Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2021: Honorable Mentions
Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2021: Part 1
Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2021: Part 2
Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2021: Part 3
Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2021: Part 4
Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2021: Part 5
Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2021: Part 7
Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2021: Part 8
Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2021: Part 9
Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2021: Part 10
ATEEZ – “Take Me Home”
Album: ‘ZERO : FEVER Part 2’
Release Date: March 1
ATEEZ take a break from their usual bombast and the result is this gorgeous piece of synth pop. It does leave room for rather unnecessary rap breaks, but the powerhouse chorus fronted by the “somebody take me home” refrain does more than enough to make this a standout. Along with the pulsating, dark synth the song is built on, and a hell of a Sexy Sax Man™ solo to close out the song, there’s a lot to love here.
DreamNote – “GHOST”
Album: ‘Dreams Alive’
Release Date: October 26
“GHOST” immediately establishes an ominous sound and it kicks off in earnest with a thumping, reverberating beat in the verses, carried forward by DreamNote‘s rhythmic vocals. The pre-chorus is a nice combination of cult-esque chanting that builds tension and releases into a chorus that involves them literally howling “deo keuge ureo howl/sori nopyeo howl” and “nan michin deushi howl/neoreul hyanghae howl” to impressive effect, and it’s punctuated with a repetition of a “Where you at?” refrain. A major concept overhaul for the group that pays off musically thanks to this authoritative and memorable entry into their discography.
JEON SOMI – “XOXO”
Release Date: October 29
“XOXO” is an extremely simple song that has a timeless appeal through its chanted chorus, and I was quite surprised at how often I found myself humming the central hook. Perhaps the best thing the production does is … well, not a whole lot. Instead of cluttering things with unwanted mess, it trusts the song’s groove and rhythm to carry it, which it does nicely. A concert closer, for sure.
Younha – “Savior”
Album: ‘END THEORY’
Release Date: November 16
Younha has a habit of making me appreciate song archetypes that usually aren’t up my alley, and “Savior” is a great example. Despite the simple acoustic ballad foundation, her affinity for compelling vocal melodies is undeniable, and this beautiful chorus is a showcase of that. Younha’s warm vocals provide depth to the gentler moments, while her power puts this into the stratosphere. After the initial chorus, drums and orchestral strings are added and provide a sense of momentum to the track, and building on an already impressive foundation is likely what sets this apart from its contemporaries.
TWICE – “Scandal”
Album: ‘Taste Of Love”
Release Date: June 11
The excellence of the instrumental is largely based on the strength of its opening riff, but the house piano that enters during the chorus makes it ascend. The “baby we’re a scandal, way too hot to handle” refrain is addictive, especially when combined with TWICE giving one of their better vocal performances. Whenever they’re freed from being asked to stretch to the upper limits of their range, they seem to thrive, and here they deliver a confident and mature showing.
Tiger JK – “Love Peace”
Album: ‘Love Peace’
Release Date: July 29
Written after being told by his sister of her experience with rising anti-Asian racism in America, Tiger JK invokes an iconic photo of Malcolm X, perhaps with a specific message of his in mind. With an assist from Yoon Mi Rae, he delivers the impassioned message over a booming beat with a bit of twang and relies on his flow and the track’s rhythm to carry it through, and fortunately both are fully capable of doing just that.
OMEGA X – “YOUNGER”
Release Date: June 30
The sentimentality of a ballad put into a propulsive dance track, “YOUNGER” helps to show that emotive performances don’t have to be reserved for boring and mundane productions. Synths and guitars meld to get the momentum going, and the anthemic hook is perhaps the year’s best. The song truly soars from that point forward, and OMEGA X‘s performance drips with authenticity regarding feelings of nostalgia for days gone by. Even without knowing the group’s story, it’s just a beautiful song with timeless appeal.
TXT – “LOSER=LOVER”
Album: ‘The Chaos Chapter: FIGHT OR ESCAPE’
Release Date: August 17
A more straightforward pop-rock track than its predecessor, “LOSER=LOVER” has a similar playful road trip energy to it as “0X1=LOVESONG” but with a bit more melancholy in it. Regardless, the execution is the star here, with the growling delivery of the pre-chorus being a standout in itself, and the chorus that follows is plenty memorable in its own right. TXT manage to expertly capture the hopeful but angsty nature of young adult love, and it at least feels more authentic with that being the age range of the members.
Susan – “Amateur Lover”
Release Date: January 18
The synths and off-kilter beat combine to create a dreamy soundscape at the outset, and the pre-chorus picks up the tempo, pairing well with a staccato-esque vocal delivery that attractively punctuates every word. “Amateur Lover” then transitions into a chorus that energetically bursts forward into pop excellence, underscored by a string of percussion hits. Perhaps as important as anything is Susan’s own versatile and sultry vocal that she uses to maximize the song’s potential, as it’s pensive and curious when it needs to be and direct and expressive when it needs to be.
WJSN – “UNNATURAL”
Release Date: March 31
WJSN transition from space to the club with “UNNATURAL“, though it still has the imprint of their signature ethereal sound. The song truly kicks off when the vocal flair of the pre-chorus hits, and after a brief cool down it returns just as strong for an exhilarating chorus that demands and deserves the listener’s attention.