2019 in K-POP so far: Risers & Fallers

Risers & FallersReviews are only a snapshot in time, which means that many of the songs I write about will rise or fall as the months go on. I tend to be pretty moderate in my reviews, so none of these following selections have moved drastically from my original thoughts, but the first half of 2019 definitely saw some late bloomers and a few fast faders.

Now, just because a song is listed in my “risers” section doesn’t mean that I automatically consider it some of the very music of the year. Conversely, the songs listed in my “fallers” section this year are actually ones I still like quite a bit, as evidenced by the fact that none of them fell out of the 8’s.

Speaking of ratings, I thought it would be fun to include updated number ratings for these songs, along with the original rating the song was given when I first reviewed it.


AB6IX – Breathe (review)

Old Rating: 7.25  –> New Rating: 8

Fed up with the trends it was chasing, I was overly harsh on Breathe. It’s a solid song, made better by the charm of its performers.

ATEEZ – Say My Name (review)

Old Rating: 8  –> New Rating: 8.75

Say My Name arrived less than three months after its predecessor, and I think I was still too enamored by Treasure to give it a fair shake. My opinion on the song has improved massively since its release.

Cosmic Girls (WJSN) – La La Love (review)

Old Rating: 7.75  –> New Rating: 8.5

La La Love proved to be a quick grower, as it snatched a spot in my top songs of January despite an initial rating in the 7’s. Boogie Up has since usurped its place as 2019’s best Cosmic Girls single, but La La Love is still very strong.

ITZY – Dalla Dalla (review)

Old Rating: 8.5  –> New Rating: 9

I liked Dalla Dalla from the start, and rated it higher than many of my internet peers. It’s since gone on to become my standout girl group single of the past six months, buoyed by its success and ubiquity on the K-pop charts.

Kim Donghan – Focus (review)

Old Rating: 8.5  –> New Rating: 8.75

May was a very strong month for K-pop, and I think that Focus got a bit overshadowed because of that. However, it was one of those songs I played over and over. It’s easily my favorite Kim Donghan single yet.

ONEUS – Valkyrie & Twilight (review / review)

VALKYRIE Old Rating: 8.5  –> New Rating: 9
TWILIGHT Old Rating: 8  –> New Rating: 8.5

ONEUS’s music is the definition of “riser.” Both Valkyrie and Twilight have gone on to enjoy immense staying power, and work even better when paired together.

Park Jihoon – L.O.V.E (review)

Old Rating: 8  –> New Rating: 8.5

L.O.V.E may be derivative EDM, but it’s my kind of derivative EDM. In a similar vein to Seventeen’s Don’t Wanna Cry and Astro’s Always You, I’m a sucker for this particular style of instrumental drop.

Red Velvet – Zimzalabim (review)

Old Rating: 7.75  –> New Rating: 8.5

Yep, I’m one of the few who has really fallen for Zimzalabim’s offbeat charms. It only took a couple listens to click with me, but I’d bump it up a few notches on my rating now that several weeks have gone by.

Stray Kids – Side Effects (review)

Old Rating: 8.5  –> New Rating: 8.75

Side Effects’ experimental structure baffled me at first, and coming after Miroh it had an incredibly large shadow to penetrate. But, watching the song’s live performance and becoming more familiar with its shifting tempos and textures has improved its standing. It might even bump up higher as we continue into summer.

TXT – Crown (review)

Old Rating: 9  –> New Rating: 9.5

On the day I reviewed Crown, I gave it a soft ‘9,’ unsure of how it would hold up as the months went on. It’s since become one of my favorite songs of the year and a reliable energy boost whenever the K-pop release schedule begins to slow (ie: right now).

Other Risers:
Weki Meki – Picky Picky (7.75 -> 8.25)
VERIVERY – From Now (8.5 -> 8.75)
Lovelyz – Beautiful Days (8.5 -> 8.75)
Dream Note – Hakuna Matata (8 -> 8.5)
N.Flying – Rooftop (7.25 -> 8)



The Boyz – Bloom Bloom (review)

Old Rating: 8.5  –> New Rating: 8

I’m all for bright boy group concepts (they were a part of my K-pop new year’s resolutions, after all), but I really have to be in the right mood for Bloom Bloom. I still like it, but sometimes it feels a bit too cloying.

