2020 Year-End K-Pop Recap (& Honorable Mentions)

Well… 2020 was certainly different, wasn’t it?

It was a year where the industry couldn’t function as usual, but that didn’t stop K-pop from churning out more music than ever. It was a year of unprecedented international success and rising album sales — just as most other music markets struggled to move physical product. It was a year divided sharply in half, from the seemingly unfocused hodgepodge of trends during the first six months, to the injection of retro synth-pop as a re-emergent force in K-pop’s evolution.

2020 saw some promising rookies face growing pains in their second year, while others pushed their sound in unexpected directions. Legends of the industry made satisfying comebacks, and a few new groups stole my attention.

It was also a big year for The Bias List. Readership doubled year over year, and at the time of this writing we’re approaching almost 10,000 comments in 2020. I want to thank all of the contributors – both old and new, frequent and sporadic. The community that’s sprung up within the comments section is one of the most rewarding parts of this blog. And even though I no longer have time to reply to each comment individually, I do read each and every one.

Counting the entry you’re reading right now, 2020 has totaled 792 individual posts so far, adding up to around 313,000 words. That’s like… three novels! This includes some big projects, like my personal ranking of the Top 100 K-pop Songs of All-Time, episode recaps for Road to Kingdom and I-LAND, the third “season” of K-Pop A-Z with f(x) and the weekly “Looking Back” series, which took an overview of individual months from 2011-13 (and will go even further back next year!).

In 2020, I made a concerted effort to bring a little more J-pop to the blog. This is something I plan to continue doing, and it will culminate in an expanded countdown later in the month. And though I wouldn’t have expected it, this year I found myself absolutely captivated by K and J-dramas. It all started with the boredom of quarantine, and just expanded from there. I may try to find a way to work this into a countdown of some sort. We’ll see! 

As far as this year’s main countdown is concerned, the eligibility rules remain the same:

  1. A song must have been released as a title track between December 1, 2019 and November 30, 2020. Other songs (ONF’s New World, Yukika’s Yesterday, etc) will be part of the “b-sides and album tracks” list. After some thought, I’ve decided to be more strict about this in 2020.
  2. A song must be paired with a full music video.
  3. Japanese singles by K-pop artists will be part of the J-pop countdown

Given how strange 2020 felt in K-pop, this year’s top 50 also feels a bit left-field. But, that doesn’t mean it’s bad! In fact, I think this is one of my most balanced years yet, offering the chance for many different acts and genres to shine. There’s a good mix of big-name and underrated artists. Quite a few heavy hitters who usually feature prominently on my countdowns are completely absent this year, which feels weirdly disconcerting. It just goes to show how unpredictable the K-pop market is.

As usual, this list is completely my own opinion, meaning those of you who know my taste well will have a pretty good idea of the biases that went into creating the countdown. With that said, hopefully there will be a few surprises here and there. And if you’re new to K-pop or don’t follow it closely, I hope you come away discovering a treasure or two!

I’ll see you all tomorrow for the kickoff of the Top 50 list, and the official kickoff of “countdown season” here on The Bias List! For now, here are the ten songs that didn’t quite make it onto the main list, followed by a couple of C-pop tracks that soundtracked my 2020.

Honorable Mentions

60. Chungha – Stay Tonight (review)

59. Rocket Punch – Bouncy (review)

58. Moonbin & Sanha – Bad Idea (review)

57. Dongkiz – All I Want Is You (review)

56. Stray Kids – God’s Menu (review)

55. NCT U – Make A Wish (review)

54. KEEMBO – Scandalous (review)

53. Park Jihoon – Wing (review)

52. Lee Suhyun – Alien (review)

51. Secret Number – Got That Boom (review)

My Favorite C-pop Tracks of 2020

Wu Jiacheng – Wild Island (full review)

WARPs UP – Hali Gali (full review)

Oner – Gamer


54 thoughts on “2020 Year-End K-Pop Recap (& Honorable Mentions)

  1. Aw man! I genuinely wished Onf’s New World would make it onto the list but never mind that.

    I am really excited to see your number 1 (And I think when you showcase your number 1, my taste will change it has always been like that, your writing is too influential)


  2. Hi, I’m a long-time reader but I haven’t commented before. I really LOVE your end of year lists and I’m soooo excited to read your top 10. I was so excited when I saw this post come up and I love reading all your posts. Thank you for your hard work this year and every year that I’ve been reading this blog 😊


  3. In this strange year, I often turned to k-pop as a way of escaping from reality when I needed it. This blog really played an important part and for that I’m very thankful. Reading you is always a pleasure and I’ll keep coming for sure!

