It's been another huge year for Asian pop, with hit songs in various languages spreading far and wide in the world. We're celebrating just some of the incredible music from the year with PopAsia's top 100 songs for 2019.
We looked at the biggest songs released from January 1 to December 18 2019 to compile an epic list of 100 songs. We still couldn't get every one of our faves in, but we bet this will give you plenty of listening material as we head into the new year!
We'll be publishing the top 50 on Tuesday 24 December so keep your eyes peeled for that too.
100. Zizan Razak & Ismail Izzani: "Berserah"
Malaysian rapper Zizan Razak and young singer Ismail Izzani’s talents mesh seamlessly in this hip-hop collaboration that draws on a repetitive piano refrain, small sound samples and a blend of rapping with sung choruses.
99. Last Idol: "Otona Survivor"
Last Idol insist on sweeping you away on “Otona Survivor”, as they cry out for the listener to stand strong and move forward no matter the obstacles. The repeated shouts of ‘hey!’ hammer it home with the soaring strings we’ve all come to expect and love.
98. Cherry Bullet: "Q&A"
While this girl group haven’t had the smoothest first year (three members recently announced their departure), the bubbly electro-pop song is a smart debut choice as the lyrics work on two levels: either for fans wanting to know more about the girls, or a curious romantic interest.
97. Nadine Lustre, Sam Concepcion & Nicole Omillo: "Triangulo"
A vocal-focused collaboration between three dynamic singers, all with different tones, makes for a gentle pop tune. There’s nothing overtly bold here, but it’s that softness that makes it a comforting listen.
96. OSN: "Without You"
OSN brings a soft sadness to his ballad-rap track lamenting a relationship at its end and trying to rekindle what was lost. He interchanges English and Mandarin throughout with sentimental lyripentacs that mirror the music’s languid pace.
95. Kaka Azraff: "Diamonds"
Malaysian artist Kaka Azraff delivers a romantic track full of compliments to her lover over a smooth R&B beat that lets her vocals take the forefront.
94. Park Bom: "Spring"
The 2NE1 member returns triumphantly with a spring song that much like the season, lets the singer bloom. The piano-centric ballad allows Park Bom to flex her impressive vocals, and the cameo from fellow 2NE1 member Sandara Park adds a special touch to a song that already carries emotional weight.
93. Lee Hi ft. B.I: "No One"
Lee Hi made her long-awaited return with a mesmeric mid-tempo track that took influences from Middle Eastern and reggae rhythms. Featuring iKON’s B.I, the pair’s voices play off one another brightly, making for addictive listening.
92. VERIVERY: "Ring Ring Ring"
Jellyfish Entertainment’s new boy group made their debut with an upbeat bop lifting the best of 90s R&B beats, like sharp snares and stacatto synths. An exuberant explosion of colour and energy, “Ring Ring Ring” brought retro back in the best way possible.
91. X1: "Flash"
Produce X 101’s winning boy group came charging out the gates with a polished, celebratory song. The clever sample of a camera flash whirring to life is just one of many hidden quirks in the production of “Flash”, and while it’s always hard to give equal time to every member in groups of this scale, “Flash” never feels scattered. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a Produce debut song, in the best way possible.
90. 831 ft. A-Lin: "Let's Hurt Each Other"
Taiwanese rock band 831 and singer-songwriter A-Lin come together on this song that perfectly encapsulates the push and pull of a relationship falling apart, as the two voices battle yet meld with one another to make for catchy pop-rock.
89. THE RAMPAGE from EXILE TRIBE: "Swag & Pride"
This J-pop boy group has dabbled in everything from EDM to trop-pop and nu-metal, and on the guitar-heavy “SWAG & PRIDE” they shine especially bright. It almost shouldn’t work: the combo of pure rock with the members’ singing and rapping seems discordant at first, but by the end of the song you realise it’s a new style of innovative pop you want to hear time and time again.
