Feature

Top K-Pop Songs of 2019 (So Far)

Midyear

So far, 2019 has been an odd year for K-pop. If I were to sum it up, these first six months have pinballed between “thrilling” and “frustrating.” Taken as a whole, I think 2019 easily usurps 2018 at this same point. But, many of my favorite songs were released in close proximity to one another — spurts of excellence surrounded by stretches of dull monotony. This has created an uneven release schedule that often seems less impactful than it actually is. Luckily, when 2019’s K-pop has been good, it’s been really good.

This is thanks largely to an influx of rookie groups. 2018 didn’t offer much when it came to rookies, but 2019 has been absolutely flush with new faces. Most of these emerging acts have exceeded my expectations, which bodes well for the future. You’ll notice far more honorable mentions than usual this year, and rookies played a big part in that.

As any longtime reader knows, I’m usually biased towards the music released by boy groups. That’s been especially true this year. Few girl group releases have really done it for me in 2019, though the general quality has been decent. The one group that made it into my half-year list is going to polarize many, but their song has grown to become my favorite female-fronted title track of the year.

Now for the big question: have we heard the Bias List’s song of the year yet? Possibly. There have been some strong contenders released these past six months, but being an eternal optimist I hope that there are still bigger and better things on the horizon.

Stay tuned for my annual mid-year albums list and the always fun “biggest risers and fallers” feature — both coming soon! And be sure to sound off in the comments. What were your favorite singles during the first half of 2019?


TOP SINGLES

(in alphabetical order)

Honorable Mentions:

ATEEZ – Say My Name (review)
Cosmic Girls (WJSN) – Boogie Up (review)
Lovelyz – Beautiful Days (review)
Oh My Girl – The Fifth Season (SSFWL) (review)
ONEUS – Valkyrie (review)
ONF – We Must Love (review)
Pentagon – Sha La La (review)
Stray Kids – Side Effects (review)
VERIVERY – Ring Ring Ring (review)


A.C.E – Under Cover

Fusing a heavy rock stomp to hip-hop and dance elements, the bombastic Under Cover hearkens back to K-pop’s anything-goes past. It’s rare to hear this kind of ambition from a group of A.C.E’s stature, and provides a thrilling peek at what they’re truly capable of. (full review)

ATEEZ – Wave

The standard K-pop trop-bop, elevated by shots of anthemic melody and an expansive, utterly refreshing climax. It’s perfectly structured, and fueled by some of the most exciting new voices in K-pop. (full review)

BTS – Boy With Luv (ft. Halsey)

BTS came roaring back to my attention with this breezy pre-summer bop. Its carefree funk-pop backbone is irresistibly buoyant, and offers the group a chance to pull back on the angst and simply have fun. (full review)

ITZY – Dalla Dalla

An everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production, Dalla Dalla successfully melds together an immense number of current girl group tropes to create a rousing shot of attitude. It’s the one time this year when the omnipresent post-chorus trap breakdown actually works. (full review)

NCT 127 – Highway To Heaven / Superhuman

Two diverging halves of a knockout comeback, NCT 127 hit us with a stadium-ready pop anthem right before throwing a curveball with a SHINee-esque slice of retro electro-funk. (Highway To Heaven review / Superhuman review)

Stray Kids – Miroh

Stray Kids proved their rookie of the year status with this immense blast of hard-hitting EDM-pop. Its chant-like verses are hypnotic, building to sucker punches of galvanizing rap that culminate in the very best kind of instrumental drop. (full review)

TXT – Crown

Easily the year’s most refreshing debut so far, Crown‘s bubbly synth pop is streamlined to perfection, resulting in a hooky-as-hell dance track that thrives on its performers’ wide-eyed gusto and palpable charisma. (full review)

Woohyun – Hold On Me (ft. Junoflo)

My favorite voice in K-pop finally gets the solo dance track he deserves! Hold On Me speaks largely through its guitar-driven instrumental, but it wouldn’t work nearly as well without Woohyun’s polished, passionate performance. (full review)

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18 thoughts on “Top K-Pop Songs of 2019 (So Far)

  1. 2019 has been a painful year for K-pop; and it’s only half done. Between the scandals (he who’s name must not be spoken) and the disbands (why? why? why?), it’s been a little melancholic.

