the best of kpop 2021 thus far

We’re so close to the end of the year… 2022 is only one month away!

As such, I’ve brought it upon myself to bring the sequel to my ‘best of kpop 2021 so far‘ list and add fifteen new songs as contenders for the overall ranking of the ‘best kpop 2021 songs’.

It really has been a journey in K-pop! A lot of debuts, some surprise comebacks, different tie-ins, and title tracks up the wazoo. 2021 has, thus far, been a very good year in K-pop, so it was really hard to find 15 songs that I thought deserved the title… there were just too many!

So, without further ado, here are the fifteen songs I’ve thought were the best in K-pop during the year!


치맛바람 (Chi Mat Ba Ram)
by 브레이브걸스

Chi Mat Ba Ram by Brave Girls
from the mini-album “Summer Queen”
Released: 2021/06/17

Let’s kick off this list with songs from June… and what better way to start than with the B Girls themselves: Brave Girls!

Having experienced fame in a way that only several groups have ever had, Brave Girls’ resurgence in K-pop is something for the history books. So when it came time to finally cement that resurgence with a comeback, the girls were ready and “Chi Mat Ba Ram“, in reference to the fluttering of a skirt in the wind, was born. Establishing themselves as ‘summer queens’, Brave Girls became just that with a bop that filled the void left behind by beloved summer queens like SISTAR. If this is what they’ve returned with in 2021, I cannot wait to see what’s next in 2022. ⬛


PTT (Paint The Town)
by 이달의 소녀

PTT (Paint The Town) by LOONA
from the mini album”[&]”
Released: 2021/06/28

LOONA has been incredibly busy this last year, and that hard work has certainly been paying off! Not only did they deliver one of the best Japanese pop tracks of the year with their Japanese debut, but they also offered up a fiery, spicy, and fierce Middle-Eastern-tinged dance track for their Korean discography, and it marked an incredible return for HaSeul after a long hiatus. “PTT (Paint The Town)” continues the girls’ lore and concepts, but here, it paints more of an edge that will have you stomping your feet from now until eternity. ⬛


Tear Drop
by SF9

Tear Drop by SF9
from the mini-album “TURN OVER”
Released: 2021/07/05

This year, I didn’t forget the boy bands! And who better to be representatives than FNC’s sexy 9-member group SF9?

SF9 has always been on my radar, considering the masterpiece that was ‘Now or Never’, but SF9 has fully cemented themselves into my listening sprees with “Tear Drop“, a track that’s full of pulsating wub-wubs, twinkles that will have IZ*ONE’s ‘Panorama’ quivering in its boots, piano melodies that will leave you feeling some sort of emotion, and a fu~fu~fu~ that will have you wondering if this is a Vitas cover… all joking aside, this is a track that is delivered just right and so sensually, it has to be the saddest and sexiest song of the year. ⬛


Weekend
by 태연 (TAEYEON)

Weekend by TAEYEON
from the single “Weekend”
Released: 2021/07/06

Soloists were also thriving in 2021!

Girls’ Generation’s TAEYEON has always been a fantastic artist, and this time around, she didn’t take herself too seriously, opting to go for a very pink, very girly concept that I absolutely adore in “Weekend“. Perhaps this track is an interpolation of the Hot Pink vibes of Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’, but regardless of whether it is or not, “Weekend” retains that song’s catchy formula and puts it to good use all throughout. It’s the bubbliest of 2021’s releases, and I certainly can’t pass up a good time. ⬛


여름 쏙 (Popping)
by 온앤오프 (ONF)

Popping by ONF
from the mini-album “SUMMER POPUP ALBUM [POPPING]”
Released: 2021/08/09

The summer didn’t end there!

ONF has also had a pretty stellar year, and with comeback after comeback, they really knew what they had going for them (and still have, frankly!). This is showcased in the summer track “Popping”, which has a bubbly vibe much like ‘Weekend’. “Popping” is fueled by ONF’s futuristic sound (and concept), but to add to the song’s joyful and bright appeal, whistles are abound, and it’s there that the song is at its catchiest – 2021 has never felt so fun and full of a popping good time. ⬛


술버릇 (운전만해 그후)
by 브레이브걸스

After We Ride by Brave Girls
from the mini-album repackage “After ‘We Ride'”
Released: 2021/08/23

Of course, the summer must also slowly come to an end, and who better to portray this than the summer queens of 2021 themselves?

