Since I started this blog, I’ve always had my personal “song of the year”. For some reason I couldn’t find last year’s (probably it was sitting in drafts and got purged). For the record, my favourite song from 2019 was “LALALAY” by South Korean pop star, SUNMI. Why? In previous years, the songs were usually moody. LALALAY is a dance song. With a traditional Korean horn instrument as a signature sound in the background. Plus, as SUNMI frolics across the video, punching the air, thrusting her thighs… I thought that’s a fair representation of my 2019 (sans the thighs). It was a year about trying to do my best and having fun.

Of course 2020 was geared to be the opposite. One of collective trauma… shared by billions of people due to the pandemic. And guess what, if it isn’t obvious yet with some recent posts. I have not one, but THREE songs I’d like to remember 2020 by. And… all three are K-pop. With such depressing news of volcanoes, basketball stars, royal families, elections, typhoons, pandemic, government response to the pandemic… I stayed afloat and upbeat with these three songs. This is the first time I’m assigning more than one song to a year.

No. 3 – Play – by CHUNG HA

The official MV is fabulous… but here’s a “one take” version recorded in a gym. You can see the different types of dance that are in the song.

There are so many types of dance in the MV. There are numerous layers that this song is so enjoyable to listen to and watch. Yes, upbeat. Tropical. Feminine. Drops of masculinity. It’s a fun mix. I’ve seen countless versions of the MV. The official MV, the performance or dance version, numerous versions for TV/streaming programmes, and of course dance covers as far away as Vietnam. I’ve also studied the steps to the pre-chorus and chorus via Steezy. For making me dance, Play is one of my three title songs for 2020.

No. 2 – Stay Tonight – also, by CHUNG HA

This one is the official MV for the song.

I was wrestling with my thoughts if I’d give a spot to Hwa Sa’s “Maria” or songs from Mamamoo (“Aya” and “Dingga” rounding up one of my most-played in December 2020). I was also thinking if a non-Kpop song would be worth adding. Think Lady Gaga or Dua Lipa. But no, there was one other CHUNG HA song I was obsessed with right in those first four months of the pandemic. It’s what elevated CHUNG HA from “just another solo female artist” (I only knew her song “Snapping” from 2019). Stay Tonight was like a Kylie Minogue MV. With Madonna’s dancers. It had voguing and waacking. Prior to this song and MV, I hadn’t seen such a blast of gay energy (the song isn’t a gay anthem, but… it’s fun). Like “Play”, this song will always remind me of those stay-at-home sunsets in Tampines East. I had just moved in with PJ and our living room window had a view of Singapore’s skyline at sunset. Deliveries of Arnold’s Fried Chicken or Amigo’s (a hawker stall).

No. 1 – “On” by BTS

This is the “Kinetic Manifesto” version of the MV, featuring The Lab Dance Crew and choreographer Sienna Lalau (that first zoom-in). I spot so many Asian Americans in it.

It was in 2020 that I started to understand why millions of people worldwide love BTS. In 2020, they released music with that sounded like an anthem of inspiration or motivation. Like this song, they sing about their journeys and hardships through the years… and how to rise above and continue “on and on”. Accompanied by dancers from The Lab (Southern California), a lot of this song has some American influences. You should see the making of the album and the production put behind the music. The song has had numerous versions. Official MV. A short film (shared above). Performances from NY’s Grand Central Station for Jimmy Fallon to one at an Olympic Stadium in Seoul.

“On” will remind me of sunny afternoons in Tampines East during Singapore’s circuit breaker. It’ll remind me that I had BTS playing while jogging around Bedok Reservoir… the only type of “outdoors” one would get at the time. “On” is a great song for 2020. And it’s where I fell in love with BTS. They dance so good.

Three songs to remember the year vs the pandemic.

George’s (Pop) Song of the Year – 2020 (3-way tie)

  • Play – CHUNG HA
  • Stay Tonight – CHUNG HA
  • On – BTS

George’s (Pop) Song of the Year – Previous years

  • 2019 – LALALAY – SUNMI
  • 2018 – All the Stars – Kendrick Lamar ft. SZA
  • 2017 – Flame – Tinashe
  • 2016 – The Life – Fifth Harmony
  • 2015 – Talking Body – Tove Lo

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