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
Day Two: 40-31
Day Three: 30-21
Curious about last year’s countdown? Check out the masterpost here!
20. NCT U – Boss
Boss‘s bass-heavy hip-hop played to the strengths of NCT’s unlimited roster, offering a dynamic blend of rap and vocals with just enough icy 90’s r&b edge to make it feel like an instant K-pop classic. (full review)
19. TST – Paradise
Jettisoning their usual high-energy synth-pop assault for a subdued, guitar-assisted ballad, Sweetune gifted TST with their most effective single yet. That layered chorus is pure melancholic bliss. (full review)
18. Hyolyn – See Sea
She may not be a part of Sistar anymore, but that doesn’t mean Hyolyn has to give up her title of Summer Queen. See Sea throws in just enough retro influence to make it a cheesy pleasure, wafting on airy vocals and hypnotic synth loops. (full review)
17. N.Tic – Do You Know Who I Am?
Do You Know Who I Am was probably the most meta title of the year, because I’d bet the vast majority of K-pop listeners have no idea that N.Tic exist. It’s time to change that, because this propulsive burst of dance pop practically defines the term “underrated.” (full review)
16. IMFACT – NaNaNa
IMFACT have never been a part of this countdown before, but NaNaNa rockets them to just outside the top fifteen thanks to its textured take on deep house, which stretches a simple hook in sublime, seesawing directions. (full review)
15. The Boyz – Right Here
Right Here felt like a love letter to the boy groups of years past. Its wall-of-sound arrangement wasn’t afraid to go big and stay big, charging forward with inexhaustible energy and jagged funk-pop production. (full review)
14. Pentagon – Shine
Before K-pop’s version of “scandal” ripped the group apart, Pentagon were riding high off the ubiquitous Shine. The song takes what made iKON’s Love Scenario so popular and adds a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor and an earworm hook to die for. Its opening piano riff is nothing short of iconic. (full review)
13. UNB – Black Heart
K-pop has long been know for its genre fusion, and in a year where that creativity took the backseat to current trends, Black Heart‘s mashup of jazzy swing and EDM proved exhilarating. It didn’t hurt that the song also brings together two of the industry’s best producers: LDN Noise and Ryan Jhun. (full review)
12. Oh My Girl – Remember Me
Remember Me took the cinematic atmosphere of the girls’ Secret Garden and ripped it open with unconventional, rap-heavy verses that blend surprisingly well with the swelling chorus. The song never feels settled or repetitive. It continually builds to something bigger and better. (full review)
11. Golden Child – Let Me
In a summer filled with tropical house and hip-hop, Let Me‘s exuberant burst of rock-tinged power pop felt especially needed. Unafraid to swing for the stadium-filling rafters, the song’s anthemic chorus cemented Golden Child as this generation’s energy boosters. (full review)
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Oh, interesting! Today’s list is one I (for the most part) agree with, but about half of the songs are ones that I haven’t listened to in quite a while. I’m going to enjoy rediscovering them today.
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I’ve been following this feature daily and, honestly, I’m surprised how different our favorites for the year turned out! I think while we both love synthy ’80s songs and punchy, rocking content (The Chaser 😍😍😍), you aggressively love funk content while I just really don’t! I actually like most of the songs on the 20-11 list, but the only one here that I would rank as highly is TST’s Paradise, which is really great. On the other hand, I think I have about half of your top 10 list very solidly nailed down in my head (I have a particular group in mind here!), although I have no idea what #1 will be!
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Comparing and contrasting is my favorite part of reading year-end lists. I hope you’ll post your top ten in the comments tomorrow. I’m really curious!
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20. Twice – BDZ: It sounds like a Miss A song from 2010 but with a more insistent beat and extra bouncy fun. That alone is definitely enough to convince me of its greatness, but even better is… the …t’s so… so… it’s such anthemic fun. Don’t you just want to scream “like a bulldozer, like a TANK like a SOLDIER” every time you hear it?” Twice might be kind of bad vocalists, but that just means the songs are written with little to no reliance on Twice themselves, and it’s really for the better because it just ends up being infectious and great and you know,, Just the best really, Twice are.
19. Flash Flood Darlings – Wolflove (feat. Kirara) :It’s SIKE bet you weren’t expecting this part 4! FFD has been probably my electronica artist since I found him in like late 2015; he’s really the best and you should check out everything he’s ever done ever. “Wolflove” isn’t the best FFD song (that’s “The Deep Dark”); it’s not even the best song on Fewchie vs. Wolflove (that’s any number of the b-sides tbh, maybe “Shower Time Machine”), but if you don’t shout along to the English language chorus every time you probably don’t have a soul. “Wolflove” starts off sounding like it’ll almost go trop house, but instead you get the computer sounds-heavy ascending-progression electronic pop song that Red Velvet’s “Power Up” should have been. “Wolflove” is very different from something like BDZ (no chanting, worry not), but it matches Twice in pure sing-along energy. It is – how do I say it – GREAT.
