Feature

Top Three K-Pop Songs of May 2019

Monthly Round-UpAt the end of each month, I look back at my three favorite title tracks by K-pop artists. I take my own ratings into account, but there’s a bit of wiggle room as certain songs tend to grow or fade.


May 2019 Overall Thoughts

After an underwhelming April, the month of May began to right the ship. Looking back at every song released these past few weeks, May wasn’t quite as strong as I thought it was, but it was buoyed by a few incredible tracks.

I’m very satisfied with my top three releases of the month. Each could have been a number one pick in a weaker month, and their ranking here has razor-thin margins. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some shuffling when it comes to the end-of-year countdowns. All three represent a refreshing break from the same old trends that K-pop has been mired in for the past few years, and offer a spark of hope that the industry is beginning to move in more interesting directions.

In fact, these three acts were so strong that I had to double up my number two pick. This last happened in May of 2016, when BTS released music videos for both Fire and Save Me. These songs were too hard to separate, so they took the number one spot together.

Apart from my top picks, May was somewhat middling. A few strong honorable mentions (Oh My Girl, Kim Donghan, Lovelyz) elevated the month, but there were so many “meh” tracks released — especially during these past two weeks. With summer right around the corner, I’m hoping that K-pop moves toward a more uptempo place. That’s usually the case, so I’m looking forward to June and July.

One very welcome trend I’ve notice lately is the resurgence of rock guitar. Several of May’s best releases included prominent guitar instrumentation, and I hope that this pattern continues. It feels like we’re on the cusp of changing trends, and I am ready!

Month Cumulative Rating: 7.7

(compiled by averaging the scores of every K-pop review from this month)


C-Pop Worth Your Time

WayV (NCT) – Take Off (review)

Honorable Mentions

Golden Child – Spring Again (review)

Kim Donghan – Focus (review)

Kim Jaehwan – Begin Again (review)

Lim Jimin – Loveholic (review)

Lovelyz – Beautiful Days (review)

Oh My Girl – The Fifth Season (SSFWL) (review)

ONEUS – Twilight (review)

ONEWE – Reminisce About All (review)

Park Bom – 4:44 (ft. Wheein) (review)

Weki Meki – Picky Picky (review)

Winner – Ah Yeah (review)


TOP THREE SONGS

3. Woohyun – Hold On Me (ft. Junoflo) (review)

2. NCT 127 – Superhuman / Highway To Heaven (review / review)

1. A.C.E – Under Cover (review)


Top Three K-Pop Songs Of April 2019

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of March 2019

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of February 2019

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of January 2019

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of December 2018

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of November 2018

2016-2019 Archive Here

31 thoughts on “Top Three K-Pop Songs of May 2019

  1. A.C.E’s reign this month was well-deserved. Callin’ had me intrigued, but Under Cover turned me into a full-fledged Choice! Crossing my fingers I’ll get to see them live one of these days, I’m envious you got to do it twice. 😂

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  2. A.C.E’s UNDER COVER was also my top song of the month! I usually don’t enjoy the summer tracks as much, as we often get some VERY typical sounds coming through, but I hope to find a couple I love in the coming months.

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    • I was thinking of you all when I was finalizing my ranking! NCT nearly took the top spot, but in the end A.C.E just edged them out. I think it’s objectively a more interesting and cohesive track. I’m curious to see which song I’ll prefer when it comes to the end of the year. Under Cover is more ambitious, while Superhuman and Highway to Heaven are more aligned with styles that I personally love.

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  3. My take on this months Top 3̶(4):

    Disclaimer: I was initially indifferent to this months picks because they were all male groups. I gravitate to female groups because A: female voices are more soothing to me, and B: if I can’t understand the lyrics, then I want some eye candy. This indifference changed when I realized a̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶r̶d̶(half) of this months choices were NCT 127’s “Superhuman” and “Highway to Heaven”.

