A playlist of irresistible songs that will last the 5km distance you absolutely can run.
Exercising has been a safeguard for so many of us against the tedium and, at times, heaviness of lockdown. From walking, running or cycling, to joining one of those outdoor group exercise classes, everyone seems to be enjoying the spring weather and getting some fresh air. Whether we’ll stick with it in a post-pandemic world is another question. When the allure of Friday night drinks or dinners with friends resumes, most of us will inevitably get bored with staying healthy, if we haven’t already.
But here’s a hint for helping with those commitment issues, just a little. As I clock up the kilometres, K-pop has been my soundtrack.
My love for South Korea’s musical phenomenon started with ‘Bad Boy’, the 2017 single by five-piece girl group Red Velvet. It’s a song with 90s R&B chords and synths that glitter, the kind of song you won’t hear coming out of the US and yet fits perfectly into the genre-bending pool of music that is K-pop. At least one girl group has made my annual Spotify most-listened list since 2018. My K-pop playlist, simply named “K-Pop”, has 141 songs nearing eight hours long. I’m still adding to it.
But where should you start if you’re new to the genre and looking for a soundtrack to your next workout? I have some suggestions. So go on, put on your sneakers and open up your ears to new sounds while giving your lungs and legs a workout. “Hwaiting!”
‘Panorama’ by Iz*One
A good song to set the pace, and memorably the last single the 12-member South Korean-Japanese girl group released before disbanding in April 2021. After promoting for two-and-a-half years, Iz*One (pronounced “eyes-one”) is no more, but ‘Panorama’ and its uplifting message of thanking fans for their support live on.
‘GRWM’ by GFriend
GFriend is a recent find. Much like Iz*One, this girl group disbanded in 2021 after finishing their six-year contract, although three of the members will return as a trio – and I am living. The song’s propulsive pre-chorus is enough to keep you going through the toughest run.
‘So Bad’ by Stayc
At 169 beats per minute, Stayc’s ‘So Bad’ is the fastest song on this list and will have you hurtling through space thanks to its synth arpeggios and propulsive drum and bass. You can take a breath after this one.
‘Blue Orangeade’ by Tomorrow x Together
Enter Tomorrow x Together, the latest boy band on the roster of Big Hit Music – that’s the entertainment company behind global behemoth BTS. Tomorrow x Together’s ‘Blue Orangeade’ reminds me of those old-school a cappella groups with their harmonious “doo-doo-doo”s, except the song’s hip hop beat drags you back into 2021. It’s the slowest song on the list and caps off the midway point of your run. So take a breather, you’ve earned it.
‘La La Love’ by WJSN
We resume our regular programming of K-pop girl groups with WJSN, or Cosmic Girls. On ‘La La Love’, the 10-member band sing about cherishing moments with their loved ones as if capturing them in photos. In the context of a run, the dreamy electro-pop song will have you believing you can see out the remaining 10 minutes in front of you.
‘Cool’ by Weki Meki
With an English version full of lyrics about wilding out and “I don’t know who your friend is but bring them out”, this lead single will have you “higher than the sky, how it’s supposed to be”. Endorphins, please!
‘I Can’t Stop Me’ by Twice
Is there a more fitting anthem for a run than this one by Twice? You’re almost at the end and Twice’s nine members have your back, even if they’re singing about the unrelated danger of standing on the boundary between the good and the bad.
‘La Di Da’ by Everglow
Why not end on Everglow’s triumphant message of “Got no time for haters, to all the bad guys and the players”? Because you did it! Now the hard part is lacing up your running shoes again.