Well. That was one hell of a year wasn’t it.
When I started this blog around a year ago, I did so with the intention of covering your average year in Korean and Japanese Pop music. Oh but how naive late 2019 Arpydarpy was. In reality 2020 was anything but ordinary, casting a near permanent shadow over the worlds proceedings. The pandemic ravaged any sense of “normality” that we had naturally come to expect, locking majority of the world inside while other tragedies continued to apparently strike at every possible corner. As such, the year was one of many firsts. Both for the music industry swell as the average Joe.
Personally, and thankfully, I wasn’t someone who faced the full brunt of the pandemic. With being uni student in a country that managed to combat the virus quickly, I was able to concentrate more easily on things like online school and of course, this blog. With it being the first year, I had alot of room to experiment. And while I do think that I’ve kind of settled into a groove over past 11 months, I look forward to moving into new territories and continuing to build on what I’ve established here. The blog has experienced some very nice steady growth and I hope to really push this momentum onwards into the next year.
Now enough about me, let’s get into what I thought about K and J Pop as a whole!
Below are my thoughts on both industries this year alongside some updating song ratings that I believe better reflect my ideas on some tracks this year. Some these are probably expected given my Top 100 and others will likely give a small teaser on what my ‘Worst of 2020’ countdown will look like once it comes out tomorrow.
K-Pop had a bit of an odd year. I’ve spent many a post discussing how I felt as though K-pop was stuck in a rut and while I still do hold by that notion, in hindsight, 2020 was much stronger than I had initially believed. There were some real gems throughout the year and while I don’t think any track was as instantly gratifying as some of my favourites of 2019, most of them unveiled their charms over time. It was a year of two contrasting halves, unveiling most of its strongest tracks and projects in the latter 6 months of the year. And while this redemption arc of sorts was really the year’s saving grace, it was hard to shake of the feeling of consistent disappointment during the first few months of the year.
But while the quality of singles throughout the year was rather one sided, the quality of albums remained consistently strong throughout. My favourite album’s and b-sides list, coming out in the following week, is exceptionally strong and I’m glad to say that I believe the b-side countdown to be much stronger than my singles countdown. Which is also another trend I observed throughout 2020. The quality of b-sides usually far usurped the strength of the lead single. And in many cases the title track was the weakest off the project. Songs like Labyrinth, Moya Moya, Bloom and many others were songs that far outshone their title track counterparts but were unfortunately buried in albums away from the eye of your average fan. I hope this can change in 2021.
But alas, the burgeoning retro trend was the years saving grace, coming in clutch and giving us some instant classics that I know will be referenced and replayed for years on from now. Its continued to bear fruit and I hope that this means well for the coming January which already seems stacked with comebacks from the likes of (G)-idle. AB6IX, Golden Child, Super Junior and many more.
Now I’m no where near as knowledgable about the entire J-pop industry as I am about the K-pop industry but boy did Japan have a fantastic year music wise. My top 50 Japanese songs of the year is going to absolutely incredible, featuring some of the best music out of any country this entire year. This is the year where I started to really take interest in Johnny’s entertainment and their groups, an interest which continues to reap many benefits. The company had an incredible year, spearheading Japan’s fantastic 2020 musical output with a consistently strong catalogue. Sexy Zone and Hey! Say! JUMP especially continued to hit us with some magnificent singles and legendary group Arashi put a cap on their 21 year career with some truely great tracks. But apart from Johnny’s, groups out of Japan continued to bring us material that experiment with genre without forgetting the strength of a brilliant melody and energy. This has always been a strong point of J-pop and something I hope to see continue onto the next year. And given the increasing expansion of Japan to be more accessible to outsiders, I believe that 2021 will be a great entry point for many who still feel alienated by the Japanese music industry. It’s an acquired taste but there is something for almost everybody. Trust me!
Notable Song Rating Changes:
- A.C.E – Favorite Boys (9.5 –> 10)
- Sunmi – Pporappippam (9.5 –> 10)
- Taemin – Criminal (9 –> 10)
- TXT – Blue Hour (8.25 –> 9.5)
- The Boyz – The Stealer (8.5 –> 9)
- Stray Kids – Back Door (8.5 –> 9)
- Golden Child – Pump It Up (8.5 –> 9)
- Berrygood – Accio (8.25 – 8.75)
- ONEUS – To Be Or Not To Be (8 –> 8.75)
- Treasure – I Love You (7.5 –> 8.5)
- Kim Wooseok – Red Moon (7 –> 8.25)
- Blackpink – How You Like That (3.75 –> 5.5)
- BTS – We Are Bulletproof: the Eternal (9.25 –> 8.5)
- B1A4 – Like a movie (8.25 –> 7.5)
- Super Junior – 2YA2YAO! (6.5 –> 5.75)
- DJ Hyo – Dessert (6.25 –> 5.5)
- Blackpink – Ice Cream (5.5 –> 3.5)
- AleXa – Villain (5.5 –> 4)
- Sexy Zone – RUN (9.75 –> 10)
- Official HIGE DANdism – Laughter (9.25 –> 10)
- King & Prince – Mazy Night (9.25 –> 10)
- SixTONES – Imitation Rain (9 –> 9.5)
- NGT48 – Serbet Pink (9.5 –> 9)
- Da-ice – Dreamin’ On (9.25 –> 8.75)
- JO1 – OH-EH-OH (8.75 –> 8)
- Solidemo – Tokyo Miracles (8.75 –> 8)