2022 In Review: Day 8 – Pop and Ballad

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2022 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

One interesting thing about 2022’s pop and ballad crop is how much it teeters the line between genres. Much of the year’s best work could make a case for being rock or electronic or folk instead, which is true to an extent every year but seemed both a more widespread and more acute phenomenon in 2022. The result is a spicier playlist with a more sharply varied texture.

Be advised that Sunwoojunga – 터트려 (Burst It All) was named our Song of the Year on Day 2, and it will not reappear in the pop-specific list of songs below.


  • The “Next 10” and honorable mention lists are sorted by artist name.
  • The 2022 Pop and Ballad Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below:


Best Pop and Ballad Album 2022

Heo Hoy-kyung – Memoirs

Heo Hoy-kyung’s singing, airy and lithe, stays one-note for the most part throughout Memoirs. But with that soft style, Heo anchors an album of whirlwinds. Memoirs is both beautifully composed and diversely arranged, its songs generally staying within folk-pop and rock-ballad realms and yet spanning surprising range from the placid to the tumultuous. At the same time, Heo’s writing is incredibly devoted to detailing its sentiment and consistently original in its expression, leading to often breathtaking lyrics. “All Alone”‘s flutey admission of folly; “Thirst”‘s imaginative metaphor and rocking outro; “Set Me Free”‘s wisened, bluesy irony. It’s the combination of emotional scope and detail that sets this debut LP apart from the mountains of easy-listening fare, and indeed from any other pop album on the year.

The Runner-up

Roy Kim – 그리고 (,and)

In an era dominated by austere band-sets and easygoing acoustics, Roy Kim injected life into the nigh-extinct genre of grand orchestra-style ballads with ,and. Key tracks like “It’ll Be Alright”, “Take Me Back in Time”, and “Well, Tonight” are expansive affairs featuring open, ponderous melodies and liberal helpings of string and rock-ballad sets. Roy Kim’s earnest performance and warm writing add the humanity that such productions need, and Kim also channels wood-scented acoustics and Sung Si-kyung-like vocal touch when the volume subsides.

The Next 10

Chang Kiha – 공중부양 (Levitation)

Elaine – 2

Kim Na-eun – Carousel

Lee Chan-hyuk – Error

Lucy – Childhood

Park So-eun – 재활용 (Recycle)

Su Lee – Messy Sexy

Taeyeon – INVU

The Light and the Salt – Here We Go

Yaya Kim – a.k.a Yaya


Best Pop and Ballad Song 2022

Younha – Black Hole
Written by Younha
Composed by Younha, Jewno, Shaun, Samin, Hardy
Arranged by Jewno, Shaun

End Theory: Final Edition was a definitive repackage that actually improved on 2021’s best pop album, and as big of a role as chart sensation “Event Horizon” played in that, I’d argue that “Black Hole” was an even better song and the climax of this whole journey. The astrophysical language of End Theory phases here into a particularly earnest and distant longing, as Younha belts out “Though I can’t be with you in this new beginning / In the dark night sky I can find you” to someone who could be stranger or friend or superposition. (How Younha uses verisimilitude to achieve storytelling was a big part of End Theory, and this track is one of the best examples.) An explosion of electric guitar and dragging synths (fitting a Shaun arrangement) spills out of the chorus, in one of the year’s most exhilarating moments already; and then the second one runs extended and the strings ride, as Younha goes on promising “I’ll try to figure out who we are”. It’s stunning.

