2023 Year-End K-Pop Recap (& Honorable Mentions)

As per tradition, the next few weeks on The Bias List will be stuffed with all sorts of year-end countdowns, mostly concerning the year in K-pop but also encompassing J-pop, global pop and even Japanese dramas! Basically, it’s a chance for me to take stock of my year in fandom and celebrate the things I enjoyed most. I hope you’ll find some discoveries along the way and offer your own highlights. One of the best things about this blog is its community of readers, and I love learning from you all!

Before jumping into the first countdown (my top 50 K-pop songs of the year!) on Monday, I like to take stock of the year overall. For the purposes of this blog, I tend to divide music into three categories: K-pop, J-pop and “Global” pop. That’s not really fair to any music that falls outside of Korea or Japan, but if I micromanage genres too much this will become a very different blog! The Bias List is still 99% K-pop focused, after all.

When thinking of these three musical categories in 2023, here’s how things shook out for me:

Global pop delivered the most music I liked this year, which makes sense given the expansive reach of that category. Meanwhile, J-pop delivered the music I felt most passionate about in 2023.

I guess K-pop delivered… the most music I wrote about?

I’m not sure how else to categorize it. I thought a lot about K-pop this year, but in my decade plus journey as an active fan, 2023 was probably the most underwhelming year for me personally. K-pop is very trend-oriented, meaning much of any year’s fortune depends on the sounds and acts that are most popular at that moment. I’m not a huge fan of the sound palettes most producers are playing in right now, and even when a song embraces a style I tend to like, truncated running times and overused vocal effects often tempered the overall effectiveness. As always, I realize this is all very subjective. If the current musical landscape fits your taste well, you probably loved 2023. For my part, I’ve had my fill of sing/shout-talking and subdued musical soundscapes. Luckily, trends like these are cyclical. Nothing stays lodged at the top of the charts for too long.

Most of my favorite songs of 2023 seemed to exist outside of this trendiness, borrowing elements from all points in music history. They also tended to be longer in length, unveiling effective builds and (even more importantly) satisfying payoffs. I’ve always loved when music feels like a story, taking you on a complete journey. In our current age of streaming, many songs seem more content to unveil a series of earworm hooks that wash over the listener in gentle waves, begging to be replayed on a loop. This makes sense from a business perspective, but it rarely satisfies me on an experiential level.

Expectations like these are a product of your own personal history with music, so I don’t anticipate everyone sharing my own inclinations toward certain sounds and structures. And it’s worth noting that a great song is a great song and can break through personal biases through sheer strength and execution. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of those outliers this year for me. However, I’m excited to spotlight those songs that did break through. Even in K-pop’s weaker years, there is music to celebrate.

When it comes to the blog itself, 2023 was another strong year. I tried to address my interest in J-pop and global pop without sacrificing any of the usual K-pop content. More than anything, these posts offered a chance to highlight sounds and approaches I love that may not be present in K-pop at the moment. I hope you’ve found my J-pop and global pop round-ups useful. I’m well aware that their readership isn’t as high as my K-pop content, but they’re fun to write and act as a nice counterpoint.

I can’t believe it, but The Bias List will end the year with its strongest numbers yet! I really expected the blog’s readership to plateau in 2023, but we’ve had eight straight years of growth and are approaching the blog’s twenty-five millionth hit. I guess you guys aren’t tired of my bitching and moaning yet, huh?

(Just kidding, I’m well aware that some of you are very tired of it)

This year-end feature is my 715th post of the year, which is up ever-so-slightly from this time last year. That’s 225,000 words. I can’t quantify exactly how much time I’ve spent on the blog, but it’s a daily endeavor and has been that way for 2,841 days without interruption. That either makes me very dedicated or deeply crazy.

Honestly… it’s probably a little of both!

Eligibility criteria for my Top 50 Singles list hasn’t changed since 2022, but for those who are new to the blog, here are the rules. This year, there was a song or two that towed the line between promoted single and b-side, so I’ve made my own judgment call on which countdown it should land.

Eligibility criteria:

A song must have been released as a title, follow-up or promoted track between December 1, 2022 and November 30, 2023.
A song must be paired with a full music video or big-budget performance video (the lines get more blurred each year).
English-language singles are eligible. Japanese singles by K-pop artists will be part of the J-pop countdown.

Before kicking off the countdowns on Monday, here are the ten songs that didn’t quite make the Top 50. I’m utterly shocked (and pretty gutted) to see one of them this low. I bet longtime readers can guess which song I’m referring to!

Honorable Mentions

60. H1-KEY – Rose Blossom (review)

59. ZEROBASEONE – Crush (review)

58. CSR – Shining Bright (review)

57. ENHYPEN – Sweet Venom (review)

56. TAN – Fix You (review)

55. NewJeans – ETA (review)

54. Vanner – Performer (review)

53. Infinite – New Emotions (review)

52. BOYNEXTDOOR – But Sometimes (review)

51. xikers – Rockstar (review)

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