The end of the year lists from Kpopalypse are just around the corner – this means that it’s time to see what songs nearly gained an end of year placing! Welcome to Kpopalypse’s honourable and dishonourable mentions post for 2020!
The following are all songs that were good, but not quite good enough to get into my 30 favourites list for 2020 (which will be published on 31st December). There is also, below this, an equal amount of “dishonourable mentions”, songs that were quite bad, but not bad enough to hit my worst 30 songs of the year. Please note:
- Songs are sorted alphabetically by artist, not by order of preference
- This list is feature tracks only, either with an MV, or that were promoted on music shows or released as a single
- OST songs, songs for sporting events and Christmas songs are not eligible
- This list is pure personal preference only, it does not factor in chart success, popularity, cultural relevance etc
- Your opinions may (and probably will) differ, and that’s okay – my opinion is not important
- If this post makes you mad it’s probably because you’ve been brainwashed by k-pop marketing, take a step back. Or maybe you just hate me in general, which is aegyo. UwU
Blackpink – Pretty Savage
The riffs alone truly make this song what it is, the best version of “slow heavy Blackpink” yet. The main hooks of this song are pretty much just Slayer riffs that have been given a pop music makeover, if you can’t hear the metal lineage here just type “blackpink pretty savage metal” into YouTube, you soon will. An anticlimactic ending can’t ruin a song that is more designed for moshing, stage-diving and lighting other people’s shit on fire than the vast majority of what k-pop has been delivering lately, and don’t we all need a k-pop song like that this year.
Cherry Bullet – Hands Up
The Autotuned nods to “Fur Elise” could have resulted in something really bad, but instead it gives what would otherwise be a bunch of trappy garbage some much-needed melodic grounding, and gives Cherry Bullet their first genuinely good song.
Cravity – Ohh Ahh
I really despise this type of boy-group disco bollocks, so the fact that Cravity have managed to get on this list with a song in this style proves just how good their iteration is. This is BTS’ dreary “Dynamite” if someone stripped the whole thing down to its components and rebuilt it as a hot-rodded version of itself with better melody, better rhythm, better everything.
Dreamcatcher – Black Or White
The conceptual weaknesses within Dreamcatcher remain, and will sadly probably never change, but super cool bass guitar riffing paired with a high-contrast pre-chorus provides another quality addition to their catalogue.
Dreamcatcher – Break The Wall
Of course they sound even better when they actually remember to also plug the fucking guitars in.
Dreamcatcher – Red Sun
The great Dreamcatcher songs didn’t stop throughout 2020. “Red Sun” is basically the above Cherry Bullet song but darkened up significantly, which is definitely welcome.
Duoxini – Sin Of Society
Given the choice however, I’ll still take a real metal band most days. Duoxini might dress like Akercocke but they have riffs and vocals to rival Kreator at the height of their powers. Korean metal has been improving, which is great to see as their country doesn’t really have that many great exponents of this style yet, and certainly nobody is writing about any of it. Korean Indie needs to start covering more of this shit.
Everglow – Dun Dun
After a kind of crap beginning to their k-pop careers, Everglow started to really hit their stride in 2020. “Dun Dun” isn’t mindblowing but it does what it needs to do very well. The chorus riff rules the roost here, everything else is just decoration, and the songwriters seem to know it too, squeezing variations of that one riff over and over into as much of the song as they can possibly get away with.
Gfriend – Labyrinth
Gfriend’s “Crossroads” comeback was honestly not that great, just retreading “Time For The Moon Night” territory yet again for the umpteenth time, fortunately the girls had a great album title track on the same release which they trotted out at music shows. “Labyrinth” turned out to be one of the very, very, very few times that paying attention to non-feature tracks actually paid some dividends, pretty much every other “non-feature track that got onto a live stage” song that people sent me this year went straight in the bin after one listen (including a bunch of Gfriend’s own).
