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30 Songs That Helped Define K-Pop In 2019

Sharing good music = a forever mood.

2019 was an epic, whirlwind year for K-pop, so trying to come up with a list of the best K-pop songs is a nearly impossible feat. But here I am anyways, trying to show my appreciation for some of the most uplifting, heart-wrenching, and innovative songs of the year.

Makeus Entertainment / Via youtube.com

I'm no ~music critic~, so this list consists of my personal opinions (duh) and focuses mostly on the songs themselves, and less emphasis on the visuals (though, yes, the music videos are embedded). For the visual elements, check out Emlyn's list of the best K-pop music videos!

Did your faves make it? And if I missed your faves, I'd love to hear about them (nicely!) in the comments below, or tweet at us anytime @BuzzFeedDaebak — but just a gentle reminder that we're not here to bash any groups/songs, but to enjoy and share a year of amazing music together. Cue the aww's.

1. "Hip" by Mamamoo

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RBW / Via youtube.com

I know I'm not alone when I say that "Hip" is a masterpiece, and really shows off all of Mamamoo's strengths — in vocals, rap, confidence, and attitude. When I figured out what the lyrics were saying, I was pretty much pumping my fist in the air, screaming, "YES, LADIES, GET IT!!"

No one should be judged or looked down upon for what they wear — if you give women crap for "weird" fashion choices or not looking "perfect," reevaluate your life. *spits*

2. "Mikrokosmos" by BTS

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Thus continues my tradition of choosing a non-title-track for BTS's entry. Nothing against "Boy With Luv" because it's a certified bop and never fails to lift my spirits, but BTS is just as well-known for their b-sides as they are for their singles, and "Mikrokosmos" is no exception.

The lyrics are incredibly touching and magical in the way they focus on the Greek concept of "microcosm," which means viewing humans as their own little world. Even my boyfriend, who isn't necessarily a K-pop fan (unless you count by osmosis?), is entranced. I could listen to their dreamy vocals forever.

3. "Fancy" by Twice

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JYP Entertainment / Via youtube.com

This was a tough choice, especially with the extremely sentimental and empowering lyrics of "Feel Special" (which Twice also speaks about in my interview), but to me, "Fancy" was the comeback song that really broadened Twice's range and hit me with that WOW factor.

I loved that they embraced a more mature side of their femininity, and loved seeing them venture into less-cutesy territory — which they also pull off ("Likey" is also my jam), but what *is* a K-pop group without evolution? Especially with all of the songwriting they're doing, I can't wait to see what Twice puts out in 2020!

4. "Say My Name" by ATEEZ

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Honestly it doesn't even feel like this was a 2019 release — that's how big of a year ATEEZ has had. I mean, they freakin' signed with RCA Records in July!

Anyways, it was hard to settle on one song, but "Say My Name" makes me want to turn the heck up every single time (or realistically, at least do something with my day). The raps (Mingi's low tone...I can't) and vocals flow into each other seamlessly, and each verse/bridge/chorus brings something new to the table, and keeps your ears entertained.

5. "Adios" by Everglow

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Yuehua / Stone Music Entertainment / Via youtube.com

Speaking of sophomore efforts that paid the heck off — even though "Bon Bon Chocolat" really DID THAT for me as a debut song — "Adios" had such a unique sound that I absolutely couldn't get out of my head. The "boy, bye" inspired verses, E:U's rap, and the repetition of "Goodbye, au revoir, adios" before the beat drops on the chorus (I still maintain that I get Pirates of the Caribbean vibes from it) all create an explosive, very danceable bop!

6. "9 and Three Quarters (Run Away)" by Tomorrow x Together

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TXT may only be two mini albums deep into their careers, but they've already shown so much growth. "Run Away" is just as catchy as their debut song, "Crown," but has a more mature and complicated (but in a good way!) sound. They have really strong vocalists that make the listener feel as if they're embarking on a magical journey. In fact, if you looked up the word "whimsical," I'm pretty sure "Run Away" would be in the definition.

7. "Dalla Dalla" by ITZY

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JYP Entertainment / Via youtube.com

This song was the definition of a "grower." I'll be honest — I thought it sounded too all-over-the place when I first heard it, but that's also what kept me hooked until I had a revelation: "Dalla Dalla" slaps. What a self-empowerment anthem, folks! At the end of the day, we're all just trying to embrace and love our differences ("Don’t measure me by your standards alone").

