K-pop is full of fantastic tunes, feel-good bops, and certified bangers that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their proficiency with the Korean language. Even so, diving into the world of South Korean pop music can be intimidating to English speakers who are accustomed to understanding all of a song’s lyrics.
Fortunately, you don’t have to jump straight to songs with Korean lyrics in order to start exploring K-pop. Many K-pop artists have released English-language tunes that allow you to familiarise yourself with the performers and their sound before plunging into their wider discography. This has become increasingly common in recent years, as K-pop’s global reach expands and idols seek to attract and cater to new audiences.
A lot of these releases are also just fantastic songs by themselves, regardless of whether you’re interested in investigating K-pop any further.
In no particular order, here are some of the best English-language songs from K-pop idols.
1. “Love Talk” by WayV
This list is strictly limited to songs by K-pop idols that aren’t just English-language versions of previous Korean releases. “Love Talk” by WayV was initially in Mandarin, so it doesn’t count.
Released one week after the original Mandarin song, 2019’s “Love Talk” is a smooth jam about an attraction between people who don’t speak the same language. The alluring melody satisfyingly recalls ’90s R&B and offers an appealing contrast between the seductive chorus and steady rap. This has won its music video almost 75 million views in under three years and over 107 million streams on Spotify.
You could justifiably argue that “Love Talk” isn’t a K-pop song, as Mandarin is obviously not Korean. However, WayV is the Chinese subunit of K-pop group NCT, making the artists themselves K-pop idols. This means they clearly satisfy the arbitrary requirements for inclusion on this list that I made up. Besides, I wasn’t about to leave “Love Talk” out. It’s just too good to not recommend.
2. “LMLY” by Jackson Wang
“LMLY” by Jackson Wang is severely underrated, and I will continue to speak my truth until this retro ’80s tune gets the attention it deserves.
Jackson has kept himself busy since he and his K-pop group GOT7 left JYP Entertainment, collaborating with artists such as RAIN, continuing to run his label Team Wang, and forming hip-hop group PANTHEPACK. While he is still working with GOT7, Jackson has also gone in hard on English-language solo work, experimenting with an entire spectrum of musical genres across songs such as “Blow” and “Cruel.”
Yet out of all of this, it was the idol’s 2021’s nostalgic synth-pop tune “LMLY” that had me setting its Hong Kong cinema-inspired music video on loop. An acronym of “Leave Me Loving You,” “LMLY” is a wistful song about the singer’s fear that their lover is losing interest in them. “You don’t call me baby / You call me my name,” Jackson mourns. “But I keep on hoping / Nothing has changed.” Like, ouch.
3. “The Feels” by TWICE
Do you love feel-good bops? Energetic, colourful performances? Addictive, appealing dances that are fun to learn yourself? Well then, please allow me to introduce you to your next nine girlfriends.
“The Feels” is the first original English-language single from hugely popular girl group TWICE, who have enjoyed massive success in South Korea and Japan for years. This solid, sweet 2021 love song about having “the feels” is a great introduction to TWICE for Western ears, offering a taste of the bright, catchy, optimistic tunes these seasoned performers excel at. Their sound certainly has an audience as well, with the music video racking up over 320 million views in just over a year.
If you’re after more of TWICE’s cute yet mature sound, the group has also released English versions of their Korean songs “More and More” and “I Can’t Stop Me.” You can’t go too wrong wherever you start though — their entire discography is filled with tunes that will stick in your head and steal your heart.
4. “Dream of You” by CHUNG HA (with R3HAB)
“Dream of You” was a mandatory addition to this list, and I regret nothing. CHUNG HA’s 2020 collaboration with R3HAB delivers a satisfyingly unapologetic banger, dripping with confidence and a highly danceable beat. CHUNG HA demands attention, irresistibly drawing all eyes and ears to her, and she knows it. This is one I’ve had on repeat, and I need you all to join me.
A sexually charged club song about enticing a lover into bed, “Dream of You” is also much more forward than the casual K-pop listener might expect. CHUNG HA paints a vivid picture of inviting their paramour back to her place, and isn’t shy about what’s likely to happen once they’re alone.