88. AAA: "Bad Love"
The 57th single from J-pop idol group AAA is a catchy pop track that differentiates with its casual conversational chorus style when you’d expect otherwise. With the hint of strings in the background too, it’s a hook that keeps you riveted and wanting more.
87. Bang Yongguk: "Hikkikomori"
B.A.P’s leader appears heart fully on sleeve on “Hikkikomori” - the title of which refers to a Japanese term for reclusive people who live in extreme isolation. There’s no artifice here as the rapper muses on the different versions of himself trapped inside; from wanting love to rejecting it, from desperately trying to connect to feeling that loneliness is inescapable. Coming from the perspective of a man who’s been in the limelight for years now, it feels especially devastating and poignant.
86. EXID: "ME & YOU"
EXID go into full party mode on this explosive breakup song that speaks in no uncertain terms. When the trop-house EDM chorus drops, it’s as triumphant as the feeling of being rid of the disappointing partner the lyrics lament.
85. Zelo: "Questions"
B.A.P youngest member Zelo’s solo debut is overflowing with youthful energy. The music and lyrics are tinged with that hopeful late-night energy of dancing with strangers, meeting someone new, maybe falling in love. Zelo is playful in his delivery and performance, making the curiosity expressed in his lyrics all the more endearing.
84. Hinatazaka46: "May I Like This So Much?"
This track has one of the best elements of hit Japanese songs: an anthemic chorus that sweeps you away, while verses act as short relaxed breaths in between. This song debuted at No.1 on the Oricon Single Charts on release and it’s easy to see why on first listen, it’s tenderness makes it endlessly endearing.
83. Oh My Girl: "The Fifth Season"
There’s a lot of energy on “The Fifth Season” and it comes out of nowhere. What starts off with soft breathy vocals soon explodes with brightness, mirroring the hopeful enthusiasm of blossoming love the song extols.
82. Hoàng Thuỳ Linh: "Để Mị Nói Cho Mà Nghe"
Traditional Vietnamese music elements meet dance-pop in this track that’s all about living your best life while you’re young. The song is a perfect balance of old-school sounds and modern beats, and Hoang Thuy Linh’s voice is what connects it all together so seamlessly.
81. Taemin: "FAMOUS"
Taemin’s J-pop releases continue to be of the highest standard with “FAMOUS”. While some K-pop artists’ Japanese releases can feel like an afterthought, Taemin’s songs are carefully crafted to play to his strengths regardless of language, always maintaining that X-factor that makes him so distinctly irresistible. With “FAMOUS”’s funk undertones and incessantly catchy refrain, it’s another delightful addition to his Japanese discography.
80. Favorite: "Loca"
This six-member girl group might not be well-known but they broke through earlier this year with “Loca”. In simple terms: it’s a banger. Electronic beats team up with a Middle Eastern influenced rhythm in the chorus to make for an earworm you can’t help hitting replay on.
79. IZ*ONE: "Violeta"
The twinkling and whistling synths at the core of “Violetta” have some secret power that lodge this song firmly in your mind. The vocals mirror the music’s playful nature, as the girls go from lengthy high notes to spoken word inserts, with the multiple layers collaging into a sonically dense and delightful song.
78. DAY6: "Time of Our Life"
Anthemic K-pop rock boys DAY6 were at it again this year with hook-laden jams that get you on your feet immediately. “Time of Our Life” is a sparkling rock song bounding along with blind faith and youthful exuberance, bolstered by the stellar musicianship of DAY6’s members.
77. Sulli: "Goblin"
A lilting pop song that deceptively hides a deeper message about battling mental health issues, Sulli’s final song released before her passing is a testament to her talents as a vocalist and lyricist.
76. Inigo Pascual: "Options"
22-year-old Filipino singer-songwriter Inigo Pascual delivers smooth vocals with a casual tone in what gradually grows into a club song. Pascual has endless charisma that makes you fall in love a little bit while hearing him get lyrical about his feelings.
75. Weki Meki: "Picky Picky"
Just looking at the title of this song gets the chorus stuck in your head, and if there’s anything more demonstrative of pop music power, we don’t know it. A tongue-in-cheek tune that turns fickleness into a pop bop.