    I’m looking forward to your top 50! I’d like to contribute with my personal top 10 of the year (which is… maybe not the most objective of them all).

    In alphabetical order:

    Apple – GFriend
    Dumhdurum – Apink
    I Can’t Stop Me – TWICE
    LALALILALA – April
    Lovesick Girls – BLACKPINK
    Nonstop – Oh My Girl (the biggest grower!)
    pporappippam – Sunmi
    Scream – Dreamcatcher
    So Bad – STAYC
    Star – LOONA (probably my #1 pick is between one of these last two songs and Dumhdurum)

    Again, thanks for everything!


  4. NOOOOO New World you will be missed!!!!

    Also, how come no WayV track is in your favorite C-Pop tracks of 2020?

    I am usually surprised at the songs in the honorable mentions that I expected would make it higher, but this year I am surprised at how high some of these tracks are. Especially All I need is you, which I thought was a faller.

    Just like last year, I have my predictions for your end of year lists.

    Artist of the Year: Golden Child

    Song of the Year: Criminal – Taemin

    Mini Album of the Year: Minisode1 – TXT / Bon Voyage – YooA

    Full Album of the year: Awaken The World – WayV (if counted)

    Rookie of the Year: GHOST9

    I won’t tell this time if I agree with these, for that will spill my end of year lists 🙂

    Thanks for a great blog Nick!


  5. Ooo! Excited for this.This would be my first countdown on your blog so anticipation is high!

    Some of my favourite tracks this year were b-Sides weirdly. If I were to make my list though I think girl groups would feature heavily this year! And some of my favs wouldn’t feature at all- in that way, this is a weird year.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The best thing about the Year-End list is seeing how some songs grew on you and others just didn’t have the excpeted longevity.

    It’s also time to compare our own lists which is always fun. Alien is definitely in my top 10 and Stay Tonight in my top 20 !
    Also, even if it’s not the main focus of this period it will be fun to see your takes on choreographies and music videos. I don’t think it was a great year for these aspects of k-pop but the good ones were really good.


  7. I always look forward to your year-end lists! Normally, I’m not one for quantifying or otherwise ranking the music I listen to, but I tend to have an easier time with understanding my opinions after seeing what you’ve come up with. Our tastes are quite similar to the point that any major disagreements stick out like a sore thumb! Excited to see what the main growers were this time around 🙂


  8. Would songs like TXT’s Puma, Eternally, and We Lost the Summer be considered for the top 50 list or the b-sides and album tracks list? All three songs have official full-length music videos, but none of them are considered to be title tracks.


  9. Uh you have a little mistake there. When talking about this year’s series you did you wrote Top 50 Kpop songs of all time, but it was Top 100. Ohh I’m so looking forward to this! I always find at least 5 new songs I like in these lists that I didn’t notice as they dropped!


  10. I only started reading this blog this year, but it’s brought me a lot of enjoyment. Your reviews of road to kingdom and I-land made me get invested in some new groups. And also give some b-sides a chance. I now love ONF (especially their b-sides)Enhyphen (they have a lot of potential), and ghost9 is becoming my rookie group to look out for. I haven’t disliked a song from them yet, so that’s a good sign. I hope to continue reading your blog everyday as a source of daily serotonin. Thank you!


  11. Hi Nick, I am a faithful reader of your blog but I don’t comment very often. You may not remember me, but I admire your dedication and sincerity. Because it happens that some blogs become too biased with a group or company and lose credibility. The first review I read on this blog was Kim Sungkyu’s album 27 and from there until now I haven’t missed any of your posts. Well this looks like a love letter so I stop. Well, I sincerely worry about the direction of Rocket Punch, of them only “Love is over” caught my attention and there is another one but I don’t remember it now. What path will Woollim take with this group? Because “Juicy” was disappointing, hopefully they can find the balance between current trends and classic Woollim style just like they do with DRIPPIN. Well that’s it. hahaha. Again, thank you very much 😊💐


    • I’m not too worried when it comes to Woollim. One of my favorite aspects about their artists has always been their timeless appeal. Woollim has been catering to trends more often lately, but most of their songs still have a classic feel.


  12. W- W- Wi- Wing… making a measly #53. Not even the main list!

    By Jove, sirrah, I take that as a personal offense *throws down the gauntlet*

    JK, JK

    But I am surprised by how low Stay Tonight and Make a Wish ended up.

    Anyways, as Yan Zaman said, your writing is indeed too influential, even on cynical old me. If it wasn’t for this list I wouldn’t have given Miroh a second glance last year, for instance, but now I consider it one of the 3 best songs of 2019.

