Can you believe it’s already the halfway point of 2023?
Time really does move so fast without you knowing it. But crossing over into July means it’s time for me to list my favorite songs of the year so far!
Like last year, going into figuring out my mid-year list, I didn’t know how many tracks I’d have again. 10? 20? 40? I wasn’t sure I had enough. But again, when I sat down and thought about it, I definitely had at least 40 tracks I’ve had on repeat so far this year.
A mix of mellow and upbeat songs across different genres.
So without further ado, here are my Top 40 favorite songs of 2023, so far!
40. “Fix You” by TAN
TAN celebrated their first anniversary with the special release of “Fix You.” When I first watched the music video, I felt like the song was so familiar. And thanks to a quick trip to Google, I found out they had included some of the track as the intro to their debut album. The dramatic pop dance track is a charismatic performance from the talented group. And that performance accentuates the passionate lyrics they are able to bring to life. The song is accompanied by a cinematic music video and altogether, makes it my favorite release from them so far.
39. “Matador” by Park Jihoon
Park Jihoon’s Blank or Black was another great album. And it’s title track “Blank Effect” was a great step forward for him. But the track that grabbed my attention the most from the album was “Matador.” With a lot of swagger and a catchy rhythm, it is something different from Park Jihoon.
38. “Sunshower” by EPEX
EPEX continued their sweet Prelude of Love series with their latest title track “Sunshower” (여우가 시집가는 날). The upbeat pop-dance track is a bright and energetic song with the group singing of a bittersweet parting. EPEX has had one great album after another. And that definitely continued with Growing Pains.
37.“One More Time” by Doyoon
Always great to have YouTube recommendations introduce you to new artists. And that was certainly the case with Doyoon. The leader and guitarist of the band AboutU released this first single and it was a nice surprise for me. A hopeful message in the lyrics with a great pop-rock sound.
36. “Say My Name” by 8TURN
8TURN had a very strong debut earlier this year with their entire debut album really a great showcase for them. But my favorite track from the album is definitely “Say My Name.” The hip-hop-infused song has a refreshing and energetic vibe with an addictive chorus and a confident message.
35. “Finale” by BF
BF, the group formerly known as Boyfriend, make their comeback with the great pop-rock track “Finale.” The group express the meaningful lyrics of the song with their harmonious vocals which in turn exude a sincerity and add to the song’s nostalgic vibes.
34. “Eyes on Me” by HELLO GLOOM
Na Ungjae, also known as HELLO GLOOM, is back with his latest. And “Eyes on Me” is another excellent track from the talented artist and the collective The Faker Club. The soulful dance track has a euphoric summer feel. A perfect song that would get you grooving in the club. (Not that I’d know anything about that lol) Or perhaps enjoying the warm on a Philippine beach like HELLO GLOOM does in the song’s music video. Definitely a song to add to your summer playlist.
33. “Calling” by XODIAC
Rookie group XODIAC make a strong impression with their debut. Pre-release track “Calling,” which was released early, is an appealing pop dance track that serves as an excellent introduction to the group. The charismatic performance is infused with the group’s charms. And it is already a great showcase for them.
32. “Good Day” by The New Six (TNX)
The New Six, also known as TNX, released a refreshing track to mark a little refresh of the band, “Kick it 4 Now” was a great title track. But my favorite track from the album was definitely “Good Day.” The synth-infused track presents a dreamy and relaxing atmosphere. And I can’t help but just get swept away with the song. Definitely an addition to the #NightDrive playlist.
31. “My Wave” by KINGDOM
I am a big fan of KINGDOM. In a K-pop landscape that can sometimes be filled with sameness, KINGDOM offers something truly different and creative. And hidden alongside the epic title tracks the group has released with every comeback are some wonderful gems. And “My Wave” is definitely one of them. It is the kind of pop song that they have included in each of their releases so far. The brighter, midtempo pop track best shows the group’s ability to deliver a versatile performance.
