Edited by Yoon
Translated by Esther Lee
Due to the prolonged pandemic, 2021 has been a difficult year for many of us. Most of the major K-pop events switched from live to virtual, and the screams of fans were forever replaced by silent applause. Despite the unprecedented crisis that the music industry faced this year, the K-pop scene was filled with unforgettable songs written by great artists. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best songs and albums that ruled 2021. (The songs listed here are not in any ranking order.)
Songs of the Year
Brave Girls – Rollin’
“Rollin'” was not released in 2021, but it is difficult to discuss the most popular songs of the year without mentioning this one. The song became a massive hit on all major domestic music charts as it went viral on Youtube and other online communities. The track as well as the girl group received great love from both men and women of all ages. I’m thankful for this song as it brought everyone together in joy in the midst of this tragic pandemic. The success of “Rollin” is not only thanks to YouTube’s algorithm, but also due to the persistent efforts that Brave Girls have made over the years.
SHINee – Atlantis
SHINee has made some changes to suit the taste of the current music market. Their music video and album cover arts are looking refreshing as ever and their music is filled with gorgeous massed strings and brass. Moreover, the profound vocal arrangements give off the feeling of a calm deep sea and its vigorous waves. If anyone asks me if their music is still valid, I would say yes to the question without a moment’s hesitation.
æspa – Next Level
The concept of having a worldview and a metaverse is charming but difficult to understand. So, in order to get things across clearly, æspa openly and directly suggests an explanation of their complex theme in this song. Yoon Young Jin’s bridge immediately drops after the rap part ends in “Next Level.” The track continues as if nothing has ever happened while leaving a clear but perplexing message. This extraordinary piece prioritizes the song’s unique personality over the public’s capacity to comprehend it. Perhaps that’s why this track became a smash-hit on the current 2021 K-POP market.
BTS – Permission To Dance
This song is a great example of BTS’ music that has a good influence on people. BTS has created another easy dance-pop track following their last smash-hit song “Dynamite.” Although “Butter” did so much better than “Permission to Dance,” I wanted to include this song in the list because it is a song that we needed in 2021. This may sound a little cringy, but there has to be this kind of song that gives hope and energy to those of us who really need it. And since it’s a globally popular star who sends out the positive message, their cheering words have reached a larger crowd and have become more powerful than ever.
AKMU – NAKKA (with IU)
AKMU is still limitless in their creativity and imagination. They redefined the word “free fall” into something completely different and turned the meaning upside down to mean “the jump to leap forward” by using the melody and lyrics of “NAKKA.” Instilling hope in their music, they say that one doesn’t have to even know whether he or she is falling or flying and suggest to “just close one’s eyes” and give it a shot.
Albums of the Year
ONF – ONF: MY NAME
Have a listen to this album if you still believe that “all idol music sounds the same” despite their global success throughout the world. This album is filled with various genres of songs and the heartfelt lyrics they wrote, demonstrating that voices can become the ultimate melodic instruments and the music can become the leading melody of a song.
IU – LILAC
This album encapsulated everything about IU. It begins with two of her popular tracks, “Lilac” and “Celebrity,” followed by “Flu” and “Ah-Puh” with their witty lyrics. Then “My Sea” and “Epilogue” bring a beautiful conclusion to this album and provide a meaningful closure for the listeners. Listening to this album would be a great way to say goodbye to your twenties and to welcome to the age of the mature.
WENDY – Like Water
What other songs can possibly suit Wendy better than “Like Water?” The cover art looks amazing with her gazing into the camera, and the album tracks are filled with her stories and words of inspiration. She included “When This Rain Stops” to imply that she has overcome the fall accident she experienced and “Like Water” to thank those who were there for her during her darkest hours. The track “Best Friend (with Seulgi)” was also included to promise her forever friendship with her groupmate Seul Gi. We can feel the warm and caring heart of the person named Son Seung Hwan and Wendy and how she looks at the world with her loving mindset by listening to the tracks listed in this album.
TXT – The Chaos Chapter: Freeze
Although their music has become more mature than it used to be in their first album, The Dream Catcher: Magic, their music still has a spark of a lively and mischievous adolescent life to it. They created a meaningful discography by putting clear messages to each track and by bringing back the ideas that they have discussed in their previous albums. Every time they release an album, they are expanding their own stories, and although we are not sure if they are at the beginning or developing stage, it makes us wonder how they will play out the conflict and climax part of their own story.
Younha – END THEORY
Younha is an artist who has been consistently pushing her sound forward by releasing multiple high-quality full-length albums. END THEORY, her sixth full-length album, contains Younha’s current concerns and thoughts and in it, she deals with a heavy theme in an uplifting way. Although the album is filled with diverse genres and topics, all the songs share one common theme that roots for Younha and ourselves.
Editor Yoon: I love music, especially K-POP, and I dream of becoming an A&R person, lyricist, artist, etc. I will cover various articles, including song reviews, artist reviews, and K-pop market analysis.
Translator Esther Lee: I’ll be providing you with up-to-date, reliable Korean entertainment news. Enjoy!