the k-pop top 40 of 2022

It could be the *time* that have passed or my inherent laziness prevailing once again that I cannot think of a sweeping general statement to introduce this year’s list. My mind usually gravitates to the industry as a whole but sentiments expressed before remain relevant. On a more personal level, I see a big part of my social circle accepting and enjoying K-Pop more than ever so that doesn’t make me feel so alone anymore. Heck, making fun of someone for liking K-Pop is so trite…like be serious. 

How about some key takeaways from the events that transpired this year? I think the BTS hiatus is amazing because of its vulnerability and sincerity. Second generation groups reuniting left and right is a reminder of the wide disparity between older and newer groups in so many aspects. NewJeans came at the right time and actually provided an interesting preview as to which way the K-Pop boat will be steered (if my hunches are correct – we’ll get into that later). Those are just some little snippets that one can remember as this was drafted.

I guess that suffices so here you go: 40 standout tracks from the K-Pop world in 2022 according to someone whose perspective may or may not really interest you. Perhaps you can consider it as light reading while taking your dook dook? (iykyk)

Bubbling Under 

40. Yummy Yummy Love | Momoland x Natti Natasha – People like to dismiss Momoland but like what Kenya Moore once said – they’re still here and they’re still fabulous! This radio-friendly bop mixed with some K-Pop quirks (they’re casually scatting here) is enough proof. 

39. Fire | EXID – This could’ve easily gone to TRI.BE (which makes sense because LE produces a lot for the group) but it’s nice to see grown K-Pop women give life to songs like this. 

38. I Hate You | WOODZ – Something got into the waters of YueHua Ent. this year that they’re all about 2000s pop rock with their releases like this one from WOODZ. The angsty, playful vibe of I Hate You totally fits him like a glove although a follow up to last year’s sleek Feel Like would have been great as well. 

37. Brand New | Xiumin – If there’s anything that this EXO solo debut has proven, it is the fact that Tinashe will definitely eat up everyone if she goes K-Pop. The industry has been indirectly mopping Superlove for so many times that the OG might as well show how it’s done. I imagine Pann articles about her trampoline concept or her sexier sound – that would be amazing. Oh yes…a total bop from Xiumin!

More EXO: Last Scene (Chen), Hurdle (Suho)

36. ParadXXX Invasion | Enhypen – This group’s side-Bs actually eclipse their titles (at least for me) but it’s difficult to resist a new jack swing-inspired K-Pop title track which actually brings out their youthful charms more effectively.

More Enhypen: Pass The Mic

35. Sweet | The Boyz – Another year, another TBZ Universe song being infinitely better than a TBZ title track. A little scary because the Universe platform just shut down this year too. Well, here’s hoping they still have amazing Japanese releases!

More TBZ: Whisper, She’s The Boss (Japanese release and highly recommended)

34. Up! | Kep1er – The moment this Produce group dropped Wa Da Da, it was clear that they’d be more like an IOI than an IZ*ONE kind of group. They’re lucky to have found an incredibly catchy summer jam early into their career unlike IOI who had it figured out too little, very, very, very late. 

More Kep1er – Wa Da Da, We Fresh 

33. Talk That Talk | Twice – A no-frills track like Talk That Talk is the perfect pair to an amazing milestone this group achieved this year.  

32. POP! | Nayeon – Overcoming the seven-year curse and jumpstarting their expansion are reasons enough to crown Twice as the group with the wisest career moves this year. This sexy, cheeky debut from their leader Nayeon plays well to her strengths and may be a preview as to where the other endeavors from the supergroup are headed to.    

31. Chiquita | Rocket Punch – Rocket Punch continues their streak of newtro with Chiquita which could easily be a soundtrack to a sci-fi YA series featuring K-Pop idols. Ooh, write that down!!

More Rocket Punch – Flash

The Top 30

30. Bad News | Tempest – A solid debut giving off strong Block B vibes that could lay groundwork to their individual sound. From the looks of it though, they’ve already tapped out of it which is unfortunate.

More Tempest: Can’t Stop Shinin’, Dragon

29. Hello | Treasure – This group proves once again how they go against the current YG grain by tapping into the vintage sound that made the company famous to begin with. Thank heavens they bounced back well from the monstrosity that is Jikjin!

