K-dramas have been having a banner year so far in 2016, notable not only for the record audience ratings but also for the rise of the OSTs. Descendants of the Sun, for example, had nine songs make the Top 10 on the Gaon chart, five of which reached number one.

For this week’s Roundtable, we want to know: Which OSTs have caught your ear so far this year? Which dramas had particularly well-crafted soundtracks? Are there any OSTs that you felt didn’t get their due?

Qing: I haven’t gotten round to watching any dramas this year, but Descendants of the Sun certainly bagged just about every coveted OST singer out there. Coupled with the great songs given to them and the drama’s explosive popularity, it’s no surprise that the OST has been making its rounds on radio and on the streets. Of all the tracks, my favourite is “Everytime” by Chen and Punch. Chen may be a newbie to OSTs, this being his second release, but his unique, soaring voice lends the song a bright, boundless quality. He certainly holds his own among the other veteran singers.

I’m happy to see that more dramas, especially tvN ones, are increasingly approaching indie or less mainstream singers for their OSTs. I find the mellowness of indie OSTs more befitting of dramas in an ordinary, everyday setting. One song that comes to mind is Vanilla Acoustic‘s “Our Time” for Cheese in the Trap. Kim Kyung Hee‘s “More Than a Memory” for Memory is also appropriately toned-down and melancholy, in keeping with the solemn tone of the drama.

Gaya: I am yet to watch Signal, but I am captivated by its country-leaning OST, all guitars and melancholy. LeeSa‘s “A Petal” is a standout. I find that I tend to prefer OSTs from shows in crime-related genres, as the thriller aspect tends to offer up some more interesting offerings.

Rom coms, on the other hand, tend to go for what they may consider sweet, but what I often find cloying. That’s not to say I don’t like rom com OSTs at all, just that I’m much pickier with them.

Sydney: I haven’t seen Signal either, but LeeSa’s “A Petal” definitely has a really nice eerie feel fitting of a crime show sound track. I don’t really watch crime-related dramas, but I see how their OSTs could be much more interesting than the typical rom com — especially when most of the OSTs sound like the same emotional ballad to me.

I think I tend to like more upbeat and obnoxious songs. The one that I’ve been constantly replaying this year is Topp Dogg’s “Feel Alive” from Come Back, Mister. The strange, cowboy-ish twang in the beginning and the cheesy — practically cringeworthy — nature of the song itself remind me of the funny moments in the drama (mostly Oh Yeon-seo acting like a man in a woman’s body) and cracks me up every time I hear the song.

Willis: Cheese In The Trap had a great OST. The music often had this melancholic leaning that played to the complicated relationships between the characters. I especially enjoyed the indie ballad “Such” by Kang Hyun-min featuring Jo Hyun-ah. “Such” features emotive vocals from both singers and builds with intensity before it plays out at the end.

Another OST song that has made my list is Ben‘s “Just Like A Dream” from Another Oh Hae-young. This song is the epitome of OST songs: it has that sweeping chorus, is lyrically relevant to the drama, and is played during the pivotal moments of the show. Ben’s honest singing makes this one a stand out and also elevated those moments from the drama to a bittersweet high.

 

Vya: I’m so glad everyone has been bringing up tvN dramas, because I’ve felt that tvN has been hitting it out of the park with their OSTs recently! Last year the network did a great job with Ex-Girlfriend Club and Bubblegum among others, and Reply 1988 had a number of songs rank on the music charts. That trend has continued this year, and like Willis my favorites have been from Cheese in the Trap and Another Oh Hae-young.

Cheese in the Trap had some of my most-listened to songs all year, and the OST almost made up for the bad ending. “Maybe I Like You” by Cosmos Hippie fit the quirky love story perfectly, and makes me smile every time I hear it. I also discovered Love X Stereo through this soundtrack.

Roy Kim‘s contribution to the Another Oh Hae Young‘s OST was my favorite from that drama. The timing of the song’s introduction in the drama was critical, just as I was having a harder time connecting to Eric Mun‘s character, Do-kyung. The song, “Maybe I” elevated the scenes it was in and added depth to Do-kyung’s emotions.

(YouTube[1][2][3][4]. Image via: KBS)