P.S. Kirara’s music is very different, but worth listening to on her own!
18. April – Oh! My Mistake: I wrote the following in your comments section: “This song sounded terrible, I mean absolutely horrendously dull until I plugged in my headphones, upon which it suddenly sounded great. It just goes to show how much the songwriting here hinges 0% on melody (which is, I mean, basically one note) and 100% on actually being able to hear the chord changes.” And that wasn’t an insult by the way – that’s why it’s good. Focus on harmonic movement is something we really need in kpop.
17. Seungri – 1, 2, 3!: I was ready to just not like this when I heard the opening, but then the chorus goes and hinges on a tritone (which was banned from music by the churches for a few centuries for being too dissonant and “the devil’s tone” no lie). Not only does the chorus totally hinge on the Too Metal for 17th century Catholics interval, instead of immediately resolving to a consonant interval (which is textbook music rules for suspended harmonies), 1, 2, 3! just chills out playing a minor second for like 10 seconds before resolving. Not only is it funny to me that Seungri is more heavy metal than any other kpop this year, it also sounds great and continues his streak of having actually quite good solo music. If you wanna know what a tritone sounds like by itself, it’s the distance between C and F#; you can Google an online keyboard and play the two notes at the same time and trust me, you’ll hear it.
16. Twice – Yes or Yes: Like Dreamcatcher (surprisingly) almost every upbeat Twice song is absolutely pure gold, all for essentially the same reason. Like do I really need to go through this again I mean dul junge hana man golla YEs OR YES is basically all i need to illustrate my point here. If I’m being serious, though, I really like the modified chorus at the beginning; I think the Twice chanting is better-used than in most of Twice’s songs (particularly “It’s! SIMPLE! Y-E-S! Hey!” is great, don’t @ me); the verses are cool – really the whole package is excellent and I love it
15. Stray Kids – District 9: Besides officially introducing the world to the voice of Lee Felix, District 9 is the kind of nu-metal/pop hybrid that just hasn’t been around in proper form since B.A.P. (*sniffles*). Electric guitar! Hip-hop posturing rap that doesn’t sound that bad actually because clearly someone here can write a somewhat competent lyric! Backings with tough rhytms that mirror the rap bits which is cool! Anthemic chorus! One of the better instrumental drops this year – I mean if you have to have one at least make it distorted and bendy like this one – ! “District 9” checks all of the boxes, and manages to be the song that a few boy groups have been trying to have since like 2015.
14. Minseo – Is Who: Swing is cool, but kpop-ified swing is better because it strays away from the complexity that some jazz engenders while still having the excellent danciness that ’20s swing is supposed to embody. The last (and only time) time someone swung this excellently in kpop was IU’s “Modern Times” album – a high bar indeed, but “Is Who” easily lives up with its crazy catchy piano riffs, chorus, and one heck of an extended bridge. Also violin solos? Violin solos. Absolutely fantastic.
13. Fromis_9 – Love Bomb: “Love Bomb” is really an acid trip of a song, only eclipsed in pure acid trip-ness by another song higher on my list. I didn’t necessarily think it would stick around in my head as long as it has, but I don’t foresee it going away anytime soon. The only thing holding this back is a chorus so busy that you can’t hear the cool synth work (songwriters should take cues from Aseul and FFD, for real), but it’s not that big of an issue because the business just ends up adding to the crazed atmosphere. When even more melodies kick in towards the end, complaining is kind of futile.
12. Apink – I’m So Sick: “I’m So Sick” has to be best tropical house to ever not actually be trop house in spirit (except maybe “Star of Stars”). I don’t like the verses too much, but that’s alright because they’re quite short. “I’m So Sick” is quite similar to “Oh! My Mistake” but the main thing is that the chorus melody really just chills out along the same notes, relying on harmonic changes to do all of the heavy lifting here. The result is a melancholic, crying on the dancefloor sort of song, and it’s great. Really great.
11. Lovelyz – That Day: Not the best Lovelyz song – Ah-Choo is high bar – but Sweetune still manage to craft one of the best songs of 2019, centered around an absolutely killer riff and one soaring vocal melody. Pure joy, seriously, I love this. I could do with the lounge jazziness of the verses, but they’re not bad by any stretch – especially with a chorus that gorgeously energetic. Also props that live-sounding bass line, Sweetune always sounds wrong without bass guitar
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