Given how young they are (they were all born in 2000 to 2003), I love that their debut song had a such a positive message for their fans ("Keep your chin up, we got your back / Keep your head up, just keep on dreaming"). MORE OF THIS.

8. Boom” by NCT Dream

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SM Entertainment / Via youtube.com

As the Dreamies say, "WORK." And with this track, work they did! The lyrics ooze confidence, from "Even the sound of my breath is like music on stage" and "We’re the players who will make that dream come true," the pace stays consistent and ~on~, and your head never stops bopping to that "We got that boom boom boom boom boom."

NCT Dream has covered so much ground (did you listen to "Don't Need Your Love with HRVY and and "Up to You" with PrettyMuch? So slick!) since their debut, but has totally hit their stride this year, IMO. We love to see growth!

9. "Twit" by Hwasa

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Is it safe to say Hwasa's one of K-pop's most fearless queens? Because I'M SAYIN' IT. And if you don't know just how powerful the lyrics are, I recommend watching this video. She's literally mocking a dude who's invested too much into their relationship — which is a take you usually don't hear in K-pop songs. It really made me think about my own relationships, so you know Hwasa is keeping it all too real. You can hear her 'tude all throughout, and I love that to death.

10. Miroh” by Stray Kids

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Stray Kids sometimes feels unbelievably powerful for a group that only officially debuted in 2018 (and had a predebut song called "Hellevator"). They bring a level of intensity to each title track (and every track, TBH) that seems natural and genuine.

And since they're a self-producing group, I find it super admirable that they're able to voice the intensity and angst that comes with being in a tough industry and simply growing up so purposefully. You can't not feel pumped listening to "Miroh," and soon enough, you feel like you can soar higher and push ahead harder, too.

11. "Lion" by (G)I-dle

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(G)I-dle killed it on the girl-group reality show Queendom, and this final song of theirs was *chef's kiss*. Perfectly sultry, fierce, and 100% not here to play. Everyone sings and raps with such purpose that, by the end of the song, I believe that "I'm a queen, like a lion." Soyeon's raps are flawless and commanding as usual, and Minnie's high notes sealed the deal for me.

12. "Valkyrie" by Oneus

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RBW / Via youtube.com

From the label who brought us the powerhouse vocalists of Mamamoo, I knew RBW wouldn't disappoint with their boy groups (Onewe is their brother band). The captivating vocals are accompanied by synths, guitar riffs, and an electrifying chorus that really caps off the song. There are a lot of elements swirling around, but it all comes together to make an unforgettable song.

13. "Blue” by Taeyeon

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SM Entertainment / Via youtube.com

"Four Seasons" and "Spark" have such, such flavor, but the Taeyeon songs that stick with me are those that knock me right in my feels, like "Blue" (and for another reference, "11:11" was #1 or #2 in my top songs of the decade).

Taeyeon manages to sing about sadness in a way that doesn't make you feel helpless, but instead, she feels like a friend singing a little song to you. Knowing how open she is about her mental health, the emotion she puts behind her songs seem as real as it gets. I listen to "Blue" even when I'm not sad — her voice is a constant comfort, and keeps me grounded. I could ride the laping waves of "You're my blue ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh" forever.

(I'd also like to note that her version of Frozen II"s "Into the Unknown" is amazing too! Ok, I'm done.)

14. Human” by Zico

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Zico took my breath away with his latest two-part album, but "Human" was the most striking. While he's known for spitting fire, which he still does in this album (see "Extreme"), "Human" seems like he took his past softer songs (Hello, "Soulmate" and "I Am Me, You Are Me"), and dug even deeper into his soul to extract heart-wrenching, but all-too-familiar lyrics like, "It's a trivial day with nothing special" and "Happiness is always buried in something with higher priority."

I admire his honesty, because at the end of the day, the songs I love the most are the ones I feel ~pulled into~.

15. Deja Vu” by Dreamcatcher

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I really got into Dreamcatcher this year, and you don't need me to tell you how addictive their rock-leaning music is. "Deja Vu" transports me into a dark-tinged fantasy world every time I listen to it, and once the chorus hits (and the song speeds up), I feel like I'm off into battle to fight whoever has wronged me. Their concepts are breathtaking, and no one should be sleeping on them.

