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!
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)