It’s time to countdown my top 50 singles of 2019! 10 songs, everyday, for the next 5 days. The rules for the countdown are as follows:
- Song must be released between 1st January 2019 and 31st of December 2019.
- Song must have an accompanying music video and be promoted as a single, regardless of whether another song on the album is also promoted (double title tracks)
- No Japanese (sorry Pentagon’s “Cosmo”) or Chinese (sorry WayV) singles eligible for the list
10. NCT127 – Highway To Heaven
Probably the most appropriate song title of the year, Highway To Heaven is a propulsive, lightning in a bottle pop song absolutely ideal for road trips. Fusing sky high vocals with equally widescreen production, Highway To Heaven not only one upped its albums title track, but went onto also become one of the years signature tracks. The vocal layering during the songs chorus is absolutely phenomenal, providing the track with an immense anthemic atmosphere. Driven almost entirely by NCT 127’s severely underrated quartet of vocalists, Highway To Heaven is one of the most melodic singles in the groups repertoire, and is all the better for it. I’m hoping for more songs like this in NCT’s 2020 promotions.
9. AB6IX – BLIND FOR LOVE
There were many songs that indulged themselves in the burgeoning “Deep House” trend this year, but none pulled it off as perfectly as AB6IX’s dynamic BLIND FOR LOVE. Though I was not overly enamoured with their debut track Breathe, the group took everything great about it and removed all the unnecessary fat to create a track thats both remarkably streamlined, yet endlessly exciting. The ever-changing vocal melodies over the consistent thumping bass of the backing track is especially exciting and help immensely in the constant propulsion that the song is aiming for. The healthy injections of rap are also an inspired choice, and feel especially necessary in the whole scheme of things. The songs chorus on the other hand is an excellent distillation of deep house and chunky piano to create a hooky as hell centrepiece that will remain in your head long after the last line has been uttered. There were many more ambitious songs this year (some of which we we’ll see further down the list) but few were as sophisticated and addicting as this.
8. OH MY GIRL – The Fifth Season (SSFWL)
An excellent track to lead their 1st full studio album, The fifth season was undoubtedly one of the years most beautiful singles. Recalling some of the best elements of their finest work, opening with its pensive verses before it absolutely explodes during its gargantuan two part chorus. Though many listeners may not fully appreciate the atmospheric slow burn of the verses, I absolutely adore this approach. It provides a perfect build and helps the track to not feel overstuffed.
This leads me to the hook, which is honestly in contention for chorus of the year. The hook opens courtesy of the girls soaring vocal melodies to create one of the years most symphonic moments. This however is all Childs play to the second part of the hook, which propels the song into thrilling double time as the backing percussion grows louder and more defined. It’s a gargantuan refrain and the perfect playground for Seunghee and Hyojung to prove their positions as two of K-pop’s best vocals. Not only did the song work amazingly as a single, but it operated especially well as part of the album; which further unveiled the charms of both the group and the song respectively.
7. Stray Kids – Side Effects
I still vividly remember my initial reaction to Side Effects, and let me tell you it was anything but nice. I was shocked, displeased and utterly perplexed. What was this? What were they trying to do here? Where was the structure? The melody? It was the first time in a long time that a song had left me completely dumbfounded on first listen. I would go as far as to say that I’m pretty sure I hated it. Well, 7 months on and here it is, sitting at number 7 on my best singles of 2019. If I were to go back in time and tell myself that Side Effects would not only be one of my most played tracks of the year, but also one of my favourite songs of the year, I would have laughed it right off.
But that is where the brilliance of Side Effects lies. It’s a song that urges repeated listens, and once you familiarise your self with the sudden tempo and melodic shifts, It becomes an absolute whopper of a song. Primarily revolving around that sledgehammer Psy-trance hook at its core, the tracks verses are an ever-changing brew of elements that make masterful use of the members distinct vocal timbres; especially Felix, whose deep voice switches the dynamic of the song in thrilling fashion during the second verse. It’s also especially well utilised as the bridge to the final chorus, which switches the tempo and incorporates additional synths to create a knockout finale to one of the years most daring and ambitious singles.
6. JBJ95 – SPARK
I love me a good pop ballad, and Spark was easily the best 2019 had to offer. Out of all the tracks on this countdown, it’s probably my most personal track, as it and acompanying album track Hey Summer soundtracked most of 2019’s second half for me. That’s why this was the track that I found hardest to place on the countdown. But all bias aside, SPARK is an invigorating brew of vocals and rap placed over an atmospheric 80’s synth pop inspired instrumental. The song has what I like to call a snowball effect, where it starts of small but grows exponentially over its runtime. It’s this spiralling effect that makes SPARK‘s chorus such a delight, and one of the years most cinematic moments and best shots of melody. It conjures especially cathartic images of running through a large field bringing a large surge of nostalgia that is furthered thanks to an especially potent English post chorus hook “never gonna let you go”. Easily the duo’s best song yet.
5. BTS (feat. Halsey) – Boy With Luv
At the start of 2019, few would have expected the biggest boy group in the world to return with the buoyant pop of Boy With Luv. The result, a fantastic track streamlined to pop perfection. Cruising along on a bed of addicting synths and joyful rhythm guitar, Boy With Luv‘s infectious disco groove was one of the years most joyful moments and painted the group in a completely new light. The production allows for the inclusion of multiple varied rap verses whilst still maintaining a focus on the songs standout chorus. It’s one of the years breeziest moments, chock full of instantly iconic hooks that will immediately lodge themselves within your consciousness and refuse to let go. Halsey fits right in, providing the track with additional vocal diversity, which further builds on the songs character. Though 2019 was a year rife with experimentation, Boy With Luv proved that sometimes all you need is the perfect summertime melody and streamlined hook to waltz your way to the top.