16. Rooftop” by N.Flying

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I'm so proud that N.Flying has earned their overdue recognition with "Rooftop" (and later on, "Good Bam")! I first heard it on one of Spotify's K-pop playlists and, without knowing who sang it, fell in love. The flow between the vocals and raps is simply too good to ignore, and the lyrics ("You pulled my hand, saying you wanted to see the stars / We sat on the rooftop at sunset") paint a gorgeous picture without even having to see the music video.

17. Snapping” by Chung Ha

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As far as iconic dances go, "Gotta Go" probably wins — but when we're talking about just the song, I think "Snapping" brought it to a whole 'nother level. It's fiery without trying to be. The way that she sings (in a subtle staccato), "Really freaky, my heart is mixed up / Doesn’t matter what you baby hate or love" feels both soft and hard — let's just say I wouldn't want to mess with Chung Ha.

18. "Groove" by EXO

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EXO is the gift that gives on giving...even if we have to wait for a little longer than usual. "Obsession" is magic, and so is just about every b-side, but I had to choose one, and I went by the song I'd most want Baekhyun (or Chen or Chanyeol or Kai or Suho or Sehun, not picky) to sing to me. Like, just the two of us on a bed of flowers, me taking in "that sun that envied the feelings we shared." Every lyric is so irresistibly romantic, and it simply kills me. Goodbye, world.

(P.S. Baekhyun, Chen, and EXO-SC gifted us with so many beautiful songs as well. S/O to "Betcha" for getting me through the second half of 2019 🙏.)

19. "Don’t Know What To Do" by Blackpink

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Another non-title-track strikes! I grew to like "Kill This Love," but I ~loved~ Blackpink's b-sides on their most recent mini-album — and "Don't Know What To Do" was clearly my favorite. Instead of being flashy and in your face, its power lies in its comforting lyrics, like "Why am I like this / On a pretty day like this / How is everything difficult," and flowy melodies.

20. Humph” by Pentagon

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This song is so playful and sassy from start to finish, and I'm obsessed! As a child at heart, this song speaks to me — maybe a little too much. It's like they've been watching me, with lyrics like, "My sharp mood is unknown, an eighth mystery / I like you so much but my back’s turned on you / I just want you to come to me first." You can so clearly hear the emotions and frustration through their voices alone. From Wooseok's grumpy rap, Jinho's pre-chorus-buildup, to the super catchy chorus/hook — "Humph" is an adventure!

(P.S. the music video is one of the most delightful things I've seen all year! Bravo!)

21. Workaholic” by Bolbbalgan4

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Every time Bolbbalgan4 (or Bol4, for short) releases a new single, it seems to automatically become a chart-topping hit. "Workaholic" had the honor of being one of 2019's few "all-kills," which means that it simultaneously held the #1 spot on all major Korean charts.

And "Workaholic," as its name implies, is all too accurate about the joy, stress, and emotional turmoil of navigating adulthood. As usual, Jiyoung's voice makes everything sound beautiful, even when she's vocalizing frustration and singing lyrics like, "Everyday working, I’ll die at this rate / But I love this / Right? This is right for me?" The duality of it all!

22. "You Calling My Name" by GOT7

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Y'all are so smooth with your words, huh? Or specifically JB, since he's one of the co-writers. Either way, I really believe this tracks shows off everyone's individual talents especially well. For instance, all of the raps have different appeals, and I love that two different members switch off for the chorus — not to mention, Jinyoung and Yugyeom ace the higher ranges in the chorus, which I'm a sucker for.

23. "%% (Eung Eung)" by Apink

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We stan our sunbae queens who've been killing it since 2011! "I'm So Sick" made last year's list, and I definitely wasn't going to leave out their follow-up hit, "Eung Eung." It's delightful in every way — you can't help but want to start dancing as soon as the first beat drops. And everyone's voices are dainty but edgy at the same time, like they could sweet-talk you one moment and pierce your heart the next.

(And yes, I know I'm not really speaking to music videos, but this one is gorgeous from start to finish!!! The hair, outfits, set — everything!)

