After nearly a month of waiting, I’ve finally mustered the energy to sit my ass down and write up my end of year list for my favourite K-pop tracks of the year. And while that sentence may come off as me saying that this is something I’m reluctant to do, it’s more the opposite. I love writing about my favourite tracks but the thing is when you come off an incredibly gruelling few months of university and work, you tend to become a little lazy and my posting schedule on this blog has unfortunately become a victim to this. And as such, with the holiday season coming to an end and the introduction of a new year, I’ve decided that consistency will be one of my key resolutions. Something which includes this blog too. So what better way to kick off this hopefully consistent posting schedule with counting down my K-pop favourite tracks of the past year, something which I should have done before the turn of the year anyway.
Now, many of you who have tuned into past countdowns may have noticed that the countdown is much smaller this year. Cut in half basically. And I’ll have to attribute this to my overall lack of interest in K-pop lately. Don’t get me wrong I still look out for most K-pop releases but my overall interest has heavily waned over the past few months. Something which I’d attribute to shifting tastes alongside a lack consistency in relation to the release of some truly great tracks. I’ve found most K-pop tracks this year (especially from big name artists) to just be “fine” and as such, even though I do have a shortlist of 100 tracks, I personally would consider it a bit of a drag to write about some tracks that though I like, find quite unremarkable. As such, in an effort to maintain the quality of both the countdown and my writing, I’ve chosen to write about my top 50 (well, in reality 57 because I couldn’t quite shorten the list enough lol) K-pop tracks of the year.
I genuinely really enjoy almost all of these tracks and they all stood as big highlights in a year that lacked the kind of consistency of years past. But enough of that, here are some of the rules for the countdown before we get started!
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 2022 and 15th December 2022.
- Song must be paired with a full music video and be promoted to some extent.
- 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.
woo!ah! – Catch The Stars
NMIXX – O.O (yes, I know, I’m just as surprised as you lot)
Cravity – Adrenaline
APink – Dilemma
MCND – W.A.T.1
SEVENTEEN – _World
Chungha – Sparkling
Drippin – Villain
Junny – Color Me (feat. Chungha)
TO1 – Drummin’
NCT Dream – Beatbox
Ghost9 – X-Ray
Billlie – Gingamingayo / RING ma Bell
TREASURE – VolKno
57. STAYC – RUN2U (review)
The strongest StayC single since their excellent debut, Run2U succeeds thanks to some excellent verses and a production that utilises some truly exciting synth textures. And while the tracks chorus may be a little too restrained to really shoot it into the stratosphere, its energy is nonetheless addictive.
56. Cherry Bullet – Love In Space (review)
An immense sounding sequel to the groups fantastic 2021 hit Love So Sweet, Love In Space makes some incredibly unique arrangement choices that may not work for everyone but boy do they work for me. The rapid-fire delivery during the verses alongside stuttered pre-chorus work wonderfully in tandem to build towards the tracks rousing, vocal centrepiece. It may not have aged as well as I had initially hoped but in no way does that take away from its many merits.
55. CIX – 458
Bolstered by a creeping production that pulls off some truly interesting tricks, CIX reached an atmospheric high with the thrilling 458. And while Movie Star may still remain my favourite of their works, 458 stands as the groups most unique effort, one that makes me incredibly excited for their future work.
54. CSR – LOVETICON (♡TiCON)
A pure, undiluted shot of serotonin, CSR continued to be one of 2022’s biggest surprises with sophomore effort Loveticon. It may not be the most original or innovative of singles but sometimes all you need is a rock solid melody and fizzy, irresistible energy. Both of which carry Loveticon into being a late 2022 standout.
53. Junny – Not About You
Synth laden mid-tempo’s were everywhere in 2022 and though it’s a sound that I happen to love, its ubiquitous nature meant many solid tracks ended up getting lost in the mix. And while that was initially the case for Junny’s fantastic Not About You, it quickly sunk its teeth into me thanks to a gorgeous vocal performance and even better melody. It just convey’s a sense of melancholy so damn well.
52. Winner – I Love U (review)
A fantastic example of Winner’s more buoyant side, I Love U commands your attention with a centrepiece that ranks amongst the years biggest WTF moments. Love it or hate it, there’s not denying that it’s memorable, a characteristic that’s becoming harder to find in a boy group landscape that’s teetering towards blander and more uninspired sounds. And by the time the tracks ebullient climax rolls around, there’s no escape. What a great time!
