If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, and especially if you’ve read my album reviews, you will know that I’m not the biggest fan of ballads. I can appreciate the craftsmanship and the talent that goes into making them, but most of the time it’s not what’s playing through my headphones. But there are always exceptions. Today I will take the time to highlight sixteen ballads that hold a dear place in my heart, that I’ve downloaded and that I regularly listen to. I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between a ballad and a slower non-ballad song, since I’m no music geek like that, so the songs I’ve included here are simply songs that I think of as ballads, nothing more.
1. B2ST’s ”Fiction” (the orchestra version)
“Fiction” is a song that is more or less universally beloved in the kpop community, but that I’ve never fallen for. It’s pretty, sure, but not quite pretty enough for me. But this version, this version is the prettiest I’ve ever heard. Sort of. The vocals of the members almost dance on top of the gorgeous instrumental, and the lyrics about longing and wanting to live in an alternate world where all is well are perfectly expressed like this.
2. T-ARA’s ”Don’t Leave”
This song also has an absolutely stunning orchestral instrumental, and some really lovely vocals. T-ARA is a group that at least I relate more to their awesome beats than to their vocals, and I don’t mind that. But there is vocal talent in this group as well, and especially Soyeon does not get to show that nearly enough in their singles. Here she is in her element, and she sounds like a dream.
3. Super Junior’s ”Islands”
Who says that ballads have to be sad and bleak? This is a beautifully joyful ballad, a tribute to their fans that have been with them for these ten years. Not all the Super Junior members are super talented singers, but in this song they all sound their best. And when all the boys sing together… It’s just magic.
4. Yoo Sung Eun’s ”Be OK”
I know that I’m pushing the definition of ballad ever so slightly with this song, but even though it may not be exactly a ballad, I relate to it as one, making it eligible for this list. And don’t question me on that logic, because I won’t be able to explain it. This is a happy breakup song, which is my favorite kind. Having never been through a really bad breakup, I don’t relate to those songs, while songs like this is right up my alley. Plus it’s just a very good song.
5. BTOB’s ”Father”
If you know me well enough to know that my father committed suicide when I was sixteen (now you all do) you should be able to understand why I love this song. It hits home in every way, and it’s rare for me not to cry when I listen to this, at least if I’m alone. I have to give mad props to the BTOB members for really conveying the emotion so well, regardless of if they had actual experience to draw from or not. Sungjae especially both sounded and looked like he was about to cry.
6. 2NE1’s ”Missing You”
This song is sad, bitter and angry all rolled up into one perfectly packaged parcel. I think this is a pretty accurate depiction of how a whole lot of people have felt/will feel in their lives, and even if you haven’t/won’t you can still appreciate it for the good song it really is. Even though I’m not into ballads and this song came out at a time when I wasn’t as madly into 2NE1 as I normally am: I loved it from first listen.
7. DECEMBER’s ”Like a Stranger”
Sorry, I couldn’t find this song subbed. I had no idea who DECEMBER were (it’s a male duo, if you also hadn’t heard of them) and then they came on Music Bank and sang this song. I realized from how they were standing that this would be a ballad, and settled in to use this song to check my email etc. But halfway through I was loving it. It’s very pretty, and catchy in that way that some ballads are. The guys are great singers, and they won me over quicker than even the ballads from my favorite artists do.
8. Davichi’s ”Cry Again”
The two girls that make up Davichi are unbelievable singers, and this song is just incredibly beautiful. Plus it’s a song of female friendship of support, which is rare in kpop and something that I’d love to see more of. I don’t check out Davichi’s new material when they release it (since it’s always ballads) so the only way their music gets to me is when they’re on Music Bank. That’s how this happened, and I’m just so grateful.
9. EXO’s ”Miracles in December”
It is known that I don’t like ballads, but I really really don’t like christmas music. The fact that this is sort of both makes it a very unlikely track for my music library. But I do really like it, shockingly enough. These are the three best singers of EXO, and they all sing this song beautifully, but Chen… Wow. He sealed the deal with me liking the song through every note he sung here. He’s my favorite voice in EXO, and here’s why. Also, those parts where all three sing together are unbelievably pretty.
10. Girls’ Generation’s ”Back Hug”
This song is great for people who either are in love or who’d like to pretend that they are for four minutes. I loved this song before I met my boyfriend, because it made me feel like I was loved, and now that I actually am loved, I love it even more. A great thing about giant kpop groups is that they have the potential for unbelievable harmony, which is what Girls’ Generation are demonstrating here.
11. Jung Yong Hwa’s ”One Fine Day“
Even though I’m a big fan of CNBLUE and Jung Yong Hwa himself, I just could not get into this song. Because of my love for him I listened to it right when it came out. It bored me to death. Then I watched his promotions on Music Bank. Still couldn’t get into it. It wasn’t until his goodbye stage that it suddenly flooded over me, and suddenly I loved it. Suddenly all the emotions that he wanted to convey hit me, and I just got it. It’s a beautiful beautiful song, once you understand it.
12. IU’s ”Lost Puppy”
This is a song that IU wrote and composed all on her own and after listening to it it’s completely impossible not to feel closer to her. It has a maturity but also a distinct vulnerability that I didn’t know she had, but that also feels so her. It’s a beautiful and a tragic piece, and it will stay with you long after the last note.
13. Kyuhyun’s ”A Million Pieces”
I love Kyuhyun’s voice and have always called him my favorite singer in Super Junior, but I have never been excited at the announcement of a solo from him. Because I always knew it would be a ballad. I didn’t like the first one, so at the announcement of his ballad comeback this year, I was not exactly crawling out of my skin. I didn’t even watch the music video when it came out. But then he came on Music Bank, and from first listen this song just overwhelmed me with emotion and I loved it. I can’t explain why, I just do.
14. Lee Hyori’s ”I Hate Myself”
We’re all used to hearing Lee Hyori sing empowering and badass songs, so this is not familiar territory for her. But even the most badass and strong woman has her weak moments, her moments where she can’t say what she needs to say and when she loses what she loves. And for a strong woman like Lee Hyori it’s perfectly natural in those moments to hate her own weakness, to hate herself.
15. LC9’s ”Hold On”
It doesn’t matter that they only released one album and that they have now disbanded, I’m holding onto LC9 goddammit!! This song is completely in English, and I’m sure it speaks to many of us who has insecurities. We might know that we objectively don’t look bad, but we feel like we do anyway. I know I can relate to that.
16. Jonghyun & Onew’s ”Please, Don’t Go”
There are so many great SHINee ballads that I could have chosen, but I decided to go with this one. Jonghyun and Onew possess two of my absolute favorite voices and even though their voices are very different when they sing together they create magic. The desperation comes through so clearly, and their voices blend and break apart in the most expertly crafted way. It’s no wonder they’re one of my absolute favorite harmonies.
I finally acknowledged my secret love for ballads. What’s your favorite ballad? Do you have a recommendation for a ballad I’d actually enjoy?