Finding the silver lining of the gloomy grey cloud that was 2020 has been hard for many people across the world. One small thread of that lining has been the world of K-pop, where artists have steadily released enjoyable songs that have helped fans across the world get through the year. This year saw the resurgence of retro sounds, most predominantly disco. It has garnered a lot of love from K-pop acts, and given a trendy update to classic, sophisticated elements. Some artists sang about love, some about their careers and some about living in the coronavirus pandemic – and among the bevy of K-pop releases this year, there have been some truly great numbers. Listed alphabetically by title, here are the best singles from K-pop groups this year. Black Swan by BTS Every once in a while, there arrives a truly wonderful blend of classic and pop arts, and BTS – who never shy away from changing up their sound – excelled at this on the captivating Black Swan . A moody, trap-driven exploration of an artist’s relationship with their creations and career, the ruminative song was released through a music video featuring contemporary dancers exquisitely putting the meaning of the song to performance. BTS continued to showcase this blend of contemporary dance and pop musicality through various performances of the song during the rest of the year, including one on US late-night talk show The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon . As fitting as it is to be a forum for interpretive performances, Black Swan as a song itself is theatrical in style: traditional Korean instrumentals clash with the most modern of beats and lo-fi strings. Distorted, pitchy voices, echoing verses, scattered rhythmic melodies and mellow raps resonate as the septet reflect on their relationship with music. Black Swan is BTS at their best: as weighty as it is evocative, as provocative as it is thoughtful, and all at once a song that grows its impact with each listen. Can’t You See Me? by Tomorrow x Together Is there anything more universal than the desire to be seen and understood? Tomorrow X Together , also known as TXT, have spent their career so far singing about the feelings that accompany youth, and this trap-pop song danced around the question in its title with lyrics about just wanting to be understood by friends. A frenzied beat and circuitous whistling weave through thumping, reverberating synths. TXT members’ expressive singing reflects the lyrics and unleashes a storm of emotions. Intense yet compact, Can’t You See Me? is experiential teenage angst at its most effusive. Dumduhdum by Apink Apink have been a dominant force in K-pop for almost a decade now , first with the upbeat, chorus-focused songs of their early days that saw love in South Korea, and now with their more dramatic, synth-fuelled style that has captivated the attention of many international K-pop fans. Following 2018’s stand-out I’m So Sick and last year’s even better Eung Eung , Dumduhdum is Apink’s latest single to move the act into a more mature direction. The six stars blend their show-stopping vocals with whimsical synths and tinny beats to create a song that is as addictive as it is danceable. The song’s title may be a play on the Korean word for “keeping one’s cool” ( deomdeomhada ), but Apink are on pure fire with this release. Flowering by Lucy In a year full of anxieties, rookie band Lucy arrived with a pop-rock style both innovative and engaging, somehow timeless and oh-so-refreshing. Their playful Jogging saw a lot of love after it arrived as a bouncing, imaginative take on the typical brightness of a summer song in August, but in May’s Flowering, Lucy truly produced a song that inspires and comforts at a time when people need it the most. Majestically propelled by a violin driving the melody, the song expresses a hopeful form of regret while waiting for the return of spring. There’s a sense of grandeur and simplicity simultaneously relayed throughout the song as the band members play off one another with whimsy and intensity. “That feeling of being unable to do anything/What if I remain alone and wither away?/It’s OK, someday it’s going to bloom blue,” vocalist-guitarist Choi Sang-yeob sings reassuringly during a slow moment, before the song moves forward passionately towards its finale. I Can’t Stop Me by Twice Twice are an act who have been reliable hitmakers since day one of their career back in 2015, and they’ve managed to outdo themselves this year. I Can’t Stop Me is a song that feels like someone fell asleep in the ‘80s only to wake up in 2020 to write a K-pop hit. Synth wave and disco front this song and, though it has the group’s typical earworm of a hook (“I can’t stop me, can’t stop me”), sleek verses and cooing ad-libs drive much of the tune. With this release, Twice prove yet again that they’re growing up, and nothing can stop them, not even themselves. La Di Da by Everglow Everything about La Di Da is pure pop perfection. Whether it’s the smooth ’80s synth melody or the soaring, atmospheric vocals of the members, this Everglow single is as fun as it is dramatic, soaring to bombastic heights and then dipping down to whispering utterances. The titular choral refrain that filters throughout the song is euphoric and sassy, both sung harmoniously and singsong rapped – then turned into a powerful chant. If you’re ever having a bad day, or someone has arrived to rain on your parade, turn on this tune and dance around your room, singing along: “Got no time for haters/ to all the bad guys and the players/I’m like la di da di da di da di da”. Left & Right by Seventeen As versatile performers as they are, Seventeen are really the best when they let loose and release funky, fun singles that are enthusiastically upbeat, and Left & Right was just that. One would expect that, with 13 members, it’d be hard to make all of Seventeen shine on one