Kpopalypse’s 30 favourite k-pop songs of 2019

Hello caonimas!  It’s time for the most anticipated post of the year on Kpopalypse blog – it’s time for Kpopalypse to count down his favourite songs of 2019!

Although serial haters will always try to stigmatise Kpopalypse as “negative”, the fact is that 2019 was a great year for k-pop and I have a big-time POSITIVE attitude about sharing this list of my favourite songs with you, my lovely readers!  The gradual dying down of certain annoying k-pop trends has really helped improve song quality across the board.  While we’re certainly not at Golden Age levels, there’s no denying that competition for this list was very tough and many songs that I really liked don’t appear anywhere on this list or even the honourable mentions!

New readers, or readers who are easily confused, may wish to read the following dot points, which make clear this list’s scope and intentions:

  • Songs are eligible if they were released between 1st January 2019 and 31st December 2019, although the cutoff does extend a little bit prior to both dates to catch songs that were released in the dying days of the previous year.  This list was published on 31st December 2019 but may appear earlier for some readers due to timezones.
  • Songs for OSTs are not eligible for this list, not that they’re ever much good anyway.
  • Songs for festive and sporting events are not eligible.  Christmas songs have their own list, and sporting songs are ignored entirely for the greater good and advancement of society.
  • Chart performance, cultural relevance, award acquisition, the attractiveness of the members, what they ate for breakfast etc is not relevant for this list and are only commented on for “narrative colour”.  This list is my 100% subjective opinion on music quality only and is purely reflective of my own personal taste, it does not constitute an authority of any kind.
  • “K-pop” is deliberately defined a little loosely for this list – songs that aren’t strictly “pop” are eligible. Songs from Koreans trying to break into non-Korean markets are eligible. Western attempts at “being a k-pop” are also eligible.
  • I write these lists for fun, good times, the joy of sharing good music with others, an easy way to collect songs that I like so I can play them later, and as a fun writing exercise because I enjoy writing.  If you’re enjoying these lists for what they are (harmless subjective opinion, expressed with twisted cunty humour) then cheers to you and I appreciate your support and readership!  However if you hate it, then I question why you are here at all.  There are thousands of sites on the Internet that are devoted to k-pop, and they all have lists like this, so why are you sitting here reading the only one written by an asshole?  The fact that Kpopalypse remains an enduringly popular site after seven years indicates that maybe people do appreciate my style of humour and the opinions expressed with direct honesty (as opposed to the sugar-coated fluff that other sites peddle so as not to offend their reader base and sponsors) more than you might think, and that maybe if I followed your dumbass advice to “fix my tone”, then that would actually be to nobody’s benefit.  I write the way I want to write because I simply enjoy doing so, I’m not going to change, and you know this, so why are you really here?
  • On the other hand if this post was too sunny, bright and positive for you, you may wish to consider reading my worst k-pop songs of 2019 list instead so you can feel appropriately miserable.

Without further ado, let’s get the list started!


 

Kpopalypse’s 30 favourite k-pop songs of 2019

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30. Honey Popcorn – De-aeseohsta

It’s unfortunate that Gfriend didn’t have quite as good a year as I was hoping for in 2019, but Honey Popcorn have managed to bust out with a song that is not only miles better than their own disappointing and honestly fairly crap debut “Bibidi Babidi Boo“, but is also very similar to and just a little bit better than anything Gfriend managed this year.  It’s a shame that “De-aeseohsta” wasn’t Honey Popcorn’s debut song, as the group coming out with something that sounds this good straight out of the gate would have prevented a lot of people from writing off the group as “JAV stars doing k-pop cosplay”… or maybe it wouldn’t have, seeing as how many k-pop fans don’t actually care about music on anything more than an incidental, symbolic level.  Of course the dance moves, studio polish and cinematography are still a bit rough and certainly nowhere near Gfriend’s level, but as a 100% self-directed and self-funded k-pop group that is truly independent, it’s a very worthy try and certainly close enough to the mark to not look or sound embarrassing for anyone involved.  Group leader Yua Mikami has been heavily invested in k-pop even before this group debuted, and her genuine passion for the musical style pays dividends with her good taste in k-pop coming to the fore.  While she probably didn’t write the song, it was no doubt either hand-selected by her or written to her specifications, and as a result “De-aeseohsta” bubbles along quite pleasantly in the usual Gfriend/early SNSD/early Apink template with tons of cleverly-crafted melody that’s reminiscent of the very pop end of Cocteau Twins in places, some outstanding bass guitar work, and absolutely no concessions to recent lame trends or awkward left turns into some bullshit style that doesn’t belong.  It’s amazing how well this type of product can be created when it’s driven by people with an actual passion for it, rather than people who are being locked up into cells, starved and tortured.  Say what you want about some of the girls’ eclectic career choices, if you’re genuinely concerned about the moral vacuum of the k-pop industry and really wanted to get behind some idols who are making the system work to their benefit, you could do a lot worse than Honey Popcorn.

29. TXT – Run Away

Hey look everybody, it’s global k-pop sensation BTS with their new song, finally they’ve gotten on a Kpopalypse top 30 list!  It’s about fucking time that all their hard work finally paid off… oh wait, what – this isn’t BTS?  Oh right, it’s some other boy group on the same label that BigHit have floated because they’re far too scared to run a girl group concurrently with BTS.  Typical k-pop marketing wisdom dictates that agencies will generally have one girl group and one boy group running semi-concurrently, so they can maximise the income of their fanbases along gender lines, but clearly BigHit didn’t think it was a good idea to run any girls at the same time as BTS.  Understandable too – given how completely batshit fucking insane the BTS fandom are and how notorious they are for hate-mongering, violence and bullying even their own allies, can you possibly imagine the amount of hate a girl group would receive just for existing in the same building as BTS?  ARMYs would be mailing them “food support” filled with rat poison, teddy bears with exploding acid bombs inside, setting IEDs to detonate when their van drives down the highway to a schedule – no k-pop agency has the infrastructure to deal with all that, so who can blame BigHit for taking the soft option by floating another male group rather than trying to deal with the pointy end of the world’s most toxic, hive-minded and cult-like music fanbase.  So when you listen to this simple but effective 6/8-time four-chord pop song with driving rhythms, lush sonic layering and soaring catchy melodies which musically recall some of the better boy groups from k-pop’s golden age, just remember that if any other agency was involved, this song would have been brought to you from a girl group instead.  This might help you appreciate the song more if you have an inherent bias against boy groups, as many of my readers do.  However I personally have no such bias and I’m happy to have any boy group sit in these favourites lists – but they have to earn their way like anybody else with great songs like “Run Away”, not by just having a fandom who is really co-ordinated at bullying people off social networking although of course I wouldn’t know anything about that ahem.

28. AOA – Come See Me

Seriously, I don’t even know who these girls are.  Okay, that blonde one who says “hey” a lot, I do recognise her, that’s Jimin from AOA (Ace Of Angels), that fun group you might remember from FNC Entertainment who started off with a cool rock band image, and then transitioned into one of the leading purveyors of the “sexy concept” when it became clear that the Korean public would rather see minskirts than guitars (as if musical instruments don’t massively increase anyone’s sex appeal – clearly FNC have rocks in their heads but can’t argue with success I guess).  As for the rest of them, who the fuck knows who any of these girls are or where they’re from.  They do seem to resemble the original AOA girls to some minor degree, as their replacements in the group perhaps they’ve styled themselves to resemble the original girls in some kind of tribute and to not make it too jarring for fans.  Anyway if any of them are reading this, can they please pass the message onto the original members wherever they are that I really liked “Come See Me” as it’s a throwback to the style of some of the better AOA songs that Bravesound wrote for them back in the day, with its four-chord simplicity, surprisingly guitar-heavy backings and reliance on catchy melody over stupid gimmicks.  They could have lost that idiotic trap breakdown of course (I suppose in 2019 every fucking song has to have one of these – dare I suggest a cameo drum solo from ex-member Youkyung next time instead) and the quacking duck echo noise in the pre-chorus, but apart from that I can’t find much to dislike about this and I hope that wherever you girls are that life is good for you and you’re actually making some money now, whether you had anything to do with this song or not.