28. Maniac | Stray Kids – There was too much onomatopoeia going on with Stray Kids last year and it’s good to hear them tone it down starting with Maniac. It didn’t go away though – let’s just say it’s where it needed to be.

More Stray Kids: Case 143

27. Forever1 | Girls’ Generation – With an infectious energy surrounding it, Forever1 feels like the perfect soundtrack to a comeback that took place when the stars finally aligned. And it’s nice to see the ladies share this energy to those who were with them in the beginning and those who found out about SNSD from their individual projects.

More Girls’ Generation: Deep (HYO)

26. Girls | aespa – While not as instant as Savage or as polarizing as Next Level, Girls is still a great fit for the group’s overall lore. It even comes with some SMP moments that can be considered as the founding sounds of whatever Kwangya is supposed to be. My only gripe about this group is that it takes a while (and a lot) for them to set up such a ridiculous concept that it can kill the hype they’ve built.

25. Copycat | APink Chobom – Although the song is not as bizarre as what the teasers and the MV showed, Copycat still has its own merits that give this sub-unit their own color while making sure that they can still ride with the times.

24. Super Yuppers! | WJSN Chocome – Now this is a song that understood the Orange Caramel revival assignment properly. However, this just reminds me of how incredibly difficult it is to pull off the level of kitsch and silliness that Orange Caramel embodied throughout their career. A valiant attempt, nonetheless.

23. Dilemma | APink – It’s nice to see the group still push through despite the many changes that they have undergone. Dilemma flows naturally with the sonic transition APink started in 2017 which then again proves that they are that rare group in K-Pop who will thrive through consistency.

22. RUN2U | STAYC – A great addition to STAYC’s growing discography, this song heads towards a slightly mature take on the brand of K-Pop cultivated by Black Eyed Pilseung.

More STAYC: Beautiful Monster

21. Thank You | Brave Girls – Serving you Daft Punk meets K-Pop realness, Brave Girls demonstrates here that there is indeed more to them than Rollin’. And that we are thankful for.

20. Smiley (feat. BIBI) | Yena – Somebody said that this song is something Jojo Siwa would do. And what about it?? Jojo Siwa is iconic and so is this debut offering from Yena.

More Yena: Smartphone

19. Dance On | Alice – A little on the cheeky, sexy side (think AOA, Girls’ Day), Dance On is a great reintroduction to the legend that is Elris. Whatever their name is, there’s no doubt that they will come through so it’s nice to still have them around.

18. Limbo! | Nature – Nature has always been on this blog’s radar as they have been churning out hits with a great level of variety. Limbo, for example, is their take on the worn-out “girl crush” concept but not without a dash of quirk – from the song alone down to that hilarious choreography.

17. Boggle Boggle | Beauty Box – We love a song that looks simple and innocent on the surface but is a whole lot more bizarre deep down. This is giving early Oh My Girl and Red Velvet…which is what the industry needs more nowadays!

Some of the biggest injustices that happened in K-Pop recently involves the curtain calls of GFriend and Lovelyz (Gugudan, too). This is why the debut of CSR is an important one as it is an indirect torch relay of the glorious sound and legacy left by those senior groups.

More CSR: <3ticon

15. Love in Space | Cherry Bullet – Last year, the love was sweet and now it’s ascended now beyond the heavens and is floating there in space. It’s unfortunate that a group as great as Cherry Bullet remains at the sidelines of K-Pop when they could be out there in the front with their amazing singles.

14. Love Dive | IVE – This song made a lot of sense when it was revealed to be a Sunmi demo. It’s totally her lane and style – like a great follow-up to Heroine. But for some reason, it landed into the hands of this group and you can’t deny a hit when you hear one.

More IVE – After Like

13. Fearless | Le Sserafim – Coming out with their own brand of girl power that is chic and runway-ready, Fearless is a perfect stomping groove to a group building quite the herstory.

More Le Sserafim – ANTIFRAGILE

12. Generation | Acid Angels From Asia (tripleS) – Remember what I said earlier about how NewJeans can steer the direction of K-Pop moving forward? It starts here – with an amazing song from a group with an even more amazing name. Let it be known that they’re the ones who first tried the newest pair of jeans…and looked great in it!

11. DM | fromis_9 – Despite a stark difference from how this was first teased, it’s nice to see fromis_9 develop and actually evolve their own sound. When you want K-Pop that makes you feel pretty, gorgeous, and fly…a spin of DM and fromis_9’s discography will do the trick.

