2019 In Review: Day 2 – Song Of The Year

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2019 In Review

1. Introduction + Best Album Art
2. Song of the Year
3. Album of the Year
4. R&B and Soul
5. Rock and Alternative
6. Rap and Hip-hop
7. Dance and Electronic
8. Pop and Ballad
9. Folk and Country
10. Jazz and Blues
11. Crossover and World
12. Best Collaborative Work
13. Rookie Artist of the Year
14. Artist of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

Our 2019 In Review begins in earnest by recognizing the Song of the Year and eleven other excellent tracks that contended for the spot.

Considerations for Song of the Year include both (subjective) assessments of musical quality as well as ones of impact, influence, and popularity.

In this way, this category differs from the genre picks. Sometimes the winner has both types of traits, and sometimes one is just so dominant as to make the other irrelevant.

Note that there’s no rank-ordering of the “next-best ten”, to avoid genre category spoilers. We go in alphabetical order instead. (Most of these contending tracks will get more detailed treatment in the genre category posts.)

Song of the Year 2019

Lulileela – 물고기 (Goldfish)
Written and composed by Lulileela; arranged by Lulileela and Cloud

For “Goldfish”, Lulileela shed nearly all the hallmarks of her best work. While the song is still in the familiar band setup, gone are the songwriter’s trademark bass riffs, the sparkling and satisfying synths, the defiant and addictive guitar loops.

What remain are a dry but sensual piano accompaniment, layered and overlapping like waves arriving on a shore, and a gentle melancholia that washes over the sounds.

The narrator likens herself to a fish lost “in suffocating cold air, this city / in the incessant noise”, and the mood radiates desperation – as well as hope for salvation in her companion.

Lulileela softly sighs and whispers as she sings, which is actually just her normal thing, but here it sounds as if the exhaustion is finally catching up to the narrator. She wore this timely weariness, the desire to escape and find more of life, into the intimacy of a love song.

In the gorgeous chorus, in my mind the best one of 2019, these emotions well up and break out. An airy melody that leaves its ends hanging meshes in subtle but perfect harmony with the ambient, almost wandering instrumentation.

And in her inscrutable and breathy dryness, Lulileela showed us the depths of her narrator’s groaning, and gave voice to that shared struggle: “Set me free / So you can hold me full in your arms / And this night, these waves, this pain / We could cross them all”.

The Runner-up

AkMu – 어떻게 이별까지 사랑하겠어, 널 사랑하는 거지 (How Can I Love the Heartbreak, You’re the One I Love)
Written and composed by Lee Chan-hyuk; arranged by Lee Hyun-young

There’s an air of inevitability in “How Can I Love the Heartbreak, You’re the One I Love”. Set to a deliberate cadence, its speakers narrate a long walk wanted by no one, “sharing a conversation without words”.

Lee Su-hyun’s singing is breathy and reserved, and the Lees’ frail balance through the first prechorus and chorus seems ready to break at a moment’s notice. The very way that chorus unfolds – with a tentatively laid-down harmony and matter-of-fact expression – signal resignation.

There’s nothing you want to relive in a helpless march towards parting, but AkMu’s exploration of that moment was so richly worded and strikingly composed that it was easy to get absorbed in its beauty despite the subject matter.

Perhaps Lee Chan-hyuk’s finest work to date, this was 2019’s best ballad and its status as one of the year’s biggest commercial hits was well-deserved.

The Next-Best Ten (Alphabetical)

BewhY – 찬란 (Challan)
Written, composed and arranged by BewhY

Jannabi – 새 어둠 새 눈 (Land of Night)
Written by Choi Jung-hoon; composed by Choi Jung-hoon, Kim Do-hyung, Yoo Young-hyeon; arranged by Choi Jung-hoon, Kim Do-hyung, Yoo Young-hyeon, Dr. Kwon

Jclef – Mama, See
Written by Jclef; composed by Vsclm, Jaedontwave, Jclef; arranged by Vsclm and Gimjonny

Loona – Butterfly
Written by G-High (MonoTree) and Jaden Jeong; composed and arranged by G-High

Method – Circle of Violence
Written by Woo Jong-sun; composed by Kim Jae-ha; arranged by Method

Park Hey-li – 넌 깊고 넓은 물 (You Are Deep and Wide)
Written and arranged by Park Hey-li

Ravie Nuage – 너에게 (To You)
Written and composed by Kim Ji-hye (Pomme); arranged by Ravie Nuage and Lee Jung-hoon

Saay – ZGZG
Written by Saay; composed by Deez and Saay; arranged by Deez

Yoon Ji-young – 우우우린 (Wwwe)
Written and composed by Yoon Ji-young; arranged by Yoon Ji-young, Gila, Soda

Yoon Jong-shin – 이별하긴 하겠지 (Unstable) (Feat. Kim Feel, Cheon Dan-bi)
Written by Yoon Jong-shin; composed by Yoon Jong-shin and Kang Hwa-sung; arranged by Kang Hwa-sung

Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

Read our past series:

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review