27. Hong Jin Young – Love Tonight

Hong Jin Young goes full 1980s drum machine synth pop complete with Steve Harris style galloping synth bassline and the results are cool.  Do you know that she finally released her first full length album “Lots Of Love” earlier this year, and she’s done what all artists should do with their full albums but don’t, which is compile all their quality songs that you actually want into one collection that you can play through from start to finish without puking?  I did mention this when this song came out, but it’s worth mentioning again, because this is what all k-pop artists should be doing.  Typical modus operandi of the kpoposphere instead is to release one “feature” track plus a whole ton of dicksucking filler bullshit to fill up space, that filler usually being a combination of shit ballads and less-good generic songs that were rejected for feature track status, plus a worthless remix or two of the feature track which is barely any different and certainly not any better.  Then once all you suckers have effectively bought the entire album for that one good song you wanted, they release the same fucking album again with another feature track tacked onto the front and a slightly different-looking booklet with new photos, all of which they could have given you the first time around but didn’t because k-pop agencies are right down there with rapists, neo-Nazis and Scott Morrison in terms of moral values and want to milk you for all the money that they can by drip-feeding you content.  Sorry I got a little sidetracked here and haven’t discussed Hong Jin Young’s great song here much but that’s self-evident anyway, just fucking listen to it.  Also why aren’t any k-pop women doing bass covers of Iron Maiden songs, I searched and searched for someone like Ayeon doing “The Trooper” but on the bass and couldn’t find anyone.  Don’t neglect the bass guitar, k-pop girls – it’s scientific fact that playing bass guitar increases attractiveness more than plastic surgery.  I feel like this is an important issue in the world today, someone should start a petition.

26. SUV (Shindong & UV) – Cheer Man

I don’t know much about what’s actually going on here, other than that “Cheer Man” is an obvious sequel to UV and Shindong’s “Marry Man” from 2017.  “Cheer Man” is unfortunately not quite as good but it is however still very similar and contains the same strengths that “Marry Man” also possessed, both being anthemic synth-driven upbeat pop songs with a huge focus on balls-out rocking and some equally stomach-out dance moves from UV and Shindong (who unfortunately doesn’t fall on his ass this time, but still looks appropriately ridiculous).  Pink Fantasy as the backup dancers is definitely an inspired addition, with Daewang taking the guitar solo, or at least pretending to while the actual solo is played by some faceless SM session musician, but hey at least her guitar shoots fire, plus there’s acrobatics, rock music and lots of fun so who really cares how this was made, by who or why.  The song is so much fun that it even managed to side-step the usual tedious “racism” controversies that many international k-pop fans seem to love, but then perhaps cosplaying as 1980s Michael Jackson might not actually technically constitute “blackface” in the eyes of the wokeNet, given how far along his skin bleaching routine was at that time.  For once k-pop fans didn’t overthink their superficial corporate rubber-stamped entertainment and just enjoyed “Cheer Man” for what it is – a big ball of blubbery stupid fun.

25. Platform Stereo – Whale

Unlike a lot of commercial k-pop productions where the aesthetic guideline is often “more is more”, Platform Stereo’s “Whale” is completely stripped back and mantra-like in its simplicity, with very repetitive lyrics and only two chords, but it works.  The song is so deliberately musically basic, that when something unusual occurs, like the waves of saturated distortion, or the snare drum that falls on the offbeat every other bar through most of the verse, the sensory effect is heightened.  It’s really a song that invites the listener to get right inside it and listen for the small details, which is an approach that a lot of other songwriters this year in all genres could learn from.  On top of that it’s good to know that Jang Moonbok isn’t the only male with long hair in Korea – I had long hair myself throughout the 1990s so I immediately empathise with scruffy looking dudes in rock bands who probably don’t have girls talk to them much (it’s not the drawcard you think, gents – from experience I can tell you that only a small niche of women prefer it).  Hey because Platform Stereo are nugu as shit here’s their Bandcamp with some early singles and here is their new album on Apple music so you could give them money if you wanted.  Tell them Kpopalypse sent you.

24. Taeyeon – Four Seasons

So, let me tell you about a random Kpopalypse follower called Annie.  Annie is an avid reader of Kpopalypse blog.  Annie is also a musician, a self-described “cute caonima”, and “quite easily the biggest Taeyeon fan out of all your readers and in general” – these are her words, which I will take on face value, due to not having met or even seen her and therefore having no evidence for or against these claims.  What I do know however, is that as a Taeyeon fan, Annie has had to put up with me shitting on crappy Taeyeon song after crappy Taeyeon song through the years, however Annie continues to remain unbothered by my continual dumping on Taeyeon, and continues to read Kpopalypse blog with enthusiasm.  Annie does not feel compelled to leave posts on social networks about how I’m “invalidating her fave’s achievements” or being “edgy” or “deliberately antagonistic”, just because I dare to have a divergent opinion and express it in a sometimes-coarse manner.  Annie does not automatically downvote and file false rule-violation reports on my content and statements when she sees them appear in various places on the Internet.  Annie does not fraternise with other Kpopalypse haters and share out-of-context content in order to strawman myself as someone that I am not.  How is this possible?  Is Annie a masochist?  Does Annie hate herself?  Does Annie have “internalised Anniesogony”?  No, Annie is just a smart, erudite person, who has learned that the humour on this blog is for entertainment purposes only, and that all opinions on music are always subjective.  Annie appreciates the content and useful information of Kpopalypse blog, and has learned to consume the educational content as education, the satirical content as satire, the silly jokes as silly, and the opinionated content as opinion.  As a result, while the news that Taeyeon’s simple but well-crafted acoustic reggae-lite k-pop jam “Four Seasons” has a top 30 placing this year will no doubt please her as a Taeyeon fan, she won’t overly invest herself emotionally in this opinion, just like she hasn’t emotionally invested herself in any opinions I’ve had on other Taeyeon songs in the past, whether those opinions be positive or negative.  Likewise, if Taeyeon releases a new song next week that Annie feels is her artistic and career highlight, and I refer to it as a festering walrus turd, Annie will remain true to form and proceed about her day without any undue concern over someone else’s subjective opinion of this musical experience.  Imagine all the peace of mind she must have, to not feel the need to overly concern herself with some random blogger’s opinions.  Wouldn’t it be good to be like Annie?