    However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s been some solid releases from established groups to help hoist us out of the frumpy dumps, but what has really been a saving grace for me is all the interesting new groups that have made the scene, including:

    3YE – DMT
    BVNDIT – Hocus Pocus, Dramatic
    Cherry Bullet – Q&A, Violet, Really Really
    Everglow – Bon Bon Chocolat, Moon
    I LUV – Got It (Surprisingly decent)
    Itzy – Dalla Dalla, Want It?
    PinkFantasy SHY – 12 O’Clock (I know it’s a sub-group, but.. ..FIGHT ME!)

    ..and.. {popular, but not on my playlist):
    CoCo – TalkTalk (Pre-school-pop-lite!)
    GIRL CRUSH – Memories (Very well made, for what it is. Wait, what is it?)
    Ho1iday – Fantasy (It’s polished, but not my fantasy.)
    HOT PLACE – TMI (All over the place. TMI must mean “Too Much Included”.)
    Midnight – Girl Group’s Flooded (Not a rap fan, but if I was..)
    PEACE – Yallacha (Well-made Tropical song, but.. ..it’s a Tropical song.)
    The Pink Lady – God Girl (Well-liked, but.. ..we lost PLAYBACK for this?!?)
    Purplebeck – Crystal Ball (..it’s a start. “Outro” from the mini-album is nice.)
    ..and some I won’t bother listing.

    Note: If I put a group in that second list, it was because I felt that they have good potential to be on my playlist; just not their debut.

    AND THAT’S JUST THE GIRL GROUPS! YAY 2019!

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  2. Itzy dalla dalla is the best girl group song 2019 so far, followed by boogie up by wjsn. I really love the sound of Verivery and TXT music and ONF we must love is so underrated. I have a feeling Twice Fancy will enter you biggest risers and fallers list.

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  3. I truly love Dalla Dalla and am genuinely confused by the online hate I’ve seen for it. Oh well…
    I thought nothing could top Valkyrie for me this year, but Oneus then went and released Twilight and it took a few listens but it’s won that battle.
    Other than A.c.e., it’s been a lacklustre year for me.

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  4. As usual I fire up my itunes and see which ones I listened to the most and found out that my 8 year old son has listened to “Old Town Road” 30 times since I downloaded it for him a week ago. Ahem.

    So for kpop, my list is, in some order
    Itzy “Dalla Dalla”
    Oh My Girl “Fifth Season”
    ATEEZ (Say my name, Hala Hala, Wave, etc)
    ACE “Under Cover”
    Stray Kids “Side Effects”
    NCT “Superhuman”
    TST “Wake Up”
    Nam Woo Hyun “Hold on Me”
    Onew “Blue”, Taeyeon “Blue”
    Kim Jae Hwan “Begin Again”; Kyuhyun “Aewolri”

    My guilty pleasures are Fun! and TMI

    Honorable mentions: Boy (not Roy) Kim “Fate”; Dal Sooooobin “Katchup”, Key “I Wanna Be”; GWSN “Pink Star”; Minhyun “Universe”; Heechul “Old Movie”; Jung Seung Hwan “Voyager”

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    • Nick, you might like Boy Kim “Fate”. (not Roy) Simple, languid, and effective ballad, reminds me a bit of Savage Garden’s ballads which iirc you are a fan.

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  5. Looks like we have some varying opinions, as per usual. My favorites of 2019 so far have been:

    A.C.E. – Under Cover
    Apink – %%
    CLC – No
    Sunmi – Noir
    Loona – Butterfly
    Twice – Fancy, Happy Happy
    Dreamcatcher – Over The Sky
    Stray Kids – Side Effects
    BlackPink – Don’t Know What To Do
    Target – Beautiful
    Shaun – Bad Habits (this! Is such a good song you guys; I’m kind of sad no one is hyping it up and it’s just me)
    Taeyeon – Four Seasons
    Nature – Dream About U

    There have been some surprisingly solid b-sides and also some really good trot and nugu releases which I’ll have to round up and everything by the end of the year. I find that I’ve quite lazy on the music front this year, and usually I’m much more organized about cataloguing what I like. Oh well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t do a breakdown of the established artists in my comment as I wanted the focus to be on this years nugus, but you filled out the list nicely with some of my faves from TWICE, CLC, Dreamcatcher, LOOΠΔ, & Sunmi. Extra kudos for bringing Nature to the party.

