We have officially crossed the halfway point of this crazy year. So I decided to share my 20 favorite songs of the year so far. Just starting out this Music Monday feature, you may get a little more insight into my musical preferences with this list. Like I mentioned in my introduction, I listen mostly to K-pop. So hopefully I can suggest some songs and artists you might want to check out.
And remember, you’re not going to get detailed, technical music reviews from me. That’s for sure. (lol)
20. “End of Spring,” ONEWE
I’ve been following ONEWE back when they were still known as MAS 0094 and under an independent label. I first learned of them thanks to a feature on Arirang TV’s Pops in Seoul. (An excellent way to meet different K-pop artists, especially those who may not be from the larger companies.) I was happy to hear they had signed to RBW.
Before the release of their album “One,” which “End of Spring” is the title track of, their sound was more of a stripped down, acoustic band which speaks to their starting out with busking around Korea.
“End of Spring” is their most rock-sounding title track yet and a step forward toward introducing themselves to a wider audience. It is a fun, raucous track with a perfectly matched party atmosphere MV.
I would definitely also recommend listening to their previous songs, particularly “Regulus” which is my favorite song of theirs so far.
19. “Countdown,” TST (Top Secret)
Top Secret/TST has gone through a lot since their debut, including the death of member Yohan last month.
But they are a talented group that has released several great tracks. Their most recent, “Countdown,” is definitely one of them. Though a departure from their previous tracks, it’s a great K-pop track with a good hook.
I’d also like to recommend “Paradise” from them:
18. “Rest Your Bones,” Bobby
I’m not a regular listener of the group iKON. But I was so pleasantly surprised by member Bobby’s solo album “Love and Fall” in 2017. It quickly became one of my favorite K-pop albums from a solo artist.
So I was very excited when he released “Rest Your Bones” earlier this year. Though not commercially released, the song definitely showcases who Bobby is as an artist. And it definitely has me waiting for his next full solo release.
17. “Sorry Mama,” DKB
It seems like there’s a new artist debuting every week in K-pop. But I do try to check them out when they do. I always welcome fresh music. DKB was a big surprise with their debut track “Sorry Mama.”
An interesting, atypical debut song for a K-pop group, the song nonetheless leaves a powerful impact. The meaningful lyrics and its catchy beat come together for an irresistible song.
16. “Give You Up,” UNVS
UNVS is another 2020 rookie. And while their debut “Timeless” was solid, their first comeback track “Give You Up” is so good. The chorus is particularly excellent and the kind of vibe I tend to gravitate to.
It is a dramatic dance track that builds toward a great, strong climax in the end. UNVS is definitely a group to watch.
15. “Ice Age,” MCND
If I had to choose the best debut of 2020 so far, it would have to be MCND’s roaring debut track “Ice Age.” The powerful track has a catchy and memorable hook. And the energy is no less infectious upon each repeat listen.
They have a lot of potential and follow-up title tracks like this could help solidify their place in the industry.
14. “Still,” DKB
As great as “Sorry Mama” is, I love DKB’s comeback track “Still” even more. Again, it’s the kind of vibe I like to seek out. And it takes the same energy and style from their debut to a different feeling and emotion.
13. “Lie,” IMFACT
IMFACT has been very underrated since their debut and have only gotten better with each new release. “Lie” is in line with their most recent releases. (The last being excellent “Only U” a year ago.)
“Lie” is moody dance track that feels familiar, but still engaging thanks to the group’s great vocals.
12. “angel,” OnlyOneOf
Another underrated group, OnlyOneOf has been one of the most experimental and unique groups to have debuted in the last few years. Their title tracks and their corresponding music videos are definitely not typical of contemporary K-pop. And that’s what makes them such an interesting and likeable group to follow.
“angel” is another unique track. But it is considerably less dramatic and thus, a little more accessible than their excellent debut, the clever “savanna” and follow up “sage.”
Still, “angel” shows OnlyOneOf’s unique style with a happier, more colorful track that shows the guys can have some fun when they’re not in the darker, atmospheric world of their first two title tracks.
11. “Howling,” VICTON
VICTON is finally getting the attention they deserve and “Howling” is another step forward for their sound and performance. It is an emotional, dramatic song that utilizes the group’s silky voices to full effect.
