The Best of K-pop in 2023: Reader's Choice

I asked, here's what you said

Now that I’ve finished my Best of 2023 Songs and Albums lists, I thought it’d be fun to turn the spotlight on the 800 Notes on K-pop readers about your favorite releases and moments of K-pop in 2023.

I asked across various Substack sharing products. I kept the names and handles in as people posted them, since the responses were all public, but if you’d like me to remove them, please let me know. Some of them linked to profiles, some didn’t. I kept it as is, but similarly @ me if you want your Substack profile removed or added.

I left some comments in parenthesis on things I feel strongly about, and added video links (tried not to double anything, so scroll to the end if you think I missed one of yours). But aside from that I left everything unedited. Though from this, I’m wondering if I have more girl group readers than boy band, at least based on your responses? Kinda surprised but maybe I need to be more thoughtful about that in coming years.

Here’s what you had to say:

Before we begin, please be aware of changes coming to this newsletter in 2024, when I will be leaving Substack.

Dan Gibson It feels super predictable, but my song of the year is NewJeans' "ETA". It was definitely between that and "Eve, Psyche.." but overall it felt like one of the best years for singles in awhile.

Tony Wilbert My favorite K-pop moment of 2023 was when Blackpink performed at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. When they started “Pink Venom,” the crowd lit up. But it was “Kick It” that started the frenzy. Incredible show it was.

Natalia Sutherland My favourite K-pop album of the year was Jimin’s Face. For some reason I wasn’t expecting him to put out this type of album 💿

Laura Wattie Absolutely adored Odd Eye Circle’s comeback and was obsessed with IVE and their album and EP this year!

Jeremy Bearimy My favorite K-pop moment was listening to the podcast "K-Pop Dreaming," hosted by the incredible Vivian Yoon. She really highlighted the Korean-American perspective on K-pop blending both the historical and personal. Context for content. [Also—Jisoo's "Flower" (both the song and MV) was perfection.] (Anna Dadic I loved K-pop Dreaming too! It was so well done.) (A/N: A great listen! I actually helped with the podcast too as a journalistic source.)

Anna Dadic Flying from Sydney to see SUGA/AgustD in concert in Bangkok was one of the highlights of my entire life, not just the year. Particularly when my husband yelled out "I love you SUGA!" during a quiet moment and Yoongi actually gave a little chuckle. I died. (A/N: This is amazing. Iconic. Legendary.)

Joanna Experiencing Tomorrow X Together live at Lollapalooza. Nothing beats TXT with a live band and dance crew. Two moments that stood out to me was hearing "Dear Sputnik" in a festival setting and the singalong with "Blue Spring." TXT closed out the year with their third full-length album The Name Chapter: Freefall. My favorite song from this release is the all-Korean alt rock song "Mulsujebi" (Eng: "Skipping Stones"). It was written by Hanroro. If you like singer-songwriter women, check her out!

Niko Batallones Already mentioned this everywhere, but it's Billlie's "Eunoia" for me.

But I will remember this year for finally watching Mamamoo live -- and perhaps for the last time -- with folks who I introduced the group to, and then, being acknowledged by the group mid-concert for wearing "Taller Than You" jumpsuits to the whole thing! (A/N: Taller Than You is one of my favorite Mamamoo songs, idk it’s just so funny to me.)

'Shot puno!' How Mamamoo's Manila concert is objectively a spiritual experience
I wasn’t planning to write separately about the Mamamoo concert in Manila last night. The whole point of Nicksy Once Monthly is for me to write less and think more. That, and in the few times I have written about concerts on the old music blog, I felt that my attempts at reviewing live music were getting in the way of my enjoying the music itself—and th…

Jo Dorsey Favorite Kpop album this year was Fromis_9's Unlock My World. The ladies flourished and gave us the kind of adlibs that I've been missing in music. The arrangements and production choices on tracks My Night Routine and Bring It On are my type of FUNKY! Singles? Mainstream: 50/50 Cupid, NEWJEANS-ETA, TNX-Kick It For Now. Indie: From20-Bad Revenge, Woodrow Wylde-Moths. (A/N: I agree with all these recs!)

Amy Z. Chan So I became a huge Pentagon fan after watching Hui's journey on Boys Planet. I totally fell into the rabbit hole of their amazing discography. They were only able to release a Japanese comeback before their contracts with Cube ended this year. In their final concert in Japan as Pentagon (but missing Yanan, their Chinese member) before their contract ended, they did a behind-the-scenes video. In the video, nobody talks about leaving Cube and the members insists that Pentagon "will never die," it's so clear from the unspoken looks and heartfelt emotions on their faces that they all know that this is likely the last Pentagon concert together. As someone who works in a creative field as well, to me, it's just another example of how hard it is to succeed in any commercial endeavor as an artist. Talent is only a part of commercial success, you also need the luck to ride the right trends at the right time, be able to do it consistently, not to mention have the right connections as well. The behind-the-scenes video of the last Pentagon concert is here:

Patrick St. Michel “OMG” though “Girls’ Capitalism” is right up there for me.

Kevin Douglas Fifty Fifty’s “Cupid” is a perfect pop song, and it still breaks my heart that they imploded. My official favorite is probably Ive’s “I Am”, but unofficially it’s Aespa’s “Salty & Sweet”.

k~ure oh, sooo hard…I think I’ll have to mention 3 (at least)

  • NEW JEANS, Cool With You

  • EXO, Cream Soda

  • WOODZ, Journey

Jessica For an old song: IU’s hold my hand.

For a song released this year: Seven by Jung Kook & Latto

Jessica Tang I will go with Aespa - Welcome to My World (although TripleS - Rising had my most plays per Spotify)

Ari Anything from Kep1er

Frank Sanchez Terribly biased but it's definitely Dreamcatcher’s “BONVOYAGE” - opens like an anime theme song, keeps up the energy with their traditional rock, and has a great bridge to ending that is powerful and cool.

Max Covill Super Shy easily

Jenessa Williams Oooh I think it's a bit of a tie between Super shy, Ateez Bouncy and Jimin’s Like Crazy

Samantha Lui

Newjeans - Super Shy

I Don’t Understand But I Luv U - Seventeen

caity summer Super Shy, but there was a lot to love this year, especially from tripleS.

Diem More Than Words by P1Harmony!

Candala Exo’s Cream Soda…followed by Taemin’s new song The Rizness….I can’t stop listening to it!!!

Peter Lo The NewJeans iPhone commercial song, probably. Changing how I feel and react to the ring tone featured in the MV. (A/N: He means “ETA.”)