30. “Call U Mine” by VAV
It’s great to see VAV back after having returned from their military service. Though there’s a bit of a member change, the group is still as strong as ever with their latest title track “Designer.” The classy, sexy dance track is definitely right up VAV’s alley. An excellent reminder of the group’s effortless charisma and overflowing talents. But my favorite track from the album (aside from the also great “By My Side”) is “Call U Mine.” An infusion of synth and some funky disco-style riffs make the attractive song a really great track to just listen and enjoy.
29. “Good Enough” by Xdinary Heroes
Xdrinary Heroes has really established their sound and style with every release. And “Hair Cut” was probably their strongest title track yet. But my favorite track from their recent album is most definitely “Good Enough.” The stunning ballad was definitely a bit of an unexpected track for me from the band. But it is such a wonderful showcase for their vocals and of course, versatility as well.
28. “Color” by CIX
CIX’s recent album was an unexpected, but very welcome release from CIX. Aside from the title track, “Color” is my favorite from the album. Like the rest of the album, the song features an emotional, yet hopeful message. And its melody matches that sentiment in a dreamy and very appealing way.
27. “Elements” by KINGDOM
KINGDOM’s “Elements” is a wonderful surprise. It is one of the songs that I would categorize as “mainstream” and modern. Similar to something you might hear from other K-pop groups, but still uniquely KINGDOM. What I love most about this track is the line “You try to be like us / We are the reference.” It is probably one of the cleverest and most rousing lines I’ve heard in a song in a long time. That swag is something I haven’t necessarily heard in a KINGDOM song so far as they have either presented their regal titles or lighter pop fare. But it’s just another example of KINGDOM’s diverse talents and what they are capable of.
26. “Memory” by MUSTB
MUSTB’s latest release is my favorite from them so far. Title track “Royalty” just missed my Top 40, but it is definitely a worthy bright, rock-infused pop song. B-side track “Memory,” however, is such a great song. The delicate, emotional pop track has a wonderful sense of nostalgia mixed with loneliness that make for an affecting and addictive song.
25.“Slogan” by YOUNITE
“Slogan” is a special fan song by YOUNITE. Members Eunho, Eunsang and Dey participated in writing the song and the sincere lyrics are perfect for the pop-rock melody. #NightDrive playlist approved!
24. “Dangerous” by TEMPEST
TEMPEST released some great music in their debut year. And their latest continues their streak with title track “Dangerous.” The catchy pop-dance track is an energetic and youthful song that allows the group to exude charisma and show off their vocal and performance talents.
23. “Time Machine (2100)” by Giuk
ONEWE’s Giuk marks a new beginning in his career as he made his solo debut with the title track “Time Machine (2100).” The rousing pop-rock track really does a great job introducing Giuk, formerly going by CyA, as a solo artist to both fans and new listeners alike.
22. “Amigo” by PLUUS
PLUUS had a very strong debut release in April. And any of the tracks could’ve made my Top 40 list. But their title track “Amigo” is the one that resonated with me the most. It is definitely a great introduction to the group. A high energy and charismatic pop-dance track where the members proudly exude their chemistry as a close-knit group while simultaneously inviting you to become their friend as well. You’ll definitely be humming the catchy chorus as you go about your day.
21. “Bad Revenge” by from20
Kim Raehwan, or better known as from20, returned with his latest single “Bad Revenge.” And it’s another “banger,” as he confidently mentions in the track itself. The synth-based melody has a retro, kinetic energy that makes it an easily appealing track. from20 sings of coming to terms with a relationship that’s come to end and all the feelings that bubble up in the process.
20. “Mora Mora” by Bullet Train
I stumbled upon this track while swiping through TikTok and I’m glad I did! I immediately enjoyed the track “Mora Mora” and thanks to it, I was able to get to know experienced J-pop group Bullet Train. The catchy dance track is one you can’t help but enjoy and groove along to. And in checking out the rest of the songs on their most recent album, I think I found a new group to follow!
19. “I Need Love” by DKB
Fresh off of a strong run on the reality competition Peak Time, DKB made their first comeback of the year with the excellent “I Need Love.” The title track is a very appealing house pop track with a relatable hopeful message. It’s a great mix that offers the opportunity for DKB to reintroduce themselves to new fans as well as excite longtime fans as well.
