2018 arrived still reeling from the lingering aftereffects of tragedy, as Jonghyun’s passing continued to loom large in everyone’s minds. But the year went on to deliver one of the strongest Januarys in memory. Title tracks pin-balled between genres and there seemed to be a renewed, free-wheeling energy within the idol industry. The Winter Olympics put the brakes on this pattern to some extent, but the first quarter of the year still delivered exciting projects like NCT 2018.
From springtime on, K-pop started to settle into a pattern I often described as “lots of solid tracks, but few standouts.” The indie and idol worlds continued to collide this year, resulting in a trend of mid-tempo title tracks that seemed to focus more on mood than melody. I think I used the word “murky” a thousand times this year, but it was the best descriptor I could come up with to describe the tonal trends I was noticing.
2018’s other musical trends were largely holdovers from last year, with trap and tropical pop still a huge factor. I blame this largely on the genre stagnation in mainstream Western pop music, which K-pop tends to follow quite slavishly. The oft-mentioned Latin trend never took complete hold of the industry, but it was definitely a factor. K-pop continued to feel more international this year, bolstered by the American success of BTS and others.
This all resulted in…. not my favorite year for K-pop. But, that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of highlights. As always, I consider my own top 50 list to be quite solid, though it’s admittedly a refection of my personal taste.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be breaking down every corner of 2018 K-pop with the usual onslaught of countdowns and opinion pieces. Tomorrow, we kick off with the first day of my Top 50 countdown, which will run until Friday.
For now, here are five songs that just missed this year’s list:
2018 Honorable Mentions
Red Velvet – Bad Boy (review)
MXM – Diamond Girl (review)
The East Light – Real Man (review)
Chungha – Love U (review)
NCT Dream – We Go Up (review)