The Best K-pop Songs of 2021

It ’ sulfur always a good year for K-pop if you know where to look. In 2021, we went to the “ Next Level ” with Aespa, got “ Real ” with ATEEZ, and caught “ The Feels ” with Twice. From noisy boy-group bangers to delicate K-drama soundtracks, there was something for everyone. And looking back, it ’ s impossible to state of matter which songs were objectively the best—as the K-pop diligence continues to grow, there ’ s more than enough variety to cater to every individual preference. That ’ sulfur why this year, I ’ ve decided to get personal. here are my 10 favorite K-pop songs of 2021, from the soloists, duet, and groups that got me through a year of retentive pandemic walks and even a misguided at-home dance rehearse .


10. Lee Hi Featuring B.I., “Savior”

What a year for K-pop ’ randomness tiniest singer-songwriter with a very big voice. Lee Hi dropped the smooth, R & B-influenced 4 lone in September, earning herself an contiguous, firm position on this list ( and in my headphones ). The entirely question was how to choose just one birdcall. Despite my four-month love affair with old-school federal bureau of prisons “ Red Lipstick, ” I landed on the more fundamental and soulful “ Savior. ” The traverse is cover girl, the music video recording is a smasher, and it ’ s a frisson to see Lee Hi and rapper B.I. working together once again after their respective departures from YG Entertainment. Years after their first collab on “ No One, ” the friends are both thriving under new management and churning out hits. In accession to “ Savior, ” Lee Hi besides featured on “ Daydream ” from B.I. ’ sulfur debut solo album, Waterfall, another foreground of the 2021 K-pop slate. Redemption stories rarely sound so sweet .

9. Seventeen, “Anyone”

This year, K-pop ’ s most charming theater kids somehow got more popular, more talented, and objectively a lot hotter—already a senior high school bar to begin with, but one they well cleared with newfangled albums Your Choice and Attacca. ( not to mention their many solo releases ; brief turn of applause for her stateliness “ Spider. ” ) But my favorite of Seventeen ’ randomness 2021 song was the B-Side “ Anyone, ” which earned the celebrated honor of the no. 1 position on my personal Spotify Wrapped—and therefore making it a lock for Seventeen ’ s episode on this tilt. not lone did I stream “ Anyone ” to death, but I besides watched Seventeen ’ s many performances on loop, constantly in awe of how well the 13-member group manages to highlight each individual singer, dancer, and rapper. That said, the MVP of “ Anyone ” might good be sharp-faced, soft-voiced Vernon, whose baritone and fan-favorite choreo at 2:27 was deservedly worshipped all over social media.

8. AKMU Featuring Sam Kim, “EVEREST”

We ’ ve reached the section on the list reserved for Kate ’ s Sad Quarantine Walking Soundtrack. In 2021, this esteemed, gloomy distinction goes to brother-sister duet AKMU ’ s collab album Next Episode, which featured an admirable batting order of K-pop easy-listening royalty. And while lead unmarried “ NAKKA ” with IU was the primary crowd pleaser, my crown spot ultimately goes to “ Everest, ” featuring K-drama crooner Sam Kim. Kim and AKMU ’ s Lee Suhyun are accompanied by minimal guitar on the slow-paced path, which builds gradually to a flawless, belted bridge by two of the global ’ mho warmest voices. If you have a slow trudge around your region coming up, there ’ s no better song. You may evening work your direction up to a slow trot by the meter it ’ s through .

7. TXT Featuring Seori, “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)”

From Machine Gun Kelly to WILLOW, there was no escaping the pop-punk revival in 2021, and the K-pop industry was no exception. HYBE boy group TXT served as the perfect rebellious vehicle, as they spent 2021 transitioning from their previous sugary good to a more senesce, mutinous series of singles. Most recently, they made waves with Hot Topic anthem “ LO $ ER=LO♡ER ” ( they cuss now ! ) but their best track of the year was “ 0X1=LOVESONG ( I Know I Love You ), ” featuring energetic soloist Seori. TXT is well-suited to the pop-punk heavy for numerous reasons, primary coil among them the pipes and bearing of badly belter Taehyun. But the boys of TXT are besides fitting representatives of young rebellion because they debuted with something to prove : that they could stand alone without ceaseless comparison to any of their predecessors. And if past hits hadn ’ metric ton earned them a foreground already, “ Lovesong ” cemented TXT ’ randomness condition as rockstars all their own .

6. Taemin, “Advice”

“ I ’ ve written enough about Taemin, ” I told myself, furiously swapping different groups into the last empty position on my list. “ Everyone already knows how I feel about ‘ Advice, ’ I called it a Haunted Girl Summer Anthem on every available platform. I should in truth give this spot to Enhypen or Aespa. ”
[ Record abrasion ; freeze frame. ] I bet you ’ re wondering how we ended up here. Well, I am who I am ( a loudly and annoying SHINee fan ), and Taemin is who Taemin is, K-pop ’ s most thrilling and ostentatious performer. There ’ sulfur no one like him, and thank idol he gave us this last absurd giving of a song before temporarily putting his career on hold for mandatary military enlistment. “ Advice ” ( or “ Beethoven ’ s 69th, ” as I previously dubbed it ) gives us Taemin at point creature of the night. He pounds on a piano in full moon soundbox paint, gyrates around in a reduce checkerboard suit, and, most memorably, smashes through the final refrain in a crop Supreme sweat suit that may be the K-pop suit of the year. ( 2:32. Just trust me. ) And this is all beyond the birdcall itself—Taemin ’ s reputation as the industry ’ south best dancer is basically set in stone, but his vocals and production have rarely been more heedless and riveting than on “ Advice. ” Apologies to Enhypen and Aespa, but I did not take my own advice .

