I don’t think I’m alone in feeling a certain K-pop malaise over the past few years. As the quantity of releases ballooned, creativity seemed to wane. Single after single blended into each other, and also began to blend into non-Korean pop as Hallyu pushed its global agenda, not only seeking international audiences, but also taking on characteristics of more “generic” pop. It wasn’t all bleak: my playlists are filled with amazing songs from 2020 to the present. But the overall scene was, frankly, a little mid.

For me at least, that all seems to have abruptly shifted this late spring and early summer. As bright new talents emerge, fourth generation groups mature and come into their own, and veterans continue to thrive and surprise, the median quality of comebacks has shot up to crazy heights. The playlist below, a compilation of my favorite recently released tracks (plus some accompanying b-sides, because these triumphant comebacks have depth!), might read as a near copy-paste of any new K-pop singles list, but that’s sort of the point. Who knows how long this stars-aligned spike in excellence will last, but for now, I’m enjoying the hell out of it, and hope you are too!