Welcome to Kbopped’s countdown of the Top 100 K-pop songs of 2021.
To Be eligible for this list, songs must:
- 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.
50. Aespa – Savage
Savage is the definition of a Frankenstein track, bringing together disparate elements that shouldn’t work (and don’t initially) into a single boundary pushing track that sounds almost unlike anything we heard this year. From its industrial, hip hop led verses to that goosebump inducing, claustrophobic build during the pre-chorus, Savage contains some of the years most engrossing highs before cutting into a WTF style empty chorus.
And just when you think you’ve experienced it all, the track blossoms into a complete vocal showcase that seemingly appears out of nowhere. It’s a bit of a mess but one that I think works surprisingly better than it has any right to.
49. BDC – Moon Walker
The most underrated entry into BDC’s excellent ‘Moon’ series, the finale, Moon Walker entices with its atmospheric verses before transitioning into an immensely groovy drop which uses the near flawless production to its benefit. It’s a track that uses its contrasting moments to its advantage, building towards bombast that subverts expectations whilst still giving that deserved rush.
48. ONF – Ugly Dance
A literal direct sequel to the track that preceded it, Ugly Dance opens with Beautiful Beautiful‘s gargantuan central riff before exploding it a symphonic chorus of its own. It’s the groups first attempt at a hip hop based single and while it could have easily gone wrong, when you have a producer as assured as Hwang Hyun and a group of performers as instantly gripping as ONF, you end up with another genre bending single which incorporates the best of the genre into a package that feels distinctly ONF.
47. SHINee – Don’t Call Me (review)
SHINee’s grand comeback album was everything this Shawol wanted and more. And while Don’t Call Me wasn’t the kind of sound that I had expected or to be honest, particularly wanted from the group, they absolutely killed it with a gripping performance and an arrangement more interesting than many tracks that go for a similar approach. That towering chorus and climactic piano riff are just *chefs kiss*.
46. Ciipher – Blind
After their train wreck of a debut with one of the years worst tracks, Ciipher surpassed all expectations with followup Blind. This is basically a produce concept track and for someone who loves that kind of sound, there’s very little more that I could ask for. The rough around the edges performance gives this track just the kind of bite it needs and coupled with that incredible central guitar riff, it easily transforms Blind into one of the years standout singles and one of the most best debut –> first comeback improvements ever.
45. Lucy – I Got U (review)
.Korea’s most promising band took a step towards a more electronic sound with their ‘Gatcha!’ mini album and the results were just superb. Lead single I Got U was the perfect choice to lead this campaign, expertly melding their more folky sound with the kind of euphoric, soul releasing central EDM drop that brings you right back to the early 2010’s.
44. Yukika – Loving You
One of the most critically acclaimed K-pop tracks of the year, Loving You was a fantastic city pop inspired track by the queen of modern city pop. Its bright, sprightly energy is perfectly accentuated by the ebullient brass during the chorus. However, the consistent bass work which is probably the tracks most prominent element, is the tracks primary selling point, elevating an already great track into a very satisfying listen.
43. B.I. – Illa Illa
Featuring one of the years most gorgeous melodies, Illa Illa opens with an absolute stunning hook that it repeats often. It carries an immense amount of emotion in its simple yet striking melodic backbone, building a gorgeous soundscape for Hanbin’s long comeback return single. The filtered vocals during the hook lend the track with an ethereal soundscape, leading perfectly into the chant like finale that sends the track off on a high. This usually isn’t my cup but Hanbin knows how to make a great song.
Even the English version/remix is fantastic: here
42. A.C.E – Changer
As the groups final hurrah before enlistment, Changer didn’t really have to be as good as it was. But instead of your standard ballad or mid-tempo, A.C.E give the fans what they want with a bright, chant heavy pop rock track that fuses the right amount of sentiment into an otherwise relentlessly upbeat product. See you on the flip side boys.
41. Twice – The Feels
All English K-pop songs had a surprisingly great year in 2021 and Twice’s The Feels was one of the standouts. As the groups first fully English track, many feared many feared that the track might try to reinvent the group into something more suitable to the western market.
Instead, The Feels is pure, undiluted Twice, filled to the brim with instantly catchy hooks that lodge themselves in your brain and refuse to leave. It doesn’t try to change the groups identity, instead leaning right into the characteristics that make the girls so great, right down to the massive, multi part chorus that just begs you to sing along.