23. Love X Stereo – Call My Name

Okay so this video is a bit shit, isn’t it.  However before we castigate Love x Stereo for a complete and total lack of effort, let’s all remember one thing – independent Korean musicians are broke as fucking fuck, even the relatively wealthy ones like Love x Stereo don’t have much funds to go around.  All those videos of little kids saying “please sir, I want some more” that the UK’s Labour party spammed on social networking before the Tories inevitably got re-elected anyway, those kids probably still have more regular income than your favourite Korean independent artist.   The reason why so many people make the deal with the devil and choose to work within the idol system is because it’s very slim pickings outside of that system for nearly everybody in Korea, just ask Korean Indie who probably has to deal with these people begging him for food scraps on a weekly basis.  So I’m going to be grateful for this video even though I’m colourblind and it gives me a headache, because it’s honestly impressive that some independent Korean artists can afford music videos at all.  Once I’ve taken some ibuprofen and paracetamol and given it an hour or so to kick in, I find that it’s not really that bad a visual accompaniment to the fantastic song which has some great instrumentation, a killer second chorus section and is by far the best thing this group have ever done.  The vocal melodies actually don’t start off being all that great, but stick with it and I guarantee you that by the two minute mark you’ll be in love and you’ll be begging whoever did the Hotline Miami games to do a third one just so “Call My Name” can be in it.  The only real problem with it is that the instrumental highlight at 1:51 only happens once in the entire song, but that’s not such a bad fault for a song to have as it just means that you’ll just be rewinding this and playing it again and again like a crazy k-pop streamer following some arcane “how to make your faves popular” instructions.  Sounds like a good idea to me, let’s all pitch in and help Love x Stereo reach that important milestone of 87,582,228 YouTube views and maybe next time they can come back with something that doesn’t just sound great, but also looks better than an Amiga 500 graphics demo.

22. Hyo – Badster

Hyoyeon isn’t the only k-popper to go full industrial-dance this year, but she’s possibly the person that I would have considered least likely to go in this direction, I doubt that anyone looked at her back in 2007 just debuting in Girls’ Generation and thought to themselves “yep that one there is definitely going to transform into a full cyber-goth raver in about 12 years”.  The result is a much greater success than anyone would reasonably expect, the combination of the computer game visuals and EBM groove obviously recall your goth-rave faves and I’m pretty sure there’s some people in Germany wearing fake leather oxygen masks and dancing under a freeway overpass to this song as I type.  The more traditional k-pop vocal sections do break things up with some familiar territory to dilute the fun but probably the thing that makes “Badster” work the most is that for the most part it’s just machine noise and Hyoyeon is barely even in it.  She certainly couldn’t be fucked rocking up to the video shoot as anything more than a computer simulation of herself, which is a grand idea actually, and makes me wonder if I could do the same and reprogram Chuu+ to write the entirety of Kpopalypse roundup each week for me.  Chuu+ already posts out songs from all my favourites list (now including this one) whenever she runs out of instances of people searching “jihyo twice boobs” and “goo hara sex tape” to retweet, so I think it would be only a small stretch to make her comb Reddit/kpop, scoop up all the new shit and write a weekly blog with “fuck this shitty song” under each video.  Now that really would be “badster”, whatever the fuck that word is supposed to mean.

21. Eunjung – Desire

I guess I’m going to have to accept that the best group in k-pop’s history are finally dead, and really, that’s totally fine, they had a good run, longer than most.  It’s suddenly become a lot easier to deal with the fact that we probably won’t see T-ara back together anytime soon, if ever, now that Eunjung has gone full Dreamcatcher mode on all of us.  All the other recent T-ara member solo songs lately has been total bullshit, including the nonsense that Eunjung was doing immediately before this song, so seeing this very severe 180 degree turnaround from her was highly unexpected and extremely welcome.  I don’t really care that this is for the Japanese market, just like I don’t care that the total sum of musical innovation in this song is precisely zero, because Eunjung has just finally knuckled down and done a good thing well.  “Desire” has all the elements that matter – fast tempo, lots of guitars, great melody, the usual 57 chord changes per song that j-pop never quite gets right but Koreans copying the Japanese pop style usually do, completely bonkers shredding guitar and piano solos and most importantly Eunjung herself.  There’s simply nobody in k-pop who wears a suit or a leather jacket quite like Eunjung, and the music video is all about letting you know this simple fact, with the directors clearly having come to the correct conclusion that they didn’t need much else in their video apart from this to make it interesting.  I’m going to start a new adjective which is “Eunjunged”: to be “Eunjunged” is to be a female who is given “more stereotypically masculine than usual for a k-pop” clothes to wear and managing to make it your best ever look to the point where even the problematic heterosexual bloggers take notice.

20. Swervy ft. Reddy – Art Gang Money

This year’s standout female rapper is Swervy (aka the only new rapper on Hi-Lite Records worth a shit), who actually had more than one decent track this year, but “Art Gang Money” is easily her best effort so far.  Swervy displays a similar lyrical style to Azaelia Banks here, spitting out rapid-fire lines that pair well with the fast-paced but very dark sounding backing track which is all growling sub-bass and static, and fortunately Swervy doesn’t have Azaelia’s annoying tendency to break up her quite-decent raps with dull R&B singing so the track stays tough and uncompromising throughout.  Swervy also raps enough of her lines in English for me to detect that yes she does actually have rap writing skill, which certainly helps the listening experience along somewhat, even if I’m still not completely sure what the song is actually about.  She easily outshines Reddy, who is given far too much of the track, his contribution sounds rather lazy in comparison and I would have preferred another verse of just Swervy, but I get that everybody in rap has to do these pointless collaborations so they can prove their whole “label gang” thing is real plus net some views from the crossover fans of the other artist.  Now here’s hoping that Swervy can learn the other important lesson from Azaelia’s career and stay the fuck off social networking so she doesn’t derail her potential fame fast-track by getting cancelled for breathing and having an opinion.  I can dream.

19. K-Tigers Zero – Side Kick

K-pop taekwondo team K-Tigers have so far been the only k-pop group to truly capture the spirit of what I always felt that groups like H.O.T were going for back in early idol days with songs like “We Are The Future“.  It was all very well back then for H.O.T to sing about overcoming the obstacles laid down by the older generation, but they paired this message with music that was so incredibly pissweak and produced so poorly that it was far too easy to side with their boomer parents and just tell them to fucking cut their hair and get a proper job.  K-Tigers instead channel their message of positivity and youth affirmation through the power of much more dynamic, powerful and polished music, and convey a lot more sincerity as a result, especially given that the message is coming from martial artists who probably do actually have youth empowerment as a real part of their agenda as many dojos do.  Of course including martial arts moves that are too difficult for even the most nimble of regular k-pop groups certainly heightens the appeal, even if some of those extended instrumental sections are obviously there just so the boys and girls of K-Tigers Zero have a chance to show off their moves.  I’m fine with it – I’ll take martial arts wank over vocal wank any day, and it’s nice to be able to follow a k-pop group that works as hard as any other but probably also gets to eat occasionally.

18. CLC – Show

As usual all Korean albums released this year were such pathetic dogshit crammed with filler junk that I could barely even stay awake long enough to listen more than halfway through any of them, so please don’t fucking ask me shit about whether I liked your favourite album because the answer is invariably going to be “who the fuck cares, I fell asleep cunt”.  It’s up to artists and their agencies to put their best foot forward, if they can’t do that it’s not my problem, I just don’t have time to comb through every album ever.  One of the only albums that I did manage to get all the way through this year was CLC’s “No.1”, and that’s because it’s fairly short, and it also has tracks on it like “Show”.  For some reason CLC are once again doing great live stages for incredibly catchy songs that don’t even get a fucking music video because their label executives who make these decisions are too busy trying to suck their own dicks like that guy in Shortbus, but I suppose in 2019 we should probably just be grateful if agencies manage to refrain from either suing their own talent or shoving them in a van and sending them over to YG’s nightclubs.  That three-chord progression with the bold keys is the obvious highlight, and it’s great to hear some solid, bouncy keyboard riffs in k-pop songs again and not the usual toot toot squirt squirt nonsense we’ve been putting up with over the last couple of years from just about everybody.  The vocal hooks over the top are direct and no-nonsense with no wasted singing, and sure the verses and pre-chorus don’t amount to all that much in comparison but with such a killer payoff it barely matters.  Now explain to me again how (G)I-dle get all the gigs that CLC should be getting, where’s CLC’s cheesy League Of Legends theme song, that’s what I want to know.  Sidebar Sorn Soraka is a skin idea that needs to happen.