5. Epik High Featuring CL, Zico, “Rosario”

“ There are debates online as to whether Epik High is K-pop or not. … We don ’ thymine take care what we get classified as, ” Epik High ’ s Tablo told Time in 2019. Hallelujah for that, because it would have cut me to my core to leave Epik High ’ s fiery “ Rosario ” off this number due to a annoying pop/hip-hop technicality. The long-time industry icons joined forces with idol knocker greats CL and Zico on their bluff, Latin-influenced track, resulting in a farcical odds and ends of K-pop prestige—not to mention an elect banger. “ I am a caption and I ’ megabyte here to stay, ” former 2NE1 frontwoman CL sings, describing not only her own brandish solo career but that of everyone else on the sung. Zico takes no prisoners either ( when does he ever ? ) and ultimately “ Rosario ” serves as a stagger display of confidence and complacency from a group of artists who have been there, done that, and are very much hush doing it .

4. CIX, “Cinema”

Ask my wide array of K-pop-focused group chats what new birdcall they ’ ve had on repeat most this year, and the answer will probably be “ Cinema ” by criminally underestimate son group CIX. After debuting in 2019 with steaming sensation “ Movie Star, ” CIX settled into a dramatic, classifiable sound—until 2021, when they broke out the perms and pastels for singles “ Cinema ” and “ Wave. ” The latter was a standout in its own right ( along with the accompanying album ), but my affection belongs to the infectious, undeniable cheer of “ Cinema. ” As a fan of CIX ’ s earlier discography, I was initially apprehensive about their raw vibration ( overalls ? Must we ? ) but angstrom soon as Bae Jinyoung oooooooh ’ d his way into that buoyant first chorus, I was in, knee socks and all. Say what you will about the many talented fourth-generation boy groups, but no matchless nails a refrain like CIX. And please, let ’ s excess some love for rapper BX, who left his ease partition far behind on this track as he donned a tartan bucket hat and temporarily switched to singing. now that ’ s poetic cinema.

3. Sunmi, “Tail”

For the uninitiate, an authoritative thing to know about K-pop seasoned, Wonder Girl turned soloist, and love of my liveliness Sunmi is that she has never half-assed a music video recording in her entire life. In “ Tail, ” her first single of the year and one of the best of her career, Sunmi went full Halle Berry with an surfeit of latex paint, acrylics, and homicidal purpose. Add to that some sultry, brash dance pop and lusciously cheer cat-tail choreography ( I recommend the dance break at 2:23 ) and you ’ ve got so far another Sunmi classical for the history books. And speaking of overcommitted music television, Sunmi ’ s only rival for this particular point on the list was herself—later in the class, she pivoted from Catwoman to Buffy for the cheerful, retro “ You Can ’ triiodothyronine Sit With Us. ” She crusade zombies, defended the world ’ south last video rental storehouse, and proved that all music video should have at least one fight view. besides a homo should credibly die. Two-for-two, no notes .

2. Weeekly, “After School”

As K-pop daughter groups go, I tend to prefer the edgier do of acts like Everglow, Mamamoo, and Blackpink. so if you had told me in March that a dainty little tune by cub daughter group Weeekly would beat all of the aforesaid groups to become my second-favorite song of the year … well, I ’ five hundred probably blame TikTok. First, my algorithm started slowly feeding me guilty-pleasure content—videos of people at the gymnasium or at work listening secretly to “ After School ” for a flying snapshot of serotonin during a retentive day. then came the stage dancing video, and sitting home alone in early 2021 quarantine, I watched people all over the world hop around to that sugar-sweet choir and thought to myself, “ These moves look easy enough. I can do this. ”
I could not. Choreo mishaps aside, that “ After School ” hook has not left my heading for nine months straight, and at this point I couldn ’ metric ton be happier. Cutesy K-pop doesn ’ thyroxine have better than this .

1. Key, “Bad Love”

Has anyone had a better 2021 than the brassy, ever-entertaining Key ? First, SHINee ’ s sassiest singer joined his group for their long-awaited comeback in February with “ Don ’ t Call Me ” and “ Atlantis, ” and he followed that with a year full of scene-stealing appearances on korean kind prove Amazing Saturday. But the foreground of Key ’ randomness 2021 came in September, when he released his retro-themed alone album Bad Love. Sure, possibly 2020 was the year of atavist, ’ 80s-inspired K-pop songs, but Key was in the military then, so he gets to have his vintage moment nowadays. And what a moment it is ! The blingy, bedazzled music video recording, an apparent nod to ( and improvement on ) 2019 ’ randomness Joker, sees Key whirling his way through a chaotic talk usher appearance and old-school movie sets. jammed video aside, the real highlight of “ Bad Love ” is the funky choreography and that soaring, synth-heavy chorus. It ’ s hard to remember, as he belts his way through the outro at 2:53, that Key isn ’ metric ton technically the main singer or the chief dancer of SHINee—a real testament to the group ’ s depth. But Key can do it all, and he ’ sulfur constantly flourished on his own terms, whether in 2018 with “ One of Those Nights, ” 2019 with “ I Wan sodium Be, ” and now with “ Bad Love. ” Key picked up his career in 2021 like he never left, and he ’ mho thriving now more than ever. I, for one, can ’ thymine expect to see what he does in 2022 .

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