When it comes down to K-pop and music in general, the best songs usually aren’t the ones getting promoted. And because of this, their quality is most of the time never unearthed or just completely overlooked by the majority of listeners. I want to change that and that’s why I’m going to be counting down my 100 favourite K-pop album tracks of the year!
And in a year where more and more often we saw album tracks far stronger than their title track counterparts, this list was a near necessity. The songs down here are some of the strongest of the year and most of the time were far better than many would ever have expected. I’ve also included some b-sides by Japanese acts that I really enjoyed this year so if you fancy some extra j-pop, have a look! So come along as we look at some of the years best hidden gems.
But before we get into the list, let’s look at the rules for the list!
- Must be released between 1st January and 31st December
- Released by a group of Korean origin or managed by a Korean company
- As such doesn’t have to be in Korean (Yay Wayv!)
- Must not have received a good, promoted music video.
SixTONES – New World (This one is incredible)
Kis-My-ft2 – Count 7even / Make You Mine / Maharaja
NEWS – Story / Superstar / Seven / New Story
Miyavi – Heaven Is A Place On Earth / Holy Nights
Arashi – Someday When the Second Hand of the Clock Meet / The Music Never Ends
Bullet Train – Jasper
Kenshi Yonezu – Placebo
Kim Sejeong – Skyline
The Boyz – Insanity / Whiplash
Everglow – No Good Reason
Oneus – Dead or Alive
WJSN – Hola / Our Garden
Monsta X – Chaotic
Twice – Believer / Queen
Ghost9 – Focus / Splash
Gfriend – Three of Cups
Pentagon – Worship U / Zoom Up
100. ITZY – Surf
An airy, melodic track that helped showcase a new side to the girls that they would do well to develop further.
99. ONF – Geppeto
A quirky pop track that further assured ONF’s position as one of the industries most reliable treasure troves for incredibly catchy hooks.
98. The Boyz – Salty
My favourite The Boyz b-side of the year nailed the moody yet sleek soundscape through a production that kept unveiling some interesting left turns and a great chorus.
97. Pentagon – Asteroid
A light, house influenced track that only got better and better the longer its anthemic chorus stuck around. Probably my favourite Pentagon song of the year.
96. Super Junior – Shadow
A track fitting for a group of such high stature, Shadow‘s sophisticated groove helped make up for the rather unfortunate 2YA2YAO!. This should have been the title track.
95. YooA – Far
YooA’s debut album was full of gems and showcased how you can transform even the most ubiquitous of sounds into something great. And when it comes to drop choruses, few are as perfectly executed as Far.
94. TWICE – Oxygen
The move to a more house based sound has benefited Twice alot and tracks like Oxygen continue to further that notion, with a pulsing, stuttered hook that’s sure to get stuck in your head despite its more derivative nature.
93. GFRIEND – Here We Are
Some incredibly average verses lead to an absolutely breathtaking hook that help the soundtrack ready Here We Are find a deserved place in the top 100.
92. ATEEZ – Horizon
Though less successful than their 2019 output, ATEEZ continued to push boundaries with material that embraced the more daring aspects of EDM and hip-hop and Horizon was one of their stronger efforts.
91. Taeyeon – My Tragedy
Heart wrenching rock balladry is always a hit for me and with the grandiose My Tragedy, Taeyeon lent her emotive and powerful vocals to a great, soaring melody that surpassed all expectations.
90. Golden Child – I Love U Crazy!
As cheesy of pop as you would come around in this day and age, Golden Child sell even the most fluffy of pop songs with their incredible vocal blend.
89. Younha (feat. RM) – Winter Flower
2020’s best early surprise, under the radar artist Younha scored a massive hit with this soaring rock ballad with a monster of a chorus.
88. TWICE – Do What We Like
Twice’s ‘Eyes Wide Open’ was a great album that housed some of the years most exciting b-sides. The classic EDM of Do What We Like was my favourite, lending an already potent instrumental to a great, minimalist hook. Also Sana’s deep voice!
87. BTS (V) – Inner Child / BTS (V + Jimin) – Friends (review)
Though they’re two different songs, I would like to lump these two together because they both harness the classic pop sound of the latter half of ‘Map of the soul: 7’ the best. Inner child is an anthem and Friends is one of the years most fun duets. I might not have enjoyed the album but these two were easy standouts.
86. P1Harmony – Nemonade
P1Harmony’s debut single didn’t do much for me but the quirky, funk influenced and guitar driven Nemonade stole my heart. You know a track is great when they unironically make the phrase “I got some lemons for you” not only palatable but a highlight. Given a few more months, this could have placed even higher.
85. Yukika – Yesterday
Featuring one of the years most robust and exciting pre-choruses, Yesterday was yet another highlight for Yukika’s great retro inspired discography.
84. YooA – Abracadabra
A charismatic performance piece fit with a supremely addictive chorus, Abracadabra furthered the notion that YooA is an absolute star.
83. IZ*ONE – Merry-Go-Round
The kind of disco influenced pop that IZ*ONE really should have been going for with their Japanese releases, Merry-Go-Round succeeds thanks to a brilliant chorus that just keeps going and going.
82. Rocket Punch – Girl Friend
A quirky, bouncy pop track that grew more and more addictive the longer it lingered on my playlist, Girl Friends unorthodox soundscape pointed towards a sound that Rocket Punch would do well to pursue for future endeavours.
81. WINNER – Serenade (Hoony Solo)
Taking the kind of rousing energy that built much of G-dragon’s legendary Crooked, Serenade saw member Hoony transform into a bonafide rockstar. The verses play with tempo but it all comes back to that anthem ready chorus.
80. Dreamcatcher – Red Sun (review)
A haunting trap laced song that infused Dreamcatchers already horror influenced sound with an added sense of unease. It’s an inspired blend of trap and eerie music box samples that prove that Dreamcatcher can make almost anything sound appealing.
79. GFRIEND – GRWM
A thumping dance floor tune guaranteed to soundtrack the life of the party, GRWM pulses with energy from its opening moment and peaks with a brilliant post chorus hook.
78. Ghost9 – It’s gonna be hot
A track that exemplifies a freewheeling sense of youth, It’s gonna be hot just screams rookie energy in the best way possible with an arrangement that just refuses to let up.
77. SuperM – Together At Home
Powered by a supremely addictive chant heavy hook, Together At Home injected a nice sense of pop melody into a discography promoted primarily through larger than life bluster. The best kind of laid back pop.
76. AB6IX – Vivid
What should have been the lead single for their June album, Vivid sounds like a natural progression of AB6IX’s debut era sound with enough little hooks and melodic turns sprinkled throughout to really make it standout.