Hong Jinyoung – Love Is Like A Petal
Hong Jin Young still looks great but also seems kind of weird and uncomfortable here. Maybe it’s all the hate that Koreans have been throwing at her for fudging her University papers that’s unsettling her, or maybe she’s just recovering from another round of surgery and is struggling to keep everything sitting in place. Either way, there’s certainly nothing wrong with the musical output – “Love Is Like A Petal” isn’t her best but it’s still a very solid hybrid of trot, the early T-ara sound, and some kind of tango thing, it’s certainly worthy of at least a distinction.
Junoflo – Bonez
I passed on an opportunity to see Junoflo live last year, partly because of my own schedules but also because all of his songs at the time were fucking shit. Then a few months later he released this, which is actually uncharacteristically good, so I’m going to take credit for it. If I’d attended his show that would have sent the message out that his previous music was actually acceptable and maybe he wouldn’t have changed. Mind you since this track came out he’s gone right back to being generic and boring again so I dunno, it seems like most Korean rappers only have one good song in them, as if real hip-hop is a gimmick to explore just one time because they can, as opposed to what they should actually be doing generally speaking.
Mister T – Better Man
Trot has been mostly a huge letdown this year, but Mister T has come up with some quality here just by having a faster pace and better harmony than most of these groups. I’m not sure if this trot quartet have heard of The A Team but I think the original Mr. T would dig this.
NCT U – Misfit
This slice of retro-rap is mystifying mainly just because it’s somehow never occurred to SM Entertainment to make a song that sounds like this until now. “Misfit” is ridiculously better than every other NCT song this year, yet compared to most of their other material “Misfit” has been practically buried and ignored by SM standards. Go figure.
N.O.M – I’m Not But
N.O.M insist here that they’re not, but their video director seems confident that they definitely are. Either way, this song is a banger, possibly in every sense of the word.
Rockit Girl – My Love
Leeseul knows how to pose and does pretty much nothing but work her best angles (which is all of them) for the entire video, as if nobody even wants to see the other band members. Even though I do feel sorry for them, it definitely gets no complaints from me plus I imagine the rest of the band are all cool with it anyway, like, I presume they are seeing a potential pathway to money and success and stuff. Pity the dull mix here lets the song down slightly but it’s still some very high quality rocking from a group that really needs more attention.
Stray Kids – God’s Menu
It’s not quite up there with “Side Effects” but this “Zero For Conduct“-lite is still pretty moshing. I’ve heard there’s some Australians in this group so I hope they read this blog, if so, this is good shit, cunts – fully sick mate, get a dog up ya.
Okay, I kind of like it now
Lee Suhyun – Alien
Okay so I really didn’t like this song much when I first heard it, being a pretty obvious copy of that bullshit waste of time nowhere music Jamiroquai spits out, but then I had to watch the video a whole bunch of times because Suhyun is the most attractive woman in k-pop who looks great and displays serious Lovefoxx vibes here and us Suhyun fans are seriously starved for eye candy because she had been in about 30 seconds of video footage over the past 18 months before this came out. Of course now that fucking “ay, ay, ay-ay, ay-ay-ay, I’m arr-lien” hook is in my head and won’t get out, and holy shit I think I can now remember how that dance goes in my sleep. Of course this is all completely “according to plan”, swapping out their male CEO for a woman who knows how to manipulate pieces of shit like me I guess was the right business move, after all she’s had to deal with creepy Yang Hyun Suk and his brother for nearly two decades so she knows what it takes to get some dickhead sexist male k-pop writer on side. This makes me sad because I’ve come to the realisation that I probably would like Jamiroquai if he were a hot chick and he didn’t vocally improvise so much, so newsflash I’m a hypocrite I guess (for the 2% of readers who haven’t figured that out yet). Well played YG, gg.
