This year was kind of a big one for K-pop. Some of the obvious highlights: A serious dose of second-gen nostalgia courtesy of the all-important Girls' Generation reunion, an even bigger obsession with BLACKPINK, and an iconic (and out-of-nowhere) emergence of rookie group LE SSERAFIM. But we're here to talk about the best of the best singles of the year.
Yes, one could argue that a bunch of these tracks deserve that number one spot (and trust us, all of these are on a level playing field here), but we've meticulously sorted through each K-pop single and taken on the grueling assignment of ranking them so you don't have to.
Here are the top 15:
15. "Bop Bop" by VIVIZ
Rookie group VIVIZ debuted in 2022 as a trio of former GFRIEND members (RIP/forever in our hearts). The group's successful re-debut single "Bop Bop" was full-on pop with a side of '70s nostalgia, and it put the members of the band back on the map as a set of performers that are still worthy of keeping an eye on. With a breathy, whimsical delivery and a relentless beat, "Bop Bop" is, in fact, a bop.
14. "NANANA" by GOT7
No, "NANANA" is not a song about someone's nana, but it is a fun, sweetly crafted pop track from GOT7, and after their complicated journey of leaving their old record label and temporarily parting ways with each other, they deserve to have a little fun. The dreamlike pop song reunites each member of the group in a powerful way. You can feel their excitement to be back together when you listen to it.
13. "Illusion" by aespa
When the four-member girl group aespa dropped their EP's pre-release single "Illusion," they probably didn't anticipate that it would generate more streaming attention than their primary follow-up single "Girls," but with aespa's single-heavy discography, anything is possible. The hyper-pop track "Illusion" showcases what makes them unique: using sounds like sirens, adding grittier bass backings, and an expertly deployed surge of slow to mid-tempo transitional vocals that culminate the chorus and bridge.
12. "Shut Down" by BLACKPINK
Whenever BLACKPINK releases music, we're going to pay attention, because they haven't released a single lackluster song. On the instrumentally saturated "Shut Down" we get to see the four-woman do what they do best. Lyrically speaking, each member takes turns dragging their haters on this song, and the use of string instruments perfectly matches all the light shade-throwing.
11. "Doom Du Doom" by P1Harmony
P1Harmony has been working on making its mark for two years now, and with each track, they've been getting closer and closer. So when the pop/hip-hop hybrid group dropped their underrated summer single "Doom Du Doom," they officially earned a spot on our recurring Spotify rotation. It's one of those carefree, naturally confident bops.
10. "Thank You" by Brave Girls
We've said it before, and we'll gladly say it again. Brave Girls are some of the most exciting K-pop artists in the business, so their surge in popularity this year has been extremely fun to follow, but more than anything, a long time coming. Their liberating and uptempo dance-pop number "Thank You" has an effective, retro spirit that can't (and shouldn't) be replicated. The four women of the group are essentially using this song to thank their now expansive audience, but honestly, we should be thanking them.
9. "Love Dive" by IVE
After IVE's second single "Love Dive" became so popular, it was clear they were going to have a major hold on the industry, and months later, that's still true. By using familiar snap beats, dramatic transitions, and sleek harmonies, IVE's mixture of modern K-pop ideals with timeless dance shows an experimental nature that will definitely help them in the long run.
8. "Step Back" by GOT the beat
The all-women unit labeled GOT the beat from SM Entertainment has only releases one song so far, but with four generations of K-pop titans in its repertoire, they really only needed one track to showcase their stacked talents. Throughout "Step Back" the members of the supergroup tackle an extremely difficult concept, and they make it look easy. Bring on a follow-up single in 2023, yeah?
7. "Talk That Talk" by TWICE
TWICE practically has a patent on cheery pop music at this point, so when their single "Talk That Talk" dropped, fans knew exactly what they were getting (in a good way). What's admirable, though, is that the group keeps their bubblegum-pop reputation all while cycling through fun trends, like the Y2K approach to their latest 2022 single.
6. "Attention" by NewJeans
NewJeans is one of several groups to come out of 2022 making a huge impression. As a debut single, "Attention" spotlights the youthful collective's age-appropriate feelings about the idea of infatuation, but adds a smooth, '90s R&B pulse to it that proves NewJeans can double as a veteran-level group with a proper understanding of technicality.
5. "INVU" by Taeyeon
At this point in her career, Taeyeon has done it all, but she's definitely not stopping anytime soon. Taeyeon's recent solo return, with the soulful track "INVU," is one of the most distinctive, intricate powerhouse pop productions of the year. Yes, 2022 was stacked with strong soloists, but the vocals of the Girls' Generation leader and GOT the beat member here still reign supreme.
4. "Beatbox" by NCT Dream
If we're being real, every iteration of NCT is worth listening to this year, but the NCT Dream single "Beatbox" is so good that it's in line with the group's former hits and goes above and beyond with the nostalgia, sourcing from '90s hip-hop and interlacing it with NCT Dream's distinct sound.
3. "Good Boy Gone Bad" by TXT
TXT is one of the biggest K-pop groups in the game, and thanks to their head-turning 2022 hit single "Good Boy Gone Bad," they've subverted people's expectations with an explosive vamp-themed punk season. Translation: The group's rebellious bad-boy era is upon us. By combining this guitar-loaded track with elements of hip-hop, the group has discovered a hypnotic sound.
2. "Forever 1" by Girls' Generation
After years of waiting for a reunion, Girls' Generation's celebratory 15th-anniversary track "Forever 1" felt like a proper love letter to their diehard fans and more importantly, to one another. The resurgence of the nation's girl group prophecy has finally been fulfilled and all is right in the K-pop world.
1. "Antifragile" by LE SSERAFIM
You've officially reached our favorite K-pop song of 2022, which happens to go to the biggest rookie debut of the year—LE SSERAFIM. The group's name, (a clever anagram for ‘I'm fearless') is definitely depicted in the scorching hot track, "Antifragile," an unfazed anthem of confidence. LE SSERAFIM is the moment.
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