More fromis_9: Stay This Way

10. WJSN | Last Sequence – One of the last remaining soldiers from the third generation, WJSN still continues to thrive with their own cosmic spin to K-Pop. A song called Last Sequence with lyrics referencing a “finale” of some sorts may be distressing but at least it’s an elegant bop and a half. Glory to the Cosmic Girls!

Taeyeon’s greatest strength as a soloist is that she constantly reinvents herself – at one side, she gives a heart-wrenching ballad and at the other, a modern chart-friendly track like INVU. Others would actually envy what career run she has, not the other way around.

8. Oh My Girl | Real Love – How unfortunate that this flew over the heads of many but would you believe when I say that it doesn’t come as a surprise? It’s unbelievably simple and low key in a world where genres mash and sounds collide. This makes Real Love a unique standout from the pack by being its pure self – pretty and unbothered.

7. (G)I-DLE | Tomboy – A little punk and angst in K-Pop always works and the ladies from (G)I-DLE have always been great in delivering this kind of vibe. Tomboy’s no exception.

More (G)I-DLE: Nxde

6. Sunmi | Heart Burn – Another case of a quieter K-Pop track that usually doesn’t fly well with the genre’s majority audience. However, this is a perfect return to form for Sunmi as she channels her old Reboot self when she was still with the Wonder Girls. This could work as a track for the group should they have decided to continue with their band concept. I, for one, would really like to see it!!

5. Kwon Eunbi | Glitch – Eunbi is that solo act dipping her toes to different sounds with the hopes of securing a hit that she could bank on. Fortunately enough, she landed on a track as magnificent as Glitch. Even though it has the tendency to overpower the performer at some points, it cannot be denied that the track is an adventure in itself – peaking and glitching at the most unexpected moments. And isn’t that what we so adore about K-Pop?

4. DKZ | Cupid – Although we are now seeing the gradual rise of DKZ (of which we are thankful for), it’s nice to hear them maintain their own brand of K-Pop back when they were still barely selling. Cupid captures that lovable, quirky sound that is still ultimately Dongkiz to the core.

More DKZ: Uh-Heung

3. PIXY | Villain – They may have declared to be “reborn” but nothing really changed in the sonic spectrum of PIXY. It still operates on an extremely high level, it treads its own lane, it puts a lot of bigger acts to shame. Perhaps that what makes them a villain? If so, then they must be the anti-hero with the most unique bops.

2. NewJeans | Attention – The arrival of NewJeans may be sudden but it sure hell is important. With just five songs (Attention leading the pack), they have already accomplished something almost impossible in K-Pop – desaturate it. It may sound crazy but you can’t compare them with any group right now precisely because they are doing their own thing! A shift like this to K-Pop is exciting because it may (or not) be a preview of what’s to come. No one can deny that they have started a trend and you can hear the rest of the world taking notes. Now that’s how you pull attention!

More NewJeans: Hype Boy, Cookie, Hurt, Ditto

1. Red Velvet | Feel My Rhythm – It bears repeating, but I personally enjoy K-Pop because it goes to places that a big chunk of modern pop music doesn’t dare to go. This isn’t exclusive to K-Pop itself but it has been a home to some of those exhilarating moments. Feel My Rhythm is a prime example.

A big part of it is an homage to classical art – the Bach sample in the song (which is done exquisitely btw), the cornucopia of references to paintings in the music video (from Bosch to Monet), hints of ballet in the choreography, and down to the Renaissance era teas served in their performance outfits. Feel My Rhythm deserves to be viewed as a whole package because it is meant to be done so to begin with.

Pair it up with the magic of modern K-Pop’s devices (pots and pans, genre-mashing) and you’ve got yourself a living piece of work seamlessly bridging two distinct worlds together. Such is the kind of intersection that I always enjoy experiencing and most of the time, it transpires in a Korean song and usually performed by the best idol group alive (Billboard, 2019). That is why Feel My Rhythm is this blog’s top song for 2022!

More Red Velvet: Birthday, Wildside (Japanese release, highly recommended!)

There you go, favorites from this year! I’d like to hear your take on your faves so lemme see those lists by dropping a comment below or discussing it with me wherever you see this post. To a more exciting 2023!


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