Seventeen – Home (review)

Old Rating: 8.75  –> New Rating: 8.25

This is the second year in a row Seventeen have had a song in my “fallers” list, and just like 2018’s Thanks, Home is solid but isn’t the Seventeen single I rush to when I’m in the mood for their music.

Taemin – Want (review)

Old Rating: 8.75  –> New Rating: 8.25

I feel like this song will be on many fans’ best-of lists this year, and I rated it quite high as well. Since its release, I’ve rarely returned to Want, even though it’s a solid display of Taemin’s skills.

TST – Wake Up (review)

Old Rating: 9  –> New Rating: 8.5

Sweetune-produced work will always elicit high ratings from me, but that doesn’t mean that all of their songs are built with the same longevity in mind. Wake Up is still great, but I’ve barely listened to it since February. Blame nearly non-existent promotion on the agency’s part. Out of sight, out of mind.

Winner – Ah Yeah (review)

Old Rating: 8.25  –> New Rating: 8

Back in May, I wondered if Ah Yeah would grow to rule the summer. It’s a welcome addition to my seasonal playlist, but hasn’t caught on with me in the same way that 2017’s Really Really did.

What about you? Any 2019 tracks surprise you after you got to know them a bit more closely?

18 thoughts on “2019 in K-POP so far: Risers & Fallers

  1. Great list! For me, the song “risers” this year are weki meki picky picky, verivery from now, txt cat & dog, clc me, i used to dislike these songs at first-second listen but not now.

    The songs “fallers” are winner ah yeah, lee hi no one, twice fancy, loona butterfly, i’m sorry twice i still love you and fancy you album is really full of bop !

    Anyway, would you like to review produce x 101 concepts evaluation songs?


  2. Totally agree with the rating boost you gave Zimzalabim. The song proved to be a great grower after a few more listens. Probably my favorite girl group release of this quarter.

    I’ve found myself not listening to songs like Say My Name, Valkyrie and even one of your fallers, Want, for while and then coming back to them to like them even more.

    Also, I was wondering if you were gonna review Produce X 101 concept evaluation’s songs, I thought you had said a few weeks ago that you were probably gonna write a post about them.


      • Thank you for your fast response!! I haven’t seen the episode yet but it seems U Got It will be the favorite generally among the public. Personally, based on the demo, I’m more biased towards Move but we’ll just have to see the entire episode to make up a solid opinion.


  3. I’m loving the “ratings update,” since I’ve definitely wondered about that for the past years. Oh gee, I’ve been reading this blog for a couple of years! That’s wild.



    1. Twice – Fancy: I wasn’t sure about this one when it came out, but I shouldn’t have doubted. The day Twice release a bad Korean single is the day I set up a shrine to mourn a singles run so pristine it is rivaled only by T-ara’s golden age.

    2. Loona – Butterfly: Like most of my favorite Loona songs, this one took awhile to stick. I think it’s the excellent production that did me in here.

    3. Gfriend – Sunrise: I don’t really like “Time For The Moon Night” (too meandering, not as tightly written as, say, “Rough” – I know that’s the appeal for some, but not for me), and I initially wrote “Sunrise” off as a lazy rewrite. Wrong I was! Months later – and with no repeat listens – I found that I still had the chorus popping into my head, which has to be the mark of a good song.

    4. Apink – %%: I started off thinking this was pretty good, and now it’s one of my favorite songs of the year – maybe ever. 10/10. Legendary. Step on me Kings Black Eyed Pilseung.

    5. Lee Hi – No One: Not the best thing in the world, but like – it’s pretty good. Grew on me in a similar way to Sunmi’s “Gashina.”

    6. Oh My Girl – SSFWL: This song has progressed from offending me to… offending me less! Maybe I’ll like it by the end of the year. I have some hope.

    7. A.C.E – Under Cover: Can something elevate itself above perfection? A.C.E did that. The only question here is where it’ll place in my Top 3 of the year, honestly.