BREAKING: Jay Park was actually in a pretty good song this year
$tupid Young ft. Jay Park – Sho Nuff
Jay Park spat out about 59 hip-hop collabs during 2020 (not even exaggerating) so it makes sense that he would hit the mark at least once. He’s helped here a lot by the “Cha Cha Beat Boy” actually being quite good, something that also almost never happens and it’s quite a revelation that Cha Cha Malone actually knows how to made a moody, understated hip-hop backing track like this. Of course Jay’s raps are kind of silly and boneheaded as usual but “don’t get it twisted like contortionist” because it doesn’t end up mattering too much – he’s a good foil for the material which would be a little too dark otherwise, and $tupid Young also does quite well for himself on the second half of track, he’s not amazing but he’s acceptable. I mean it’s not that great overall but it’s still probably the best thing Jay Park has ever done musically and I’ve been shitting on both him and Cha Cha Malone’s crappy music for years so I thought it was about time to give some credit where it’s due before he rolls up on me with his posse or whatever the fuck it is these k-pop rap/R&B guys do when they’re upset.
Not recommended for vegans
L.A Galbi – Burn The Ribs
“LA Galbi” (the dish) tastes great but isn’t really very LA, much like this band – if 1980s Los Angeles glam metal actually rocked as hard as this I would have probably liked it a lot more instead of quickly graduating to Metallica and Slayer at the time. Of course “Burn The Ribs” is silly, and I’m sure they know it, but it’s still fucking cool with all the musical theatrics that fans of cheesy power metal will enjoy, big drums, soaring vocals, and of course an Eddie Van Halen inspired guitar solo that really should have been extended out for a bit longer than it is. Oddly this song got no coverage on Korean Indie, or at least none that I saw, I guess they’re vegans. No wonder their website has been having trouble staying up lately, it’s probably feeling weak due to lack of protein.
Agust D – Daechwita
How to create a “critically acclaimed” Korean rap song:
- Already be in a big idol group so people will go “wow so different” no matter what you do
- Search up “Korean traditional music” on YouTube and grab some samples of like whatever
- Stick them over a generic beat that sounds exactly like everything else now
- Rap lazily over the top about how you’re so great and have all the things, and how other people are not so great and do not have all the things
- Shoot the video in front of traditional buildings while wearing traditional clothing, just to make sure music critics who know nothing about music notice that it’s “oooh, traditional” and can write essays on how you’re “melding styles” or “clashing cultures” or it’s a “fusion” or whatever the fuck bullshit
Easy peasy fucking lemon squeezy.
Cignature – Arisong
The problem with Red Velvet doing all those “nonsense songs” isn’t so much the songs themselves (because they don’t always fail to get it right), but the copycat versions that smaller agencies put out. You really need an SM-tier budget to have more than a snowball’s chance in hell of pulling this kind of thing off without it sounding like a mess – and even then the odds are against you.
Code Kunst ft. Jay Park, Woo, Giriboy – Flower
Jay Park was a very busy boy during 2020, releasing or being featured on approximately one song per week throughout the entire year. Of course with such phenomenal output, and with a lot of these appearances being only guests, the law of probabilities alone made it more or less inevitable that he would end up with some real stinkers. Of course he’s only the guest feature here, but he also has the unenviable task of carrying the absolute worst part of the song, that “like a flower” hook plus all the terrible R&B singing. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with his ability to sing that stuff, but it’s the part itself that’s the problem, not how he delivers it. He’s actually done the impossible here and mads me wish that some of the other clowns in this video switched on the hard Autotune and sung the rap parts themselves instead, not because it would make the song better (it wouldn’t) but just to give Jay a break from having to lend his name to these crappy R&B/rap jams with the 7th chords everywhere. I know I’ve spent this whole review discussing Jay and not the other guys but it’s only because they’re so generic and bland they don’t even make an impression, at least Jay Park is always interesting even when he sucks.
Crush ft. Taeyeon – Let Me Go
I saw something on the Internet a while back where someone practically wet themselves over “Let Me Go” because Crush and Taeyeon are harominising with a tritone at the end. If you’re thinking “well, there’s no way that could fucking sound any good in an R&B ballad”, you’d be correct (they called it “The Devil’s Note” for a reason), but the sad fact is that the rest of the song is so bland that the horrid harmony choice is actually the highlight because at least it perks the ears up a little. Speaking of perkiness, Taeyeon appreciators should forget this video and go straight to the “live clip” version where she actually isn’t dressed like a fortune cookie.
