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2019 Year-End K-Pop Recap (& Honorable Mentions)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

This phrase seems fitting to describe K-pop in 2019. The industry was forced to deal with some hard truths this year, and the reckoning was a long time coming. However, that didn’t make it any less messy. For the past few years, I’ve described the K-pop landscape as being in a state of transition, and that was even more true in 2019. With any transition, certain things need to burn to the ground to rise again, renewed and (hopefully) improved. From YG Entertainment to Produce 101 to the state of mental health and online harassment surrounding idol culture, the year was plagued with scandals and tragedies

But as vital as these issues are, I don’t often write about them on The Bias List. This is a music review site, after all. And when I sat down to compile my 50 favorite singles of the year, I realized that 2019 bore more fruit than I’d first thought. The problem was, many of the best songs seemed to be centered around three or four months, leaving vast stretches of boredom between them. This made 2019 feel less impactful while you were actively experiencing it. But looking back with a bit of distance between us, I think the year was actually stronger than 2018.

Much of this is thanks to rookie groups, which were the most exciting part of the year. 2019 delivered so many high-profile rookies, and combined with the promising development of some 2018 favorites, I’m very confident about this burgeoning K-pop generation. While way too many overused musical trends continue to frustrate, this new blood seems poised to inject much-needed diversity into the K-pop landscape. One can only hope!

Now, onto the countdown! This list – and the many lists that will follow it – is the culmination of a year of work here on The Bias List. After 616 individual posts and 205,854 words, it all comes down to this. Over the next five days, I’ll be counting down my fifty favorite singles of the year. For those of you who are sticklers for rules, here’s my criteria for this specific list:

1. A song must have been released as a title or promotional track between December 1, 2018 and November 30, 2019
2. A song must be paired with a full music video (behind-the-scenes and performance videos don’t count in most cases)
3. Japanese singles by K-pop artists will be part of a different countdown

I’m quite pleased with my list this year, though as always it’s a reflection of my own musical taste. I predict that some of my girl-group-biased readers will be a bit upset with me this year. As someone who more strongly connects with the styles peddled by boy groups, my end-of-year lists have historically been around a 2:1 ratio. This year, it’s closer to 3:1. Maybe some of my girl group connoisseurs can chime in (or disagree), but 2019 has felt kind of monotone for girl group concepts – with a few notable exceptions, of course. Next year, I’m really hoping for an influx of GG sounds reminiscent of Kara, Girls’ Generation or early-GFriend. Melodic, but powerful.

As usual, I had a hard time keeping my list to fifty songs, so this year I’ve got ten honorable mentions to share before the fun kicks off tomorrow. These are in alphabetical order, though many found themselves at the bottom of my countdown before being pushed down by other tracks.

I’ll see you all tomorrow for the kickoff of my year-end celebration! Be sure to leave your own thoughts and lists in the comments as we dissect every corner of 2019 in K-pop!


Honorable Mentions

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


Hwasa – Twit (review)


Lim Hyunsik – Dear Love (review)


ONEWE – Reminisce About All (review)


ONF – Why (review)


Target – Beautiful (review)


TST – Wake Up (review)


TXT – Angel Or Devil (review)


VERIVERY – From Now (review)


Weki Meki – Picky Picky (review)

8 thoughts on “2019 Year-End K-Pop Recap (& Honorable Mentions)

  1. Wow, I’m surprised at a lot of these not making your list! You were pretty enthusiastic in your reviews about most (all?) of these. I guess my first big disagreement with your list, before it even starts, will be From Now. It’s an earworm if I’ve ever heard one, improves upon its predecessor in my mind, and is a song I always want to listen to. No disagreements that these songs are good songs, though. I tend to disagree less with your music taste (that is, the actual songs you liked) and more with the way your lists themselves are organized, how MUCH you like them.

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  2. Beautiful by Target has been in my Top20 until mid-october, before some new (late) release pulled it out of the chart. I found out they’re quite active and popular on TikTok, so I hope they can have a 2020 marked by better productions and better results.
    This premised, can’t wait to discover your Top50 list!