17. Kim Sawol – Bloody Wolf

Some k-pop nugus are so nugu that even I don’t know anything about them.  I’ve never heard of Kim Sawol before, and I figure that most other people also haven’t heard of her, as her song and video for “Bloody Wolf” definitely betrays a severe lack of budget and promotional reach, I think they blew over half the video’s budget just on acquiring that impressive-looking sniper rifle.  Nevertheless I fancy “Bloody Wolf” as a cheap lo-fi retreatment of Puer Kim’s “Manyo Maash”, and while it’s not quite as powerful and emotionally arresting as that song, it definitely touches on similar aspects that I like, such as the mellow surf guitar and the retro rock beat.  The mood of Kim Sawol’s song is a lot more downtempo and folksy, but it really works, especially in the chorus which takes a little too long to appear but is worth the wait with gorgeous countermelody in the chimes pairing really well with Kim’s quite deliberately dry and unaffected vocals.  It’s the sort of chorus that you would never hear from a big k-pop label as they would probably find a way to ruin it by adding too much high-production gloss and endless vocal layers, plus a pointless mood-wrecking high note somewhere just to show off what great singers they have on their roster.  Everybody likes chilli sauce, except the people who don’t, but nobody likes a big bowl of only chilli sauce, and it’s certainly a lot more preferable to just get the hamburger.

16. Stray Kids – Side Effects

Well, this wasn’t expected.  I got the sense that something was going to be a bit different about this track from the moment it started, with the scene of the boys from Stray Kids meeting up at the bus stop for bro-pats and casual shopping trolley theft paired with a weird horror-film style backing track.  Proceedings didn’t become any more normal when the song started, with the group chanting and dancing along to some jackhammer 6/8 electro-industrial track which is fucking weird and fucking great.  Some vague sense of k-pop normality intrudes with the mellow bridging sections, the first one being heard at 1:23, but all they really do is provide a light interlude so when the cyber-EBM stomp comes back in it pummels you in the kidneys even more than it usually would.  I’m not so sure about the choice of visuals, the boys try to look about as genre-appropriate as one can reasonably manage while standing in a green field wearing silly jumpers, I guess the usual fashion style and cinematography that typically goes along with this kind of music might be a little bit much for Stray Kids’ fanbase.  I definitely get the impression that whoever the songwriters were, they didn’t get the memo from JYP that they were writing for one of his k-pop boy groups and not the fluorescent cyberfalls crowd, but then the result is all the better for it so who’s complaining, certainly not me.

15. Dreamcatcher – Over The Sky

As one of k-pop’s best groups, and possibly the only active k-pop group with a clearly defined conceptual musical flavour, the thing that hurts the most about Dreamcatcher in 2019 and makes me so critical of them even while I’m enjoying their songs is the opportunity cost, because while they’re generally good, they could easily be exceptional.  For some reason Happyface can’t help themselves from doing stupid shit with them, like throwing in bits of other genres that we don’t want to hear from into their songs, shoving the guitars way, way in the background, and just generally making the girls behave in ways which don’t help them to separate themselves from any of the other k-pop groups out there, right when they should instead be capitalising on their difference from the pack.  I like rap and I also like Slayer, but when I listen to a Slayer album I want to hear Slayer, not a bunch of fucking rap guys damnit (unless they also sound like Slayer).  Likewise when I listen to Dreamcatcher I’m not interested in stupid ballads, softcock trap sections and reggae-lite, just give me the goddamn rock music already.  For all Babymetal’s faults at least the people behind the group understand what the appeal is and know how to target their specific audience, but Happyface just haven’t got a clue what they’ve got in their lap with Dreamcatcher or what to do with it all.  It’s almost like Dreamcatcher’s guitar-heavy sound and metal image was an accident that nobody wants to capitalise on, and I’m starting to become amazed that they even stumbled across the darker concept in the first place, seriously they might as well just throw in the towel and go back to being Minx at this point.  Still, their label did give us this one last gift, with “Over The Sky” seemingly being the last hurrah of the early guitar-heavy Dreamcatcher sound, at least for the time being until their agency rediscovers a fucking clue.  The guitars are still mostly present in the mix, the song never really loses the pace or the soaring melody, the driving rhythmic changes are really special and the only weak point is a slightly pointless rap section (a guitar solo would have been better suited but oh well).  Of course this wasn’t the feature track, was it – oh no, they had to go with “Piri” instead because everything for popular consumption has to be slow-paced and spliced up with bullshit trap music now, but at least we got this cheap-ass video of Dreamcatcher prancing around in the park which is outstanding mainly for the fact that it demonstrates just how much better Gahyeon looks than everyone else in the group.  I’m sure that scumbags Happyface confiscated her jelly doughnuts quicksmart after this video was taken and put her back on the “one egg and two tablespoons of brown rice salad per day” diet, but it’s good to have this video to remember that Gahyeon wasn’t an anemic waif at least once during her career, and it’s also good to see that Dreamcatcher themselves are occasionally almost allowed to be the blazing metal group that their image keeps promising but never quite delivering on.

14. S.I.S – Always Be Your Girl

Gfriend come back with another great song for… oh wait, this isn’t Gfriend?  A lot of groups seems to be stealing Gfriend’s turf and improving on it this year, which I suppose is only fair given that Gfriend stole it from debut-era Girls’ Generation, who in a weird twist of fate stole it themselves from Australian 1990s girl group Girlfriend.  If this pattern continues maybe S.I.S will be the new group to run with this particular sound and then it’ll be stolen back again in ten years by some new group called Friendgirl.  Anyway S.I.S have the best version of whatever the fuck you want to call this particular type of k-pop this year (“not complete shit” works for me), with smooth keyboards, great Gfriend-at-their-best tier melodies especially in that hugely winning chorus, and not too many concessions to what’s trendy right now.  Occasionally there’s that dreaded squirt noise that every k-pop song has to have in it somewhere in 2019 for some reason but it never really gets in the way in a huge fashion, and the song is largely left alone to be the kind of song that you wish more girl groups were making lately.  There’s nothing at all particularly innovative or different about “Always Be Your Girl” and that’s actually its main strength, this is the kind of k-pop song you go to when you just want to hear something that is 100% a k-pop song, and 0% that which is not a k-pop song.  As readers of a k-pop blog I think it’s fair to assume you’re possibly interested in that.

13. Kim Soo Chan – You & Me

Trot songs are at their best when they’re just a pile of fucking brainless idiotic fun, and “You & Me” is as good example of that as just about anything else out there.  Kim Soo Chan honestly looks just a little scary, like someone my age but who has got such a finely-honed skin-care routine and plastic surgeon that he can actually pass for 25 years old, but no he actually is 25, apparently.  I suppose you’ve got Yeonwoo in the video to look at if his appearance lands as deeply in your uncanny valley as it does in mine, and boy did people fucking notice her, scroll down the YouTube comments and see if you can find someone who isn’t discussing either Yeonwoo, or the fact that everyone else is discussing Yeonwoo.  Anyway fuck all that because this song is great, a very dated sounding but still very rocking trot number with all the greatest aspects of the genre correct and present.  Cheesy 1990s techno-pop keyboard stabs, random distorted guitar solo-ettes, stomping uptempo drum machine rhythms, the usual stopping-the-beat-for-emphasis and a completely brains-off circle-of-fifths chorus progression with catchy repetitive vocal hooks that won’t leave your head in a hurry – it’s all there and it’s all quality.  It’s such a good song that it’s even almost possible to tolerate Kim Soo Chan’s super-awkward facial expressions and that’s saying quite a lot because there’s one cringe moment per ten seconds on average in this video.  Apparently the average human only uses about three different facial expressions for most of their communication, but Kim Soo Chan has at least a dozen and he’s not shy about using them, good luck not falling for his charms – let’s see if he rises in next year’s objectification survey results.