The Runner-up

Lee Chan-hyuk – 장례희망 (Funeral Hope)
Written by Lee Chan-hyuk
Composed by Lee Chan-hyuk, Millennium, Sihwang

Lee Chan-hyuk tells the story of his own death throughout Error. Given how direct its vignettes are (setting it apart from, say, Dawn FM), there was never really any doubt that its ending would be left unresolved. Yet “Funeral Hope” arrives as Error‘s finale and it still surpasses expectations. A serene intro and floatily autotuned Lee describes the scene of his funeral and his new Aslan of a friend in heaven; just as the song seems to fade out like that, we suddenly switch genres into rousing gospel and the lyrics start going off track. The choir claps and rejoices for the son returned home; in a break, Lee has an epiphany about a relationship he missed in life; he cracks a joke (“It hits me like a slap to the head / Got no head anymore but just so you get it”); the pipe organ pulses and roars. The tortured regrets and agonies of the album become vestiges, but this ending lands precisely because it follows them. Soon only the claps remain.

The Next 10

Budung – 그네 (A Swing)

Charlie Bean Works – 그때도 나 (Even Then, I)

Kwon So-jeong – 어젠 꿈 (Yesterday Was a Dream)

Lee Jin-ah – 람팜팜 (Rum Pum Pum)

Qim Isle – Breaking Down

Ryu Jeoung-woon – 비구름 (Raincloud)

Ryu Jisu – 못볼꺼나 (Would I Ever)

Woo Jee-won – Big Bird

Yerin Baek, Monika, Lip J – 너머 (The Other Side)

Youra – Jungle Bike

Honorable Mentions


BtoB – Be Together
Budung – 너에게만 보여 (Only You Could See)
Chosng – 당신의 바다가 될게요 (Let Me Be Your Sea)
Han Gi-na – 불안의 옴니버스 (Omnibus of Anxiety Disorder)
Hello Gayoung – 가장( )자리에서 (On the Edge of ())
Hwang Chi-yeul – By My Side
IU – 조각집 (Pieces)
Kim Areum – Ocean Wave
Kim Jae-hyung – 띄 움 (Ddeu Um)
Kim Nabee – 일종의 확신 (A Certain Assurance)
Kim Pureum – 16
Kwon So-jeong – 아름답고 무모하게 (Recklessly but Beautifully)
Lee Mu-jin – Room Vol. 1
Lee Soo-young – Sory
Lucy – Blue
Mooneik and Jiyeon – 문익과지연 (Mooneik and Jiyeon)
SWJA – Studio X {1. Phase}
Uju – Preview
Wonpil – Pilmography
Woo Jee-won – Army of Me
Yim Jae-beom – Seven,
Yujihi – Where Is Blue?


