Generally speaking, 2019 was a revolutionary year for the Korean music industry; not so much musically as it was politically. Rife with scandals and the tragic passing of two of Koreas most notable and beloved idols, it was a tough year for fans of the genre to say the least. The Burning sun and Produce scandals both played a huge part in altering the Korean music landscape forever, most notably with the arrest of former Bigbang member Seungri and the disbandment of Produce X 101 group X1.
Politics aside, musically speaking 2019 was a fairly strong year for K-pop, with some of its best ranking among the decades most enjoyable singles. Although there were many dull stretches, I believe that 50 singles that I’ve compiled are fairly strong. But before we delve into those, here are 10 honourable mentions (in alphabetical order) that just narrowly missed out.
Apink – %% (Eung Eung)
Fresh of the heels of their fantastic 2018 hit I'm So Sick Apink began the year with an absolute ear worm in the form of %% (Eung Eung). Featuring one of the years most addicting dance breaks, it's cavalcade of sophisticated hooks are sure to get stuck in your head after the first few listens.
Epic High – Lovedrunk
One of the years absolute best melodies, Lovedrunk is a high-water mark in veteran hip hop duo Epik High’s discography due to its emotive falsetto led chorus and expertly calibrated rap verses.
Hong Jin Young – Love Tonight
Taking inspiration from the best of 1980’s synth-pop, Hong Jin Young crafted this catchy as hell retro comeback, complete with one of the years most instantly catchy choruses. This is the power of an expertly calibrated backing track.
JUS2 – Focus On Me
One of the years best surprises, the hypnotic downbeat groove of Focus On Me not only provided a sneak peak at Got7’s future material, but provided a riveting performance-piece courtesy of JB and Yugyeom’s undeniable charisma.
Lim Hyunsik (BTOB) – Dear Love
One of the years strongest ballads, Dear Love’s potent rock influence and multiple chill inducing peaks made it and easy standout, but it was Hyunsik’s phenomenal vocal performance that really made It something special.
Mommy Son (feat. Eugene Park) – Star Song
Easily the most bizarre pick on this list, Star song’s unflagging dance beat and hilariously epic violin solo, help sidestep its general novelty to make it one of the years highlights, from the always underrated Mommy Son.
NU’EST – Love Me
Although I’m much more partial to album track Stay up all night, there is no denying the strength of Love me’s brisk deep house influenced verses and the barrage of addictive hooks. Easily the best NU’EST title track in years.
Sunmi – Noir
Although 2018’s Heroine and Siren were head and shoulders above Noir, that shouldn’t take away from it’s excellent 80’s synth pop inspired production and Sunmi’s always charismatic performance.
The Rose – RED
One of the year’s most cathartic tracks, Red is a perfect distillation of what an emotive rock song elevated with dynamic synths can sound like. Out of all the songs on this list, this is the song I was most gutted leaving off my top 50.
VERIVERY – Tag Tag Tag
Of all the tracks VERIVERY released in 2019, the more sophisticated new jack swing groove of Tag Tag Tag proved to have the most staying power and helped transition the group into more eerie territory with a very VIXX esque music video