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.
50. Day6 – Love Me Or Leave Me
Further proof that Day6 can rock out with the absolute best of them, Love Me Or Leave Me expertly transitions from enjoyable tempo shifting verses to a driving knockout chorus that just begs you to keep head banging
49. WJSN – Where You Are (review)
Leaning completely into the more ‘cosmic’ side of their sound, WJSN delivered the gorgeous Where You Are, a track that brought together a healthy dose of strings and ascending guitar samples for a majestic sounding track.
48. Ghost9 – Reborn
One of the hardest songs of the year, Reborn took a unique approach to the standard EDM structure with a scuzzy instrumental and aggressive vocal performance to create the perfect performance piece.
47. Stray Kids – Phobia
Another track that incorporated EDM into something more unique, Phobia‘s experimental structure and emotive vocal performance make it an easy standout within Stray Kids’ discography.
46. KAI – Nothing On Me
A moody, atmospheric dance track that transforms into something truly special because of the massive synth loop at its core.
45. GFRIEND – Tarot Cards
A propulsive, guitar driven song that feels as though it would fit perfectly as the opening to an anime, Tarot Cards once again proved that GFRIEND are at their best when paired with big, dynamic arrangements.
44. Dreamcatcher – Black Or White
A track that perfectly melds elements of grunge rock and groovy bass, Black or White continued to evolve the groups potent rock sound in new directions. The additional strings during the post chorus are a wonderful touch.
43. Cravity – Believer
A theatrical dance track punctuated by an absolute mammoth chorus that brings the drama and then some. My favourite Cravity song yet by a long shot.
42. TXT – Drama
A song that should have undoubtedly been the title track for its respective album, Drama brings back the buoyant funk that TXT excel at, bounding out of the gate with hook upon hook upon hook.
41. Golden Child – That Guy
A gorgeous pop ballad that perfectly showcased the sheer vocal talent within Golden Child with an equally potent melody to boast. Few listens in 2020 were as satisfying as That Guy.
40. Oh My Girl – Dolphin
The biggest b-side of the year, Dolphin was a bonafide musical sensation upon release and its addictive charms only got more potent over time. Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da
39. EDEN & LEEZ – Paranoid
Sometimes we forget that producers tend to release music of their own and a song like Paranoid is exactly why we should pay more attention to these under the radar releases. It’s groovy as hell, pulsing forward before erupting into a great, strings driven chorus.
38. VERIVERY – Skydive
Home to one of the years most melodically comforting hooks, Skydive brought back the soft, bright Verivery that we thought we were going to lose.
37. AB6IX – Bloom
Further proof that no modern group can pull off deep house dance tracks like AB6IX, Bloom powers forward on addictive energy before its great two part chorus steals the show. Woong’s vocals before the instrumental drop remain an absolute highlight.
36. Seventeen – Together
A sonic sequel to 2018’s Run To You, Together‘s propulsive guitar driven sound elicited the best kind of nostalgic reaction from me and furthered the notion that Seventeen need to deliver their own anime ost.
35. Everglow – Untouchable
A more reserved synthpop track from the towering majesty of the lead single, Untouchable hinted at a brighter, more melody driven future for Everglow.
34. TREASURE – Going Crazy (review)
The strongest full group Treasure song till date, Going Crazy employs an addictive as hell groove to the standard YG template for one of the years most endlessly replay-able performance pieces.
33. VERIVERY – Photo
The strongest variant of Verivery’s ‘dark’ sound yet, Photo‘s creeping instrumental and descending chorus remain one of the years most convincing displays of horror based K-pop.
32. Rocket Punch – Lilac
I love emotional edm anthems and Lilac manages to convey *just* the right amount of musical catharsis to really feel vital. The girls have a great vocal line and the soaring vocal led edm chorus here is just the icing on the cake.
31. Dreamcatcher – In The Frozen (review)
An explodive blend of standard edm samples, big house and psytrance (!!), In The Frozen incorporates a twisting central loop that becomes more and more unhinged before exploding during the tracks magnetic climax.
30. Yukika – Shade (review)
A mesmerising synth laced mid-tempo that stood as one of the years most convincing interpretations of the 80’s style of Japanese city pop thanks to an absolutely gorgeous melody.
29. Oh My Girl – Etoile
A beautiful musical palette for the girls to showcase their ethereal vocal blend, Etoile‘s various musical turns and majestic two part chorus are a great example of why Oh My Girls music is so special.
28. WayV – Electric Hearts
An addictive summer track that plays around with some really interesting musical textures before its catchy as hell staccato hook rolls around to really seal the deal.
27. YooA – Diver
A perfect throwback to the delirious funk pop of the Jacksons, Diver allowed YooA to really let loose, delivering a track that feels incredibly rhythmic and groovy without forgetting the importance of a strong central melody.
26. ITZY – THAT’S A NO NO (review)
While the sample size is rather small, the carnival party starting That’s a no no is ITZY’s strongest album track yet. The industrial sounding instrumental is a joy but it’s the gargantuan two part hook, which combines a rousing chant with an equally potent refrain that’s the real star of the show.