74. iKON: "I'M OK"
The mid-tempo final chapter in iKON’s songs that explore all facets of love and its demise (eg, “Love Scenario” & “Killing Me”), “I’M OK” sounds partly like a rebuttal to pity and also a motto to convince oneself. B.I has always had an innate ability to tap into universal experiences and the complex emotions tied up in them, and this song is another perfect execution of that.
73. NU'EST: "Bet Bet"
NU’EST’s return as a five-piece came with a sophisticated sound that focuses on their impeccable harmonies. There’s plenty of twists hidden in “Bet Bet”, but it’s crux is the chorus led by Baekho and Minhyun’s immense vocals.
72. Kris Wu: "Da Wan Kuan Mian"
Kris Wu flipped an embarrassing moment from his past that was earning him online mockery (a fairly cringe freestyle rap about noodles he did at a noodle restaurant in a reality show), and turned it into masterful track that weaves wordplay and his old rap into a whole new song. Throwing traditional instrumentation against his distinct rap style is the ultimate retort to negativity coming his way.
71. Brown Eyed Girls: "Wonder Woman"
Iconic girl group Brown Eyed Girls returned with an unexpectedly funky song that uses jazzy instrumentation allowing their powerhouse vocals to shine brightly. The gradual build on the background vocals and occasional burst of strings bolster the convivial mood of the track.
70. SKE48: "Frustration"
The J-pop idol girl group blend electro-pop with US hip-hop and rock elements to make a bouncing tune that demands you let go of all your frustrations and get dancing.
69. Dreamcatcher: "PIRI"
"PIRI" announces itself with a whistle intro and grinding guitars, and takes no prisoners as it amps the energy up to 100. Only Dreamcatcher can match the power of a song like this, which is exactly why it's become their signature sound.
68. Somi: "Birthday"
Somi’s much anticipated solo debut is the purest definition of a bop. Confectionery sweet, with a simple lilting rhythm, the song’s strength is in Somi’s vocal delivery. Sassy and cool, her confident style is a breath of fresh air.
67. UNINE: "Set It Off"
This Chinese boy band born out of Idol Producer 2 are smooth and stylish on “SET IT OFF”, a moody pop track that uses distorted synth and minimalist percussion to set the tone. The song avoids the cliches of EDM pop and lets the boys be the stars over the production; the perfect single for a newly formed group to showcase their charms.
66. KARD: "Bomb Bomb"
KARD have carved a signature sound for themselves somewhere in K-pop trop-house music and they’ve found endless ways to innovate so it remains fresh while instantly recognisable. “Bomb Bomb” is a club banger that demands to be danced to. Each time a verse lures you into momentary comfort, the chorus returns with its hyper-tuned notes to get you jumping again.
65. Little Glee Monster: "Echo"
“ECHO” puts the focus firmly on Little Glee Monster’s incredible vocal range, letting the members take control over electric guitars and a big, bold melodic arc. It’s the kind of song made for mass singalong and swaying, and the conviction in the girls’ performances adds to the spine-tingling power of it.
64. Jus2: "Focus On Me"
Maybe one of the more unexpected GOT7 sub-units, JB and Yugyeom make an intriguing duo with a slinkier feel to their music which will ring familiar to anyone who follows JB’s solo work (he’s involved in the writing and composition here). The mood is decidedly sensual, and the two idols’ vocals have unique timbres which compliment one another when they collide on the chorus. It’s a subtle, smooth song that’s meticulously crafted to showcase both artists’ talents and make you fall a little deeper.
63. Baekhyun: "UN Village"
EXO’s Baekhyun made his solo debut with an innuendo-laden, sensuous song that perfectly highlights his vocal range. Flitting from breathy falsetto to deeper tones, he’s always commanding in presence and voice, making it easy to sink into Baekhyun’s realm of R&B jams and take on his vision of ‘relaxing and chilling’.