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  3. Intro #1: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” That first line scared the Dickens out of me.
    Intro #2: …girl group connoisseurs… ~ Do they REALLY exist? (tin-foil hat donned).
    Intro #3: I’m going to limit my “no-good, dumbo-nothing, nerf-herder” insults until after I’ve seen all of the EOY posts. No point frothing at the mouth if Nick’s salvation is one post away. 😛

    “Chiming” in 3.. 2.. 1..

    WJSN as an honorable mention: Yeah, that seems right. Not every WJSN title track from their past dozen months have been bulls-eyes. Thankfully, they’ve been fairly prolific this past year (more so than most other groups) so they “may” make the “Hey, Nick has good taste after all” list ( kidding, not kidding 😛 ). While I understand and agree with the rules for EOY qualification, some of their best 2019 releases haven’t been among the title tracks, so.. ..umm.. ..nertz!

    Hwasa as an honorable mention: To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of “Twit”. Don’t get me wrong, it is a really well written song, artistically, and Hwasa provides enough talent and attitude to deliver the mood of the piece, it just didn’t click with me for some reason. Until…. I found a mashup of Hwasa “Twit” mixed with the instrumental of SISTAR’s “Give It To Me”. This merger raises the BPMs and fuses in high energy at the expense of the originals somber pacing. As a result, this mashup became one of my favorite songs of the year. Sadly, though, this version gets disqualified, so.. ..umm.. ..nertz!

    Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zq4f25LKOs

    Weki Meki as an honorable mention: Given how polarizing this group is, I shouldn’t be surprised by any way the dice land. Many view their first few releases as failed attempts at mimicking the SNSD “IGAB” kitchen sink style, and I get that. I was a little more forgiving; because of the included I.O.I pedigree. While “Picky Picky” didn’t ring everyone’s bells, it demonstrated that WM was maturing into something less jarring. Additional proof of that arrived later in the year with “Tiki Taka (99%)”; which may make the EOY list. Then again, it may not so.. ..umm.. ..nertz! (provisionally)

    ANY boy group as an honorable mention: I’m not really qualified to properly assess that decision. I’ve only recently started opening up my library to the XY chromosomal side of the playground. While I watched all of the boys vids, the only one that gave me a “Really, that’s only an honorable mention?” vibe was VERIVERY’s “From Now”. I would’ve thought that would’ve made the EOY list, so.. ..umm.. ..nertz!

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  4. My computer went kaputski in mid-October, so I lost all my play counts in iTunes which used to be my primary proxy for ranking songs. It helped me distinguish songs which I find intellectually interesting from those I actually truly enjoy listening to. But this presents an opportunity because I also lost all my playlists and I haven’t had the time to recreate them fully quite yet.

    So I exported an excel list of 2019 kpop purchases, and started to bucket if I would add that song to a new recreated playlist for “All time awesome kpop”. Does it have a place among “Sorry Sorry” and “Call Me Baby “ and such. Or would it go on the recreated “Guilty Pleasures” playlist. Or only remain on the most basic “2019 kpop” that they all start on. Another ground rule for me: I keep my love of car pool karaoke ballads on a separate playlist.

    My base is far fewer than Nick’s – I actually bought only about 230 kpop songs (including ballads) – so my “short list” of songs that might go on recreated playlists is 43 total.

    Here goes:
    TST “Wake Up” is going on the guilty pleasures list. It is a solid go-to pick me up song for me. So ridiculously happy. Sure it sounds like a Disney world and Coca Cola ad for with Up with People, but I love it. It is a jolt of ice cream with hot fudge and whipped cream in a waffle cone on a sunny day.
    Lim Hyunsik “Dear Love” is in heavy rotation on the car pool karaoke list. Kids, shh, stop talking, the big note is coming up, here listen, here it is … … OK, now kid, stop punching your sister, sister give brother his thing back.
    Target “Beautiful” grew on me because of your review, enough to buy it, but not enough to put it on a recreated playlist.

    Liked by 1 person

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