24. Someone's Someone” by Monsta X

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Yeah, I know this is an all-English track, but I'm counting it. Monsta X was really out here hustlin' all freakin' year, and we 100% admire the drive (but of course, also take care of yourselves!). First up, the sentimentality of this song! Like "we all wanna be someone's someone"? So simple, so pure, and so dang true.

And "Sunshine when it's raining / Raining over lovers / Lovers in the shade of / Colored blue?" I didn't know we were in the presence of POETS. It soothes my soul whenever I hear their stripped-down vocals, and hearing I.M and Joohoney sing, too, is a big, happy bonus.

25. Psycho” by Red Velvet

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I'm glad my procrastination let this song make it onto the list, because this is definitely my favorite RV comeback of 2019! I will always stan "Bad Boy" (which made last year's list), so "Psycho" feels like the long-awaited *semi* return to that sort of genre/feel — but it also has its own, slightly-off-beat punch that's addictive to listen to.

From Wendy's and Seulgi's falsetto, Joy's sickly-sweet "Don't look back," trap influences, and "Hey now we'll be ok" (which is my permanent motto), it really represents what your brain feels like when it's all jumbled up and all over the place. Also, yes, I personally felt a lot of parallels with this song, so SPOT ON, RED VELVET. I SEE YOU.

26. RPM” by SF9

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Ok, stop sleeping on SF9! (And if you need a starting point, might I point to their interview with us?) On the reg, they seem like your playful, hilarious friends, but then they transform into these powerful and futuristic superheroes in "RPM?" WHAT IS GOING ON? They absolutely didn't need to go this hard, but they spared no souls in the making of this song.

As I leave this world, let the entire rap line power my ascent into the afterlife. Inseong's high notes in the bridge and that BEAT DROP will sustain me even futher.

27. As You Wish” by WSJN

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Sometimes I find a song that just makes every atom in my soul feel happy, and that's "As You Wish." And the lyrics, like, "Only good things now, like this / As you wish / As you feel," only further prove that point.

The overall sound is very lovely, but doesn't venture into "cutesy" territory, which is much appreciated. It doesn't matter what kind of day I'm having (good, bad, or average) — it has a magical kind of quality that works in any situation.

28. "Breathe" by AB6IX

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From the very first note and Woojin's breathy intro, this song entranced me. The dreamy vocals, synth elements, and the chill but powerful raps gave AB6IX a super strong debut. The lyrics are also lovely in their own right and co-written by Daehwi, Youngmin, and Woojin; I always love a team effort! I always feel calm yet energized after listening to this song — "I wanna breathe / Just set me free."

29. Lalalay” by Sunmi

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Sunmi is the queen of not giving f*cks, and I love her dearly for it! As I found out from this video, the title, "Lalalay," is a stylization of the Korean word, 날라리 (nallari, pronounced as Nal-la-ri), which is usually used in a negative context to refer to people who try to act cool through partying, drinking, smoking, etc. And in the song, she says that she's ok, no matter what people say. Maybe she's a little naughty, but she's not a lalalay. And even if she is? So freakin' what?

It's also super cool that she features a traditional Korean instrument, the taepyungso, so prominently in the chorus — you definitely won't forget it. But the message of the song is so witty and self-aware, and gets an A in my book. Just let them talk, they'll still follow you anyways — "Like a swarm of bees, wing wing / The more they do win win / I’m a small pied piper captain / On a sharp knife."

30. "No" by CLC

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"Red lip? No. Earrings? No. High heel? No. Handbag? No." Like, what more can you ask for in an intro?? While I'm into all of the above, I'm still very much into the message of this song, because it's my ~choice~ to enjoy them — and no one's opinions or tastes matter. Period. And CLC also brought attitude with "Me" and "Devil" in 2019, which shouldn't be overlooked either.

But back to "No," 'cause Eunbin and Yeeun's verse, "I shine, I shine, I shine / Everyone come here, look here, look at me / Get hyped, get hyped, get hyped / I’m pretty and cool, this crazy 'me' that is" is the perfect song to kick off 2020.

And here's a handy playlist of all 30 songs:

Spotify / Sarah Han / Via embed.spotify.com

Hope you enjoyed! ✨ And if you'd like to continue walking down (relatively recent) memory lane, check out the 2018 list!