Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with kpop, and consider myself something of an expert in it having been a fan since I was a teenager a long, long, long time ago (I’m turning 30 this year, god help me).
Every year, I like to compile all of my kpop favorite songs of the year in a YouTube playlist, which you can follow if you find yourself liking my recommendations.
Whether you’re a fan of kpop, or are simply curious about it and looking to get into it, I plan to post a few of these top kpop song rundowns throughout the year, along other general kpop-related lists, with a final wrap-up in December, so be sure to keep an eye out for future Cortex posts from me for even more kpop goodness.
With that out of the way, here are some of my top kpop songs of 2022 so far!
Morgan’s Top Kpop Songs of 2022 So Far
Stray Kids - MANIAC
Easily my favorite kpop song released thus far, Stray Kids have been on a roll with their comebacks lately, and are certainly a group to follow if you aren’t a fan of bubblegum pop.
Last year, they had another song I had high on my list of 2021 favorites, Thunderous, which I also recommend checking out. Especially given the quality of the music video.
I feel a little less attached to the music video for Maniac, I definitely think they could have pushed it further, but man is the chorus drop one of the best I’ve heard. Maniac is going to be a hard one to top this year.
(G)I-DLE - TOMBOY
It took a few listens for me to get on board with Tomboy, but once it hit me, I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. Soyeon’s, “Why are you cranky, boy?” has been stuck in my head for weeks, it’s such an earworm.
Another thing that helps Tomboy stand out from the crowd is its boundary pushing vibes, with a censored swear word preceding the chorus (this isn’t common in kpop, especially among girl groups) and the cutting edge fashion in the music video, with the red outfits blended with metal band references being a standout. They’re just *chef’s kiss* so good.
If you’re familiar with League of Legends’ kpop group K/DA, you may be interested to learn that Soyeon and Miyeon from (G)I-DLE are key members of K/DA, with Soyeon being responsible for Akali’s iconic rap and Miyeon lending her gorgeous vocal talents to help bring Ahri to life.
TREASURE - JIKJIN
Similar to Stray Kids’ Maniac, JIKJIN from TREASURE has an unexpected, hard-hitting chorus that I simply can’t get enough of. I apologize to any TREASURE fans I might offend with this, but I haven’t been a huge fan of TREASURE’s previous songs.
They simply haven’t appealed to me the same way songs from other groups under the YG label have. However, JIKJIN is such a twist from TREASURE’s previous work and showcases more of the group’s versatility. If TREASURE’s future comebacks build upon the outstanding foundation and choreo of JIKJIN, I could see myself becoming a real die-hard fan.
STAYC - RUN2U
STAYC is undoubtedly a powerhouse girl group to watch given how they’re consistently growing and evolving with each and every comeback, RUN2U included. Last year, their song ASAP found its way on many “Best of 2021” lists, mine included, and this year I feel like STAYC has managed to one-up ASAP with RUN2U.
One of the things I really like about STAYC is their choreo, with ASAP having a cute, memorable dance to back its chorus that you can’t help but want to try yourself. RUN2U is similar, with a nice amount of attitude and confidence packed in. If you like fun choreo and bright, pastel, eye-catching videos, you’re sure to love STAYC.
WONHO - EYE ON YOU
The man, the myth, the legend, the shockingly muscular Wonho, formerly of MONSTA X, had a dark comeback with Eye One You that I have been listening to on repeat since it came out back in February.
The quality of the video itself is stunning, with some seriously rad outfits to boot. I’m biased though, as his outfits in Eye On You are one hundred percent ones I’d wear myself.
Still, music video and aesthetic aside, Eye On You is nothing short of catchy. You can’t help but bop your head to the funky, upbeat chorus, and short, but memorable, “I got my eye on you.”
Kep1er - WA DA DA
If you want to talk about powerhouse rookies, Kep1er is undoubtedly one of the strongest, recently debuted groups next to Starship’s IVE. Kep1er had their debut back in January with WA DA DA, and they really knocked it out of the park.
WA DA DA’s song composition is interesting and unique, changing and shifting its style throughout. The choreo reflects this incredibly well, featuring powerful moves along with ones that are more charming and cute in nature, like the hand movements that come in at the “Oh, oh, woah” parts of the chorus.
To add to this, Kep1er has shown their choreo skills are not to be taken lightly in their performances on the show Queendom.
PENTAGON - Feelin’ Like
I’m a sucker for kpop songs with a thumpin’ bass line, and Feelin’ Like has that in spades. You can’t help but want to get up and dance when you hear it. While I feel like the rap portions of the song feel a little ill-fitting, and the song’s length is also a bit on the short side, the song as a whole is nevertheless a standout when it comes to kpop songs released in 2022.
I like how Feelin’ Like doesn’t go out of its way to be over-the-top, and instead centers itself in a mellow, consistent groove that you can’t help but fall into. It’s been a song on repeat in my playlist, and is one that never fails to put me in a good mood. “You got me feelin’ like…”
CRAVITY - Adrenaline
Unlike Starship’s other groups like SISTAR, MONSTA X, and rookie group IVE, CRAVITY haven’t received the attention from the kpop community that they deserve.
The group is endlessly talented, and have produced some phenomenal tracks, with a highlight for me being Veni Vidi Vici. I didn’t think it was possible for CRAVITY to top Veni Vidi Vici for me, but they came out swinging with Adrenaline.
Part of me wishes Starship spent a bit more money on the music video to give it an even stronger foundation, but setting that aside, Adrenaline is a well-structured bop of a song. It’s one of CRAVITY’s strongest tracks yet, and would be a real shame to miss out on.
KIHYUN - VOYAGER
I’m a huge MONSTA X fan (check out their song Gambler it's got a fun 007 meets Ocean's Eleven vibe), they’re my favorite group by far, so I’m always eager to support the solo projects of each member.
Given Wonho’s presence on this list, it’d be a travesty if I didn’t also include Kihyun’s stellar solo single, Voyager. The song has more of a rock vibe which fits Kihyun’s voice extremely well.
It seems to be a style Kihyun is naturally comfortable with, having done stellar covers in the past of “rock” songs like Believer from Imagine Dragons. Something else I love about Voyager as well is how confident and happy Kihyun looks in the video. He’s in his element and thriving, and it’s a joy to watch.
Jackson Wang - Blow
Jackson of kpop group Got7 has released some stellar solo material, with Blow being his best release yet in my opinion. The song is in English, but I still count it in the kpop category (at the very least, in that general kpop ballpark) given how many fans have become acquainted with Jackson during his time in Got7.
If you’re someone who isn’t big into kpop, I feel like Jackson’s track Blow is more likely to appeal to you than the other tracks on this list.
As an aside, the video for Blow really reminds me of the video for Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) from the Backstreet Boys, in the best possible way. I love a good, nostalgic callback. Let me know if it’s just me, or if you get that vibe too.
Honorable Mention | IVE - LOVE DIVE, ROYAL
IVE had their first comeback of 2022 this week with Love Dive and Royal, both of which are absolutely phenomenal from what I've heard so far. However, because they're so new and I haven't had the chance to listen to them as much and as in-depth as the others on this list, I'm including them here as an honorable mention for now. I have the feeling Love Dive will make my Best of 2022 wrap-up in December though, it's an impressive follow-up to the group's debut track, Eleven.