12. Macho King – Credit Utopia

This year’s “left off the previous year’s list because it snuck into the release schedule right when the New Year’s firecrackers were going off” song is from Macho King, a group that I can find no information about anywhere.  Who the fuck these people are, I don’t know, but they have an album out which I haven’t heard and “Credit Utopia” is the feature track from it.  The song starts off not that spectacular, like any typical slow Korean rock song… or so I thought.  I’ve got to admit that the snappy-dressed members fooled me a bit by donning the same suits and ties that any ballad singer or office worker would wear, only the red pointy bass guitar and studded leather strap give any sense that maybe something unusual is afoot and that we’re not going to be in typical Korean ballad territory for long.  Then at about 1:50 it happens – the soft-rock vibe is swiftly dumped for some quality heavy guitar riffs and the song then proceeds to out-mosh any “fake metal” k-pop group ever and quite a large percentage of Korea’s real rock groups for that matter.  They don’t even bother with a verse once the songs really kicks off, instead just alternating between the catchy “cu-re-dit yew-tow-pee-ah” chorus hook and some seriously face-melting guitar solos that would make most of Korea’s boring coffee shop “rock bands” shit their pants.  This type of power metal sound is really rare in Korea, and it’s even rarer to hear it executed this well.  Maybe we should all go out and buy their music so we can get a follow up album and rock out some more, because I’m sure these guys earn even less than your favourite B-tier k-pop combo, plus they must get sweaty rocking out in those chunky three-piece suits and could probably use a freshen up and a wardrobe change.

11. Teen Teen – It’s On You

Featuring possibly one of the worst names for a k-pop group this side of Fin.K.L, Teen Teen have an amazing song, which if you ask me is presented in completely the wrong way.  The closest parallel for “It’s On You” that I can think of in the recent k-pop world is Fanatics-Flavor’s fantastic “Milkshake” – both songs present an image of pure aegyo in the lyrics and music video, but sonically they’re completely different underneath the surface.  I’m sure that the gaudy colours, weird space/pilot/whatever the fuck concept and cringe dancing will appeal to a lot of k-pop fans completely desensitised to this kind of thing, but for me it’s a distraction – I feel like the video directors could have gone with just about any visual presentation apart from this one and it would have matched this upbeat but oddly melancholy song a lot better.  The musical tone is set by the instrumental before any vocals even start, and all the singing that happens from that point onward is really just there to complement the backing rather than the other way around, with the boys of Teen Teen mainly talking their way through the key sections and singing chord notes for most of the rest, letting the synth do the melodic work.  It’s a formula that works well even though almost nobody ever uses it, and it’s a little weird to hear a vocal melody which is mainly arpeggios between the spoken bits but it’s also really cool and different.  The only real missed opportunity here is the group name, since there’s three of them they could have called them “Teen Teen Teen”.  You’re still thinking about that purple-haired guy from N.Tic, aren’t you.

10. Twice – Fancy

“Fancy” was a worldwide smash-hit that was enjoyed by everyone from computer nerds to martial arts performers and everyone in between, and if anything I feel like JYP should have given Twice a bit of a hiatus after this track came out just to milk the gradually increasing virality of it as well as give anxiety-ridden Mina a much-needed break.  With that iconic chorus and a unique swinging arm gesture as recognisable as the “Abracadabra hip swing” or the “Roly Poly hand dance” this is a package that was built for virality in a similar sense to “Nobody” by Wonder Girls, I feel like they could have ridden the wave of this before moving onto the next thing so quickly.  Still, the Twice machine rolls onward with great success anyway, and who can really argue with it (arguing with the dumb-as-fuck “ignore bad things and they’ll go away” members of their fandom, now that’s another story).  I have to admit that I was a little bit scared when I first heard Nayeon sing the word “tropical” right at the start of the opening verse, “oh no, they’re finally going to do one of those songs”, I thought to myself.  Fortunately my fears were unfounded, I guess she was just trying to scare away the creepy German stalkers before the meat of the song began, but then knowing the luck the girls have had lately with creeps both outside and inside their own fandom, maybe he’s into that tropical shit.  The song gets better as it progresses anyway, culminating with an excellent two-part chorus where both sections are as good as each other, and with both halves featuring joyous wide-ranging melodies that are great fun to sing along with and which perfectly deliver on the sense of fun and brightness that the rest of the song promises.  It’s a pity that the music video is a bit of a garish eyesore, with JYP’s creative designers not quite pulling off “Twice dark mode”, but it really doesn’t matter because it’s so fucking catchy like an STD that you’re going to spend a hell of a lot more time singing this song to yourself inside your own head than watching the video anyway.  Let’s hope that JYP can keep the Twicecoaster on the rails and the girls away from the assholes long enough to deliver us at least one more song as good as this one.

9. CLC – No

“Independent woman” style songs have been around in k-pop since forever, and usually they’re pretty successful, because the songwriters naturally pick some kind of forthright musical statement to match the lyrical sentiment, which means uptempo bangers and not shit ballads or R&B (usually).  The only time they really struggle to get “pro-woman” content right consistently is with performers like Ailee or Mamamoo, where they always lean far too hard on the vocals because they have so much some vocal ability, but with most girl groups that isn’t really an issue because none of them can actually sing that well anyway.  Lack of vocal ability in k-pop is almost always a good thing for the music overall, it means that the songwriters are working within strict limitations, and the best “girls kicking ass” k-pop songs are the ones that know how to lowball the vocal histrionics and look elsewhere for their power.  Enter “No”, which is driving and foreceful because nobody is really being made to do anything all that vocally outlandish, so the singing takes a back seat to cruisy bass-heavy rhythms, chilling ambience, a melodically simple but effective chorus, and of course those iconic spoken phrases which absolutely deserve every inch of virality that was allocated to them.  A pity it’s all bullshit at the core and CLC are absolutely no more “independent” than any other k-pop group ever (let’s not forget what their agency are like), but they certainly make going along with the facade a hell of a lot of fun.

