If you’re so inclined, you can check out my Spotify 2019 “Top Songs” playlist for what I had on repeat this year, but if you want to know the songs I played even when I was just screwing around on YouTube and what I was thinking/why I liked it, this list is for you!
I spent a lot of 2019 listening to recent Korean pop and hip-hop. That’s probably not a surprise considering what I’ve been working on across this year.
And of course, I’m still listening to Hamilton.
Title: Love U
Artist: Monsta X
What Had Me Hooked: A few weeks ago I made a tweet about how Monsta X makes “some good songs about fucking” and “Love U”, one of their newer English releases that’ll be on their upcoming Valentine’s Day release, is one of those songs. I love this song because it is so semi-subtly hornt. Are they talking about not being able to say the word “fuck” on the radio or are they talking about not being able to say “I love you” in Korean on Western radio? Who knows! It’s exciting!
Title: Gotta Go
Artist: Chung Ha
What Had Me Hooked: Chungha is so beautiful that it is honestly hard to look at her for very long periods of time without wanting to cry from being overwhelmed. I’m a big queer baby and she’s tiny with the voice of a star – no seriously, she sounds like a star that’s hanging out on earth for kicks, it’s great. My nieces got me into this song when it was released, and I love watching the music video! Gosh!
What Had Me Hooked: The funniest thing I’ve done all of 2019 was when I snapped that “no one cares about Jopping” days before I proved that I was someone that really fucking cared about that song. I still can’t give you a straight and objective answer about whether or not I think this song and video are good. That’s not happening, and you can’t make me do it. But this song is entertaining as hell and while I will never claim being a stan of any company (Not SM. Not Lucasfilm. Not Big Hit.) I am absolutely more open to listening to SM’s vast variety of Super Junior Evolutions when they have new content come out than I was at the start of the year. And of course, I know Mark’s verses in the song by heart.
What Had Me Hooked: There’s something about Taeyeon’s voice here that feels like classic pop music. “Spark” throws me back to when I was a teenager listening to BoA. Her voice is stunning. So stunning that it was one of the first songs that I placed on the work playlist I’ve shared with my immediate officemate. This song is so good, and I want to listen to it all the time. Please listen to it and bask in the wonderful richness of Taeyeon’s lovely voice.
Title: Freak. Nasty
Artist: Megan Thee Stallion
What Had Me Hooked: I love Megan Thee Stallion. I love her look, her swagger, the little “nyeh” noise she makes where she sticks out her tongue. She is a hottie on a level I never fathomed could exist and her stuff is largely fun and entertaining as hell. What makes this song for me in a way is the video. It’s a sexy fantasy with an absolutely undeserving (to me) male lead surrounded by gorgeous Black women that are absolutely too good for him. I came out of that video feeling extra queer, y’all.
Title: Ya Ya Ya
What Had Me Hooked: I do actually love it when the influence that Black creativity has on Korean pop, hip-hop, and R&B are made super obvious and this track, with a throwback 90s sound, does just that. “Ya Ya Ya” is one of many songs on EXO’s latest album that I find myself listening to on repeat. It’s currently my ringtone – replacing “Jopping” after like two months – which everyone who knows me offline is grateful for. I love this song. I mean, seriously. This song is a bop. One of my coworkers who nearly beat me up over making her listen to “Jopping” was like “okay wait, this needs to be on my playlist” when I played this for her right after the album came out.
Title: Really Really (Cover)
What Had Me Hooked: I’m still frustrated at Dreamcatcher’s name and their appropriative concepts (the Spider Woman one, anyone?). That’s why I surprised myself by getting super interested in their cover of Winner’s “Really Really”. The original song doesn’t move me. It’s not one of my favorites from Winner. Sorry. But there’s something about this subgroup of Dreamcatcher putting a light and sweet spin on this song that finally made it work for me. It’s a cute video and the song just works more for me with them fooling around and singing along at a public park space. It’s just such a great cover from a good ass girl group.
Title: Hands Behind My Back
What Had Me Hooked: Yes, I’m still mad at Amber – and I’ll remain mad until she actually puts her money and activism where her mouth is and shows some action behind her apology. But I’m also wildly invested in this song and the original video for it that left me feeling disconcerted from the dystopian setting. This song was at the top of my playlist for 2019 on Spotify because the week it came out, I played it on repeat until I knew the words and could sing along easily. I still like this incredibly powerful song and uh… maybe one day I’ll like Amber again. We’ll see.
Title: Boy In Luv
What Had Me Hooked: I am honestly weak for BTS’ early stuff. Way weaker than you’d probably expect from me considering I critique the shit out of everything. I call this and “War of Hormone” my two Emotional Support Mildly Misogynistic K-Pop Bops. (Sure, it’s not particularly catchy, but it is hilarious… to me). The thing about BTS’ early stuff is that they were consistent bops, y’all. Even when the video visuals were cringy or the lyrics made you want to ground them, that shit seriously slapped. For me coming into BTS as a fan later on their path, looking back at their early stuff is rewarding on two fronts. First, I think that it’s amazing to compare it to their current stuff and see that the talent was always there on some level and now it’s even stronger. Then there’s the fact that their early looks those first two years were just… a lot. So much. So hilarious (to me, again). They were such infants and I am fascinated by how they’ve largely moved far away from the hood cosplay.
Title: Wait For It
Artist: Leslie Odom Jr.
What Had Me Hooked: I hate Aaron Burr, the historical figure who couldn’t even put a provision into his “If I die in this duel” paper to free the enslaved Black people he believed he owned. I enjoy the idea of Aaron Burr, singing sensation in Hamilton. Leslie Odom Jr. has an amazing voice that moves mountains and sends shivers down my spine. I did a cover of the song ages ago and I’m always willing to bust it out when I need to. This song always drives me because Aaron Burr is just Going Through It and when he thinks he’s at the top, there comes Hamilton. If I could play one role in Broadway, it’d be this one. Just so I can sing this song. But Aaron Burr was a piece of shit.