4. ATEEZ – WONDERLAND
The biggest and most dramatic title track of the year, WONDERLAND combined marching band percussion and an excellent militaristic hook to create a true spectacle for both the eyes and ears. From Hongjoongs aggressive opening verse to its riveting climax, there is never a moment the track lets up, powering forward on the power of ATEEZ’s ambition. It’s also one of the years most experimentally successful tracks, framing its bombastic verses around a less aggressive hook. In the hands of another group this approach might have resulted in a less than impressive result, but ATEEZ imbue the track with so much personality and energy that its hard to not get caught up within the performance.
The brief tempo drop before each chorus is probably the tracks most nerve wracking moment as it foreshadows a limp trap breakdown which we (thankfully) never end up getting. Instead, is that militaristic hook that works absolute wonders in the context of the track. The addition of more cowbell! Instead of limp hi-hats is also an especially inspired choice which greatly elevated this song over many of its peers. Mingi’s showstopping performance in the second verse is an especially potent distillation of everything great about the track, as the production and backing track roars back with additional vigour to provide additional oomph to the years best rap break. Bombastic, militaristic and one of the years best hype tracks, WONDERLAND is easily ATEEZ’s best title track yet
3. WJSN (Cosmic Girls) – As You Wish
When considering all of WJSN’s past title tracks, most have fallen squarely into either the cosmic spacey vibe of Secret and Save Me, Save You or the upbeat pop of Boogie Up or Happy. As You Wish was a song that combined both sides of the group to create their best and most anthemic single yet. Opening with the chirpy repetitive synth that acts as the songs primary backbone, the track launches into its standout verses. In all honesty, its rare to see a k-pop track now days where the verses are so prominent and masterfully crafted. They propel the song forward with utmost urgency, whilst keeping up the moment and offering interesting instrumental diversion when necessary.
However, As You Wish truely ascends into masterpiece category in its final minute, where its multiple vocal explosions and unique production flourishes make it truely transcendent. Chief amongst these moments is the tracks climactic refrain, which introduces an entirely new melodic line that soars with anthemic heft greater than most other songs can muster in their entire runtime. It’s truely an excellent refrain that layers the members vocals to create a goosebump inducing moment, and one of the strongest endings to the years best girl group track.
2. TXT – Run Away (9 and Three Quarters)
One of the years most instant tracks, the punk-rock inspired greatness of TXT’s sophomore effort Run Away proved to be an absolute treat. Many groups went for the classic teen anthem this year, but no song was as polished, and powerful as this. This is all thanks the songs megawatt chorus, which easily ranks as one of the years best. It hits like a truck each time with propulsive rhythms, soaring melodies and fantastic vocal layering. In an era where the presence of a full throated chorus is becoming a rarity, Run Away’s two part chorus proved an absolute necessity, recalling everything great about some of the best boy group tracks of the last generation.
The production here is once again, absolutely fantastic, incorporating popular trends without causing the track to feel oversaturated or trendy. Apart from its compressed vocal processing, it feels like a truely timeless pop song. The injection of fantasy like synths and additional “bibidibopitties” for good measure help to musically deepen the groups fantasy concept (the title also helps with that). The whimsical pre-chorus which drops the tempo is also especially effective in preparing the listener for that aforementioned chorus. Though the half time trap breakdown is present, it’s one of the stronger examples of this unfortunate trend; maintaining the energy from the chorus into its verses without too much of a hiccup.
TXT, from the moment they debuted have been giving me heavy SHINee vibes, which is never a bad thing. This was further informed by the strength of Run Away and its accompanying album. This track in particular feels like an almost sonic sequel to the groups 2013 rock banger Why So Serious, only less bright and more gritty. What greater compliment could I give this song?
1. Stray Kids – MIROH
Coming off 2018’s less than stellar I Am You, I didn’t have the highest hopes for Stray Kids’s March comeback. Little would I know that the track would go on to define the entirety of 2019 for me. Miroh is not only my favourite Stray Kids song of all time, but it’s also my favourite song of the year. Although much of the track revolves around familiar trends (a big beat drop and deep house influenced groove), it twists in fresh and daring ways that keep the track from feeling anything but stale. I absolutely adore the ever-present chant-like hook that remains throughout the track. It feels tribal-inspired in a real classic way and imbues Miroh’s rap-heavy build with the kind of catchiness and chutzpah that’s often missing from these segments.
The track is also immaculately produced, with the layering and mixing of vocals being absolutely perfect. I especially love the contrast between Felix’s deep voice that opens the track, and the gorgeous melody that follows, as it provides the track with a very majestic and nostalgic vibe. I love me a good melody, and Miroh has just that. It was also really cool how they alternated between the addition and segregation of different elements throughout the song. An example of this is when they remove the snare drum, during the chant-esque verses, so that the synthline can be more pronounced and better heard. This brings me to the songs gargantuan centrepiece, the drop and chorus. The preceding build to the first chorus, with Hyunjin and Changbin spitting bars, is absolutely exhilarating and ranks among the finest moments in Stray Kid’s discography.
The song then rockets to its gargantuan beat drop that truly ignites Miroh’s intense energy. The drop itself isn’t anything limp, it’s a magnificent centrepiece that feels satisfying from the first listen and cranks the energy up 100. However, my favourite moment of the entire song, and the one that seals Miroh’s fate as an absolute masterpiece is Jisungs excellent rap break, which essentially acts as the tracks bridge. The build here is absolutely insane, with the backing track heading into double time to match the speed of Jisungs rap, and each thump being synced with each syllable. Ofcourse, we also cant forget the iconic “bear Grylls” line either. The following chorus also crashes in with the same immense weight each and every time I hear it. No other song released in 2019 was so exhilarating, and it rightfully takes the top spot as my favourite song of the year.