Drippin – Shine
It’s bad enough that the group is called “Drippin” and the song sucks, but did they really have to go for a boy scout concept? Is Woollim even aware of the reputation that the boy scouts have around the world? Maybe their CEO and the group members aren’t, but I think the video creators are very well aware given some of the disturbing camera angles here. This is the most difficult to watch dog-whistle concept I’ve seen since April’s “Dream Candy” and maybe the people who thought my dog whistle post was full of shit will see things clearer now that this agency is making it really fucking obvious, but they probably won’t. More power to you if you can get through this video without barfing everywhere, but what I want to know is – where are all the people who were horrified about Rotta‘s photoshoots now, gosh they’re very fucking quiet all of a sudden. Fans pretend that they care about representation and the welfare of k-idols and their audiences, but if it means they have to sacrifice some digits going up in rows for their bias, they’re suddenly a grab-bag of “I’m sure they didn’t mean it like that” excuses, and that’s that on that.
Joohoney – Psyche
Hard Autotune sounds like shit, and don’t we all know it given how much we’ve been subjected to it in shitty k-pop songs over the years, but in this case I’m kind of grateful. I really don’t want to know what he actually sounds like without the machine’s help.
Keembo – Thank You, Anyway
The two girls from Spica who weren’t in the group for looks do their best to prove to you that they weren’t in the group for looks, as if we didn’t already know this and as if that even mattered the first time around. It’s not fucking opera, just settle down there with the vocals and make a song we actually want to listen to next time.
Momoland – Ready Or Not
As a colour blind person I’m not even sure if this video even worked when I hit play, but music did come out so I guess it’s functioning as intended. Sadly what came out is some really trashy pop which rips the main melodic motif out of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and just changes it a little, and then adds boring sax riffs because it can. I guess it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard in the same sense that when my cat jumped over my head that one time and split my eyelid open with her claw it wasn’t the worst pain I’d ever felt.
Moon – Woo
Fuck, that melodic line is annoying. It reminds me of all those shit songs that Alice Vicious did before she suddenly came out with “Luna” and surprised everyone by proving that she could write a song. Seeing Moon pose in quasi-underwear outfits doesn’t make it any better, if you’re not doing music at least as good as Rockit Girl that shit’s not going to help any… and even if it is it’s still not going to help any. There’s no point satisfying our eyes if you’re going to then cut our ears off.
Mrshll – Starlight
Okay so can we settle this once and for all. Who is actually the first openly gay Korean pop music star: Mrshll, Holland, or Chuu? I’m not sure but Mrshll’s song here sounds okay… that is, until he starts rapping, and oh dear what a mess it then becomes. He’s not kidding about “I’ll make my own decisions, make my own mistakes”. Good on him for following his own path boldly, he has my full support in that, but if it’s okay I really don’t want to come along for the ride.
Oh My Girl – Supadupa
That fucking Pororo bird was responsible for a lot of shit songs this year. I’m very sorry to inform you that “Supadupa” is actually one of the better ones, which means that you’ll be hearing even more of this fucking crap when the worst of 2020 list drops in a few days. If this information now makes you too scared to ever read anything I write ever again, I completely understand and I’m so sorry for troubling you.
Snuper – Oxygen
Someone responsible for Snuper’s musical direction needs to go search them up on YouTube, notice that “Platonic Love” is still by far the most popular Snuper song, and ask themselves why the fuck that might be. Maybe a light will go on inside someone’s head that maybe it might be in their best interests if Snuper could rock like that again instead of doing whatever other dicksucking bullshit songs that they think are a good idea these days. I’m not even going to tell you why “Oxygen” sucks because I just clicked the “Platonic Love” link and am now listening to that song instead, like any normal person would, and like you should too.
Super Junior – 2YA2YAO
This song nearly went into the worst of 2020 list for that mind-meltingly daft chorus alone, but then I realised that it actually has a Shindong dance break in it, so I couldn’t put it there in good conscience. The song is still terribad though, so it can sit in the dishonourable mentions instead. The best dance break of 2020 starts at 1:08 if you’re interested (you are). Also Super Junior probably are “the boss of the mob” (unlike every underground rapper ever where it’s just an idle brag) and I think I’m in enough trouble with SM already so I can go easy on them this year.