song, but they’ve been doing this for half a decade now and leave nobody behind. Left & Right is as much a celebration of Seventeen’s versatility as it is an addictive tune. The TikTok-able single is fuelled by clap-happy verses and a chanty chorus, but it’s in the verses where Seventeen really has some fun, giving each member a chance to show off his own style, with sweetly harmonised lyrics and jocular raps fuelled by gritty strings. Lovesick Girls by Blackpink There’s something a little bit whimsical, a little bit folksy in the moody strings and funky beats that guide Blackpink’s lovelorn lead single from their long-awaited first LP “The Album” . Yet, at its heart, Lovesick Girls is a song to dance to during the latest hours at a club (when clubs open again, at least). The four women of Blackpink spend Lovesick Girls showing off their performing flair through despondent verses, an exuberant chorus and snappy raps that revel in the desire to be loved. We were all born to be loved, and Blackpink have put sound to that yearning in the most outstanding of ways. Mago by Gfriend If you’re a Mamma Mia or Abba fan, Gfriend’s try at the disco trend popular among female K-pop acts in 2020 doesn’t disappoint: Mago is an impassioned, addictive track that is built not only to be danced to, but to be remembered far beyond the last beat. The ethereal vocals roll into one another, each verse exaggerated and extended beyond past expectation. Throw in dulcet ad-libs that appear beneath the top notes of the song, and Gfriend doesn’t disappoint in any way on this beguiling track. Mago will cast its spell over anyone who happens across it. Oh My God by (G)I-dle There’s a sense of creeping otherworldliness throughout (G)I-dle’s stand-out Oh My God , which paves a road towards euphoric ascension in the form of its moody, trap-hop styling. The song, which to many came off as a lesbian love anthem thanks to its chorus of “Oh my god, she took me to the sky/Oh my god, she showed me all the stars”, switches off between invigorating raps and sweeping verses, showing off the best of what (G)I-dle’s members have to offer. They don’t always go big and dramatic, but when they do, the girl group is at their best. One (Lucid Dream) by Golden Child This song doesn’t really make sense as a listening experience, and that’s the absolute joy of Golden Child’s One (Lucid Dream) : it feels exactly like the sort of out-of-body experience that is a lucid dream. This song is, to put it bluntly, bizarre at first glance. It’s fronted by a riotous electronic section, then drifts its way into soaring vocals over whiny synths, only to find its way into the groovy, bass-fuelled chorus. Then it combines all the elements as it weaves in and out of diverse soundscapes, throwing in a little hip hop and grungy distortion whenever it feels like it. One (Lucid Dream) shouldn’t make sense, but Golden Child pulls it off with the most glorious flair, and it’s a song that is worth revisiting over and over again. Kick It by NCT 127 2020 had so many releases from the 23 members of NCT and their associated acts, NCT 127 , NCT Dream and WayV, and all were of such high calibre that there honestly could be a whole list dedicated to the singles they released. From among them all, it was the anthemic Kick It that’s made a lasting impression. Pan-Asian in inspiration – the artwork for the release and performances were full of traditionally inspired nods, while the fight-ready chorus invokes none other than Bruce Lee – and aggressive in styling, it’s all about chanting hip hop and blaring electronica. Kick It blasts its way into listeners’ hearts and minds, and remains there through the final, blaring beats. Scandalous by Keembo If you consider yourself a diehard K-pop fan but aren’t familiar with Keembo, it’s understandable – but it’s time to correct this lack of knowledge. Keembo, aka Kim Bohyung, and Kim Boa of gone-but-not-forgotten girl group Spica have returned recently with a series of singles, and Scandalous reminds the world once again of their immense talent as performers. This song is explosive in the way it showcases the duo’s vocals, offering up a quirky pop melody infused with what sounds like fiddle-based strings as they show the world their powerhouse singing style over the catchy hook of the song (“She’s a beauty, but scandalous”). It will have any listener humming along to its addictive melody and the belting “Oh oh ohs” long before the three-minute song is done. Star by Loona The English version of Loona’s Voice , a B-side track on their “[12:00]” album from October, Star is an all-round classic but trendy song. It has a suave, upbeat pop melody blended with the ever-present retro styling of K-pop in 2020, with Loona’s members displaying the evocative power of their voices over its twinkling synths and snappy beats. Shining bright with its shifts from softer moments to more rambunctious ones, this is a song to listen to while staring up at the stars on a clear night and thinking about the most precious of things. Wannabe by Itzy If you tweeted the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Twitter account asking for a definition of “charisma”, their savvy social media person might very well send you a picture of Itzy, who have become synonymous with the term as they’ve rapidly become one of K-pop’s must-watch girl groups. Beginning with a melody and the sound of gears winding, as if to launch the exuberance of the track, Wannabe arrives with such a surge of confidence and boisterous taunts, it’s almost impossible not to envision the members performing it in your mind’s eye. It’s brash and fun all at once, infusing brassy electropop and hip hop beats with some bright pop melodies and self-empowering chants to create a tune that everyone can sing along to, about wanting to be no one other than “me”. 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 .