10. “Knock,” ASTRO
After their bright debut and succeeding releases, ASTRO successfully completed their transition to a more mature sound and style last year. “Knock” continues that growth with a sprawling, energetic track. I think the music video is one of the best and most unique of the year as well, with some creative direction throughout.
9. “Lupin,” DONGKIZ
Another underrated group that took a step forward in their growth is DONGKIZ. After releasing bright, youthful singles since their debut, DONGIZ comes back with a playful, though more mature sound and performance that shows the great potential for the future.
“Lupin” is a catchy song that best showcases the group’s vocals of any of their releases so far.
8. “Marching On,” Dami Im
X Factor winner Dami Im is an incredible talent with a stunning voice. “Marching On” is a soaring midtempo ballad that crescendos into an emotional climax representative of the personal feelings Dami hopes to convey in this self-composed track.
Just an absolutely beautiful song and impeccable performance by an amazing talent.
7. “A Song Written Easily,” ONEUS
ONEUS has experimented with different styles for each of their title tracks so far. “A Song Written Easily” is a track that somehow manages to balance being a calming song about longing while also being a dance track that gets you singing along with the refrain even after the song is over.
The vocals, as always from ONEUS, are on point. But (and it’ll be very obvious who my bias is), member Leedo’s ability to shift from his deep rap voice to his softer singing voice in one song is definitely a highlight.
6. “Closer (Tokyo Remix),” Mackenyu Arata, The Chainsmokers
I will admit, I’m not much of a Chainsmokers fan. But I do admit they make songs that are not easy to get out of your head. (Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on the listener of course.)
But I’ve definitely been a fan of Japanese-American actor Mackenyu since appearing on Kamen Rider Drive. And when I heard he’d be performing a full cover to be included on the Japanese release of The Chainsmokers’ album, I immediately had to check it out. (And it was definitely a hunt to find it. *grr* at how difficult it is to listen to Japanese music releases.)
I knew Mackenyu was a talented actor. But I definitely didn’t know he could sing. And he does a great job here with vocals that suit the vibe of the popular song. The Japanese lyrics fit in well with the English lyrics, giving the song that little bit of freshness that makes it sound like a new song.
5. “Nice Things,” Far East Movement, Henry Lau, AlunaGeorge
Henry Lau is one of the most multi-talented guys in the business. Put him together with the talents of Far East Movement and English duo AlunaGeorge and you get this surprising track “Nice Things.”
A sensuous, bittersweet and wistful track that highlights the vocals of Henry Lau and AlunaGeorge’s Aluna Francis with a deep, mellow melody.
Also, in some ways, the Chinese version of the track is even more captivating.
4. “MIRO,” Corbyn
Cory Hong, formerly of group 24K, has released one excellent track after another since branching out on his own as Corbyn and as co-producer at 28Laboratory.
“MIRO” is his second release this year and is a passionate track that is as cinematic in sound as its music video is with its visuals.
3. “Karma,” Demian
I featured Demian in my very first Music Monday last week. “Karma” is his 2nd single that is both sensual and bittersweet with an addicting melody that’ll have you humming its chorus “How to end my love” long after the song ends.
2. “ODSEE,” Corbyn
You aren’t going to get a shortage of passion and emotion in Corbyn’s songs. And “ODSEE” is definitely a stunning record. Its dramatic melody paired with Corbyn’s vocals make for an absolutely memorable and haunting track.
1. “Cassette,” Demian
Demian’s self-composed debut track is so unexpected and impactful that it immediately made me a fan. The unique sound and Demian’s smooth vocals make for a memorable and irresistible experience. And my favorite song of the year.
Honorable Mention: “Paradise,” Park Ji Hoon
I’d have included this on the list, but it’s not his title track and there’s no music video for it. So it wouldn’t have fit in the countdown video (lol). But while his title track “Wings” took me a couple of listens to really enjoy, I immediately loved “Paradise.” Park Ji Hoon has really done a great job establishing himself as a soloist. And I’ve really enjoyed his music.
So, there you have it. My personal favorites of the year, so far. Hope I recommended a new favorite for you as well.