My Top 10 Korean Songs of 2019

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Wemibelle

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Edited By Wemibelle

Another year, another Top 10! While I know that very few people care about these lists, particularly the Korean ones, I still enjoy taking the time to reflect on the past year of music and determine which songs I felt the strongest about. It gives those songs more importance to me in the future and makes returning to them even years down the line very nostalgic. 2019 was another one of those years that felt a bit weak, especially during the first half of the year. However, it all came together in the end, and this year’s list actually fell into place quite easily in the end. I hope whoever reads this list enjoys at least one of the songs, and I’d love to hear any comments or favorites from other people!

NOTE: Due to a current issue on Giant Bomb where video embeds are not working for me, I've instead linked to the videos instead of using embedded videos. If/when the issue is resolved, I will update these posts to add the embeds.

10. WiFi - Saturday

WiFi is one of the only “traditional” girl group songs from this year that hit for me. The sections with the punchy horn sound and refrain of “Wi Fi Fi” have stuck with me enough to earn it a spot on this list outright, despite the rest of the song not quite hitting that high. I still enjoy the pacing changes throughout the song, swapping between slow and fast verses and an even slower bridge that leads back into the chorus, and the part with all the ‘las’ is also great, if much too short. Oh, and the video is filled with cute choreography and costuming and is a lot of fun. WiFi is an admittedly flawed song, but I still find myself listening to it over and over nonetheless.

9. Super Clap - Super Junior

While I don’t usually love Super Junior’s releases, Super Clap is just too damn catchy to ignore. The entire production is fantastic--killer, echoey synth and a driving beat that makes my body NEED to move along with it. When it’s going full force, the sound just hums in a way that I can only describe as magnetic. Sadly, the few slower parts break the flow and bring the song down a few notches for me. As for the vocals, I especially enjoy the slightly delayed delivery during the verses and the memorable, repeated English phrases used during the chorus. There’s not really a lot to say about Super Clap--its hook is enough to keep me coming back for more.

8. Workaholic - Bol4

I continue to be a huge fan of Bol4’s mix of pop and indie acoustic rock. Workaholic has a lighter production that makes good use of the group’s typical acoustic guitar and some well-placed snaps to create a mellower sound. While the vocals don’t showcase the same skillful range featured in the group’s previous songs, it’s still a great performance that smoothly punches on the beat and nicely suits the theme of the song’s lyrics, which focus on the all-too-real slog of working a job you hate and not having enough time for yourself. I may not get down with a “beer cheers woo,” but the frustration of giving so much of my life to something I don’t enjoy resonates with me--that’s what makes Workaholic deserve a spot on this list.

7. Hedgehop - Numnum

Hedgehop is one of those songs that immediately distinguished itself when I first heard it. Its odd production, hypnotic vocals, and low-budget video made it stand out like a sore thumb compared to most typical KPOP fare, and I found it growing on me the more and more I heard it throughout the year. My favorite part is the minimalist production, with a great bass line and surprisingly effective use of both cowbell and triangle. Best of all is how well it pairs with the playfully fluid vocals to create a sultry sound. I just love the whispery style of the singer’s voice and how deftly it dances around the beat. Hedgehop is a song unlike anything else I heard this year, and I find I can’t get enough of it.

6. Bad Habits - Suran

Bad Habits was one of the very first KPOP songs I heard in 2019, coming out on January 1st. I think it speaks to the strength of the song’s main hook that it’s kept me coming back for the entire year. Whether it’s playing softly under the verses or resounding loudly over the chorus, it just works so well, especially when paired with the solid beats. Somehow, it manages to tread the line between a pop song and a ballad--remaining catchy and fun despite a slower beat and a more emotional sound. The vocals also do a fantastic job at resonating with the sound of the song, especially the higher-pitched bridges that build into the chorus. Everything comes to a dramatic conclusion at the end with an impressive key change that closes out the song with a bang. Bad Habits takes me on a journey every time I hear it.

5. Art Gang Money - Swervy

Every single facet of Art Gang Money drips with attitude. The filthy low-end production sets me on edge, making me feel like I just witnessed something I shouldn’t have seen. The lyrics are hilariously over-the-top and utilize some broken English, but Swervy’s confident vocals make me believe that she can do all the things she says and more. The too-few verses are satisfying as hell due to Swervy’s (and guest vocalist Reddy) killer flow, slapping tightly along with the beat. The chorus is harsh in an almost oppressive way but is also the song’s biggest show of strength. Even the video’s old VHS aesthetic, overused effects, and frenetic cuts leave me wondering what the hell I just saw. Top to bottom, Art Gang Money is a TRIP.

4. Hip - Mamamoo

Mamamoo has always had a style entirely their own, a sound that fluctuates between pop, hip-hop, and even retro styles depending on the release. As such, I never know if one of their songs is going to really hit for me. Hip, however, was one of those songs I immediately dug from the first listen. There’s an odd rhythm to the entire song; the production dances all over the place, with tons of catchy little hooks and fun transitory sound effects, and the vocals jump between rap verses, regular verses, and the chorus with little warning, not much caring for traditional song structure. It’s an entirely addictive song though despite the strangeness, especially the chorus’ memorable “close-up” section and refrain of “hip” over and over again. Hip is a confident, attitude-filled song as many of Mamamoo’s tracks are, and I can’t get enough of it.

3. How Dust - KIRARA

At this point, it feels like KIRARA will always be on my Top 10 list every year. She releases fantastic new material again and again, and I have yet to tire of her inventive sound and style. Her best song of 2019? How Dust. It is a unique, wildly creative track that feels more experimental than anything she’s done in the past. There’s so many different beat styles and sound effects as it rises and falls; from section to section, you never know what you’re going to get and I love it. It also feels like her most playful song to date, taking you on a musical journey that is so dynamic almost feels as if it’s being created in real-time. While I really enjoy ct19071 from the same EP, it’s a bit too similar to her past releases. How Dust is something entirely new and different and I love seeing KIRARA continue to play with her sound and grow as an artist.

2. I’m Just Me - My Name is Red-Haired Anne

No song vibed with me this year the way I’m Just Me did. The production is a delightfully bassy, throbbing synth line paired with a simple beat and frequent snaps. I can only describe the sound as sultry, enticing me ever deeper and leaving me mesmerized by the trance it brings. The smooth vocals gel perfectly with the seductive production, as their light and breathy sound dance delicately around the beat. This is not one of those songs that I nod or dance along to but one that just washes over me and takes me on a ride. Even the repetition of the song doesn’t manage to hurt the vibe; it’s such an enthralling experience that I find it compelling from beginning to end. Other songs could learn a lot from how effortlessly I’m Just Me draws me in and wraps me in its thrumming embrace, making me never want to leave.

1. Fire Flame - Z-Girls T.P.I.

I have listened to Fire Flame more than any other song this year, across any genre. It hooked me from the first listen and never let go. The production is playful with tons of little effects, fun synth bits, and a memorable main hook. All three members give adorable vocal performances. The silly, catchy English lyrics have me singing along every time I listen to the song, especially the chorus which has earwormed its way inside my head SINCE JULY. The key change at the very end of the song is a great finale. Finally, the video is overwhelmingly saccharine and filled with candid moments that show an obvious camaraderie between the girls. Plus, that little dance for the chorus is so cute! While I won’t deny that Fire Flame is more than a little cheesy and generically by-the-numbers, it still remains my favorite song of the year--no other song brought me as much joy.

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kof98

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I only ended up hearing #10 on this list (I kinda dropped off k-pop after all the mess in the middle of the year and the tragedies at the end of the year). I've been looking for some recs, this will be a great place to start.