The first question you may probably think of just from reading the title is, “Why from 2017 only?” The answer to that would be :

  1. Making a list of memorable K-drama themes of all time is simply painful. How can you choose only ten songs from a selection as rich and diverse as k-dramas from the 1990s up until now? 
  2. The year 2016 is just too much. There’s 2016 and there’s the rest of k-drama music history. For a year that has Descendants of the Sun, Goblin, Hwarang, Another Miss Oh, and Scarlet Heart Ryeo on its list (and that’s not exhaustive at all), 2016 deserves its own list, end of discussion.

So, here are ten songs to serve as your gateway anthems should you wish to explore the last five years of k-dramas. 

It’s You by Henry in While You Were Sleeping (2017)

The first of the two songs of the same title, this one was played in the Lee JongsukBae Suzy starrer, While You Were Sleeping. One of a few OST tracks that contain solely English lyrics, the former Super Junior-M’s soaring vocals enhance this drama, which like the song, was quite polarizing at the start, with images of violence and suicide during its initial episodes turning off audiences. Like the song though, the drama also eventually became a hit and has endured the test of time, as it is still being remembered fondly, particularly by Lee Jongsuk-stans, who are eagerly waiting for the release of his new work after his discharge from the military this year.  

Double Trouble Couple by MAMAMOO in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017)

Vocal powerhouse group MAMAMOO‘s contribution to the  Strong Woman Do Bong Soon‘s soundtrack Double Trouble Couple, is the pitch-perfect embodiment of the show’s primary pairing – the superstrong So Bong Soon (Park Boyoung) and the rich but sensitive heir Ahn Minhyuk (Park Hyungsik). While Bongsoon was painfully in crush with her childhood friend turned policeman Gukdoo (Ji Soo) as she also performs her duties as Mr. Ahn’s bodyguard, the latter appears to have slowly but surely fallen for her diminutive employee. The song is as quirky as the interactions between the two while also being a tad applicable to the show’s “bromance” of the rich kid and the idealistic detective. It also strikes a good balance with the show’s out-and-out love theme song, You’re My Garden sang by Apink‘s Jung Eunji.  

When I Saw You by Bumkey in Hwayungi: A Korean Odyssey (2017-2018)

Bumkey‘s When I Saw You was strategically played in scenes when Seonmi (Oh Yeonseo) almost remembers meeting the immortal Son Ohgong (Lee Seunggi) as a kid while the latter distinctly remembering the same moments. And there’s us in our houses shouting at the TV or our laptops, willing everyone to remember  so that everyone will already fall in love with each other and live happily ever after in diety heaven. 

It’s You by Jeong Sewoon in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim (2018)

As Produce 101 Season 2 alumni Jeong Sewoon starts singing It’s You while the camera focuses on Lee Young-jun’s (Park Seojoon) face, it was at that moment when he, along with the rest of the drama-watching public realizes that he has been putting a lot of effort not only into letting his ever-reliable secretary Kim Miso (Park Minyoung) stay because he has become comfortable with his assistant for nine years, but because he has fallen in love with her.   

All About You by Taeyeon in Hotel del Luna (2019)

Just when you thought that IU would sing the love theme for the OST of her massive hit show Hotel del Luna, the show’s producers had other things on their minds. Enter the unofficial-yet-somehow-official queen of k-drama OSTs, Girl’s Generation leader and main vocalist Taeyeon, to sing about thinking of your loved one as a poem. Far from being cheesy, the song does sound poetic and balances the sternness of IU‘s character, the often high-strung 1,000-year old ghost hotel owner Jang Manwol.  

Here I Am Again by Baek Yerin in Crash Landing on You (2019-2020)

The CLOY OST has some real heart-wrenching tracks, but Baek Yerin‘s contribution takes the cake as one of the most, if not the most memorable one, as this was the song that played during THAT scene – when South Korean businesswoman Seri (Son Yejin) got a bit lost in a North Korean market and Capt. Ri (Hyun Bin) was in a panic, looking for her. When the captain finally saw the light from the candle Seri lit and Baek Yerin’s lilting voice kicked in, I guarantee, loads of tear ducts were instantly activated. 

Start Over by Gaho in Itaewon Class (2020)

From the get-go, Gaho’s contribution to the Itaewon Class OST gives a rousing feel to any listening to forge on despite any difficulty being faced. The song is a perfect fit for the drama’s protagonist Saeroyi (Park Seojoon), who needed to build a new life after being released from jail for an injustice. Also perfect for the rest of us who have to get up every morning and face a world that’s still debilitated by the Coronavirus and its seemingly endless variants.      

I Knew I Love by Jeon Mido in Hospital Playlist (2020)

The various parts of the Hospital Playlist OST spoiled us with a huge selection of music. After all, the drama’s all about a group of doctors whose stress reliever is a band they are a part of. All of the band members have a highlight song, with Lee Ikjun’s (Jo Jungsuk) revival of the 2001 hit Aloha proving to be the OST’s most popular release. But then, a song the group sang in a noraebang session, I Knew I Love, was added to Part 11 of the show’s OST. The song was sung byJeon Mido who plays tone-deaf Dr. Songhwa in the drama. But then, we fans do know, thanks to our “research” skills that Mido‘s singing skills are way better than her doctor character; after all, she is actually a musical theatre actress before accepting the part in Hospital Playlist, her first TV acting job.   

In Your Time by AKMU’s Lee Suhyun in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020)

For a show that presented how all of its characters are struggling through life with their own issues, Suhyun‘s song offers just the right consolation, as well as a fitting reminder for all of us: that we’re never alone and there’s always someone who will find us even during times when we feel the loneliest.   

Running by Gaho in Start-Up (2020)

Look, a repeat offender! Gaho, purveyor of songs that ooze inspiration and positivity, was part of  another OST of a show that narrates the struggles of people who can’t seem to get a break in life. Full disclosure: Gaho has been a major contributor to my personal pandemic soundtrack. You want to get out of a rut? You want something to pick you up from a mood? You want someone to take your hand as you get through the darkness like the show’s Dalmi (Bae Suzy) and Dosan (Nam Joohyuk)? You just want to think of the show’s perfect second lead Han Jipyeong (played by the equally perfect Kim Seonho)? In Gaho we trust.