    Also, not a prediction, but I want to nominate SKZ’s GO Live for Best Full Album at the TBL Awards 2020. (God’s Menu is fine down there at #57, though.)

    And btw, the time counter on the sidebar is a nice touch.


    • I knew that Wing would be a sticking point! I do like it a lot, but I don’t find myself listening to it that often.

      If it’s any consolation, I’m absolutely LOVING Park Jihoon in his web drama Love Revolution, and that’s actually made me revisit this track with a lot of fondness.

      And from one cynical old fan to another, I’m glad I’ve been an influence… even if just a little 😉


      • ‘Tis not, in fact, but I shall take it.

        Honestly, I’m not even a Jihoon fan 😁; just found myself loving both of his TTs this year. Before Wing I didn’t even know about him. Actually, I didn’t know a single non-Nu’est Wanna One member… (Kang Miguel who?)

        Even with a whole Kim Younghoon there, I think I barely made it halfway through episode 3 of Love Revolution, though I was quite enthusiastic about it 😢 Unlike you, I can’t for the life of me get into Korean dramas, but I like Japanese ones. I did enjoy Twenty Twenty though.

        Oh, and between you and J-dramas I’m quite familiar with the Exile guys by now.


  13. Park Ji Hoon’s WING didn’t make it to the main list??? NOO!!! It’s one of my favorite kpop songs this year; and I wasn’t even a big fan of Jihoon during his Produce and Wanna One days.

    Btw, I really love how you’re adding more and more J-pop here since I’ve been a long time Johnny&Associates fan; and this can be kinda lonely in the heavily kpop dominated music scene of late. Currently, my fav. group is even Kisumai because of your influence here. hahahaha~~


  14. Really excited for your list! 2020 has been a pretty interesting year. Hoping that one of TREASURE’s singles (Boy or I Love You) made the list, considering both have grown on you.


  15. ahhhh i’m excited to see your top 50 this year! i just started keeping up with your blog with your road to kingdom recaps earlier this year so this is my first time seeing it in real time. honestly i feel like i’ve forgotten about most of the songs that have been released this year so i’m trying my best to make a top 10. all I know is that’s TOO’s count 1,2 is probably my #1 song of the year.


  16. Wow, shocked by Stay Tonight and Alien ranking so low but hey everyone has their preferences. Could Dream Of You qualify though it is an English track? Also do Lucy qualify as a rookie group even though they are a band because they’re probably the only rookie group I liked this year besides Weeekly and Stacy (rip to the boy groups which is very strange for me cause I tend to gravitate more towards boy groups). I’m really excited to see what’s in store for the rest of the countdown as this is my first year-end countdown with the Bias List (thanks for making quarantine more bearable)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ooh I’m already excited to see the rest of the list, surprised by how low Stay Tonight though that was one of my favourites!

    Here’s my top 20 in alphabetical order:

    a.c.e – favorite boys
    april – lalalilala
    blackpink – lovesick girls
    cignature – arisong
    chungha – stay tonight
    dreamcatcher – scream
    e’last – tears of chaos
    everglow – la di da
    golden child – without you
    itzy – wannabe
    iz*one – fiesta
    loona – so what
    onf – new world
    ong seongwu – gravity
    seventeen – home;run
    stayc – so bad
    stray kids – god’s menu
    twice – i can’t stop me
    txt – can you see me?
    weki meki – cool


  18. How about as a compromise you start a new year end list of the Best of the B-sides, that way, ONF New World has a place.

    I haven’t begun my own year end list, I suppose today would be a good day to start. I know that “WIng” would be way higher, as well as Rocket Punch “Bouncy”. That last one was a mainstay of the car drive pick me up perk up list until March hit and i stopped driving the kids around.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. “this year I found myself absolutely captivated by K and J-dramas” oh ho! What is this I see here?! Finally! Welcome to this addicting world of wrist-grabs, fish-kisses, Candys,
    chaebols, water-slaps, etc etc! If you would like, come over to mydramalist too! Great place to keep track of your asian drama journey, discovering new titles, and interacting with other fellow addicts- I mean, drama lovers. (Maybe I can then try to get you hooked on c-dramas as well muahaha)


  20. Wow I’m excited to see your top 50 for this year! I’ve been reading your blog for about a year and a half now :))) I can see Light didn’t make it on the list even though I was hoping it would grow on you. I’m biased for sure of course but it’s in my top 10 for sure. I’m also loving their bside Destiny although that wasn’t my pick for the follow up bside, oh well. But yeah I’m excited to see your top 10!!


    • That UP10TION album is pretty good. Sadly, their music just doesn’t do much for me these days. They did crack my top ten in two consecutive years though, which is a pretty big feat for any group!


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