8. Bewhy – Gottasadae

Believe it or not, Kanye West isn’t all that well known where I live.  Sure, a few people vaguely remember him as “that idiot who acted like a dick to Taylor Swift before it was trendy to act like a dick to Taylor Swift“, and “the guy who was actually able to sit in a room with Donald Trump and be the bigger narcicist”, but beyond this he’s “that random guy who married a Kardashian” and most Australians don’t even know that Kanye makes music at all.  Arguably they’re right – Vox saw fit to do an entire video about the supposed virtues of Kanye’s style, and although they tried to put as positive a spin on it as possible, once you strip back the platitudes their conclusion was still essentially “this fuckwit loves the sound of his own voice so much that he is incapable of shutting up and actually making any music”.  So since Kanye isn’t really on the cultural radar of anybody I know, when Bewhy did this soundalike of Kanye’s pathetic “Black Skkkn Head“, a song which is three minutes of Kanye’s annoying whining over a Garry Glitter drumbeat with sound effects, the source material didn’t immediately register.  Fortunately, Bewhy has not only improved the original immensely (which wouldn’t be difficult, after all it’s from Kanye, who wouldn’t know what a good rap song was if it boom-bapped him in the nutsack), but turned it into one of the best things I’ve heard this year (which is considerably more impressive).  While the drum rhythm, lyrical meter and the general motifs of Bewhy’s song are all definitely very similar to Kanye’s (and deliberately so), the big difference is that Bewhy’s song has a payoff.  Where Kanye just whelps at random intervals whenever he finally runs out of words, Bewhy utilises a cool chorus with layered vocal harmony and distorted bass that doesn’t interrupt the flow but keep the pace up while adding a melodic twist that contrasts really effectively with the monotone verse and gives the song some much-needed light and shade.  Even the Autotuned vocals sit well here because they’re not allowed to sit front and center but are folded into the huge choral harmony part.  The icing on the cake is that it’s short – the song doesn’t overstay its welcome and you’re left at the end of the song hungry for more, which is fine because with rappers too little is always better than too much.

7. IU – Above The Time

Most Korean ballads are absolute fucking dogshit, and the reason why they suck so badly is that they are literally all exactly the same.  Sure the melody, instrumental and chord choices may differ somewhat, the performers may change, but everything always follows exactly the same emotional contour and is 100% written to formula.  It’s just like a generic Hollywood film where you always know that there’ll be a starting scene that establishes a powerful adversary, some initial small success from the hero that conveys his ability to take on the challenge, a setback somewhere in the middle where the hero questions his or her motivations and comes back renewed, an ultimate test and eventual triumph at the end and so on.  Once you’ve heard a few of these Korean ballads, you know exactly what to expect from each one, you know exactly where it’s going to get louder, you know exactly when they’ll add more strings or guitars, and just like the generic Hollywood film, if you have some music theory smarts you can pretty much write the entire thing yourself after hearing the first third of it.   So it’s really great to hear IU’s “Above The Time” which is a ballad that certainly shatters the typical k-pop ballad template.  Sure, like most Korean ballads the song is pretty heavily orchestrated, in this case it sounds like it was written by that same guy who has written a lot of her big hits like “You And I“, “The Red Shoes” as well as Gain’s “Carnival” etc, with a similarly epic feel, and it doesn’t deviate too much from normal ballad structure, but the devil is in the details.  Rather than pushing the vocals up in that generic ballad way with cheesy insulting-to-the-intelligence “look ma how good I can sing” high notes, our songwriter has IU perform relatively understated lines and instead lets the orchestrated brass and strings do much of the melodic work.  The instrumental choices aren’t just different but downright odd – I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard at a 32nd-note bassline in a chorus to any k-pop song in recent memory let alone a ballad, but having muted but very busy rhythms sit underneath IU’s very simple sustained notes is a really good idea that works wonders to give the song excitement while keeping the atmosphere intact without ruining things with a lot of vocal wank (which is what any other k-pop songwriter would do).  Great instrumental ideas happen all throughout the song, and the entire package works so well when it does work, the overall effect is astounding.  The only piece that doesn’t fit into the puzzle is that Irish dance breakdown which is just a little bit too out of left field to really flow with everything around it – they would have been better off going with something that complimented the rest of the song rather than seemingly forgetting about everything else and going on a wild musical tangent for thirty seconds, like if I stopped writing about the song in the middle of this sentence and started talking about how I’m really running out of hard drive room lately but I don’t have money to upgrade my computer yet, so I have to make choices like between Kanna Shinozaki and Natsuko Mishima and it’s doing my head in.  See how unnatural that felt?  Anyway at least it’s not another trap breakdown so let’s just be grateful for that.  Good work, IU.

6. Apink – %% (Eung Eung)

Apink’s “I’m So Sick” was a great song and one of the best of 2018, and you can read all about it in my list for that year.  Although it was hyped as a big musical change for the girls of Apink, actually it wasn’t anything of the sort – yes, the image was certainly different, but if the company put all the girls in frilly white dresses like they usually do, nobody would have even really noticed much difference at all because the music, while very good, was just the usual Apink stuff with a sprinkling of last year’s trendy production sonics.  I think this mass-misreading of “I’m So Sick” just goes to show how much people judge music by the visuals in k-pop, which nobody can really blame them for, after all it is a very strikingly visual-centric form of entertainment and the purpose of visuals is often precisely to mislead the listener in this way.  However if you close your eyes while listening to Apink’s catalogue, you’ll probably soon find that it’s “Eung Eung” which is the true musical departure for Apink, a song which sounds nothing like the Apink that came before, the Apink that came after, or anything else for that matter.  The star of the show is that weird keyboard riff with the smooth backing vocals and keys laid underneath, this is the actual hook of the song rather than anything the girls are actually singing in terms of lead vocal.  The chorus singing is even a bit meandering and dull in isolation, but it works great in context because it just serves to highlight the melodic power of the main riff each time it comes back, the “chorus” is actually the “pre-chorus” to the real chorus which is that riff.  Of course the image is still way off-kilter with a deliciously weird video featuring the girls piecing together an archetypical male out of spare parts in some weird rose-coloured Satanic CGI ritual, but this time the image is complimentary to the music rather than distracting, to the point where you may be liking the song so much that you don’t even realise what you’re looking at.  In fact I’m still not sure what I’m looking at, any more than I’m sure what I’m hearing, and I find new sonic elements to focus on each time I listen to this song.  “Eung Eung” pushes the limits of what makes a pop song pop, and the result works because somewhere buried underneath the weirdness it’s still the same thing we’ve always loved about k-pop, just upside down, back to front and sleeker than ever.

5. TVXQ – Hot Hot Hot

Every time I’ve done lists that touch on The Golden Age of K-pop and prior, people always have been quite vocal about the continual absence of anything from TVXQ.  “They were the biggest k-pop group for ages, how can you not even have an opinion?” I am often asked.  The answer is that my lists are not about popularity or cultural relevance, just about what I personally like, and TVXQ just never had anything that really grabbed me, most of their supposedly “iconic” early songs simply sound flat and dull to my ears.  TVXQ certainly picked up their game a bit as k-pop itself increased in global reach over the 2010s, but even their better more recent songs were somewhat ruined by some ill-advised trend-riding (dubstep, anyone?) and the feeling that SM were passing them offcuts and saving the better songs for their more high-profile groups.  Anyway now TVXQ fans can finally relax because in 2019 they came out with “Hot Hot Hot” and it’s a fucking ripsnorter of a song, with a bubbling, driving bass, tons of hooks and a big chorus that doubles down on the stomping energy in an era where the big k-pop chorus has largely been forgotten in favour of pissweak half-time drops and stupid rapping.  Yes the video is deliberately ugly as shit with the horrid green-screening and that fast-food vomit reddish-orange colour infusing everything (probably at the insistence of the hot dog franchise that the song was commissioned for as these colours are known to stimulate hunger) but don’t let any of that put you off, the music only improves as it progresses, and the result is by far the best song TVXQ have ever been involved with.  Maybe it’s not even a coincidence, perhaps writing a hot dog franchise sellout song was a low-pressure assignment with fewer rules than their usual comebacks, meaning that their songwriters could actually concentrate on the fucking job of writing a catchy cool song to make people waste money on fast food and get cancer and die instead of trying to figure out how the hell they’re going to shoehorn the latest bullshit pop trend into whatever the group are doing so they still sound “contemporary” or whatever.  Thank god for hyper-capitalist k-pop culture technology dicksuckitude, hey.