“What can I say? Park the car and come on in / I got whisky, I got gin, and lingerie,” sings CHUNG HA.
5. “Kiss of fire” by WOODZ
Technically “Kiss of fire” isn’t entirely in English. Soloist WOODZ does throw in the tiniest pinch of Korean during the second verse, brief enough that you might miss it unless you know it’s there. Still, 99 percent of the song’s lyrics are in English, which feels like enough to let it sneak onto this list. I will make whatever excuses I need to for this excellent jam.
The Korean lyrics in “Kiss of fire” also won’t prevent listeners who don’t understand the language from understanding the song. Released in 2021, “Kiss of fire” is a contemporary R&B track about hot, burning love, with WOODZ flexing his falsetto to deliver a charismatic vocal performance over a rhythmic bassline.
If you’re more interested in rock, WOODZ’s “Dirt on my leather” is also worth checking out for an incredibly different vibe.
6. “Sweet Night” by V
BTS cemented their place in the Western music scene with English-language singles “Dynamite,” “Butter,” and “Permission to Dance,” all of which are upbeat tunes that primarily endeavour to spread good vibes. (Don’t pretend you haven’t heard them. Ignorance and lies have never won anyone respect.) In contrast, “Sweet Night” by V strikes such a different tone that you’d have no idea he was a member of BTS unless you were told.
Recorded for the original soundtrack of 2020 Korean drama Itaewon Class, “Sweet Night” is a comforting, gentle acoustic song that’s just as sweet as its title implies. V’s soothing voice is complimented by Matilda Mann’s pure backup vocals, and the whistled refrain leading out “Sweet Night” emphasises its simple, clean melody. It isn’t difficult to understand how the music video has earned over 86 million views at time of writing. Pair this song with a quiet night and a warm cup of tea.
7. “Oh my god” by (G)I-DLE
(G)I-DLE’s dark, ambiguously sapphic 2020 single “Oh my god” was released simultaneously in Korean and English — though only the former got the benefit of its visually striking music video, which accumulated 184 million views in a year and a half. Fortunately, fans took it upon themselves to edit the English audio on top of the Korean clip, so you can still get the full experience.
Though (G)I-DLE’s trap-pop song is officially about love in all its forms, gay K-pop fans have embraced “Oh my god” as a “lesbian anthem,” citing its liberal use of female pronouns as well as its religious imagery.
Also, just all of the lyrics. Listen to songwriter Soyeon sing “can’t stop, girl, you make me sick” and try telling me “Oh my god” isn’t queer coded with a straight face.
8. “Life’s Too Short” by aespa
This 2022 song threw me right back to the pastel-coloured early ’00s, strongly reminding me of the girl groups that used to populate my beloved Barbie-branded compilation CDs. Offering a laid back, nostalgic pop sound, “Life’s Too Short” is an unbothered message to aespa’s detractors — or anyone who sets out to put others down.
“I’m doin’ me regardless,” aespa declare. “And I don’t care what you say about it / And it don’t matter if you like it or not / I’m having all this fun, so why would I ever stop?”
Earning almost 50 million views in just under four months, “Life’s Too Short” is a self-affirming song with sweet harmonies that hearken back to the simpler times of butterfly clips and gel pens.
9. “2 MINUS 1” by SEVENTEEN
Though credited to SEVENTEEN as a whole, “2 MINUS 1” only features the 13-member boy group’s two most fluent English speakers: Joshua and Vernon. These members were also on the writing team for “2 MINUS 1,” which became the first completely English-language song in SEVENTEEN’s discography upon its release in 2021.
Inspired by early-2000s’ pop-punk acts such as Avril Lavigne, “2 MINUS 1” is an exercise in post-breakup denial, with Joshua and Vernon declaring they’re definitely doing great, and they’re not lonely at all, and they absolutely don’t need their former lover anymore. The lyrics cleverly weave such statements with bitter accusations and more honest hints at their true feelings, all wrapped up in a clean track that could easily slip into any early ’00s pop-punk playlist.
