The 79 Best K-Pop Songs of 2022

The best K-pop songs of 2022 took us on a journey through girl group supremacy, glitch modes and hype boys, memories of the past, and visions for the future.

As we’ve written in the past, K-pop isn’t a monolithic genre — the same way American pop can encompass a variety of performers and sounds, so too can K-pop. Slow and whispery, intergalactic and frenzied, five songs crammed into one or a ballad so moving and plaintive it’ll make you cry.

In the third year of this Best K-Pop list, 79 journalists and critics chose songs that spoke to them and the world around them. Some outlined the most unique, bombastic side of what K-pop’s genre mash-up can sound like. Others celebrated the year’s surge of rookie 4th-gen girl groups that have dominated charts and playlists this year. Still others highlighted the indie innovators and b-sides that added depth and dynamite to Korean pop music in a way that will last for years to come. What a time to be alive.

Below, discover the best K-pop songs of 2022 in no particular order, root for your faves, and maybe pick up a new song or two to add to your rotation.

NewJeans, “Hype Boy”

Surprise drops are rare in K-pop, and even more so are surprise group debuts. NewJeans, the first girl group under HYBE subsidiary ADOR, pulled off the bit with a sound as cool as their mid-2000s style, appearing like a fresh Stuck in the Suburbs-esque mirage in a year when new girl groups were already taking over. As July faded into August, we got to know NewJeans through seven music videos in one week — four of which told the story of “Hype Boy” through alternating mini narratives, as the members played characters who each experienced first heartbreaks and romantic dalliances. It was a sweet trick, and the dynamic nature of NewJeans was cemented with the song itself — vibey and fun, nostalgic yet new, with sick little beats and production sounds. There’s a reason everyone can’t stop listening to, and covering, the track: “You’re my chemical hype boy” shifted something in our collective brain. Fr. Claire Dodson, senior entertainment editor at Teen Vogue

Thrilled

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Psy and Suga, “That That”

Come hither… it’s the return of the king. Psy, aka Park Jaesang, aka the artist responsible for K-pop’s first major American breakthrough in 2012, came back with a dopamine hit of a song earlier this year. Psy saunters through saloon doors with “That That,” a jubilant, trot-influenced bop and post-lockdown celebration, produced by and featuring BTS’s Suga. The accompanying music video is one of 2022’s most memorable, featuring a cradled “Gangnam Style” era Psy, stuntman Suga leaping into a rap battle with an eagle’s cry, and some truly unrelenting choreography. Psy never lost it, but “That That” proves why he remains an industry icon. Katie Gohculture journalist

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