As much fun as the performances of K-pop groups are, and as innovative as much of their musicality can be, idol teams are only one part of the equation when it comes to the immense versatility of K-pop. An increasing number of solo artists have been impressing the K-pop world with their music over the past few years. In 2020, the trend continued with stand-out songs from several singers that we’ll be listening to for years to come. Here, in our opinion, are the best singles from K-pop vocalists in 2020, ranked alphabetically by title. Alien by Lee Suhyun As one half of sibling duo AKMU, Lee Suhyun has found acclaim throughout the South Korean pop world, but it was with her solo release Alien that the 21-year-old spread her wings and captured her unique flair. The song, which celebrates the feeling of being different, is an addictive, quirky dance hall number that bounces along to Suhyun’s sweet voice. It plays around with distortions and pitchiness to hone in on the point of being an alien, showing off her skill while also having fun and sharing a new side to the young singer. Candy by Baekhyun Last year, the EXO vocalist made his mark with his smooth alt R&B tune UN Village , and this year he returned in brighter form with Candy . Sticking firmly within the realm of R&B, this song is more playful, with a bright, up tempo melody, but with the spotlight on Baekhyun’s sweet and smooth tone that seduces listeners in the same seductive way that a sweet shop’s window display entices customers. Chocolate by Max Changmin It’s always a surprise when a stalwart artist decides to try out something new well over a decade into their career, but Changmin’s first EP arrived with a title track that repackaged his whole sound. Chocolate is neither an evocative ballad nor a powerhouse electropop dance track like those he is known for within TVXQ!, but he brought out the explosive funk and created a tune that both gives the talented vocalist a chance to show off his belts and also to try out some fun tonal shifts over a stomping beat. This is a dark chocolate song if there ever has been one, with its deep sonic texture lushly captivating. Eight by IU featuring Suga of BTS This sweet pop-rock tune from IU features and is produced by BTS’ Suga, who also co-wrote the song with her, and is meant to encompass the feelings that accompanied her 28th year (27 by international counting standards). The airy pop balladry is laced with nostalgia as the singer, joined by Suga’s mellifluous rap, ruminates on how happiness and hope changes as one grows up even while memories stay forever young. As is fitting of one of the most talented young vocal pop artists in Korea, the song gracefully explores these ideas as IU alternates between softer moments and ones that sweep and soar like the dreams of youth. Holo by Lee Hi The graceful Holo marks a new start for Lee Hi, who started anew at a new company, hip-hop-oriented AOMG, after years of being managed by former label YG Entertainment, and fittingly it’s a revelatory experience of a song. With lilting piano kicking off the song and an uplifting backing chorus, Lee’s weighty, breathy tone aims to comfort those who feel lonely, even when with others. Reassuring and inspiring, it’s what Lee does best and this year of 2020 needed it more than ever. Criminal by Taemin Lee Taemin as a member of SHINee is known for the band’s always innovative style, and Taemin as a soloist is known for his dramatic, provocative performances. He did not disappoint this year with his duology of Criminal and Idea , and it was the former of the two that exemplified everything Taemin has to offer. Everything about Criminal is enticing, whether it’s Taemin’s seductive, breathless verses or the compelling synths of the melody, or even the small little gruffs of the chorus when things go off kilter for a moment before returning to their earlier rhythm. The song creeps along at varied paces, almost like it has something to hide, arriving ultimately at a point where Taemin is almost taunting the listeners, layering his vocals atop of one another for the finale as if to distort the reality of who this artist is. Which, as someone who is continuously exploring what it means to be a performer, seems to be the eternal question of Lee Taemin. Love Me Harder by Woodz If you’re not paying attention to Woodz, it’s time to take note: this multifaceted singer-songwriter, who some may know for his role in UNIQ with C-drama star Wang Yibo, made a splash this year with numerous addictive releases after the disbandment of his short-lived team X1. Though all have value, Love Me Harder may, as a groovy pop song, encapsulate everything that Woodz has to offer. With an addictive, whistling rhythm backed by his fierce delivery of a lovelorn request, this song sets him up to be one of this generation of K-pop’s must-watch artists. Pporappippam by Sunmi Sunmi is one of the most reliable singers in K-pop today, with hit after hit, and this purple-hued song is just the latest. The romanisation of the Korean phrase “the violet covered nighttime sky”, this disco-infused dance song alternates between soft and sweet contemplation, while surging forward to its bright, twinkling chorus. With a rhythmic, city pop-inspired beat and strings wrapping it all up, Sunmi lifts up listeners with its addictive melody. Stay Tonight by Chungha Chungha is yet another immensely reliable K-pop soloist, and her atmospheric house track Stay Tonight is a further example of this. As she endears the listener to her request to “stay tonight”, Chungha tantalises softly in the verses before soaring explosively to the chorus, only to drop into a groovy dance break. This wasn’t really a year for dancing, but Chungha’s Stay Tonight still made us feel like we could. Winter Flower by Younha featuring RM of BTS For many, this year was a chilling experience, but even at the worst of times there’s comfort to be found in music, and Younha’s collaboration with BTS’ RM, Winter Flower, is an overpowering pop track meant to comfort its listeners. “I will take it away, before you stumble/I will stay by your side, until you survive,” she belts out in the chorus over the chanting backtrack of “hold on”. RM brings his typical insightfulness to his mellow verse, expressing how everyone struggles through this life but hopes for this winter to bloom into autumn. Though winter’s cold can wrap a person in sorrow, it can also refresh one’s spirit, and Winter Flower evokes that feeling as it explodes in complex emotions, with the intent to provide solace to listeners. Which stories mattered most to you in 2020? Find out with our Year In Review 2020 retrospective. For more great stories on Korean entertainment, artist profiles and the latest news, visit K-post, SCMP's K-pop hub .