On Another Note: A K-pop Playlist for Halloween

K-pop may seem bright and cheery, more suited for summer fun than Halloween. In actuality, the aesthetic-based, high concept nature of the genre makes it perfect for spooky songs and videos. Some are genuinely dark, while others attach supernatural visuals to an otherwise bubblegum kind of song. However you like your music, there’s a Halloween K-pop song for you. In this post I highlight ten songs, but the full playlist I’ve created is much longer, available on Spotify or YouTube.

1. Dreamcatcher — Chase Me

Dreamcatcher is a fierce girl group with a hard rock vibe and killer dance moves. To match, their music video concepts have thus far involved horror, with “Chase Me” channeling The Shining. They’ve dedicated themselves to a ghostly storyline with gusto, and it’s paid off, attracting to them a dedicated cult following (not literally… we hope). Driving guitars combined with poppy vocals give their music a J-rock sensibility that wouldn’t be out of place on an anime soundtrack. Although they’re more rock than metal, they’ll appeal to fans of the Japanese sensation Babymetal.

2. VIXX — Voodoo Doll

WARNING: Contains body horror.

VIXX is famous for going full-out with their aesthetic concepts, and Voodoo Doll is no exception, crossing the line from dark to frightening and gory. Forget NSYNC’s mannequin look, this video shows the members as literal victims of voodoo dolls, gushing blood and stuck through with needles as their eyes glaze over into Xs. A dark, pulsing electronic beat supports dramatic vocals and rapping, and the choreography uses a needle prop. Both the music video and the choreography were rated adult in Korea for violence.

Note: Actual voodoo religions do not use dolls in the stereotypically depicted way. Please keep in mind the difference between myth and fact when enjoying horror!

3. Red Velvet — Peek-A-Boo

Red Velvet divides their discography into two main categories: their Red side is cute and quirky pop, while their Velvet side is smooth and sensual R&B. In “Peek-A-Boo,” they strike a balance between the two. Sonically, there’s nothing particularly ominous about this song, which dips into tropical house and has a Red-style chipper chorus. However, the music video shows the members living in a murder mansion where they lure delivery boys to their deaths. Red Velvet’s cuter songs tend to have unsettling vibes to them (see “Russian Roulette,”) but this femme fatale style was a step in a new direction for them, one that they leaned into with their following single, “Bad Boy.”

4. TRCNG — Wolf Baby

Several boy bands have used a werewolf concept to showcase a tough and mysterious vibe. TRCNG takes a different angle. They play up the campiness of the song and manage to make a dark, creepy monster into something actually cute. With sampled howls, exaggerated dance moves, and ketchup instead of blood, they add a pinch of humor to the slightly eerie refrain and the glimmering contact lenses. This is just the right catchy-cute bop to get you in the Halloween spirit if you’re not into the scary stuff.

5. Grace — Trick or Treat

More into hip-hop than pop? Grace is a Korean-American rapper who brings a grungy, rhythmic vibe to this song. The harsh, staccato consonants of “trick or treat” become their own kind of drumbeat, and the sung pre-chorus gives this track a nice pop sensibility. Don’t let the low-budget music video put you off. For a song that makes you feel like no one can mess with you, “Trick or Treat” is perfect.

6. HISTORY — Psycho

The song is, of course, inspired by the movie of the same name. I’m a sucker for eighties-style pop, and this delivers in a deliciously spooky way. The opening lines actually remind me of the Ghostbusters theme, which makes it sound like it might be a bit campy, but it’s actually got just the right amount of velvety darkness as it progresses to the pre-chorus. If you’re looking for something scary but sensual, this is your song.

7. SunnyHill — Midnight Circus

SunnyHill combines distinctly Korean-style dance-pop with demented circus music for a perfect upbeat Halloween bop. Small touches like male member Janghyun’s layered vocals and Kota’s oddly menacing refrain of “replay, replay” add extra flair to an already creepy instrumental. I love the styling in this video, too, which is reminiscent of scene kids in the aughts with their stripes, tiny top hats, and ripped leggings.

8. BOYFRIEND — WITCH

This music video turns Red Riding Hood into a horror concept with Red as a witch and the members of the band as werewolves. They make creative use of red banners representing her cloak in their choreography, too. The visuals here really elevate a somewhat typical song about a bewitching bad girl into a story of its own that comes across as more Halloween than fairy tale.

9. 4Minute — Volume Up

4Minute is better known for their later hip-hop bangers like “Crazy” and “Hate,” but the poppier “Volume Up” isn’t any less fiery. This jubilant break-up song features some truly intense soaring vocals building into a danceable chorus. In the video, the members sport gorgeous vampire chic outfits and pose with a snake for added dangerous flair. It’s just subtle enough that you wonder if they’re really supposed to be vampires or not… until they vanish into clouds of black smoke at the end.

10. BIGBANG — Monster

What I love about this song is that its story is as apparent through its melancholy, pleading melody as through its lyrics. The members of BIGBANG channel the kind of angsty, secretly sensitive bad boy that populates supernatural romance novels, and they play their roles to a T. The emotional highs of the song are in English, and they express the song’s meaning in just a few words: “I love you. Baby, I’m not a monster” in the chorus, and the heart-wrenching outro, “I think I’m sick.”

Enjoy these? I’ve created a full playlist on YouTube and on Spotify. Note that they’re not quite identical — the YouTube version includes some songs that aren’t available on Spotify, while the Spotify version includes a few deep cuts that don’t have music videos.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/valerie-an/playlist/0yvJ7wQ2oLinQHhMl8ctIY

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