We’re finally here. After 12 gruelling months, we have finally reached the dog days of 2020. And aside from the political, social and *cough* pandemic related struggles that many of us went through, it was fulfilling to see the Korean music industry rise up to even greater heights. It was a year that saw the industry’s current leading forces continue to grow, achieving incredible levels of international success and furthering the hallyu wave in the west; both digitally and physically. And while not as notable as 2019, 2020 also saw the debut of many promising rookies and the continued development (both negative and positive) of last years golden batch.
But not to be outshone by their juniors, 2020 also saw the return of many former legends of the industry. SSAK3 along with member Rain’s now viral Gang dominated, and industry veterans like BoA and Park Jin young also made great comebacks.
But while the industry has a whole went through some great, undeniable highs, the musical output was a bit more mixed. It was a year of great contrasts, with the first 6 months being a cesspool of moody mush and the following being a sandbox of creativity sparked by the growing popularity of the retro dance pop and synth-pop genre’s. And my end of year list reflects that. This has also been one of those years where I haven’t had a clear favourite. Unlike 2019, where there was fierce competition between Miroh and Run Away or 2018 where Secret Garden, Love Bomb and Complete had a three way fight for the top spot, no 2020 single has managed to completely win my heart. Thats not to say that there weren’t many fantastic singles this year (there were many) but I found it much harder than usual to find a suitable number 1 pick.
Similarly, given my rather long hiatus and lack of roundups over the past few months, there may be many song inclusions and placements that may shock regular readers of the blog. 2020 was a year where many songs rose or fell drastically and that’s why there are some reviews that absolutely do not reflect my current thoughts on the song. Whether it be positive or negative.
And so before we move into the countdown, I want to highlight 10 honourable mentions that just missed out. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Arpydarpy, why a top 100 instead of something shorter like a top 50? Well, the main goal of this blog right from the start was to get more “under the radar” groups and tracks out to the public. Kpop award shows both official and fan made have become more popularity contest than actual celebrations of artistry and so by having a larger pool of tracks, I believe it will allow me to shine light on some more tracks that I believe were under valued but easily stood up to singles from the bigger name groups. (And also because I kept going over 50 in my initial drafts hehe).
Now, before we get into it, we gotta set some ground rules:
- To be eligible for this list, the song must have been released between the 1st of January 2020 and 15th December 2020.
- Song must be paired with a full music video and be promoted to some extent.
- Performance video’s (Gfriend’s Labyrinth and ONF’s New World) will unfortunately not be considered for the singles list and will make their appearance in the Top 100 B-sides of the year list.
- Songs must be by a Korean artist and be in either Korean or English (Japanese / Chinese singles will get their own seperate countdown)
- And finally, this is all just my opinion. There is much bias to be found and if you’re unhappy with any of the placements, just remember that this is not meant to be a purely objective list.
Now enough talking, let’s get on with the show!
110. Kim Wooseok – Red Moon (Review)
A song that initially disappointed due to its similarity to much of the material that surrounded it upon release, Red Moon is a song that’s only gotten more addictive with time. Wooseok’s sensual performance is a treat but that commanding, spider like hook is where it’s at.
109. Dongkiz – Lupin (Review)
A brassy blast of a pop song from Dongkiz, Lupin was a strong maturation of their bright debut era sound that built upon past glories whilst still feeling fresh and addictive. It’s nothing revolutionary but boy does it go down easy.
108. Treasure – BOY (Review)
While listening to BOY does feel more like being in a washing machine than a pleasant listening experience, that disorientation has given the track much more staying power than I had ever imagined. Its opening verse remains one of the strongest moments in Treasure’s young but ever consistent discography.
107. Chungha – Dream of You (with R3HAB)
Chungha had a great year and the English language Dream of You was another great entry into her discography. The funky dance beat that underlines the verses is enjoyable on its own but is further enhanced by the addictive chorus that follows. If anything, it suffers from being too similar to her other work to really stand out.
106. SF9 – Good Guy
The song and comeback that officially broke SF9 into the stratosphere, Good Guy‘s repetitive deep house dance groove proved to be an undeniable success. The boys have found stronger melodies in the past but few have felt as effortless.
105. Pentagon – Daisy (Review)
Emotive rock bombast is a weak spot of mine and although relatively straightforward melodically, was something that Pentagon’s Daisy really excelled at. It’s not a track I revisited all that much but was treat every time it came around on shuffle.
104. 3YE – Yessir (Review)
3YE are a group that I’ve had an “3ye” on since their debut and tracks like Yessir are exactly why. The marching band based percussion is right up my alley and the soaring pre-chorus ranks as one of their strongest. A stronger and more memorable hook would have shot this up much higher.
103. MCND – Ice Age (Review)
A rambunctious debut that only grew more enjoyable with time, Ice Age was a track that unveiled its charms over the course of many months. Initially I found it to be unnecessarily obnoxious but with time came to appreciate the more goofy aspects of the track much more. And for a young group like MCND, making an impact is exactly what you want.
102. Jungwoo Kim – City of Lights
A fantastic guitar driven pop song, City of Lights ranks amongst the years most undervalued singles. The chugging synth and electric guitar instrumental is a thing of beauty, and while the supporting melody might not be as memorable, is still enough to make this a standout.
101. NCT 127 – Kick It (Review)
Similarly to Ice Age, NCT127’s Kick It was a song that became more digestible with time. Following the likes of Highway To Heaven and Superhuman, It initially didn’t excite but became more and more addicting with each listen. There are many moments that hinge on grating but some extraordinary vocal moments and a wonderfully goofy hook are enough to make Kick It an incredibly enjoyable a-side.
Tune in tomorrow for the first official entries into the top 100!