4. 015B & Jang Jane – Camellia Flower

Jane Jang/Jang Jane/whatever has always been bullshit, she’s on Lim Kim’s label and all her stuff just sounds exactly like Lim Kim’s early non-hits except even less interesting.  They even have similar voices, with that weird boxy larynx-pushed-down sound that k-pop’s vocally-obsessed audience always wank themselves to death over but that nobody actually wants to listen to, which is why they’re the only two people in the entirety of k-pop even doing that.  Anyway since Jane Jang has always been a trip to self-conscious indie snoozeville, I certainly didn’t expect her to start ripping shit up with O15B 1960s psychedelia style, but I definitely calmly accept this welcome change of pace.  “Camellia Flower” is a crazy, fast-paced Tarantino-soundtrack-worthy jam with cool retro instrumentation that is produced perfectly for the material, and even (dare I say it) top-shelf vocals that aren’t overdone for the material.  Jane sounds like she has all the ability of Janis Joplin but with a discipline and melodic restraint that the frequently overly improvisational and boring-as-fuck Janis never grasped.  In fact I don’t even like 1960s psychedelic music, but maybe I would if more of it was like this, it’s like someone extracted everything that was potentially good about that style but never realised by anybody because they were all too drug-fucked, and actually crafted a worthy song out of it.  Sometimes retro is cool because the wisdom of hindsight pays off when combined with technology of today making it easier to create art than ever before, and so these days you don’t need to die with a needle in your arm to make music better than someone who did.  The only thing I can even slightly pick on is Jane’s overacted zaniness in the music video, which is a bit hard to watch and a classic example of k-pop’s borrowing of aesthetics without context – someone should have told her that people only acted that way in 1970 because the drugs everyone was on ensured nobody would remember anything more than two days later – but that’s a really small criticism at the end of the day, because it’s still a great song and no amount of Warholesque art-school video-making can ruin it.

3. G-reyish – Candy

“Candy” came out right at the start of 2019 and for a long time was unbeatable, making me think that perhaps the 2019 favourite wasn’t going to change for the entire year.  Eventually I found a couple songs better than it, but in the meantime it’s still an amazing song that should have been more recognised at the time, but of course it wasn’t, because this is 2019 and we can’t have music quality being a determining factor in if something becomes popular.  Not that I give a crap, Like many of k-pop’s best girl group songs, “Candy” leans a little on Japanese idol pop’s harmonic complexity and instrumental choices, while simultaneously leaving behind the artless melodies and textural shrillness that characterise the way Japanese do pop music.  The result is a song that is bouncy, full of both sonic and visual aegyo (that for once doesn’t seem stupid because it actually fits the musical material), and rewarding through multiple listens, without being screechy or annoying like everything XYZABC48 and friends have ever released ever.  Also Yeso is the Korean Meg White with the greatest facial features I’ve ever seen on a Korean idol and if she ever gets a jawshave I’m going to cry into my White Stripes albums.  Actually I tell a lie, I don’t own any White Stripes albums because I sold them all to pay for everything from G-reyish ever.

2. Eyedi – & New

Some songs don’t seem that great at first and take a while for me to find something about them that’s truly appealing.  Eyedi’s “& New” is not one of those songs.  Right from the start of the very first listen I knew that this was going to be outstanding, with that amazingly good guitar riff driving it, truly it’s one of k-pop’s best-ever guitar parts – just the tone of the guitar on its own is delicious, the fact it’s playing some of the best shit I’ve ever heard in a pop song is just the icing.  Of course if the whole song sounded like that it would be a mess, but the haphazardly-chosen notes of the guitar sit really well against the deliberately simple bass and drums, giving the song just the right amount of detail without going overboard and being too messy, or going the other way and just being dull.  Eyedi’s vocal part is also really well written, with minimal variation and lots of musical space around each phrase, giving the excellent backing track tons of breathing room to carry the song forward.  The pitch wow/flutter that’s been slapped on everything to give it that 1980s tracking-control error sound is certainly a high-stakes gamble, it would have turned this into a nauseating puke-fest if it was thrown over something similarly retro but really spritzing like April’s “Oh! My Mistake“, but in this dreamy laid-back mid-tempo context it actually works.  The highlight of the song is the fantastic post-breakdown guitar solo which continues with the same tone and style from the opening riff but expands it in new melodic directions by combining it with aspects of the vocal melody, which then makes the vocals sound even better again when they return for the final chorus.  This is k-pop songwriting done just about perfectly and it was actually really hard to choose between this song and the next one for the #1 spot this year.

So, who gets to #1 on Kpopalypse favourites for 2019?  Drum roll please…

1. Rockit Girl – Little Cat

I still remember hearing “Little Cat” for the first time.  My internal dialogue pretty much went something like this:

0:00 – another new k-pop song, how many fucking songs am I gonna have to plow through this week, I wish my readers would send me like 30 instead of 3000…
0:04 – oh no another dreary ballad, listen to that one crap chord and look at her she looks miserable (mouse hovers over the ‘stop’ button’)
0:07 – oh wait, okay that was just an intro, this is going to be a bit perky, I’ll let it play a bit longer
0:13 – she’s holding a Prince Cloud guitar, that’s a good sign, you wouldn’t blow money on one of those if you hadn’t at least heard of upbeat music, this might git gud
0:14 – mrs
0:16 – mrcs
0:20 – these are some fucking good chord progressions and dual-part melodies, this is really cool actually
0:34 – okay I now like this and they’re cute and all that but this aegyo is getting a bit cringe now
0:44 – it’s cool how the two girls are exploiting their twin-harmony vocals a ton, I wish more groups would do this but they probably can’t
0:52 – it’s really good and I love this constantly ascending section, but it feels kind of wasted on a stripped-back duo group, what it needs is a full band to really get it moving
1:10 – OH FUCK YES THEY READ MY MIND – HERE WE FUCKING GO CUNTS
1:24 – this girl knows what side her bread is buttered on, now that there’s another guitarist she’s more concerned with posing and no wonder
1:30 – wait that’s an Avril Lavigne telecaster
1:40 – ascending section sounds even better with the full rock beat, fuck me this song is great
1:51 – bridge section to bring the intensity down a bit, I’m cool with this and makes sense but only if there’s also a shredding guitar solo, don’t bring a Dean Flying V into your song for no reason
2:13 – YES THANK YOU VERY MUCH KPOP GODS
2:28 – he’s actually going to do a Van Halen style run-up in a song about cute cats, can this song be any more perfect
2:38 – this song keeps increasing in melodic height and intensity level like some kind of multiple-chain orgasm of rock
2:53 – okay, the song just blew its load, all over my face – sold.  Song of the year, cunts.  I need a towel.

That pretty much sums up everything you need to know about how I feel regarding this amazingly great rock song, but because I know you want more content, here you go.

Here’s a live (mimed) performance on a music show.  Can they actually play and sing though?

How about a full half an hour concert with 100% live instruments and vocals with no cheating or mumbling along to backing tracks?  You know you want one, and I know you want one, so here it is.

And another one, just to prove that it’s not a one off.  Includes the most aegyo version of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” that you’re likely to hear.  Rockit Girl truly are the evolution of the AOA “band concept” which doesn’t compromise 1% on rocking OR sexiness at any stage.  SEE, FNC Entertainment?  IT WAS POSSIBLE ALL ALONG, WHY DID YOU GET THE AOA GIRLS TO DUMP THEIR INSTRUMENTS YOU DICKS.

This “behind the scenes” version of the MV features more of the girls and more cute cat footage too.