18. “Never in Vain” by LUCY
LUCY returned earlier this year with the bright “Unbelievable.” But my favorite track from the album is the unexpected “Never in Vain.” It is definitely a different sound from the band’s usually brighter tracks. The intense rock sound is a mature turn for them, but an exciting taste of what’s to come from the talented band.
17. “Trip” by YOUNITE
YOUNITE’s “Trip” is another #NightDrive addition, but also a song you could play driving down the highway on a nice sunny day. The electro-pop dance track is definitely a song that has a warm feeling, perfectly expressing the hopeful lyrics.
16. “New Dayz” by TRENDZ
TRENDZ had a great debut year in 2022. And they started off their 2nd year with another strong comeback in title track “New Dayz.” The rock-infused pop punk track is an exciting and energetic song that allows for the group to deliver an attention-grabbing performance. The cinematic music video perfectly encapsulates the song’s hopeful and youthful message.
15. “Wonder” by ASH ISLAND
If you have not heard of rapper ASH ISLAND yet, his latest album Rose will be a great introduction. I first learned of him when he collaborated with HA:TFELT on the song “Satellite,” one of my favorite songs from Park Yeeun. I’ve followed his music from time to time since then. “Wonder” is a feel-good track that has an excellent vibe and one I immediately liked. A track to add to your summer playlist. And a #NightDrive candidate too!
14. “I Want You” by SB19
“I Want You” and its accompanying music video is absolutely a shocker! It’s wild and crazy. In a good way! The R&B love song is a sensual and captivating track. Something I certainly haven’t heard from SB19. Or really in P-pop in general so far. Absolutely stunning track. I only wish there was a bit of Filipino in it too because that would just take it to a whole other level.
13. “Predator” by Lee Gikwang
One of my #UltimateBiases delivered an amazing album this year. Though I of course expected that! Title track “Predator” is an absolutely captivating song. The atmospheric synth-infused dance track has Gikwang exuding that sexiness and charisma while bringing the dramatic lyrics to life with his impactful performance.
12. “Overdrive” by I.M
I.M made a stunning solo comeback with the album Overdrive. The first release after signing with Sony Music signals the start of full-fledge solo promotions. And the album and title track of the same name couldn’t be an any more perfect way for him to step out and announce his arrival. Of course, he has already shown off his many talents as a member of MONSTA X and his first solo release under Starship. But Overdrive, the title track and entire album specifically, really is an opportunity for him to showcase his own unique style. And of course his multi-faceted talent. The album is a diverse mix of sound, woven together by an almost ethereal aura about them. The six songs tell an almost dreamlike story, with I.M effortlessly expressing interesting emotions through the lyrics, music and performance. Really an excellent album and will probably be one of my absolute favorites of the year.
11. “Bite Me” by ENHYPEN
I was absolutely shocked when I first watched and listened to “Bite Me.” Definitely not what I was expecting from ENHYPEN, but also not surprising to see from them either. “Bite Me” is an amazing step forward for the talented group. This dark, sexy pop dance track is irresistibly catchy and immediately appealing after just one listen. It’s definitely been on repeat for me since it was first released.
10. “Fantasy’ by TRENDZ
This dreamy track from TRENDZ was a wonderful surprise. Just an absolute vibe of a track. Its chorus is just beautiful. And the lyrics express a meaningful message. A must-listen.
9. “Save Me, Kill Me” by CIX
I was speechless as the music video for CIX’s latest comeback title track started. I don’t know if it was common knowledge for all the CIX fans out there, but I had no idea the MV for “Save Me, Kill Me” would call back to the group’s excellent (and very emotional!) Hello, Strange Place short film/series. If I remember correctly, that series was in preparation for their first comeback after debut. And I thought it was an amazing creative offering for a rookie group.
So now fast forward to three years later in the present day and the “Save Me, Kill Me” music video picks up right where the story film left off. A perfect dramatic depiction of the song’s emotional, meaningful lyrics. The song is really a great reminder of the group’s versatility. Being able to deliver powerful tracks like this while also doling out catchy pop dance tracks.