The second of their songs to land on the list (Brave Girls thriving, we love to see it), “After We Ride” still has that summer vibe we’ve been hearing since June, but it is toned done much more. Incorporating the 80s city-pop vibe that its title references (see ‘We Ride’), and taking the story from the lyrics of that same song, “After We Ride” is a more somber city-pop track but still manages to sound so catchy (and incorporates some sense of hope by the end). It’s the throwback of throwbacks, and maybe it isn’t all so bad to look back on the past. ⬛


색안경 (STEREOTYPE)
by STAYC (스테이씨)

STEREOTYPE by STAYC
from the mini-album “STEREOTYPE”
Released: 2021/09/06

What an incredible year it has been for STAYC, because STAYC girls, it’s undoubtedly going down up!

Making their debut last year, who would have thought that these girls would be the 4th generation rookies to make a monstrous impact? ‘ASAP’ might have been the breakthrough, but “STEREOTYPE“, which I’ve reviewed here (as well as its mini-album), is the one that’s keeping them far into the scene. With its whistly tune, its fresh appeal, and its synthy and incredibly catchy chorus that will have you dancing along with them, “STEREOTYPE” is the comeback of all comebacks, proving that STACY isn’t just a one-hit wonder. ⬛


콩깍지
by 싸이퍼 (Ciipher)

Blind by Ciipher
from the mini-album “BLIND”
Released: 2021/09/28

Speaking of rookies, there’s a rookie boy group on my radar, and having made their comeback sometime close to the end of 2021, Ciipher looks to have what it takes to go far!

Their comeback track “Blind” is perhaps my favorite of the boy group rookies, and while I haven’t listened to it as much as many of the songs on this list, “Blind” has the outlook to be on constant repeat. Why? It’s that incredible rock-tinged chorus that’s layered with the wub-wubs of bass and synth that I love. Additionally, every rap segment in this is delivered with so much fun and skill, I wonder why this isn’t as popular as it should be. It’s a fantastic dance track that feels fresh, fun, and fierce all at the same time. I don’t think anyone is blind… but I do think people are tired and sleeping on this! ⬛


Savage
by aespa

Savage by aespa
from the mini-album “Savage – The 1st Mini Album”
Released: 2021/10/05

Oh my gosh, did you think that wasn’t gonna be on here?

Savage“, as I established in my review for the mini-album here (and its song, here), is everything I had hoped for with its title and vibe. It just felt so SOPHIE, and its ‘zu-zu-zu’ will have you quoting it for many years to come. Sure, there’s the insanely catchy girl-crush (and disjointed) feel of “Next Level”, which propelled the girls to incredible stardom, but it’s “Savage” that made sure aespa is here to stay. Megan Thee Stallion better keep one eye open, because we’ve got four girls who are just as savage. ⬛


우주로 (WOULD YOU RUN)
by 트라이비 (TRI.BE)

WOULD YOU RUN by TRI.BE
from the mini-album “VENI VIDI VICI”
Released: 2021/10/12

Here’s a detail for this: “WOULD YOU RUN” is one of my most-played K-pop songs of the year.

There’s good reason for that! “WOULD YOU RUN” is incredibly catchy, almost to the point where it will just never escape my head. It’s that bridge to its just-as-catchy chorus that will have you consistently quoting its lyrics, nevermind that it is also just as fiercely delivered by each of the girls. Produced by EXID’s LE with additional producers, “WOULD YOU RUN” could and should be successful with its girl-crush appeal. Regardless, I am definitely running with TRI.BE from this point forward. ⬛


Cold Blooded
by 제시 (Jessi)

Cold Blooded by Jessi
from the single “Cold Blooded”
Released: 2021/10/12

Speaking of girl-crush… what’s even fiery than that? If we’re talking 2021, then we have to give it up to Street Woman Fighter, the unlikely surprise of Mnet’s survival programs, propelling a new niche to stardom.