62. SB19: "Go Up"
Filipino boy group SB19 bring joyous vibes with the 90s-tinged “Go Up”. With the euphoric piano refrain building into the drop before the chorus, and clever quirks in the production to keep you interested, it’s a song made for summer replays.
61. AB6IX: "Breathe"
AB6IX’s debut was awaited with bated breath by fans of WANNA ONE and MXM alike, with four out of five members coming from those groups. What they delivered was a hypnotic house-influenced track that focuses on the finer details of a song’s ebbs and flows, like in its unexpected chorus drop. Giving space for each member to shine, it’s an alluring intro to a new era for these idols.
60. NMB48: "Tokonoma Seiza Musume"
J-pop girl group NMB48’s 20th single is an exciting, overwhelming sensory experience. Dive in headfirst and get taken over by electric guitar riffs hidden underneath enthusiastic horns and an old-school vocal rhythm that worms itself into your brain and refuses to leave.
59. GOT7: "Eclipse"
The music reflects the lyrics on GOT7’s momentous “Eclipse”; as they sing of fighting against the metaphorical darkness, the music seems to spark itself from within. Much like an eclipse, the song gives us a different perspective on verses before the pace picks up into the chorus, which then energetically explodes, like a burst of light.
58. CL: "Rewind"
CL’s project album is a glorious middle finger to being kept in silence for two years, and “Rewind” is its most hauntingly sentimental track. Desperately nostalgic for a time long gone, when paired with the music video it morphs into something bigger than a song for a past lover. CL’s signature rap style teamed with her lower vocal tones on the chorus perfect the contemplative mood.
57. WJSN: "Boogie Up"
Full of vivid colours and bright music, “Boogie Up” is the embodiment of a summer K-pop song. Using driven guitar riffs to set the light mood, the girls’ enthusiastic voices make for the kind of addictive tune that the hot weather calls for.
56. N.Flying: "Rooftop"
If you could bottle the nostalgia for summer nights in a song, it’d be “Rooftop”. N.Flying had a sleeper hit with this mid-tempo rock-pop song that channels the sweetness of being in love perfectly with its motif of stargazing on a rooftop.
55. The Boyz: "D.D.D"
A jubilant song that pulses with youthful energy, The Boyz demand you get on your feet with “D.D.D”. The slick production cleverly builds lighter verses into big choruses with incessant rhythms you can’t help but ‘dance dance dance’ to.
54. Eric Chou: "Something About L.A"
Taiwanese singer-songwriter Eric Chou channels the sunshine of Los Angeles in a track that’s all about escapism. He muses on his life’s trajectory and the simple pleasures of driving along and singing in a car, making “Something About L.A” a dedication to a city, a specific moment in time and a loved one, all rolled into one.
53. HyunA: "Flower Shower"
HyunA’s triumphant return came with an unexpected turn towards minimalism. “Flower Shower” is spacious, with percussion and small samples scattered throughout building a rhythmic wall of sound. HyunA uses blooming flowers as a metaphor for this new chapter in her life, with a focus on her voice above all, all while letting the lyrics leave subtle nods to naysayers. The song and music video are like a breath of fresh air, and a reminder of HyunA’s star power.
52. NCT DREAM: "Boom"
Long gone are the cutesy days of NCT DREAM: the members here are older, more tenacious, and “Boom” bursts with confidence thanks to it. The teasing verses give way to a bass-boosted chorus that’s somehow programmed to be stuck in your brain, possibly forever, while the members’ vocals are stronger than ever. “Boom” feels like another significant milestone for a group set to go even higher.
51. PENTAGON: "Humph!"
The flute intro sets the tone for a playful song that fits PENTAGON’s sound to a tee. PENTAGON excel at making songs that encapsulate the core of universally-felt emotions - in this case, “Humph!” is a cute and clever take on the demand for an apology after hurt feelings, using lighthearted music and smart wordplay to have you smiling.
What do you think of the list so far? Check out what songs made it into the top 50 here!