It’s a sound many of us know and love, and SEVENTEEN pull it off beautifully.
10. “Another Life” by KEY
It’s an undisputed fact that SHINee are K-pop royalty. Debuting in 2008, the phenomenally popular boy group has accumulated a deluge of achievements and accolades over their storied career, both together and as solo artists.
“Another Life” by SHINee’s KEY demonstrates how almost 15 years in the industry has sharpened the performer’s skill to a razor’s edge. A synthwave dance bop, “Another Life” is a love song that invokes images of travelling to Atlantis or blasting into outer space, tying into the retro creature feature inspiration of KEY’s 2022 album Gasoline.
It’s a dynamic tune with a catchy chorus, energetic beat, and tempting replay button.
11. “WHO DO YOU LOVE?” by Monsta X (feat. French Montana)
Not content with just one or two offerings, boy group Monsta X treated Western fans to an entire album completely filled with English-language songs in 2020. ALL ABOUT LUV is packed with pleasing tunes on the themes of romance, love, and lust, ranging from the longing to be longed for in “SOMEONE’S SOMEONE,” to the bitterness of seeing an ex “HAPPY WITHOUT ME,” to staying up thinking about a lover in “MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.”
It’s difficult to pick a standout when you’re so spoiled for choice, but lead single “WHO DO YOU LOVE? (feat. French Montana)” is a good place to start as one of the catchiest songs on the album.
ALL ABOUT LUV also has a few slightly more risque songs such as booty call bid “GOT MY NUMBER” and the deceptively innocent-sounding “LOVE U,” whose suggestive lyrics I was absolutely not prepared for (“I really, really wanna love you / But I can’t say the word I want to / ‘Cause they won’t play it on the radio”).
12. “Can’t get you out of my mind” by Dreamcatcher
Good news for anyone who desperately missed the early 2010’s club scene: Dreamcatcher’s EDM track “Can’t get you out of my mind” will effortlessly pull you right back there, complete with sick bass drop.
A B-side quietly nestled in Dreamcatcher’s 2020 mini-album Dystopia: Lose Myself, “Can’t get you out of my mind” may have been easy to miss upon its initial release. The fact that it came out during the COVID-19 pandemic likely didn’t help either, with lockdowns impacting both dance venues and promotion opportunities.
This is unfortunate, because the girl group’s first English-language song is a banger that wouldn’t feel out of place on any good club playlist. This is a great tune for when you don’t want to think, just dance.
13. “Zombie” by DAY6
DAY6 are a bit different from the other K-pop artists on this list, as they’re a band rather than a group. This means that rather than spectacular, highly choreographed group dances, the members play instruments on stage — so not quite what you’d usually picture when someone says “K-pop.” But that just means you won’t have as much to distract you from their songs’ lyrics.
“Zombie” isn’t quite as uptempo as DAY6’s previous single “Sweet Chaos,” which would definitely have been on this list if it were in English. Rather, the downbeat 2020 pop-rock song focuses on depression, likening the unfortunately relatable feeling of numbness to being a zombie. I hope it doesn’t hit a chord with you, but it probably will.
14. “Pity Party” by Jamie
Jamie’s “Pity Party” is an attitude-filled anthem for self-destruction, bringing out the After School Club host’s sultry, “toxic” side. This is one for those nights you know you’ll probably regret, but just can’t bring yourself to care.
“Pity Party” does acknowledge that once you’ve hit rock bottom “the only way is up,” threading Jamie’s repetitive yet appealing 2022 groove with savage determination. However, that’s largely a problem for Future Jamie. In the meantime, the primary focus of “Pity Party” is taking the moment to revel in the dark freedom and dramatic spectacle of being so low.
“Thriving off the drama” may not technically be the healthiest or most constructive stance to take in most situations. But you can’t deny it is deliciously fun.
15. “Somebody” by Wonho
The lyrics of Wonho’s 2022 song “Somebody” are all about loneliness, with the singer crying out for “a shoulder to lean on” when alone at night. Yet despite the desolate subject matter, the song itself is a groovy bop with a steady, catchy rhythm that belies its topic. Being desperately lonely shouldn’t sound so good.