    My order for this month:
    3. Woohyun – Hold On Me (ft Junoflo) {I’m not the target audience for this}
    2. A.C.E – Under Cover {Not my cup of T.}
    1. NCT 127 – Superhuman / Highway To Heaven {aww yeah}

    If I had assembled this month, my 3 would’ve been:
    3. Lovelyz – Beautiful Days* {because.. ..it’s a Lovelyz song}
    2. Oh My Girl – The Fifth Season (SSFWL)* {because.. ..it’s a OMG song}
    1. NCT 127 – Superhuman / Highway To Heaven {dōz vōcalz}

    * I realize my stan slip is showing with these two choices but in my defense.. ..umm, erm, uhh.. ..FIGHT ME!

    As I wrote (above), I don’t usually follow male groups but even I have to give the nod to NCT 127 this month. I’m a sucker for well executed male harmonization and NCT 127 delivered this in spades. I purchased the “We Are Superhuman” mini-album within minutes after hearing “Superhuman”. The only other male groups that have hit my shopping cart in the past are: BIGBANG, EXO, and HOTSHOT. Admittedly, I lack experience with the XY side of Kpop so this may change with time.

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    • Well, you’ll definitely get an influx of male groups by following this blog. I’d say my top three songs of the month are usually two male acts and one female, with some exceptions. When it comes down to it, I just prefer *some* of the music styles generally performed by boy groups — specifically, retro funk pop and over-the-top, theatrical bombast.

      But, it’s a double-edged sword, because I tend to be extra harsh on bad boy group tracks, while the girl groups are generally more in the middle.

      And for what it’s worth, if I had to pick a pair of girl group tracks to make the top three this month, they would definitely be Oh My Girl and Lovelyz!

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  4. NCT 127 (more Highway To Heaven than Superhuman indeed) and Woohyun on the top of the list for me too.
    To be honest, anyway, we should say that our taste is definitely not aligned to mainstream digital performances: NCT 127 are being hardly underrated (Superhuman MV views are rising *verivery* slowly compared to their previous title tracks) and Hold On Me MV wasn’t even able to reach 400K views in 3 weeks. A.C.E. themselves are quite far away from the results of Cactus and Take Me Higher, counting only 1.9 MLN views in 3 weeks (Oneus’ Twilight rose to 1.2 MLN in 3 days).
    Let’s hope June will be a more profitable month for the acts and the music we love.

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    • Fingers crossed, though I don’t put a lot of stock in youtube views. I’m more interested in album sales, and NCT is doing quite well in that regard.

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  5. Have you heard D-Crunch’s Panorama?
    You were underwhelmed by their last title track, but this Bside is close to Palace and Stealer, and in my opinion very strong. I guess they wanted to try another genre for this comeback, by imho they are stronger in their dark concept.

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  6. Wow, don’t think I’ve ever seen such a widely accepted top pick (and for what could easily be a bit of a polarizing song!). I love that almost everyone is in agreement on Under Cover, or at least thinks it makes sense even if they don’t love the song. It’s especially impressive because, unless it’s just me, it seems like the comment sections have been crazy busy lately! There are more people with more thoughts, but Under Cover is almost unanimously the best of the month, even against Superhuman/Highway to Heaven. I’m excited for June!

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  7. Although our personal tastes differ in some ways (I’m mostly a girl group person), I can usually wholeheartedly agree with the write-ups for this monthly feature. You basically summed up my feelings towards this month perfectly. Several standout tracks elevated it so much higher than April even if the rest were only okay.

    This month has been interesting for me because for my top three is surprisingly not girl group dominated! A.C.E.’s Under Cover is on its way to becoming my favorite song of the year, and Superhuman is also my number two. I would put OMG’s comeback at number three, because the chorus and bridge were stunning. It could have been my number two thanks to bias points, but as you said, the verses are rather forgettable.

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  8. Finally had the courage to write a comment! Phew! I’ve noticed the comment section has been quite active recently, I’m pleasantly surprised. That may be what pushed me.

    I agree with your ranking – they were all very good songs – but mine would probably be a lot different. I love both boy groups and girl groups, but just like you, I’m more lenient on the latter. I know the releases haven’t been that memorable this month, but to be honest, I’m okay with that since a lot of my favorite groups have been releasing some really strong material.
    Between Lovelyz (my all-time favorite GG), Winner and A.C.E, I haven’t gotten the chance to feel disappointed.