    1. Dia – Woowa/Momoland – I’m So Hot: I’m glad for some Shinsadong Tiger revival in K-pop, but frankly none of these live up to the T-ara “Lovey-Dovey” standard and haven’t managed to impress me so much in the long run. Not bad songs by any means – I enjoy them every time I listen – but they just don’t have that sticking power.

    2. Stray Kids – Miroh: Sorry! Stray Kids owning the bourgeoisie is excellent and the chorus is killer, but something about the vocal sample that’s played throughout the verses really throws me off. Actually, re-listening to this as I write, I find it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it did. Never mind, maybe this deserves a place on the risers list? This has been the pilot episode of JYHB’s Stream Of Consciousness Review.

    3. Dreamcatcher – Piri: Yeah, I thought I would like this more than I do. Needs better harmony to make that chorus pop, because as it stands the whole affair gets a little repetitive. Still good, but just not up to past Dreamcatcher standard. I, for one, would be very okay if DC just redid “Chase Me” for eternity.

    4. Blackpink – Kill This Love: I still stand by liking this song, but I definitely haven’t returned to it as much as the stellar “Don’t Know What To Do.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like you’re getting lost in that miroh/maze. Stray Kids got you right where they want you!

      On another note, I’m so grateful that you’ve been following this blog for years… especially since our tastes don’t always intersect.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Nick, for providing us all a space to discuss music intelligently, including our likes, dislikes, and irrational quirks – especially this year when some of the kpop news and blogs have become unreadable.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Also gonna hop on the “thank you” train here! This site, for the two years or so I’ve been around (was Baby by Astro really over two years ago?) has absolutely felt like a place to share and debate opinions without the shutdowns that have sadly become a hallmark of most K-media related sites. I’ve found that I’ve agreed less with you as time goes on, but not once have I been hesitant to share those differing opinions out of fear over how they’d be received. Thank you for your reviews and for creating such a space!

          Going to tack on an extra word of thanks to the other commenters I consider regulars around here. Thank you guys for being so open to difference in preference as well! I always love to hear about others’ thought processes, and it’s kind of fun to pseudo-get-to-know people through only their thoughts on Korean music. Kudos to the whole site!


          • Thank you! Agree or not, I’m just grateful that you all stick around — especially during these stretches where all I feel like I’m doing is moaning and groaning about how underwhelmed I am with the current slate of comebacks.


  4. RISERS:

    * Blackpink, KILL THIS LOVE
    I’ve been hating this song since the very beginning, but the more as I listened to it and the more I had to change my mind. This is exactly what in Italy is called a “tormentone”, and it’s not a negative stuff.

    * Ateez, WAVE
    I’m definitely not into reggaeton rhythms, and I’m quite definitely not into Ateez. But it seems Wave is the only acceptable summer song KPop brought us in 2019, so we’d rather take care of it.


    * Stray Kids, MIROH
    At first this boombastic anthem caught me like no Stray Kids’ title track ever before, but nowadays it has become a little too noisy to keep on listening to it again and again. And according to Side Effects I’m not sure there will be another Stray Kids’ title track to catch me ever after.

    * Oneus, TWILIGHT
    First listen: “Ok, it’s similar to Valkyrie and a bit worse, but it’s pretty nice”.
    Second listen: “How long does it take exactly?”
    Third listen: “Uhm, maybe it’s too similar to Valkyrie and much worse”.
    Fourth listen and (not so) counting: “Meh”.


    • Yay for Wave! But nay for Miroh. It’s still one of my top songs of the year and hasn’t grown stale at all for me. I am fully aboard the Stray Kids train in 2019.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. OK I got a few

    Beautiful by Target. Never thought I would grow to love it, but I do.
    It also lead me to Beautiful Target by B14A which I adore.

    No change
    Tu Eres by NewKidd – I would listen to the song but the band doesn’t seem to be on iTunes at all.

    Weki Meki Picky Picky is off the list, because the small fellow in the back seat declared loudly that he hated the song, it was too picky picky for him. Then darling daughter declared she liked it. And then WWIII erupted. So it is off the playlist.

    Also down are all the CLC’s G-idles this year. They had their moment for me for a month or three, but that time has passed. Including Me which was only last month iirc.


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