The end of the year countdowns are finally here! As always, things kick off with the big one… The Bias List’s top 50 songs of the year! Each day this week, I’ll be counting down ten of the year’s best, until number one is revealed on Friday.
To be eligible for this top 50 list, songs must have had a Korean release as a title or promotional track between Dec. 1st, 2017 and Nov. 30th, 2018.
Make sure to check out the rest of the countdown first!
Day One: 50-41
Curious about last year’s countdown? Check out the masterpost here!
40. Apink – I’m So Sick
In one of the year’s most successful transitions, Apink brushed aside their bright, cheerful image in favor of a beguiling, synth-infused dance track with a killer vocal hook. (full review)
39. Nu’est W – Help Me
As a conclusion to their sub-unit activities, the dramatic Help Me ratchets up the intensity with a mix of bombastic balladry and claustrophobic electronics. (full review)
38. The Boyz – Giddy Up
The Boyz proved their mettle with this jolt of unabashed funk-pop energy. Propelled by groovy rhythm guitar, Giddy Up unleashes its megawatt chorus with precision and panache. (full review)
37. iKON – Love Scenario
Released all the way back in January, Love Scenario‘s immense success framed much of what would follow in 2018. Laid-back hip-hop beats, sing-song hooks and an indie sensibility that favored candor over showmanship. (full review)
36. BoA – Woman
After several years of relative silence, K-pop legend BoA returned in a big way this year. Woman was the strongest of her 2018 singles, riffing on its undulous bassline to create a self-empowerment anthem that harnessed her lethal charisma. (full review)
35. Rainz – Turn It Up
Though I was initially unimpressed with its heavy reliance on its EDM instrumental, I quickly came around to Turn It Up‘s old-school K-pop sound. It’s a dynamic throwback with one hell of a chorus — an exceedingly rare thing to find in 2018. (full review)
34. Dreamcatcher – You And I
Dreamcatcher have always resisted temptation to slot neatly into one of K-pop’s mainstream girl group categories. You And I continued to streamline their rock sound, delivering a razor sharp chorus over fist-pumping guitar riffs. (full review)
33. Momoland – BBoom BBoom
This January wasn’t short on chart-conquering hits, but the most unexpected came from Momoland. BBoom BBoom is the kind of global phenomenon that became harder to resist each time you heard it, converting skeptics to fans with its ubiquitous hook. (full review)
32. Infinite – Tell Me
Infinite are no stranger to the top half of my countdowns. But even when they take a more subdued approach with trendy material like Tell Me, their unparalleled vocals elevate the track to something compelling and memorable. (full review)
31. Cosmic Girls (WJSN) – Save Me, Save You
Cosmic Girls’ music has a way of sneaking up on me, and Save Me, Save You was no different. The song’s evocative brew of spacey synths and crystal-clear vocals builds beautifully to its pulsing, catwalk-ready climax. (full review)
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~~~~here we go~~~~
40. Chungha – Rollercoaster: When I first heard this one, I thought it was going to be one of my favorites of the year. It didn’t quite hold up that far – probably from marimba fatigue – but it’s still pretty great, and refreshingly has a chorus (a shocking rarity, I know). “Rollercoaster” might be basic, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it really shows how far a straightforward burst of pop can take you in the current landscape of endless skittering hi hats and lurchy synths
39. April – The Blue Bird: Incredibly extra just like last year’s “Take My Hand,” April continue to go harder than all of the moody boy group oppas could ever hope for.. Everything from the first pre-chorus forward has like three or four melodies chilling out at once, all of which somehow complement each other, and none of which suffer from over-phrasing sickness.
38. Red Velvet – Power Up: Any kpop song with the doo-wop progression ingratiates itself to me immediately, and I mean IMMEDIATELY. Power Up isn’t perfect, and I won’t lie – its grating nature turned me off for a few listens – but I really did coming back for the ba-banana-ba-ba-banananana, and after a little bit Irene had brainwashed me into actually liking the chiptune cheese-grater sound of the rest. Sure, my ears bleeding but it’s okay! I’m happy! I chose this path! Go go airp l a n e b e o n g a e c h e o r e o m n a r a r a
37. Day6 – Shoot Me: Starts off like a post-band Wonder Girls song (same co-composer as “Why So Lonely” btw) but ends up a surprisingly rousing anthem, like FT Island’s “FNC finally let us go harder” direction a year or so ago. More or less everything about this is good, but I really like the instrumental breaks after the heavily rhythmic choruses, very lit.
36. Target – Awake: Awake wasn’t the best song this year, but it was among the ballsiest in boy group land. Both of the synth riffs that drive this song are rock solid, and even though it has a trap sound to it (even Sweetune weren’t immune, I guess), building the song on siren textures, timpani drums (!!!), and electric guitar was really weird and even revolutionary for this kind of thing. The contrast of having one riff and progression go ascending (verses) and one go descending (chorus) was incredibly smart, and makes the shortened second chorus-bridge-prechorus-final chorus sequence one of the most effective last thirds of 2018. Like Bad Boy, I initially thought this was a cause of Target – Awake (Inst.) being superior to Awake itself, but after a whole year of moody tough guy rap immunization, Awake ends up standing way outside of the pack. Like so few songs this year, Awake understood that having the chorus vocal be like one melodic line works really well in some cases, and the simplistic singing allows for the harmonic movement and Grade A riffing to shine. The only time this goes off the rails is in the second verse, when most of the riffing and cool stuff goes away! If you’re still not convinced that this song is bestest, listen to the inst. a few times and come back – it really hooked me, for one.
35. Dreamcatcher – Full Moon: Like Twice (surprisingly), everything up-tempo that Dreamcatcher releases is good, and it’s all good for the same reason. I don’t really have to explain this one.
34. CLC – Black Dress: Most songs like this suck, but CLC’s song avoids the suck by very cleverly refusing to be terrible. No, really, it’s the moving bass line, fast tempo, and great descending riff (imagine if Dreamcatcher did THIS) and uncompromising rhythm, that makes sure “Black Dress” out-Ddu-du Ddu-du’s Ddu-du Ddu-du and every other girl crush attempt this year.
33. NCT 127 – Baby Don’t Stop: I like this for the same reasons you like it, really. Mostly rhythm-driven pop doesn’t always work for me, but the bass line is sticky enough to keep me listening. Plus, the fact that there’s whispering in a kpop song is really quite cool.
32. Golden Child – Lady: Sweetune really outdo themselves with how cheesily ’80s synthpop this is, but I don’t even care. There’s not enough of an eye to cheesiness these days in kpop! I’m sure you agree!
31. Olivia Hye – Egoist: A dark atmosphere that aggressively outperforms Olivia Hye herself, who is essentially just along for the ride. Weird background vocals, wall-of-noise style future bass synths, heavy dissonance and syncopations are anchored by, I mean nothing really, actually, I’m not sure why this works so well for me. Must be the sixteenth note bass that pulses on-time for most of this that keeps it together, don’t ask me, all I know is that this is how to drive a dance song with a relatively average singer at the helm.
Interesting choices! (to me, at least, since not many made it on my own list). Black Dress seemed to click for so many people this year. I never felt much urge to replay it, but I should give it another look.
Ah, Target… They couldn’t even stick with Sweetune for more than one single. They’re coming back soonish in Japan, though, so we’ll see what sound they adopt. It feels like J-pop is a huge untapped market for Sweetune, especially since I think their musical tastes might be more inclined to embrace the classic Sweetune sound.
Lady and Baby Don’t Stop… check! That’s two of my top ten. Will JYHB include the rest of the eight somewhere on the list? I’m curious to find out, but I certainly won’t hold it against you if you don’t!