    My ranking would probably look like this:
    3. Superhuman/Highway to heaven
    2. Really Really (Cherry Bullet)
    1. SSFWL (Oh My Girl)

    Now, I’m very surprised by my own ranking because none of these groups are my favorites.
    Oh My Girl always releases good songs, but it’s never really what I’m looking for. SSFWL was a breath of fresh air, especially the double chorus.

    I’m even more surprised by the second song on this ranking, which is Really Really. I tend to despise this particular kind of songs, but something about it made me like it at first listen. I don’t know if I’ll get tired of it, but right now I can use some bubbly pop!

    I’m ready to admit it now: I didn’t love Under Cover. It’s objectively an excellent release – it’s ambitious, new and it rocks – but it just couldn’t grab my interest, which saddens me because all of their previous works were some of my all time favorite songs. I’m still really happy they had a comeback and I might be going to see them live soon!

    Thank you for your reviews, I’ve never been interested in K-pop reviews because I feel like people just can’t explain adequately WHY they don’t like the song or WHY they love it. People often throw around 9 and 10s like every song is a banger. You don’t, which is probably why I always find myself coming back here. Keep going!

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    • It’s a shame we can’t edit the comments, because if forgot to put my favorite song in the ranking, which is Untitled Love Song by Henry. Well.

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    • Interesting ranking! And welcome to the comments section. I’m glad you’re here!

      It seems like Under Cover has been polarizing for some, and I get that. I’m happy that NCT’s shift in sound has been so well-received, though (at least with readers here). I really want them to continue pursuing this classic SM sound, but you never know with NCT.

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    • Welcome to the peanut gallery (I’m new as well). Your number 2 choice is interesting to me. I, too, like Really Really. In my ranking, I listed: 3. Lovelyz, 2. OMG, 3 NCT. Cherry Bullet wasn’t that far behind. I think the only reason I didn’t consider them for my top 3 is their nugu status.

      Don’t get me wrong. They may be new, but they came out of the gate with the spit and polish of a well established group. I’d argue they’re on the same level (production-wise) with WJSN, CLC, APRIL, etc.. I think many don’t know how to take them as a group because they’re so high energy; but that is why I’m drawn to them.

      I’ve been pleased with the crop of new girl groups that have made the scene recently such as: LOOΠΔ, ITZY, (G)I-DLE, Cherry Bullet, DreamNote, Everglow, GWSN, Nature, ELRIS, etc.. Then there are a few groups that are struggling after debut, but still have caught my attention such as: Favorite, Cherry On Top, PinkFantasy, Saturday, LIMESODA, etc. (I’d add P.O.P to this list but they already seemed to have gone belly up).

      Given all of the break-ups that have occurred in the past year, or so, it’s comforting to see the void being filled with some talented new blood. Over the past couple of years, we’ve recently lost some truly iconic groups: 2NE1, KARA, Secret, 4minute, SISTAR, miss A, Rainbow, Wonder Girls, 9Muses, HELLOVENUS, Stellar, Fiestar, BESTie, Dal★Shabet, SPICA, and (essentially) Girl’s Generation, T-ara, After School/Orange Caramel, EXID, AOA, and Girl’s Day. All gone; but not forgotten.

      I’ve been a K-pop fan for almost 10 years. I remember waiting months for something significant to drop in the early years. Recently, however and despite some really horrendous scandals in the industry, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this genre standing on more solid ground. The “releases per month” ratio seems to grow greater with each passing month and there’s been an exponential effort being put into the production of those releases. It’s a good time to be a K-pop fan.

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      • I like your comments, you really write a lot (that’s a good thing since you’re interesting and I always enjoy reading them)

        I’m glad you mentioned Elris because I do not see a lot of people talking about them and they are one of my favorite newer acts. Their summer mini album from last year is crazy good, just like their title track Pow Pow. I actually bought their mini album, which is something I rarely find myself doing these days. Sohee’s solo debut was not in anyone’s top tracks ranking when it was released, but I still listen to it months after. I loved it.

