Happy New Year!
I was going to write that it was an overall disappointing year in K-pop and, I suppose, in comparison to 2019 which was, in my opinion, a stellar year, there were far fewer home-runs. And yet, as I was compiling this ranking, my initial list amounted to about 50 tracks which, really, makes it a pretty solid year after all. Of course the tough task, as always, was narrowing it down. My first pass identified a top 12. A subsequent pass identified another 5 worthy additions. And then, I spent much of the morning agonizing over the final 3. It’s an imperfect system and I still waver, but I’m pressing “publish” now before I can change my mind yet again. If your favorites have been left off the list, I’m sure you’ll find them on my K-Pop Ultimate playlist (link provided below). If not, perhaps we have very different tastes in music.
Anyway, as always, your mileage may very – but these were MY Top 20 K-Pop Tracks of 2020!
#20. Make You Happy – NiziU
JYP’s 9-member Japanese girl group project kicks things off with this single off their pre-debut EP, a catchy, upbeat tune whose MV includes a cameo by company founder Park Jin-young as a hapless rollerblader.
#19. Eight – IU
IU is a powerhouse and she delivers a beautiful song here with an assist from BTS’s Suga.
#18. Initial S – SoRi
This was, surprisingly and sadly, SoRi’s last single before quitting the music industry to, presumably, focus on acting. A damn shame because it’s an exceptional song. The MV was directed by film director Sohn Il-hyung
#17. Lalalilala – April
They’ve been around for five years, scoring big two years ago with Oh! My Mistake, but I didn’t really take notice until this song dropped back in (appropriately enough, I suppose) April. And I wasn’t the only one judging by the fact the MV has garnered over 5 million views to date.
#16. Rocket Ride – Oh My Girl
I really enjoyed Non-Stop (much less so the other song with the dancing mascots), but I elected to go with this Keanu Silva collab. Available in both English and Korean (You should get both!) but the official MV is in English – which is fine because it’s an equally rock solid version.
#15. Hmph – WJSN Chocome
The WJSN sub-unit delivers a bop with some major Orange Caramel vibes and I am here for it.
#14. Sahara – Dreamcatcher
Love Dreamcatcher and their atypical rock girl group concept. There were quite a few 2020 releases that could have made the list (most notably Boca), but I went with Sahara. My favorite Dreamcatcher song this year, and a fun self-made video presumably shot around the HappyFace Entertainment offices.
#13. Bazooka – GWSN
The Chocome sub-unit made the list at #15, and the main GWSN lands here at #13 with Bazooka, a song that really grew on me.
#12. Riff Raff – Band 88
And now for something completely different, an under the radar indie synth band with a terrific song reminiscent of New Order.
#11. Ullaeli Kkollaeli – 1Team
I really dislike the MV (and can never spell or pronounce the name), but really do like this song from the boys who brought us the equally great Make This.
#10. End of Spring – ONEWE
It may surprise you to learn that ONEWE is not, in fact, a sub-unit of ONEUS despite the bewilderingly similar names and the fact that both groups are under the RBW umbrella. The song is called End of Spring but it feels more like the perfect summer song to me.
#9. Hide and Seek – Loona
This was the year I discovered Loona, the Odd Eye Circle sub-unit, and the complex fan theories on the Loonaverse. B-side darling Star just missed this list, but two songs in the Top 20 is a pretty good showing nevertheless. No official MV released for this particular song so let’s go with the bass boosted version.
#8. Dingga – Mamamoo
I’m a big fan of Mammoo. Their commitment to individual empowerment and fun is unparalleled. The ladies were very busy this year, releasing an EP as well as various solo projects, but Dingga was my favorite single in that it (and the official MV) does such a good job of showcasing all four unique personalities, something HIP did equally well back in 2019.
#7. Alien – Suhyun
This is another one that really grew on me over time. Love the bass intro, the vocals, and, of course, the kitschy sci-fi trappings of the MV.
#6. Pporappippam – Sunmi
Another unpronounceable and impossible to spell title, yet by far Sunmi’s best song. Hey, I really liked Gashina, but this one is tops.
#5. Teddy Bear – Natty
Well, this is a surprise. The uber-cutesy Natty’s uber-cutesy song makes my top five. It’s one of those tracks that I’ll never skip over so it rightly deserves its high ranking. P.S. The MV is pretty uber-cutesy too.
#4. Why Not? – Loona
Some have criticized the decision to make this the lead single off the 12:00 EP and while I respect their opinion, they are, of course, wrong. This is a terrific song that builds in impressive fashion, then pays off beautifully at the 3:04 mark. After the first time I heard it, Why Not was on replay for a lot longer than I’d care to admit.
#3. Ready Or Not – Momoland
Momoland can do no wrong (although I do miss Daisy, Taeha, and Yeonwoo). Baam remains my #1 favorite K-Pop bop, but Ready Or Not ranks right up there with Bboom Bboom, I’m So Hot, and Thumbs Up.
#2. More – Youra (featuring Giriboy)
Amid all of the flashier more polished entries in this Top 20, here’s the grossly under appreciated Youra sitting in the #2 spot with an assist from Giriboy. This song, and her voice, are simply magical. Absolutely love it.
#1. Wannabe – Itzy
Itzy made a huge splash in 2019 with their debut single Dalla Dalla followed by the even more popular Icy (although I’d argue B-side track It’z Summer is an overlooked gem and the best track on the EP). In 2020, they’re back with not one but TWO EP’s. I love Not Shy (having acquired an even greater appreciation after watching the ladies sing a live Christmas edition, in wacky costumes, while decorating a Christmas tree), but Wannabe is my favorite in their discography, and my favorite song of 2020. I cannot get enough of that dance break at the 2:31 mark.
As I mentioned off the top, there were a lot of really solid tracks released in 2020 but I limited myself to my top 20. Still, if you’re curious too see what made my wider list – or looking to expand your K-Pop horizons – might I suggest you check out my K-Pop Ultimate playlist over on spotify: