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.
75. GFRIEND – Wheel of the year
A gorgeous guitar and string driven track that recalls the best of early GFRIEND whilst still carrying enough emotional heft to make it a standout in the groups constantly evolving discography.
74. ATEEZ – Precious
A thrilling fusion of many of the ‘Treasure’ series best songs, Precious is an adventurous thrill ride with one of the years biggest and most exhilarating climaxes.
73. 2Z – 25
I don’t know a single person that’s heard this song but its chugging guitar and synth driven greatness should not have been criminally ignored like it was.
72. Ghost9 – Flying at Night
The kind of laid back pop fluff I had expected Ghost9 to debut with, Flying at Night nails its respective mood despite hinging on a rather well worn soundscape. Thankfully that airy hook is just gorgeous.
71. AB6IX – Surreal
A massive track with one of the years most rousing centrepieces, Surreal was further proof that the bigger the better.
70. TWICE – Sweet Summer Day
Bringing new jack swing and a classic summer melody into the fray, Sweet Summer Day was the summer time smash that wasn’t to be. This would have made a much better single than the lacklustre More & More.
69. GFRIED – Stairs in the North (review)
One of Gfriend’s strongest ballads, the stadium ready rock balladry of Stairs in the North shone light on the girls immersive vocal blend and had arguably the years most emotive chorus to boast. That guitar solo is just the icing on the cake.
68. SF9 – Into The Night
The light, rhythm guitar and percussion driven greatness of Into The Night wasn’t immediately apparent but its treasure trove of hidden hooks won me over big time in the long run.
67. Cravity – Top of The Chain
An aggressive dance track that felt more like Monsta X lite than a new group, Top Of The Chain nonetheless became a hit in my ears thanks to the sheer immensity behind its sound.
66. Monsta X – Sorry I’m Not Sorry
More and more my favourite Monsta X songs are their lighter and more laid back efforts and the cold, guitar strumming Sorry I’m Not Sorry is a perfect encapsulation of that sound.
65. TWICE – Cry For Me
My favourite TWICE b-side of the year, Cry For Me intrigues with its mysterious modern verses before unveiling a fantastic pulsing chorus that’s right up there with some of the years best.
64. Verivery – Beautiful-x
The would be best Verivery single of 2020 brought back the bright funk influence of their debut year and attached it to an incredibly joyful edm backdrop that just screams optimism.
63. SEVENTEEN – Kidult
A rousing pop ballad that got more and more grandiose the longer it went on, Kidult was the perfect showcase for the groups vocalists with an absolute stunner of a bridge.
62. Monsta X – Beautiful Night
Easily the best Monsta X song of the year and my favourite Korean song of theirs since 2018, Beautiful Night‘s mid-tempo synth backdrop is as pleasant as they come with a chorus that gets better every listen.
61. Golden Child – Lean on Me
The kind of propulsive dance track that’s become a staple for woolim boy groups, Lean on Me impresses thanks to its great synth work and unflagging energy.
60. SF9 – Go High
A thrilling EDM dance number that acts as a sonic successor to Seventeen’s Hit, Go High was a glorious reminder of days gone by and one of the best examples of EDM influenced K-pop done right.
59. Stray Kids – TA
A driving, chant heavy track that perfectly fused Stray Kids hip hop and EDM sides into a thrilling package that manages to sound both like a war cry and the start of party.
58. SF9 – One Love
The strongest b-side from SF9’s breakout album, One Love‘s rhythm guitar and disco string driven funk hit one of my musical sweet spots and furthered that initial impression with a gorgeous central melody.
57. UP10TION – Stop The Clock
By having an absolute knockout chorus, Stop The Clock mended the issues that have plagued UP10TION’s past few title tracks and in turn delivered their strongest song in years.
56. Weeekly – Top Secret (review)
A pure, streamlined pop song that embraced one of the years most comforting melodies, Top Secret was a classic throwback to the late 2000’s that payed off in spades.
55. Cravity – Realize
The kind of emotive EDM I have a massive soft spot for, Realize capitalised on an emotive soundscape and the groups potent vocal blend for a great album track.
54. GFRIEND – Love Spell
One of the girls grittiest and most sultry tracks, Love Spell‘s bounding instrumental and standout pre-chorus make it a real gem of a track. I wouldn’t mind a title track in this vein.
53. MCND – Bumpin’
A jerky, 2013 era SHINee-esque track from MCND, Bumpin’ could have potentially revitalised the groups sound with a pounding funk beat and incredibly addictive staccato hook. At some points, it sounds more like SHINee than SHINee themselves.
52. Park Jihoon – Driving
Transforming from a low mid-tempo bounce to a brilliant driving (haha) chorus, Driving was a perfect playground for Jihoon to play around with his vocals whilst delivering the most emotive melody of his career.
51. April – Doll
Although Doll is as typical of an e-one production as they come, there’s a reason why his melodic and string heavy productions are so popular. And Doll’s majestic chorus is right up there with the best of them.