015B – 치료제 (The Time Cure) (Feat. Yeona)
10cm – 그라데이션 (Gradation)
Aleph – Moodswing
Avokid – Over You
Boyz_Moon – Youth Blossom
BtoB – 우리 (Be Together)
Budung – 약속 (Promise)
Chang Kiha – 뭘 잘못한 걸까요 (What Wrong Have I Done?)
Chang Kiha – 부럽지가 않어 (Envy None)
Cheeze – 퐁당 (Pong Dang)
Choi Beck-ho – 나를 떠나가는 것들 (Pass Away) (Feat. Jung Seung-hwan)
Default – Lost (Feat. Mesani)
Dhani Song & Chin Sooyoung – 이제 여행을 떠나야겠어 (Time to Go on a Trip)
Dreamcatcher – 황홀경 (Entrancing) (Siyeon Solo)
Elaine – Wherever You Are
Elaine – Yours Tonight
Faver – 사라져줘 (Disappear)
Fromm – 그런 계절이잖아요 (Breeze I Come Across)
Got7 – Drive Me to the Moon
Gwon So-man – Eternal Sunshine
Ha Hyun-sang – 등대 (Lighthouse)
Ha Hyun-woo – Miserere
Han Seung-yun – Lovender
Han Yo-han – I Don’t Know (Feat. Don Malik)
Hello Gayoung – 슬픔의 가운데에서 (In the Middle of Sadness)
Heo Hoy-kyung – 결국 울었어요 (All Alone)
Heo Hoy-kyung – 기어코 기어코 (Thirst)
Heo Hoy-kyung – 사랑 속엔 언제나 (Our Forgiveness)
Hwang Chi-yeul – 사랑은 이별이었다 (Love Is…)
Hynn – 끝나지 않은 이야기 (The Story of Us)
IU & Kang Seung-won – Mother Nature (H₂O)
Iseo – 털실 (My Growth Ring)
Jeong Ji-young – 서성이다 (Hovering Around) (Feat. Park Hyun-seo)
JeongSaebyeok – Hey
Jeonghoon Kim – Blue
Jo Yuri – Opening
Jung Seung-hwan – 연대기 (Chronicle)
Kep1er – Le Voya9e
Kim Areum – 너의 여름 (Your Summer)
Kim Feel – 봄밤 (Spring Night)
Kim Jae-hyung – 후라보노 (Flavono)
Kim Na-eun – Do You Still…?
Kim Nabee – 찰나 (Momentary) (Vocal Shim Ha-eun)
Kim Pureum – 검은색 하얀색 (Black and White)
Kim Sung-gyu – I Dare You
Kimpomme – 4월 (Elegy)
Kwon So-jeong – 아름답고 무모하게 (Recklessly but Beautifully)
Lee Chan-hyuk – 파노라마 (Panorama)
Lee Jung-yoon – 29 (Feat. Jeon Na-rae)
Lee Mu-jin – 참고사항 (Reference)
Lee Seung-hwan – 태양의 노래 (Song of the Sun)
Lee Soo-young – 덧 (Sore)
Lee Soo-young – 천왕성 (Uranus)
Lena Park – 이름을 잃은 별을 이어서 (Constellations)
Loona – Need U
Loona – Pale Blue Dot
Lucy – 10sec
Minit – Done! No! (Feat. Avokid, Han Yo-han)
Minsu – Time Out
Miyeon – Te Amo
Mooneik and Jiyeon – 나처럼 웃어요 (Smile Like Me)
Mudd the Student – 사랑은 유사과학 (Pseudoscience) (Feat. Chang Kiha)
Oh My Girl – 항해 (Sailing Heart)
Park Ji-yoon – Moon
Park Ji-yoon – 넌 (You)
Park So-eun – 고전적 조건형성 (Classical Conditioning)
Park So-eun – 슬리퍼 (Slipper)
Roy Kim – 괜찮을거야 (It’ll Be Alright)
Roy Kim – 그때로 돌아가 (Take Me Back in Time)
Roy Kim – 오늘 밤만큼은 (Well, Tonight)
SWJA – Black Coffee (Feat. Woo)
Seo Ja-young – 어떤 (What Words and Love)
Son Dong-woon – Moderato
Son Woo – 또 (Also)
Su Lee – Super Happy (Feat. Ariza)
Suryeon – Take Your Sunglasses
Sweden Laundry – Just Say It
Sweden Laundry – My Butterfly
Taeyeon – 품 (Heart)
The Light and the Salt – Blue Sky
Vagueblossom – 바람을 만나다 (Meet the Wind) (Feat. Park Se-hyun)
Wonpil – 지우개 (Sincerity)
Yaya Kim – 맹수로 살아남는 법 (How to Survive as a Beast.)
Yaya Kim – 오늘 밤은 나의 것 (Tonight Is Mine)
Yaya Kim – 용서와 응징 (Forgiveness and Punishment.)
Yegny – Lazybones
Yerin Baek – 그게 나였네 (It Was Me)
Yerin Baek – 물고기 (Pisces)
Yewon – 익숙하다 낯설고 그래요 (Pine)
Yim Jae-beom – 여행자 (Traveler)
Yim Jae-beom – 위로 (Consolation)
Yoon Jong-shin – Rainy Happy Day (With Kingo Hamada)
Youha – Numb
Younha – 사건의 지평선 (Event Horizon)
Yujihi – 비행어른 2 (Refractory Adult)

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

Read our past series:

2021 In Review

2020 In Review

2019 In Review

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review