      Completely agree with the b-side sentiment. While there’s always been a few hidden gems among the non-titular offerings, it seems like some serious efforts are being made pad those mini-albums with more than just fluff. Within the past year, or so, I’ve noticed a higher ratio of good b-sides and some of those I’ve preferred over the title track. I’m really happy with the current field of acts.

      {thinks to self} Oh God.. ..is K-pop plateauing? Umm.. ..naaaaah.

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      • Yeah I’ve definitely noticed the same thing. I don’t know if it’s a paradigm shift in the way that albums are marketed or what – I guess we’ll see if it’s just a coincidence. The nugus have been kind of killing it this year, and I just really need to sit down and go through all the songs I’ve likes. I’ll definitely try to post a full Top 50 of 2019 in this comments section, so wait for that!

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  6. Personally:
    A.C.E – Under Cover
    Dal Sooobin – Katchup
    Taemin – Want
    CLC – No
    Yongguk (formerly BAP) – Xie Xie (Basically Yamazaki 2.0 and despite its repetitive chords, I really like how he incorporated Guqin-like instrument into the song.)
    Youngjae (formerly BAP) – Gravity (A funky song reminiscent of a J-pop song XD)
    Ravi feat Cold Bay – See Through
    Stray Kids – Entrance/ Road Not Taken (these boys re-invent intros !)
    Yunho – the whole EP
    SF9 – the whole EP (I can’t stop saying how good is See U Tomorrow XD)

    I understand that I’m one of the very few that cannot stand Itzy and Ateez.
    Fromis_9’s Fun and even Red Velvet’s Zimzalabin are weirdly catchier to my ears…

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  7. damn, we have really different tastes this year XD my top 10 singles/title tracks are
    gfriend – sunrise
    red velvet – sappy
    loona – butterfly
    everglow – bon bon chocolat
    ace – undercover
    dreamcatcher – piri
    twice – fancy
    stray kids – i honestly can’t pick between the 2
    Seventeen – Home
    N.Flying – Rooftop

    I was gonna give oneus/wjsn a genuine try over my uni break, see if their songs grow on me, but i ended up being employed and now i have no time blegh

    fave bsides of the year (out of the v few albums that i’ve listened to T_T) :
    gfriend – our secret
    seventeen – shh and hug
    NCT 127 – fool, kitchen beat, lips
    RV – bing bing
    wayv – say it
    monsta x – rodeo, no reason, play it cool, turbulence, give me that
    dreamcatcher – diamond
    loona – where you at

    I am BEYOND ready for a proper nct dream comeback

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  8. Ateez’s Hala Hala was the best song of the half-year imo, and I don’t agree with We Must Love. Other than that, I fully agree with your selection!

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  9. I’m not particularly picky with songs I listen to, but even some of the songs this year I find reallly messy (basically: zimzilabim). Some songs that I don’t particularly care at first but grew on me over time are itzy’s dalla dalla and twice’s fancy. I have to thank this website for featuring a fancy you bside because it made me check out the album, which I love.

    Other songs I love I can think of at the top of my head, in no order:

    sunmi – noir
    clc – me
    bts – bwl
    monsta x – who do u love
    chung ha – snapping
    everglow – bon bon chocolat
    txt – cat & dog
    bts – all night
    bts – home

    Out of all of this, I must’ve played clc’s me the most. I’m addicted to how loud it is

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    • CLC dropped “No.1” at the start of this year. All 5 songs are keepers. For me, it’s rare when a release doesn’t have at least one song I skip through. Solid release that is worth your time if you haven’t heard everything on it.

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  10. Pingback: Top K-Pop Albums of 2019 (So Far) | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

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