8. “Moonlight” by Henry Lau
It’s always great to have new music from Mr. Henry Lau. And “Moonlight” is a wonderful track. It has definitely been on my #NightDrive Playlist since its release. The indie pop song has a catchy guitar melody that suits those night drives down the freeway, but still has an upbeat vibe. The message of the lyrics is also great about letting go of your worries and staying positive. I definitely need a full album from Henry soon!
7. “Gonna Be Alright” by VIXX
VIXX’s Hyuk, Leo and Ken release the wonderful “Gonna Be Alright.” The midtempo R&B track is a warm and hopeful song. One that’s perfect for the trio’s harmonious vocals. It was a great way to start the year off with and it’s been on repeat for me since then.
6. “Sorry’s Never Enough” by Corbyn
Corbyn is such an amazing talent. #UltimateBias, no question. And it was so exciting to first hear that he would finally be releasing an album this year. “Cold” and “Burn” were two of my Top 10 tracks of 2022. And the next track off the album “Sorry’s Never Enough” was of course sure to be Top 10 material again. A bit more uptempo than “Cold” and “Burn,” “Sorry’s Never Enough” is nonetheless as passionate a performance. The bittersweet lyrics again are perfectly expressed through Corbyn’s emotive vocals along with a pop-rock-tinged melody that adds to the conflicted feelings of the song. And being the last track to be released before the full release of OSS, it definitely raised the excitement and anticipation even more.
5. “Rhythm” by Yes My Love
I had been following Yes My Love a bit because some of the members had been from Top Class as well as a familiar few who have appeared on other shows as well. But their debut track “Rhythm” was definitely not what I ever expected from the rookie group. Actually, I don’t even know what kind of style and vibe I was expecting. But “Rhythm” took me by pleasant surprise.
The rookies just ooze charisma with the sexy and flirtatious song. The clever lyrics allow the group to have this great swagger and coolness that is very appealing. The amazing chorus is also so interesting with what I assume is some kind of traditional instrument (sounds like an Indonesian angklung?) adding this really ear-catching quality that you can’t help but be in awe by.
Simply put, this is an amazing debut. And Yes My Love has already far exceeded my expectations. What more with their future releases!
4. “Journey” by WOODZ
Cho Seungyoun has really released some incredible music as soloist WOODZ. He previewed this new album with the great pre-release track “Abyss.” But I don’t know that anyone would be prepared for the release of title track “Journey.” It is a stunning pop-rock ballad with WOODZ singing personal, emotional lyrics backed by a soaring melody and climaxing with the support of a chorus of vocals. All highlighting WOODZ’s own vocal performance that really has him delivering a passionate interpretation of the words he himself has written and composed for the track. Simply breathtaking.
3. “Alright” by Ha Hyunsang
This track from the soundtrack of tvN drama series Crash Course in Romance (일타 스캔들) is just beautiful. Ha Hyunsang’s soft, yet powerful vocals glide across this emotional British rock track. Just a dreamy and romantic song that sweeps you away into your own K-drama-worthy world.
2. “I’m Not You” by Lee Gikwang
“I’m Not You” is my absolute fravorite track off Gikwang’s album Predator. The alternative pop track is an emotional confession after the end of a relationship. And Gikwang’s vocals glide across the melody for a passionate performance. I definitely hope he will be able to perform it live as it really has the makings of a breathtaking showcase for Gikwang. I love it so much. That’s my #UltimateBias for ya! I think this track has definitely secured the #2 spot at the end of the year.
1. “Brainwave” by Corbyn
Corbyn with my #1 track? Not a surprise to me! This dreamy, romantic track is the kind of song I know I will never get tired of. #NightDrivePlaylist approved, most definitely (as is most of Corbyn’s tracks, to be honest). But I feel like the song is the best mix of everything Corbyn does with his music. A catchy melody, meaningful lyrics and a definite mood maker. I would love to see a music video for this one. And I just know it’ll probably remain my #1 favorite track at the end of the year.