After a decade of counting down the year’s best K-pop songs at Billboard, 2022 brought refreshing and remarkable shifts in how these lists usually shape up.
Undeniably, this was the year of the girl group. More than half of 2022’s entries are from female troupes who now lead the scene in taste and trends. From established queens like Girls’ Generation and KARA celebrating milestone anniversaries to rising rookies including IVE, NewJeans, and LE SSERAFIM kicking in the industry door, the spectrum for excellence ran the gamut.
That’s not to say the boys weren’t bringing their best. In fact, cuts from BIGBANG, Zico, BTS, plus Ha Sung Woon and Jimin blew up big time without traditional music videos or typical promotional tactics. Even for those tracks riding on a viral trend, these were expressions of the artists that audiences won’t look back on as novelty tracks or cringey viral sensations best left as clips on TikTok.
Not to mention, K-pop has more eyes on it than ever worldwide, and it seemed like the artists delivered knowing the world was watching. Stray Kids and (G)I-DLE shared personal and powerful messages in their biggest singles yet, while BLACKPINK spotlighted how traditional Korean instruments fit inside their latest pop anthem.
2022 was the time for K-pop artists to express themselves vocally, thematically and artistically in ways previously seen, and it undoubtedly paid off in full. Read on to see who we think did it the best with Billboard‘s list of the 25 best K-pop songs of the year.