Now, if we’re giving it up to them, we also have to give it up to its amazing discography, and who better to have for your dance crew battles than rapper and variety queen Jessi? Hell, she doesn’t even appear in the video for more than 2 minutes in, yet her presence is there in song… she’s just got that tinge that makes you know she’s the queen and she runs the town. Top that with an hip-hop electro instrumental that will have you pop and lockin’, “Cold Blooded” is this year’s hip-hop masterpiece. ⬛


bugAboo
by bugAboo (버가부)

bugAboo by bugAboo
from the single “bugAboo”
Released: 2021/10/25

Oh, we can’t forget about the stellar 2021 debuts, especially from the onslaught of girl groups that have premiered (and will premiere).

One such group is bugAboo, containing several Produce 48 contestants (especially Son Eunchae, who deserved better in Instruction) and formed under Ateam (who is home to boy group VAV). With the title track named after their group name, “bugAboo“, they have Destiny’s Child running for their money with its ‘wild wild’ west influence, fierce vocals, and extraordinary rap prowess. If you’re looking for a group to stan, there’s no better time to do so than now for bugAboo. ⬛


GHOST
by 드림노트 (DreamNote)

GHOST by DreamNote
from the single “Dreams Alive”
Released: 2021/10/26

October really was the month of stellar K-pop songs, wasn’t it?

If we’re looking to find the best themed comeback, then look no further than the surprise comeback of DreamNote and their track “GHOST” off of their single Dreams Alive. Their only comeback in 2021, and a much long-awaited one following ‘WISH’ from the beginning of 2020, “GHOST” is a full 180 from the girls’ previous youthful and fresh concepts, opting to go Halloween on us with a witchy and ghostly tone that perhaps the best chorus over many K-pop songs in 2021. How are they not popular?! ⬛


RING X RING
by Billlie

RING X RING by Billlie
from the mini-album “the Billage of perception : chapter one”
Released: 2021/11/10

Speaking of creepy concepts AND debuts, look no further than Billlie and their debut track that I reviewed here, along with their mini-album here.

RING X RING” is much like DreamNote’s ‘GHOST’, but it is taken to an even edgier tone here, with its alarm-like instrumental, frantic, loud, and in your face. Despite how awful that sounds, it works on so much levels here – it’s a track that requires powerful vocal and rap, of which the Mystic Story girls deliver. It’s disjointed nature is what makes this song so appealing for some and off-putting for others, but for myself, I get so drawn in after every listen. With the addition of Sheon (of Girls Planet 999) for their future releases, I can’t wait to hear what’s next in their lore and in their music. ⬛


Siesta
by 위키미키 (Weki Meki)

Siesta by Weki Meki
from the mini-album “I AM ME.”
Released: 2021/11/18

Finally, we’ve reached the last track on the list, and it is likely my favorite.

‘WOULD YOU RUN’ may be one of my most-played K-pop songs of 2021, but “Siesta“, performed by 8-member girl group Weki Meki, is reaching that and more by the end of the year. Initially, I thought it would be similar to IZ*ONE’s “FIESTA”, but it actually is so much more than that.

Its lyrics resonate – siestas are naps, after all, and to compare that to the idea of recharging one’s self and love… it is a beautiful concept. Add to the fact that the song is a pretty in its delivery over a simple dance-pop instrumental topped with horns, there’s just so much here to really enjoy. It’s almost like it’s the perfect ender to a year that required rest after all that’s happened to us… it honestly is a perfect song. ⬛


We did it!

Thus far, we have fifteen new contenders for the absolute best of K-pop in 2021, and I stand by these choices… they’re all great songs to listen to and are certainly some I know people will love, as well. I do want to point out that if you do happen to have different ones, comment below! I would love to hear some new songs I haven’t heard yet or take a new perspective on other songs I have heard.

The ranking list will come out at the end of the year, so I may find some new songs to add to the list! That said, I hope you enjoyed the list, and if I found you some new songs to enjoy, I can die happy (haha).

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