TXVQ – Manzashi
Did you know that TVXQ was once a five-member group? That thought just popped into my head for no particular reason. If SM Entertainment would like for me to not think about or mention TVXQ’s quintet history ever again (like other k-pop writers are more than willing to do in exchange for a few pretty pictures), they should work on making some better songs for this group going forward, then I might suddenly only remember that they are now a duo and forget the past, how about it SM? You don’t even have to subscribe to my Patreon (although if you do, you should consider the “Illuminati tier“).
Uneducated Kid – Drop Top
Your lack of education isn’t anyone else’s responsibility. Why don’t you go and educate yourself more, then you can call yourself “Slightly Educated Kid”. I suggest you start with Public Enem… oh wait, then you might go all “political” and “woke” on us, that would be even worse. Scratch that, maybe the first Wu-Tang album or something. But anyway, here’s your education for now:
- You can’t fly a car in space, numbnuts
- Even if you could you’d have to keep the “droptopdroptopdroptopdroptop” up or you’d probably just float off
- This music is garbage
Zelo – Fault
That singing of the word “fault” over and over again actually does sound like a fault, as if the sample playback machine got stuck like Milli Vanilli or something, except that this is actually deliberate. Actually this is exactly what I wrote about it when I reviewed it in the weekly roundup, maybe that’s a fault too. The insane amount of grinding through that one shitty melody over and over [I forgot what I was going to write here because my brain stopped working due to this shit song but who cares]
MORE BONUS SONGS THAT WERE AT LEAST SEMI-GOOD
Possibly the best and the worst Korean rap song ever made
Kerrigan May feat. San E – Sex Like A Pickle
Oh wow do I love Kerrigan May. Right at the start, where she’s wearing those ridiculous henna tattoos and staring into the camera with an expression that just screams “who the fuck do you think you are, cunt?” and then smoking a cigarette and groping some token man-meat in the very next shot, I was sold. Of course the henna tattoos are the most badass part of this equation, think about the courage that involves – people who hate tattoos will hate you because they hate tattoos and the tattoo look in general, but people who like tattoos will also hate you because you didn’t mutilate your body for your entire life like they did, so they think you’re a “fake” or whatever bullshit, it’s a guaranteed way to displease everybody. More Korean music of all types needs to embrace this attitude of “I am what I am, I do what I want, and fuck you”, instead of pandering to everyone else’s irrelevant opinions all the time. Anyway back to “Sex Like A Pickle” and it just keeps getting better, with plenty of man-tiddie flexing, more cigarette smoking and death-glaring, that completely silly “sex-sex-sex, sex like a pickle” hook, the cheesy but really catchy backing track that adds just a fragment of melody, and the lyrics which are completely righteous so if you’re not a Korean speaker make sure you turn the subtitles on and experience them in their full glory. Then just to top it all off and prove that she truly has no fucks to give about anything, she releases the most hated rapper in all of Korea San-E from his exile for the second verse. Unfortunately his sorry, pathetic, sniveling excuse of a contribution has just enough English words in it to make it obvious to any casual listener that he has zero rap ability, he certainly sounds even worse than usual, but Kerrigan doesn’t care, instead she takes her huge fucking dog for a walk (unlike most k-pop idols Kerrigan May has “big dog energy”) until his part is over. So should you. But wait, because it gets even better – when she gets back to the pool with Wonho’s gym buddies in it, she then kisses some other random chick while everyone else watches, including the dog. It’s the most brilliant Korean rap experience ever that also happens to be borderline unlistenable for about a third of its own running length.
Don’t deal with the devil
Loona – Why Not?
