Katherine’s Top K-pop Songs of 2019: A (Somewhat) Brief Summary

Hi all! I know I said I’d be posting my 2020 favorites soon, but the perfectionist in me just feels weird not putting up a 2019 list when I have one for every other year on this blog. So even though I’m really just making things harder for myself, I decided to take another quick detour before officially moving on to 2020. I basically wrote this in a day, so it’s very stream of consciousness – just my basic reactions and thoughts – but at least it’s here for continuity and my own peace of mind.

So, 2019 was an interesting time for me as a K-pop fan. Up until this point, my main way of consuming K-pop was through watching videos – mostly performances, but also variety shows and some online segments. This changed a lot after I moved to Korea and found access to K-pop even easier than before. I cut down significantly on watching videos and didn’t really watch any shows aside from Produce X 101 (sigh) and parts of Queendom. Definitely no variety shows. I still watched MVs and performances at least once for each group’s comeback, but I mostly just listened to the songs on Apple Music during my commute..

While I was still very much multifandom, I also became less interested in checking out rookies or groups that I didn’t already follow. In past years, I’ve had a hard time choosing just 50 songs for this list; I listened to so much stuff that I would come up with anywhere from 75 to 100 songs I liked in some capacity. This time, it was pretty much just the 50. And on top of that, there were very few comebacks (and even fewer debuts) that held my attention. I spent a lot of time listening to the songs that made the top half of this list, and then maybe a week or two for the rest. All in all, 2019 turned out to be a year where I narrowed down my interests a lot and really focused on my favorites. If you know me and my tastes, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces, a lot of repeat artists, and a lot of songs from the same two or three styles. I guess I was just being really picky.

Disclaimer: This list is completely based on my personal opinions and is not a ranking of what I objectively think were the best songs of 2019. They are ranked based on how much I liked the comeback and how much I interacted with it – aka how many times I listened to it, how long I listened to it, how many related videos I watched, etc.

Top 50

50. “Me&You,” EXID

Man, I miss EXID a lot. While “Me&You” isn’t my favorite song of theirs, I still looked on it fondly because it was their last song. (I guess they haven’t *technically* disbanded, but I’ll still call this the last song because who knows when we’re getting another.) I like how even though this was the end of an era, EXID still experimented with their music and went for a slightly different sound than their other iconic hits. It had soft and sultry verses that transitioned into their trademark loud and sassy dance choruses, but the whole thing still kept their usual sexy yet eccentric flair. It’s clear that EXID had a very unique voice in K-pop, and they will be missed.

#49. “%%(Eung Eung(์‘์‘)),” Apink

Apink started maturing their music a couple of years ago, but that didn’t change the fact that they consistently deliver bops. This song had everything you need for an iconic girl group comeback: catchy melody (with amazing vocals), fun dance moves, a stunning music video, and gorgeous outfits. As you might know, I love pink, so anything with a pretty pink aesthetic gets an A in my book. I also liked how the song strikes a nice balance between being sophisticated and mature but being feminine and girly – I find that it’s often hard to have both in K-pop. It’s a shame this song was so underrated.

#48. “Blue Flame,” ASTRO

ASTRO is another group who has steadily been maturing their music over time. While they’re not (collectively) as famous as I’d like them to be, I do think their change in sound was a great creative and artistic choice. “Blue Flame” didn’t captivate me as much as “All Night” did, but I still found it very romantic and appealing. It definitely plays to their vocal strengths (especially Cha Eunwoo’s), and I think it has a very appealing melody that’s very memorable. If I were a bigger ASTRO stan, I would have been in trouble .

47. “As You Wish,” Cosmic Girls

I know that Cosmic Girls is technically doing fine for themselves even though they haven’t had their breakout hit, but I genuinely wish people would pay more attention to them. They’re not just a bunch of pretty faces; they have everything that it takes to be a successful girl group! “As You Wish” is delightfully sweet pop song with a nice flow, and it’s catchy as hell. Also, it’s a nice compromise between the mainstream pop Cosmic Girls tends to release and their more unique tracks that I personally prefer. And I appreciated how they returned to their cosmic/outer space aesthetic, since that’s what drew me to them in the first place.

46. “Flash,” X1

RIP X1. It’s such a shame they disbanded, because their strong debut made it clear they were a force to be reckoned with. Everything about “Flash” screamed “ambition” – the fast-paced track, the impossibly tight and synchronized choreography, the intense red and black color scheme, the high-concept music video, etc. It was so professional and well-done that they didn’t seem like rookies at all. Don’t get me wrong – I was very upset about the vote manipulation scandal, and I knew there was no way X1 could survive after it all came out. But I’m still so disappointed about how things ended up, because “Flash” is now the only evidence we have of something that could have truly been great.

45. “Come See Me,” AOA

This is somewhat difficult for me because I obviously no longer view AOA in the same light in 2020, but I made this list in 2019 and I’m not going to retroactively change it. I will say that I enjoyed how their latest (possibly last) single was darker and edgier than their previous fare. AOA was one of the big-name sexy groups back when that was the reigning concept, a theme they remained consistent with throughout their career. And while “Come See Me” definitely has an alluring and sensual vibe, I appreciated how it was a different kind of sexy and not as focused on skimpy clothing and seductive dance moves oriented for the male gaze. It was definitely more of the empowering kind of sexy, which was a nice (albeit inadvertent) note for them to go out on.

44. “Uh Oh,” (G)I-DLE

As a 90’s kid, I’m a little uncomfortable that the era of my childhood is now old enough to be considered “retro.” (I’m only 30! That’s not that old!) But I have to say, (G)I-DLE did a really good job with this concept. The song and the music video really do remind me of the 90’s without making me feel like a grandma, and I enjoyed the cool vibe and grooving melody. It’s so easy for a retro concept to look like younger people dressing up and having a costume party, but this one really did feel authentic. I was impressed.

43. “Wannabe,” Golden Child

Up until this point, Golden Child was a group primarily known for bright and happier music. And though I’m weirdly picky about those kinds of songs, Golden Child was actually my go-to for refreshing mood boosters. So, I was very pleasantly surprised when they changed tacks and went for a more sophisticated image. I love how “Wannabe” is just so smooth. The melody is so pleasant and addicting, and the choreography is simple yet polished and clean. It kind of reminded me of 2nd generation boy group music in the early 2010s – not quite like their senior group INFINITE, but definitely close. In any case, this comeback showed that Golden Child definitely picked up all of the essential skills their seniors became famous for.

42. “FUN!” fromis_9

The first time I heard this song, I was incredibly confused. There was so much happening that it took a couple of listens for me to sort out the flow and melody. But once I did, I really liked it. K-pop songs with chaotic nonsensical structures are kind of becoming a thing of the past, so it was nice to have something pretty out of the box and quirky. And I love the music video and all of its comical parodies of classic commercials. “FUN!” is exactly like its title, and it’s definitely my favorite fromis_9 track so far.

41. “Love Me,” NU’EST

“Love Me” is perhaps the most classic pop sounding single that NU’EST has released. I was actually surprised, because that’s usually more in SEVENTEEN’s wheelhouse. (Not that this sounds like a SEVENTEEN song, but it is typically more of their concept.) That being said, “Love Me” is really catchy and sweet. It’s not my favorite NU’EST song, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about it. But, I will admit that it puts a smile on my face every time I hear it.

Next page: Songs #31-40

4 thoughts on “Katherine’s Top K-pop Songs of 2019: A (Somewhat) Brief Summary

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