Ranking: What is K-pop’s Strongest Year?

K-Pop's Strongest YearsLately, I’ve been thinking about how “9+ rated songs” come to define a year for me. These are the songs that earn an “A-” or above on this blog, and they’re also the ones I go crazy over and replay throughout the year. This is not an exhaustive (or wholly accurate) way to measure the overall quality of a K-pop year. It’s simply one lens — but at least it’s a structured and consistent one.

So, I decided to run the numbers in my own music library and determine which K-pop year delivered the most 9+ rated songs – according to my taste, obviously!

In doing this, I’m going to start my ranking with 2011. Plenty of excellent music emerged prior to this year, but there were simply fewer songs released back then so the numbers are too heavily affected to feel accurate. The years 2011, 2012 and 2013 are affected in a similar way, but this actually makes their ranking more impressive!

And in case you’re wondering how 2023 is faring so far, I currently have… three 9+ rated songs in my library. Yep. It’s not looking great.

11. The Year 2022

Number of 9+ rated songs: 28

10. The Year 2011

Number of 9+ rated songs: 31

9. The Year 2019

Number of 9+ rated songs: 37

8. The Year 2020 (tie)

Number of 9+ rated songs: 39

8. The Year 2017 (tie)

Number of 9+ rated songs: 39

7. The Year 2018

Number of 9+ rated songs: 43

6. The Year 2021

Number of 9+ rated songs: 47

5. The Year 2012

Number of 9+ rated songs: 53

4. The Year 2016

Number of 9+ rated songs: 55

3. The Year 2013

Number of 9+ rated songs: 59

2. The Year 2015

Number of 9+ rated songs: 61

1. The Year 2014

Number of 9+ rated songs: 65

What’s your favorite K-pop year? Are you surprised by my ranking? I must admit, even I’m a little shocked how the results turned out!


29 thoughts on “Ranking: What is K-pop’s Strongest Year?

  1. By no means surprised! 2012-16 was the golden era of 2.5th-3rd gen, legit.

    Personally favourite was 2016. As a buddy I was flabbergasted by Snowflake and Rough. I have to admit though that 17 was the golden year for 3rd gen kpop.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Are you going strictly by your initial scores? It’d probably be too much work to re-edit all your reviews in which you later scored them higher (or lower, as the case may be).

    I’m hoping for a 100 Best J-pop list someday:) Maybe it can be focused in a similar manner – 2010-present (or 2000-present). Or Best 100 of the 2010s; and then when the ’20s end, a similar list…


  3. 2019 is the year for me, 2021 in second place. any year when miroh/side effects, crown, wave, boy with luv, wannabe are all released is automatically the winner.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s 2015 for me. I love how richly varied the sound that year. Some songs laid a foundation for the artists’ future sound and some marked a turning point in their artistry in my opinion.

    So many favourites coming out of both mainstream & indie scenes. My favourites are:

    1. View – SHINee
    2. Married to the Music – SHINee
    3. Call Me Baby – EXO
    4. Awoo – Lim Kim
    5. 4 Walls – f(x)
    6. Love Me Right – EXO
    7. Upgrader – Lim Kim
    8. Springirls – Sunwoo Junga
    9. Bang Bang Bang – BIGBANG
    10. If You Do – GOT7
    11. Ah-Choo – Lovelyz

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m just absolutely flabbergasted by 2014 being your favourite. I think the numbers have led you astray!

    2014 is far away the worst year in kpop, with hardly any iconic songs, along with being a dead year for most 2nd year groups, the 3rd gen groups had yet to come into their own. No year is without good songs, but look at the groups you like.

    Infinite had a much stronger year in 2011 and 2013 (chaser, be mine, paradise). Same with B1A4 (OK, Beautiful Target, Good night), Beast (Fiction, shock, bad girl), SNSD (any song), Sistar (cool, alone, give it to me) and 2ne1 (fire, go away, chaeil, lonely). Not to mention SHINee, TVXQ, BigBang, EXO, BTS, etc.


    • That’s why I was surprised! I don’t disagree with most of what you said.

      Like I mentioned, this is only one way to look at the quality of a year and the list would change if I took other data/personal feelings into account.

      I mean, I would definitely put 2012 higher and 2020 lower… but I can’t argue with the data. Maybe I’ll do this type of feature again sometime with a different ranking mechanism and see how things change.

      Nevertheless, it’s interesting to look at!

      Liked by 2 people

      • There’s definitely something to be said about groups releasing 1 song one year and 2 songs another. There’s no 15 on the scale after all 😁

        Let’s see how 2022 shapes up after SHINee, Teen Top and Infinite! What a time to be alive!

        Liked by 1 person

    • I was about to argue with him, but then I looked at my playlist of songs from 2014, and I realized he’s kinda right. This is why we need to see your Top 50 for 2014, Nick, because I think there must be a great many gems I haven’t discovered yet from that year! 🙂


  6. Definitely 2022 for me. You prefer boy groups, and 2022 was a pretty bad year for them, so I understand why it ranked so low on your list. But I only like girl groups, and 2022 was an amazing year for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. No need to be shocked, it’s a classic situation of getting old and having music tastes stagnanted from when you were young and full of life. I also enjoy my old collection from my teenage years a lot more than ones from modern day. Less and less standouts

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Personally saying, I can’t think of a single ten-out-of-ten 2022 song. Very cringe year for sure for sure, but for songs which garnered a 9+ rating out of me I think there are plenty. I think it’s about 10 songs.

    Not gonna lie, I think I’ve kind of underrated 2020 and 2018, There were some really good songs in both years not gonna lie. Most notable examples are SHINee’s Good Evening, ONF’s Complete, Seventeen’s Thanks, WJSN’s Save Me Save You, Sunmi’s Heroine, A.C.E’s Goblin, Golden Child’s Lucid Dream, Taemin’s Criminal, Sunmi’s Pporappippam and ATEEZ’s Answer. All of them are Ten-on-Tens. And on top of that, there were plenty of 9+ songs.

    On a similar note, I feel like I’ve overrated 2021 and 2019. There were a plethora of good songs don’t get me wrong but their almost on par with their respective preceding years I used to think of as extremely inferior. Especially 2021, because I honestly have no idea why I used to praise it alot, it was mostly an average year.

    I think 2011-2017 were the strongest years. And I think my rankings would go likes this:

    7. 2011 (This is only because of the lack of material as compared to other years and also the novelty songs)
    6. 2017 (Actually pretty top tier, loads of highlights in this one)
    5. 2012
    4. 2013
    3. 2015
    2. 2016 (I just really, really love the aura produced by the year. It has such a dynamic mood)
    1. 2014 (AGREED WITH THAT TOP SPOT, There was a lack of SHINee I have to admit but it was damn good.)


  9. Well I got F.Cuz “One Love” from 2014 with its classic kpop sound.

    Also from 2014 Hey Mamacita naega ay ya ya ya ya yaaaaaaaaaa
    which is a personal favorite of mine. I mean, who else could pull cowboy western theme off this well? No one recently, that is for sure. What’s that I hear? Live singing and dancing at the same time? (Well most of them.)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Honestly 2015-2019 were the golden years of kpop for me personally. Tbh it seems like almost everything (and yes not just kpop) in a post covid world is worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I appreciate these lists, they are really useful for newer fans. i started listening in 2020, so I recognize a lot of the groups, but there are still so many to discover.


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