The guitarist/singer Leeseul is attractive and I got the feeling from watching the video that she clearly knew how to pose, so I wasn’t too surprised to find out that she had also done modeling for Maxim.  I’d prefer to just watch “Little Cat” over and over again than this, but I’m sure this extra information will be useful to someone out there.

I’ll leave you with this extra mimed show performance.  I mean sure the girl is pretty I guess with early AOA Seolhyun-tier visuals (you know she’s doing sexy right when you search up the group and tons of those annoying vertically oriented 4K fancams come up), and I’m always happy to address the elephant in the room with it comes to acknowledging the facts that other people are too scared to touch because they’re worried about receiving hate or whatever, but honestly I couldn’t give a fuck if she was the ugliest vomitosaurus in k-pop, the song still fucking rocks.  This type of group is very against the grain in Korea so let’s hope that Little Cat last for a few more rocking comebacks like this before inevitably vanishing or transforming into some nu-school bullshit nobody wants to hear.  Fingers crossed for the future of Rockit Girl and k-pop in general.


As usual, elite caonima YouTuber isaymyeolchigr has created a list of the Top 30 favourites!  Be sure to support his activities on YouTube and over at the most comprehensive k-pop database on the Internet, dbkpop.com!


That’s all from Kpopalypse for 2019!  Kpopalypse will return in 2020 with more songs, more lists and more posts to entertain you!  Stay safe, caonimas!

39 thoughts on “Kpopalypse’s 30 favourite k-pop songs of 2019

  1. Predicted 10/30! Pretty good for me, especially since I haven’t been following kpop/this blog very much this year.
    Am I salty some of my other predictions didn’t make the cut? Slightly. But nevertheless, thank you Kpopalypse for a great year! I never have time to keep up with every release, so these end-of-year lists are my way of finding out about what was actually worth listening to this year. Cheers!

  2. I don’t like Rockit Girls because this type of cute cat-ears type of shit makes me very angry (as in TXT’s Cat & Dog) but I can get behind the idea, the song really does sound like something different and cool, minus the talking cute bubbly vocals.

  3. >Gotta Go in worst songs
    >no OMG
    >no WJSN
    >no GFRIEND
    >no Cherry Bullet

    This is your worst soty ranking by far. You’ll put garbage from old busted idols, supernugus, Japanese pop rock, crappy EDM, and rap, over songs that would normally be in the top 10.

  4. I’m not sure about my top 30, but my top 10 are…

    1. “Devil” by CLC
    2. “Piri” by Dreamcatcher
    3. “& New” by Eyedi
    4. “Perfect 6th Sense” by Eyedi
    5. “Picky Picky” by Weki Meki
    6. “The Reason Why” by Twice
    7. “I Need U” by CLC
    8. “Fake & True” by Twice
    9. “Shut Up” by Nature
    10. “I’m So Pretty” by Nature

    • I’m 38 and honestly those random retro concepts kpop girl groups are doing is what keeps me hooked to Korean pop, in the West no one is able to pull that off as consistently. We cannot rely on listening to Stereolab over and over again every day, you know? Also fuck your ageism

  5. Nice, am I a thing on Kpopalypse blog now? Feels good lol now go follow me at twitter – @taeyeongod1 thanks

    Anyways, another great post oppar, and very similar to my list as well as usual at 23/30 (8 straight years of 20+/30) lol. Here’s hoping to a great 2020 and that hopefully everyone (especially those who are thoroughly offended by you, do not read between the lines, and hate you LOL) reflects and come back with a more mature image, and focus on stanning their faves. Annie year, Annie you!

    P.S. Everyone stan Taeyeon (and my mum, IU) for good health and clear skin. Believe me, I shit you not, I’ve stanned Taeyeon for 12 years (my mum, IU for 11) and I’ve never had any major illness nor been involved in major accidents. I’ve, for the most part, also had clear skin. Stan Taeyeon (and my mum, IU).

    P.P.S. No one cares, but here’s my list lol

    0. Taeyeon – Four Seasons
    0. Taeyeon – Spark
    1. IU – Above The Time
    2. IU – Love Poem
    3. Twice – Fancy
    4. Eyedi – & New
    5. Rockit Girl – Little Cat
    6. Stray Kids – Side Effects
    7. Dreamcatcher – Over The Sky
    8. TVXQ! – Hot Hot Hot
    9. CLC – No
    10. Eunjung – Desire
    11. Apink – %%
    12. Twice – Happy Happy
    13. Kim Soo Chan – You & Me
    14. Machoking – Credit Utopia
    15. Red Velvet – Psycho
    16. 015B & Jang Jane – Camellia Flower
    17. TXT – Run Away
    18. Hong Jinyoung – Love Tonight
    19. BeWhy – Gottasadae
    20. Swervy ft. Reddy – Art Gang Money
    21. Hyo – Badster
    22. S.I.S – Always Be Your Girl
    23. Teen Teen – It’s On You
    24. Oh My Girl – The Fifth Season (SSFWL)
    25. CLC – Show
    26. Shindong and UV – Cheer Man
    27. Oneus – Valkyrie
    28. K-Tigers Zero – Side Kick
    29. IZ – Final Kiss
    30. Nature – Dream About U

    • G-reyish – Candy is also supposed to be somewhere there but you can’t edit comments in WordPress (stupid) and i cbf to rethink and retype the list lol

  6. 11 of these were already on my regular playlist, but 2 were added after reading/listening, so thanks for that!

    I think if I had to choose, Apink’s “%%” would be my SOTY, followed closely by Dreamcatcher’s “Silent Night”, but honestly there were so many good songs this year, any of 10 or so songs could be my SOTY.

  7. Another job for Isaymyeolchigr – dub Hyo’s Badster with Alliser Thorne saying “Bastard”.

    This was a weird year for kpop. Less trash songs, but also less songs that really got me going.

    %% was my pick for #1

  8. At least i was only one place off my & New prediction. definitely didn’t expect Little Cat to be #1, although i kinda saw it coming when i saw Credit Utopia was also put pretty high. Also glad to see You and Me here. That song crept into my head at random points throughout the year and each time I would struggle to find it because I couldn’t remember that dudes damn name.

    Think overall I didn’t know of about three of these songs, and genuinely expected around twenty of these songs to be in. The others I kind of just glossed over at first listen I guess. I don’t think theres a single song here I don’t like though, so thats pretty nice.

    Surprised by the exclusion of a few songs from at least the honorable mentions at this point.
    namely Seven o’clock’s “Get Away” and Huta’s “Tonight”, probably a few others too that I’m too tired to call off the top of my head. And I guess its safe to say that Butterfly got the Egoist treatment this year, which isn’t that surprising.

  9. Ill just ignore Little Cat and pretend & New is number one because I was 1524958349534% sure it was gonna be first

    • I was almost 100% certain that “Dream About U” by Nature would be his #1. But just like “Love City” (9muses), “Yes or Yes”, and “Egoist” (Olivia Hye), it didn’t even get an Honourable Mention.

      • I always wanted to reply to your comment about love city and egoist but never managed to do it. I was pretty sure love city was gonna be in the top 10 and egoist to get at least an honorable mention but idk gaypopalypse oppar works in mysterious ways

  10. i love rockit girl so much. little cat is good but i much prefer one shot. the rockit girl members were both previously in baby boo, one of the worst nugu groups to grace the earth. amazing what talent was hiding behind the baby boo shit

  11. “Gfriend stole it from debut-era Girls’ Generation, who in a weird twist of fate stole it themselves from Australian 1990s girl group Girlfriend.”

    Link is broken; which Girlfriend song were you referring to?

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