Kbopped’s End Of Year Countdowns have finally (after much delay) arrived! This has been a pretty slow year on the blog with me not posting as much as my first year but I’d like to thank those that still read and visited the blog despite my rather disparate and erratic posting schedule.
So instead of wrapping up what I thought about this year and going into detail about the highs and lows like I did last year, I’ll get straight to the point and tell you guys about how the countdown will be structured. Because this years countdown, while still being a top 100, will be a little different to last years. Ok, so let’s start with the rules and guidelines for this countdown:
- Songs must released between the 1st of January to 31st of December 2021 and have either a music video or highly stylised lyric and/or performance video.
- English songs by Korean Artists are eligible though Japanese and/or Chinese songs are ineligible as they will show up in other lists
- This is all just my opinion. There is much bias to be found and if you’re unhappy with any of the placements, just remember that this is not meant to be a purely objective list.
But before we get into the main list, I would like to highlight 15, yes 15, honourable mentions that just missed out on the top 100. 2021 was a very strong year for k-pop and while these tracks may have missed out, I just want to remind you that they were still very very strong tracks. It’s just that there were 100 more I thought were better.
Now before we get right into the honourable mentions, I would like make a special mention to two tracks that I thought were very strong but will not be making an appearance on the list.
Aespa – Dreams Come True
Aespa’s Dreams Come True may only be a cover of S.E.S’s beloved hit of the same name but the girls give their rendition of the track a very unique spin. And while many didn’t love the more hip-hop oriented take on the track, I for one was. completely won over. But given that it’s only been like a week and a half since its release, I don’t think I can confidently rank it within the list.
ATEEZ – Turbulence
Though it had a rather quiet reception upon release, Turbulence, the finale to ATEEZ’ ‘Fever’ series hit me hard. The soft rock instrumentation fit perfectly with some of their best ‘Treasure’ era work and that yearning chorus instantly caught my attention. It’s a song that thrives on nostalgia and though I’ve loved it since release, I don’t think It’s a song I would be able to rank fairly.
115. CIX – Tesseract
The Universe app soundtracks were all over the place this year but CIX’s Tesseract was one of the few highlights, melding a mammoth guitar riff with an engaging melody to create a very satisfying listen.
114. D-Crunch – My Name
Melodramatic boy group songs have gone from being ever-present in the k-pop landscape to a dime a dozen. Under the radar group D-Crunch decided to change that with a track that pussyfoots around during its verses but absolutely explodes during its standout, emotive, chorus.
113. AKMU (with IU) – NAKKA
AKMU blitzed the market with singles from their ‘Next Episode’ EP this year and the star studded, synth kissed Nakka was one of the many standouts. I’m not the biggest fan of the overall arrangement but gorgeous ‘paraparaparam’ post-chorus and sheer star power behind the track are more than enough to get it on the list.
112. Sunmi – Tail (Review)
A callback to her incredible 24 Hours era sound, Tail brought back the sultry, evocative side of Sunmi that many fans had been longing for since her re-debut in 2017. It’s a track that nails its respective soundscape and though it hasn’t aged the best, it’s still a super solid entry in her already fantastic discography.
111. P1Harmony – Scared (Review)
P1Harmony have already secured many a fan through their aggressive yet unique hip hop sound and while I haven’t been fully convinced to join the hype train, the incredibly hard Scared is the closest I’ve gotten. The boys are charismatic as hell, the production is strong, all they need is a killer chorus.
110. WJSN – Unnatural (Review)
Unnatural saw WJSN head down a sleeker, more chic sound and while I adored the track on release, I don’t think I listened to it all that much after the first month. But while it didn’t really pull me back, It was a track that really impressed me on every listen though lacking the kind of standout, stuck in your memory, moments that characterised some of the girls best work.
109. SF9 – Tear Drop
Carried by its ornate, delicate pre-chorus, the surprisingly quiet Tear Drop interested me almost instantly. It’s more a whisper than a shout but sometimes its these more restrained tracks that retain interest all the way through. And that’s what Tear Drop excelled at.
108. DreamNote – GHOST
Horror concepts are quiet under-utilised in K-pop but if you told me that the Hakauna Matata girls from 2019 would make their long awaited comeback with a song and concept like Ghost, I would have brushed you off in an instant. But apart from these flipped expectations, Ghost is actually incredibly solid, anchored by a mammoth chorus which recalls the best of 2nd gen girl group fare.
107. ENHYPEN – Tamed-Dashed
I loved Tamed-Dashed on release and the brighter, industrial tone really fit a group that we were so far only used to seeing tackle darker concepts. But as with so many of the other honourable mentions, it was a track that while great, I didn’t really return to. And while that’s quite a shame, that instantly catchy chorus is a gem.
Also the album gave us Go Big Or Go Home which is a massive W
106. Highlight – Not The End
K-pop legends Highlight made their long awaited return this year with the emotive Not The End. It’s not the most revolutionary of tracks, nor does it come close to classics like Fiction, Shadow or Good Luck but at this stage in their career, they don’t need to prove themselves. And Not The End is yet another strong, yet trendy addition to their immense back catalogue.
105. bugAboo – bugAboo
It seems as though producer Ryan S. Jhun has been permanently in the spotlight this year. And apart from his many credits and scandals, his most notable addition to the k-pop landscape was girl group bugAboo, who debuted with this incredibly fun piece of brass kissed pop. It’s a track that leans right into its goofy roots, forgoing the urge to devolve into a shouty, cheerleading mess and instead opting for a streamlined piece of engaging dance pop.
104. NU’EST – Inside Out (Review)
NU’EST might be recycling the same sound over and over again for most of their recent singles but I honestly think you can pin that down to the “if it ain’t broke why fix it?”. Such is the case with Inside Out, which carries a stylish, emotive tone which initially might bore but works wonders on subsequent listens. Probably the closest they’ve gotten to a Stay Up All Night style single.
103. BDC – Moon Rider
Ooo The first real big upset of the countdown.
As much as I know that this song is loved, Moon Rider is actually my least favourite of BDC’s Moon Series. But that isn’t to say it isn’t very strong. The massive chorus is as engaging as always and the grandiose production feels as though the track has been ripped right out its own mini space opera. I just wish I came back to it as much as its predecessor and successors (and yes that’s spoilers for the rest of the list).
102. AB6IX – Close
AB6IX doing deep house can never go wrong and Close was another fantastic example of this near symbiotic relationship. The boys just sell this sound so damn well and the chunkier, 90’s inspired throb was a great switch up that helped really differentiate this from their debut year singles.
101. Chungha – Killing Me
After the disappointing Bicycle, it was fulfilling to see Chungha return to the melodic dance pop that she does so damn well. Killing Me is much more emotive than her 2020 work but I adore the crunchy textures during the chorus which give the track much more character and make this an easy standout.