Wonho’s clear vocals and attractive falsetto are underscored by an enjoyably strong bass line running throughout “Somebody,” mirroring his adorably soft personality and famously jacked build.
I have never met Wonho and probably never will. That being said, he seems like a very sweet man and I hope he finds somebody soon.
The 16 best K-pop songs of 2022 (so far)
16. “Borderline” by SUNMI
“Borderline” hits you as soon as SUNMI opens her mouth, crooning “I’m trying to be a good girl / Didn’t mean to fake it.” Co-written by SUNMI herself, this dark 2020 tune is about the former Wonder Girls member’s experiences with borderline personality disorder, having been diagnosed with the condition in the mid-2010s.
“It’s my story that I’ve hidden for a long time,” SUNMI said in English-translated comments. Though she previously kept her borderline personality disorder a secret, SUNMI shared that she now wanted to tell others who are struggling that they aren’t alone.
As such, the languid, personal song seems almost disinterested in popular appeal. Rather, it’s more concerned with conveying SUNMI’s personal struggles in an almost ambient manner, her hypnotic voice effectively luring listeners in to form a connection.
17. “neon” by Amber Liu (feat. PENIEL)
While Amber began her career as the main rapper for K-pop girl group f(x), she’s now arguably more known for her solo work, having shown off her vocal skills in multiple Korean, English, and Mandarin songs since 2015. As such, Amber now has an extensive English-language discography to choose from, with various songs such as “Other People,” “On My Own (feat. Gen Neo),” and “complicated” falling across a wide spectrum of melancholy.
Light 2021 bop “neon” gives Amber the opportunity to show off her vocal skills in a decidedly more optimistic setting, with Peniel from boy group BTOB taking the reins for the English version’s rap (Blow Fever takes on this role in the Mandarin version). Resting comfortably in its chill pop disco vibe, “neon” is a smooth, enjoyable jam with a music video that was definitely a ton of fun to film.
18. “No Problem” by Nayeon (feat. Felix from Stray Kids)
TWICE’s lead vocalist Nayeon made her solo debut in 2022, filling her album Im Nayeon with love songs to compliment her bubbly lead single “POP!” Among these was “No Problem,” an entirely English-language song featuring her labelmate Felix from Stray Kids.
An uncomplicated song about bolstering your partner when they’re feeling down, “No Problem” is a characteristically cute little bop that embraces its simple and straightforward nature. It isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but sits comfortably as a bright palate cleanser between “POP!” and the rest of Nayeon’s album.
Though Nayeon’s group member Tzuyu released a playful cover of Taylor Swift’s “ME!” with Stray Kids’ Bang Chan in 2021, “No Problem” is the first time members from both groups have collaborated on an original English-language performance.
19. “Bonnie & Clyde” by YUQI
I told myself I’d stop, but just let me just squeeze in one more song.
(G)I-DLE member YUQI only had two songs on her 2021 solo debut album A Page, which may indicate just how confident she was in them. “Giant” and “Bonnie & Clyde” were also English-language releases, with YUQI’s album eschewing both Korean and her native Mandarin entirely.
The lyrics of “Bonnie & Clyde” tread familiar territory, focusing on a passionate couple who are completely wrapped up in each other to the exclusion of all else — much like the titular criminal couple. Even so, YUQI’s low, steady vocal performance and the song’s relentless, trance-like melody make “Bonnie & Clyde” an appealing tune that deftly showcases the singer’s skill.
It’s worth keeping in mind that this is just a small selection of songs from K-pop idols that were released in English first as opposed to Korean. There’s an even wider catalogue of English versions of Korean songs, such as ITZY’s “LOCO” and Pentagon’s “DO or NOT.”
Yet even this is minuscule when compared to the entire universe of tunes you can enjoy once you relax and embrace Korean lyrics. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what they’re singing 100 percent of the time — you can always look up translations. Besides, sometimes all you need to know is the vibe.