51. NMIXX – COOL (Your Rainbow)
A track that I fell in love with on first listen and grew dangerously obsessed with, Cool stands as track NMIXX should be recording on the regular. Its gorgeous, serpentine hook is an absolute revelation, making fantastic use of the groups excellent repertoire of vocalists to deliver an absolute knockout. The plucked strings alongside the wonderful majesty of its choral climax come together for a track should have really taken precedence over the disappointing Dice.
50. BigBang – Still life (review)
While BigBang’s big 2022 comeback didn’t herald the second coming of christ or introduce the years biggest and most eccentric dance track like many of has hoped, the delicate, emotional balladry of Still life served as a much more fitting send off for a group who’s legacy stands as one of the industry’s finest.
49. ATEEZ – Guerilla
A gritty, explosive track that firmly brought ATEEZ back to the sounds that made them such an exciting group in the first place, Guerrilla stands as one ATEEZ’ strongest “dark” singles in a while, expertly melding their dramatic vocals with an invigorating production that melds elements of screamo, rock and electronica to create a thrilling soundscape. If anything, its sheer lack of restraint alone is to be lauded.
48. Miyeon (G-idle) – Drive
A solo effort the far eclipsed most of the work she’s been doing with her group, Drive‘s breezy guitar driven pop structure acted as the perfect showcase for Miyeon’s vocals. It’s a simple little pop song but knows exactly what it is and how it wants to go about it. A sense of focus that turns this otherwise generic track into one of the years most enjoyable singles. The chorus especially is absolutely gorgeous.
47. UiU – Starlit
If anything 2022 was the year where nugu groups really excelled, often releasing tracks that far outshone their more famous peers on probably less than half the budget. UiU’s Starlit stands as one of those singles, coming across as incredibly rough around the edges with a production clearly done on a budget but ascending to euphoric heights during its near perfect chorus. The vocal layering? The fizzy synths? The ascending melody? Holy shit.
46. Nayeon (TWICE) – POP!
A suitably buoyant debut for one of the most brightest characters in TWICE, POP! perfectly channeled the catchy, upbeat energy of her group whilst still retaining a musical sheen unique to Nayeon herself. The relentlessly upbeat jazzy production remains a treat but in the end it’s that fantastic two part chorus that really seals the deal .
45. PSY – That That (ft. Suga) (review)
An unexpected collaboration between industry legends that delivered a track worthy of their stature, That That‘s addictive cavalcade of hooks and unflagging energy fit perfectly into PSY’s wheelhouse of goofy dance tracks whilst still sounding as fresh and as exciting as ever. What an absolute jam.
44. WJSN – Last Sequence
A suitably stylish dance track to cap off their Queendom victory lap, Last Sequence stands as one of WJSN’s strongest efforts in years. It’s an absolutely thrilling track, taking the dance floor thump previewed in previous singles and improving the execution in almost every way possible to give us a real standout performance piece that utilises its lockstep hook to excellent effect.
43. Super Junior – Mango
After more than 17 years in the industry, Super Junior continue to display just what makes them such a commanding force in the industry with the killer, melodic dance pop of Mango. It’s a wonderfully potent dance pop track that pulls equally from trends new and old to deliver a near timeless pop effort with a killer chorus, majestic arrangement and even better vocal performance. Probably my favourite Super Junior effort in years.
42. aespa – girls
A mammoth SMP-style throwback from one of Korea’s biggest and most popular groups, Girlsreaches back to the SM sounds of old to create one of the years most magnetic singles. Endlessly creative and consistently thrilling, Girls stands as the groups most vocally exciting and instrumentally bombastic track yet, harnessing their many strengths into a straightforward yet immensely exciting single. It’s unabashedly SM in nature and a track that makes excellent use of both its abrasive production and powerful vocal performance.
41. from20 – Weol
Former Bigstar member Kim Rae Hwan now from20 was one of my favourite discoveries of the year and songs like Weol are excellent examples of what makes him such a star. This dark, synth driven sound is absolutely thrilling, taking influence from current trends and twisting them in ways that feel unique yet equally exciting. That slight edge emanating from his vocal performance does wonders for a track that already succeeds thanks to its dynamic production.