        Among the other girl groups you listed, I like LOONA (have liked everything they’ve released so far, even Hi High. They also have more than thrice the discography of my 2017 bias group and they just debuted) and Cherry Bullet (love their B-Side Violet) the most. Am also really interested in ITZY and Everglow, but since the company’s thinking of sending Wang Yiren in a chinese survival show, I’m kind of worried (given they rarely come back afterwards). I’m not liking G-idle in the slightest though, or GWSN for that matter.

        I agree that K-pop is getting good again (it has always been good but I was really craving for some new faces). A lot of my favorite GGs disbanded (9Muses, Fiestar, Miss A and others). I thought Girl’s Day said they were still going? (It’s the same anyways since we won’t be seeing them in a long time).

        For years, TWICE, Lovelyz, Red Velvet and GFRIEND mainly kept me going so I’m really excited for all those new faces!

        Sorry if there are any typos, I wrote this before going to sleep.

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        • Thanks for the kind words. Elris came out of the gate running, but have slowed recently. I hope that’s not a bad sign. I remember when Sohee’s “Spotlight” debuted. At the time I was following another artist named Kim Sohee, but the latter is from Produce 101, God of Music 2 (C.I.V.A.), Idol Drama Operation Team, etc.). Back to the former, Elris’ Sohee’s debut was really good. When I found out she was debuting with Elris, I had an invested interest to watch for it to drop. While I went into Elris with foreknowledge of Sohee, it was Bella that captured my attention. She’s now my bias in the group. They’ve had some solid releases; fingers crossed.

          LOOΠΔ’s debut system was a great way to become invested in each member; very smart on Blockberry’s part. Now that all 12 are out, I’m having a hard time picking one as my main bias. I’ll always have a soft spot for HyunJin, but Choerry, Jinsoul, and Go Won draw me in as well. Given their strong financial backing, I have strong hopes for their longevity.

          Cherry Bullet’s “Violet” is the best song they’ve released so far. I remember watching their debut stage to catch the first stage for “Q&A” and it also contained “Violet”. One listen was all it took and I instantly bought the mini-album. The note progression in the melody is unusual for most Korean pop songs, but it registered with me very strongly.

          ITZY and Everglow are very mainstream pop; which is a good thing. Yeah, sending Yiren to her homeland is a risk; time will tell. To be honest, while her loss would be significant, Everglow has built enough momentum with their debut that I think they could weather the loss.. ..maybe.

          (G)I-DLE and GWSN can be polarizing. The former is playing the “Girl Crush” card as hard as possible and the latter is riding the fringe of an indie group. I like a little variety so they have a place on my play list. I can see how others might exclude them.

          All the 2nd gen groups that have disbanded was crushing as they were the reason I got into K-Pop. But.. ..a phoenix will rise from the ashes, right? The hallyu wave keeps rolling. I sincerely hope we get new music from Girl’s Day; I just hope it’s not their swan song.

          I agree with TWICE, Lovelyz, RV, and GFRIEND keeping the torch lit during some dark periods. Given the fragility of this genre, it’s all we can do to just appreciate these groups while we have them because.. ..you never know when they’ll be gone. It can make anyone a little weary on wanting to heavily invest in a new group only to have them disappear in an instant (e.g., The Ark, Bob Girls, P.O.P, etc.).

          Same with any typos I make. I always spot them in hindsight.. ..when it’s too late.

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  9. just want to chime in with a big YAY that Undercover topped this month for you as well– now if the music shows would just agree with this little corner of the internet and let ACE do a full performance of this kick-ass song!

    if you don’t mind me asking, would WayV’s Take-Off have ranked anywhere near Top 3 if it hadn’t “technically” been C-pop?

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    • Like you, I’m beyond pissed that their music show performances have cut out some of the song’s best parts! I mean, at least let them perform the whole thing for the comeback stage!!

      As far as WayV, if they were K-pop, they’d be #4 on my countdown, right below Oh My Girl.

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