota, FL. In her free time, she loves binge-watching sitcoms, listening to music, and finding new coffee shops.