If we learnt anything in 2019, it’s that K pop is unstoppable.
Despite political/social unrest, industry shaking controversies and a string of high profile tragedies, the K pop industry continued to build momentum like a souped up sports car with the brakes cut. With music fans shooting finger hearts at each other around the world, we thought there would be no better time to countdown our top 10 K pop songs of 2019. Buckle up, this is gonna be a wild ride!
Trust me, I wanted to rate Red Velvet higher on this list. Despite a prolific 2019 (granted their recent album came out mere days ago), Red Velvet never quite reached the heights they had in past years. However, like a jewel encrusted lamp sitting in a figurative cave of wonders, Red Velvet’s Zimzalabim sits as one of the most bizarre and unique releases of this year (and in this industry, that’s saying something). Trying to describe the sonic landscape this song paints is like trying to transverse a treacherous canyon with no map, no compass, and little hope. Huge drilling synths snarl directly into huge festival-like choruses as the quintet cast a spell of love and feel-good vibes. Whether good or bad, this song is definitely unforgettable!
Being heralded as K pop’s very own Avengers, Super M arrived with the thunderous extravagance of a group pre-ordained for greatness. Consisting of an all-star lineup of SM heartthrobs, the boys debuted with the bombastic Jopping. Thunderous drums, cerebral synths, and a particular iconic sample blast over Super M roaring ‘jumping’ and ‘popping’… is Jopping!
Born from what I can only assume is some sort of combination of sugar, spice, everything nice, and a little chemical X, JYP’s latest creation Itzy exploded onto the scene with the insanely catchy Dalla Dalla. In impressive fashion, the quintet managed to fit nearly every conceivable pop sound ever created into a song coming in at just under four minutes. Robot synths, slick vocals and a chorus that makes you feel like you just hit the jackpot on the pokies, tell a surprisingly simple message of individuality and self expression. If first impressions mean anything, Itzy has quickly established themselves as the group to beat in 2020 and onwards.
Beginning with hauntingly beautiful synths that wouldn’t sound out of place at a robot’s funeral, GOT7’s low-key banger, You Calling My Name, proceeds to unravel a confession of angst and desire. The seven-piece boy group raspily croon their way around the velvety smooth instrumental with the precision of a chrome metronome, never registering above a whisper until halfway through the song. In a year characterized by big and noisy sounds, GOT7 set themselves apart by opting for something a little more mature, sensual, yet undeniably them.
Mamamoo’s impressive 2019 was highlighted by the crowning of our queen Hwasa with her smash hit Twit. Bringing her mix of power vocals and sauntering swagger, Hwasa unleashes her frustrations and heartbreak over a love turned sour. Slurring verses about time wasted on a fruitless romance, Hwasa builds towards a hook that rattles the word ‘twit’ off like a machine gun spitting live rounds. In an industry where forced smiles and sameness is often celebrated, Hwasa stands out as a woman not to be messed with.
With the hordes of boy groups clamouring to position themselves as the kings of K pop, veterans EXO made it clear that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon with the pulsating Obsession. In this late 2019 banger of a track, the SM powerhouse came head to head with their demons. Proclamations of vivid nightmares, paranoid inner voices, and blackened hearts unfurl over a menacing beat punctuated by a vocal loop that will likely induce involuntary head bobbing. Trust me when I say conflicts of identity have never sounded so good!
Releasing at the very beginning of 2019, Chung Ha’s trap-infused banger Gotta Go rattled across airpods and speakers for the better part of a year. The IOI standout envisions a modern day Cinderella-esque tale of dire temptations over icy hi-hats and vampiric organs. Accompanied by a viral dance, Gotta Go finally placed Chung ha as a leader of K pop’s new wave.
Any doubt YG’s powerhouse group Blackpink weren’t the real deal was shattered like a bullet exploding through glass with their banger Kill This Love. Playing like a call to arms for all those scorned by love, the quartet effortlessly weave their signature mixed of slick raps and emotive vocals over militant drums and menacing horns. Give this song one listen and you’re just as likely to pick up a helmet and bayonet as you are a phone with your ex’s number set to dial.
We enlisted the help of Mad Love alumni Johanna Ng to describe her unbridled adoration for Twice’s ‘Fancy’, please enjoy!
“A girlish plea backed by the impending phase of womanhood that awaits TWICE and its 9 members. With elbow length gloves, keratin smooth hair, and purple satin, they convince the listener that they in fact fancy YOU. A track reminiscent of spinning gems seen through the kaleidoscopic view of a sparkling champagne flute. Fancy is an energetic single that is another stepping stone in TWICE’s unobstructed path as the “nation’s girl group””.
It had to be; the choice was clear. BTS’s Boy With Luv is your top K-pop song of 2019. Playing like an anthem for the unadulterated joy and purity of love, Seoul’s favourite sons cheekily breeze over the candy-coloured instrumental with ease of cupid hopscotching on a field of clouds. After a run that has been continuously highlighted by sonic triumphs like Fire, Spring Day, and Fake Love, Boy With Luv stands as a testament that the seven-piece power group refuse to be pinned down to any one sound or image. With impending military enlistments haunting the group’s future like an ominous storm cloud crackling in the distance, we can only appreciate BTS’s present status as pop’s favourite boys with love.
Thanks for reading and lets get it in 2020, BAO!!