Fromis 9 – “We Go”
Album: ‘9 WAY TICKET’
Release Date: May 17
An absolute gem of a summer pop song, flawlessly melding high energy, an addictive groove, and at least three memorable hooks in “come with me nowww/follow me nowww“, “we go we go, we go we go“, and “what you, what you want“. It encapsulates everything a song for the season should be.
N.Flying – “Moonshot”
Album: ‘Man On The Moon’
Release Date: June 7
Even if the rest of the song was dogshit, the first 10 seconds of “Moonshot” was probably enough to get a mention on this list. Fortunately that’s far from reality as N.Flying instead have an elite chorus with a wonderful rhythm, and a vocal explosion with an appropriately dramatic peak. It even has a great spoken post-chorus cool down back into the verses. A rousing pop-rock track that finishes strong thanks to a choral effect.
ONF – “Beautiful Beautiful”
Album: ‘ONF: My Name’
Release Date: February 24
One of the better pure pop tracks of the year, “Beautiful Beautiful” is chock full of melody and unforgettable moments. The synth line with the funk guitar during the verses could make the song in itself, but an anthemic, fleshed-out chorus made it even better. Also, the bridge has a classic throwback that makes that section a hidden gem in itself. Really though, I just find it impossible to not move your body to the rhythm of this song at some point. There’s just so much good stuff.
ADOY – “Antihero”
Release Date: August 15
An impressive piece of dream pop that thrives due to the synths setting the atmosphere beautifully and then benefitting from a bit of an edge provided by rock stylings. An almost haunting song, yet one with a catchy chorus that’s hard to forget. At its core, a song about wishful youth and wanting to take meaningful people with you along for the ride in life.
STAYC – “ASAP”
Release Date: April 8
As I’ve been saying, when you listen through songs for the year-end list, sometimes you gain new appreciation for things … things like simple, catchy melodies. They have really shined in retrospect, and “ASAP” is a great example. Initially, I felt it may have lacked impact, but the understated chorus is sneakily addictive and the “eh sap!” exclamation provides a punchy finish before the delightful flute-esque instrumental takes over in the post.
TXT – “0X1=LOVESONG”
Album: ‘The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE’
Release Date: May 31
While many people were already on the TXT bandwagon prior to 2021, I was rather nonplussed by the hype as I didn’t find their discography to that point all that noteworthy. That made “0X1=LOVESONG” all the more shocking, as the epic, anthemic track was immediately embedded into my brain, the pounding drums and background vocals creating such an impressive depth to the song. A touch of punk grime to the delivery at times was also welcome, and Seori is utilized perfectly in a wind-down that really leaves a lasting impression. The end result is perhaps my favorite song of the year.
SEVENTEEN – “Same Dream Same Mind Same Night”
Album: ‘Your Choice’
Release Date: June 18
I swear to god this is almost a pitch-perfect recreation of a late-90s/early-00s slow jam from boy bands that can only conjure memories of school dances. My love for this is obviously nostalgia powered, but if you know you know, and there are worse things to recreate. The fact that SEVENTEEN executed this so adeptly is just the cherry on top. Really, all it was missing was a bass voice seductively speaking to a lover in the intro or bridge.
TWICE – “F.I.L.A”
Album: ‘Formula Of Love: O+T=<3’
Release Date: November 12
As far as picking a blast of ready-made pop greatness goes, it’s immensely amusing to me that JYP Entertainment went with the comparatively dour “Scientist” as the title track for this album over “F.I.L.A“, which is K-pop disco inferno fully realized. The funky guitar chugs away with aplomb, the clapping is an amusingly well-used instrument of its own, and I half expect pre-Scientology John Travolta to walk onto multi-colored panel dance floor and destroy it.
NELL – “U-Hee”
Album: ‘Moments In Between’
Release Date: September 2
Other than likely destroying the search results for Crayon Pop‘s “Uh-ee“, NELL delivers one of their typically beautiful soundscapes on “U-Hee“. A song about trying distance yourself from a lover but having your emotional shield inevitably crumbling in the face of them. As the lyrics transition into acceptance of this, the guitar ramps up along with the tempo, and the mood switches to desiring the feeling of the romance and comfort from before for just another moment. NELL don’t always deliver a memorable melody, but when they do, the songwriting and composition just takes things into the next stratosphere.
Pink Fantasy – “Poison”
Album: ‘Alice In Wonderland’
Release Date: June 21
Is this basically a Dreamcatcher reboot with slightly heavier riffs? Absolutely. Do I care? Not really. As most of you are aware by now, Dreamcatcher’s music is what got me into them, and another group taking their cues — some seemingly directly from “PIRI“ if we’re being honest — has immense appeal. The decidedly more metal-focused tack they’re taking to the rock and pop mashup helps differentiate them enough, and “Poison” delivers on the menace of the title.