Title: Born Hater
Artist: Epik High featuring BI, Bobby from iKon, Mino (Winner), Beenzino, and Verbal Jint
What Had Me Hooked: There are genuinely things I like about this collaboration between Epik High and a bunch of different rappers in the game. I think the beat is bawesome and the lyrics get stuck in my head – I looked them up ASAP and y’all know I love a good diss track. I think that Mino’s register change – he’s way raspier and rougher when he raps here than when his target audience is assumed female over with Winner – is fascinating. I also have so many thoughts on masculinity and hip hop inspired by this video because they’re largely all playing a role? It’s something I want to unpack in my project! But then like… Straight up, there’s a Korean woman with an obvious attempt at a Black babe hairstyle in the video in the role of the “video vixen” tanned until she’s almost as dark as I am – which isn’t that dark, but still. That part is weird and I don’t like it.
Title: Work Song
What Had Me Hooked: There’s a lot to love about Hozier. From how tall he is to how he sings like a fae prince trying to lure humans into the misty woods… Hozier is pretty freaking amazing. I loved him from “Take Me To Church” and “Work Song” hits me where I need it to, inspiring mournful but still hornt narratives jotted down in one of my many fancy notebooks. I actually have had this song on my playlists for ages, but in writing this list, I watched the video for the first time and I uh… love him even more now. Him and his lil man bun. Geez.
Artist: Dolly Parton
What Had Me Hooked: I love Jolene. I sing it all the time. I’ve covered it and posted it on twitter. I have sang this song at work so like… my bosses know what I sound like when I sing “Jolene”. Think about that: I have sang at work and it is all because of this amazing song.I got back on my Dolly kick with Dumplin’ when that movie came out and it’s like I never left in the first place. Also: I’m obviously of the mind-set that Dolly should just leave her man for Jolene since the guy’s the one breaking her trust and clearly Dolly recognizes that Jolene is a babe.
Title: Someone You Loved
Artist: Lewis Capaldi
What Had Me Hooked: I’ve been hearing this song everywhere for the past few weeks – months? – and it wasn’t until the members of A.C.E. did a cover at their December 11th concert that it clicked for me that this was the sad ass song that kept having me sniffling when I was at work or on the bus or wandering through the mall. What the hell? This song makes me sad but like… in a good way. And I don’t have enough of those kinds of songs in my life.
Title: OGZ (prod. Groovy Room)
Artist: Jo Woo-chan, Park Hyun-jin, and Achillo
What Had Me Hooked: The teenagers in this group – three rappers from three different South Korean companies – are… pretty talented? I mean, I have spent 75% of 2019 listening to Korean Hip-Hop and Rap and at this point I’ve managed to forge some opinions about who is/n’t as talented as I’m being told? And for a group of fourteen-year-olds… them lil gits are quite solidly set up. I was briefly a high school teacher so I’m pretty much always rooting for teenagers to do well and get their best shot at life. These three teenagers, who are definitely better at rapping than I have been in my entire life, are on a pretty solid track. I’m excited to see where they go from here.
Title: Love Talk
What Had Me Hooked: I’m so mad about how much I love WayV. I got into them at their debut at that the start of the year, when I was even shakier about the NCT group lineup than I am now. I knew next to no one in this group when I got into it – Hendery was the closest thing I had to a bias and he’s just… a baby. For most of the year “Take Off” was my SM song. The MV has a solid cyberpunk aesthetic and the song itself is just… fun as hell. Then “Love Talk” came out with an English version that left me reeling. I love this song way more than I’d expected to and way more than I probably should when you consider that this is a super sexy club song sang by people not necessarily old enough to get into a club in the US.
Title: Steady Love
What Had Me Hooked: When I was a tweenager first living in Florida, two neighborhood boys sang “Brown Skin” to me in the apartment complex pool. Weird as it may seem now in 2019 – let a boy try singing anything at one of the niecelings without knowing them first and you’ll see Some Shit – that moment set me up to be an India.Arie fan. This song snuck up on me. Honestly. I’m working through memorizing the words so I’ll let y’all know if I conquer it by the start of the new year!
What Had Me Hooked: Twice has had a pretty powerful 2019. They’ve had some incredible releases, had tour dates in the US, and continued to show that there’s a reason a lot of people love their look and sound. While I’ve loved literally everything they’ve put out in 2019, of the five singles they had come out this year (across various EPs)… “Break Through”, one of their Japanese singles that then got a Korean release on their Feel Special EP, really made 2019 for me. This song was incredible. I mean, it still is just a solid and fun song with plenty of enjoyment to be found in the video itself too. Twice’s singles this year have been great and the Feel Special EP literally has zero skips to me, but this song… Wow!
Title: Seoul Town Road
Artist: Lil Nas X featuring RM (BTS)
What Had Me Hooked: My mom had been listening to Old Town Road pretty much non-stop for a hot minute before this track dropped. I legit remember when it did because I’d seen people on Twitter like “can you believe RM is collaborating with A GAY BLACK RAPPER/COUNTRY SINGER/VIRAL SENSATION like LIL NAS X” and I was like “okay so did I dream this?”. I was truly besides myself. I was wandering around our living room listening to this song and saying “what the fuck, is this real” every few seconds. It still doesn’t feel real. But y’all, what a moment, huh?
What did y’all listen to across 2019? Who do y’all think I should’ve listened to in 2019? Are there any artists whose content you’re looking forward to in 2020?