Loona’s “Why Not?” was created by SM’s songwriters, and it shows, because it takes its conceptual cues from another SM song, which is f(x)’s “Dracula“, and you’ll have to excuse me while I veer on a tangent and talk about that song for a moment. Ask any f(x) fan about “Dracula” and they’ll tell you it’s great, but they might not be able to articulate why beyond “I just like it”, “it’s catchy”, “stan f(x), SM never treated them right, RIP Sulli” etc. so I’ll now do them all a favour and explain “Dracula” structurally and why it works. “Dracula” is pretty much a basic verse/pre/chours/verse/pre/chorus/breakdown/pre/chorus+ pop arrangement, except that last chorus at 2:50 is amazing because it takes the previous mono-harmonic chorus, doesn’t alter the melody at all, but adds a satisfying harmony and counter-melody that wasn’t there before, finalising the song’s “journey” by giving context to what was only hinted at before. It works really well because the song is great anyway, and it just gets even better at that point by playing its ace card right at the end. Back to “Why Not” and it’s exactly the same idea. The key moment is at 3:03 where Olivia Hye invites us to “burn it up” (as one does) and then the chorus completely expands out, the irritating “dee-dum-dee-dum” stuff suddenly sounding good and making sense for the first time in the song as it pedals off the newly-revealed harmony. The reason why it works better for “Dracula” than “Why Not?” is because while the endings are of roughly equal quality (honestly outstanding), the journey to get there is very different, “Why Not?” is a bit of an empty-sounding confused mess before that ending hits and makes sense of it all, so when they finally get there, instead of feeling like “wow, what’s this cool new development, what a great way to cap off an already brilliant song” instead the feeling is more like “why the fuck weren’t you boneheads doing this for more of the song than the final 23 seconds, what’s wrong with you retarded dickfucks are you trying to sink the Loona ship completely or what”. Of course Blockberry probably had no choice but to kowtow and let Lee Soo Man do the big comeback feature or SM would have probably gotten mad and blocked Loona from future music shows plus refused permission for more NCT dance covers. Dealing with the devil is tempting but you can always be sure there’s a price to pay, let’s hope Blockberry learn their lesson.
The video of the year is by… wait, who?
Long:D ft. Summer Soul – Spacedog
People always think I hate ballads, and yes mostly I do, but that’s only because they’re mostly just generic crap written to exactly the same boring template. However this isn’t always the case, and the fact is that almost every single year that I’ve been running this website and doing lists like these, at least one ballad has charted on my lists very, very well, and while I don’t have a specific order to any of the songs on this list, if I extended out my top 30 any more than it already is, this would be #31. “Spacedog” isn’t even the only ballad that I liked this year, but it sure has the prettiest k-pop video I’ve seen in years, some absolutely gorgeous sci-fi shit with incredibly clever visual design plus an unusually good story that ranks right up there for me with Bom’s “You And I” and Sunny Hill’s “Pray” (which are also ballads that I like, by the way). While I wouldn’t say they broke the bank to make it, the video is certainly not as cheap as you might be expecting from some group you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re a Weki Meki fan (the small army of staff involved in the video production are listed at the end, just paying them would have cost a bit), and it sure doesn’t look cheap even though many of the best visual ideas that it has are so simple. I won’t go through what happens blow-by-blow because that would be boring and you’re better off just watching it yourself, but it’s a very fitting accompaniment to this subdued but dynamic synth-pop ballad, which is the perfect example of how to do the “relaxing” vibe that so much k-pop shoots for, without sounding incredibly dreary in the process. The deep ambience and big analog sweeps that cut through the chorus with the impact of about five crash cymbals really help it stand out, and the sombre backings contrast really well with the lilting melody that would probably have been just a little too twee to get along with if the instruments were just acoustic guitars or something. It even has a quick marimba breakdown before the chorus and still manages to somehow not suck. There’s an obvious joke to make here about someone having a long D but I’m not in the right frame of mind to make it because I’m too busy thinking about these two floating in their spaceship, saving the galaxy from shit coffee-shop ballads, hey don’t forget to come to Earth on your journey we could really use the help down here, thanks!
That’s all for the honourable and dishonourable mentions for 2020! The end of year favourites and worst list are coming soon!