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The Best of Bubblegum K-Pop: 10 Bright Songs That’ll Lift You Up

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Image credit: Only Ũ/Flickr

I don’t like K-pop. There, I said it. Despite being Korean by blood, I’ve never quite bought into any Korean pop culture. Growing up, I avoided anything and everything Korean at all cost, and to this day I have an irrational dislike for Korean traditions and culture. I have no idea how K-Pop exploded into a global phenomenon.

But I’m not here to rant.

I will admit that there’s one area of K-pop that I secretly enjoy: “bubblegum K-pop” (a play on “bubblegum pop” which describes upbeat music marketed toward preteens). These songs are often about innocent romance or silly subject matters, and are easier to listen to than the hyper-sexualized brand of K-pop that I don’t particularly like (but I understand why it’s popular). They’re super catchy as well.

Need a pick-me-up? Here are some of the best cutesy and upbeat K-pop songs that’ll put a smile on your face, even if you don’t know what they’re saying.

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1. “Shy Boy” by Secret

[MV] Secret(시크릿) _ Shy Boy(샤이보이)

There’s a reason why “swing music” has its name—you can’t listen to it without wanting to bounce. This song is a fusion of K-pop with swing dance, producing one of the catchiest songs I’ve been privileged to hear. Not only is the music bright, the music video has a perfectly matching theme that’s just plain fun to watch.

Download “Shy Boy” by Secret on iTunes

2. “Darling” by Girl’s Day

[MV] GIRL'S DAY(걸스데이) _ Darling(달링)

Another song inspired by a past era, “Darling” fuses K-pop with a shuffle rhythm and results in a sound that’s as bubbly as the girl group who sings it. Cute, fun, and watching this music video will make you long for summer all year round. It really doesn’t get more iconic than this when you think “bubblegum K-pop”!

Download “Darling” by Girl’s Day on iTunes

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3. “Kung Dari Sha Bah Rah” by Live High

리브하이 LIVE HIGH - 꿍따리 샤바라 Kung Dari Sha Bah Rah Official M/V

Don’t ask me what “kung dari sha bah rah” means, because I haven’t a clue. I’m almost certain that it’s gibberish. But don’t fault Live High—this is actually a remake/cover of a song from the 90s by Clon. Of course, this one’s more fun to listen to, and the tropical backdrop of the music video is perfect for the sunny joy that shines from this track. A real pick-me-up, if I’ve ever heard one!

Download “Kung Dari Sha Bah Rah” by Live High on iTunes

4. “Marshmallow” by IU

[1080p HD] IU (아이유) (Lee Ji Eun) (이지은) - Marshmallow (마쉬멜로우)

Here we have the love song of a lovestruck teen girl. That’s par for the course, if not for the catchy beat and unique chorus of “marshmallow, marshmallow” that’s sure to get stuck in your ears. I don’t have much else to say for this one. Moving on!

Download “Marshmallow” by IU on Itunes

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5. “Ping Pong Game” by Real Girls Project

[MV] 리얼걸프로젝트(Real Girls Project) - 핑퐁게임(PINGPONG GAME)

Is this song literally about ping pong? I’ve listened to this a hundred times and I still haven’t a clue. The music video seems to suggest it is, but you never know these days—not like it matters! The bright colors and silly animations will string you through the entire song and it’ll be over before you know it.

Download “Ping Pong Game” by Real Girls Project on iTunes

6. “Whoo” by Rainbow

[MV] RAINBOW(레인보우) _ Whoo

I’d still count this as “bubblegum K-pop,” but I love the influence of rock on this song. The guitar riff is groovy and off the wall, the bridge hooks with its “whoo!” and “clap, clap,” and the driving beat is energizing. There are a lot of musical change-ups in this song, but they’re all upbeat and keep you dancing.

Download “Whoo” by Rainbow on iTunes

7. “Coming Soon” by NC.A

NC.A (앤씨아) - Coming Soon MV [Sub. Español + Rom + Hangul] HD

I don’t know how big NC.A is in Korea or elsewhere, but with songs like this, I’m surprised she isn’t a household name. “Coming Soon” reminds me of the bright songs of early Taylor Swift, and given how popular she’s become, I can only assume she has a future ahead of her that’s as bright as this song.

Download “Coming Soon” by NC.A on iTunes

8. “BUBIBU” by Apink

[Engsub - Vietsub - Kara](MV) Bubibu - Apink (에이핑크) (HD)

I think BUBIBU means “kiss,” which would make sense in this cute and poppin’ love song. It could also just be a term of endearment for whoever is being sung to. If it wasn’t clear by now, I’m terrible at this K-pop stuff.

Download “BUBIBU” by Apink on iTunes

9. “Girl Crush” by Mamamoo

[MV] MAMAMOO(마마무) _ Girl Crush (Innisia Nest(이니시아 네스트) OST)

Filmed in vertical? Oof. Well, get over it, because “Girl Crush” is fun. What I love most about this video is that you can tell Mamamoo has a lot of chemistry together and they don’t take themselves too seriously. This music video is super silly, and that’s pretty much the charm of it. You’ll smile, I promise!

Download “Girl Crush” by Mamamoo on iTunes

10. “Heartbeat” by Suran

Heartbeat by SURAN (수란) Strong Woman Do Bong Soon OST

This one’s a tad different from the rest of this list, mainly that it’s a more relaxed kind of pop without all the dancing and flashiness. Yeah, it’s still cute, and yeah, it’s still a love song, but it feels more mature and it feels more like a warm hug than it does teenage infatuation. Perfect.

Your Thoughts on Bubblegum K-Pop?

If you don’t like K-pop, I don’t blame you. Despite its global popularity, it isn’t to everyone’s tastes. Still, if you liked any of the songs above, let me know which ones! And if you have any other songs I missed, feel free to share them with me in the comments. Thanks!

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