Finest K-Pop Tunes of 2021 Critics’ Picks
Look: all of us understand how this year went, so to be informed once again of all the catastrophes and that pestered it is the last thing anybody requires. It was a harsh year for the K-pop market also, obviously, however, artists kept recording, efficiencies were held online, and tunes were launched at a remarkably stable speed. Simply put, the program went on.
While it’s simple to consider K-pop stars as simple performers, there’s something to be stated for how essential their tunes felt in a time when hope was stymied, when anhedonia was simply around the corner. As such, discover 20 tunes listed below that we liked in 2020, that brought us far from the concerns of the world. Consider this an intro to the many K-pop songs that charmed us, impressed us, and moved us throughout the past 12 months. Possibly they did something for you, too.
20. TREASURE, “I LIKE YOU”THE PRIMARY STEP: CHAPTER
Romeo and Juliet? Orpheus and Eurydice? Sorry, however, the only story of impassioned love I require is from TREASURE. Their 2nd single, the brazen K-pop all-caps anthem “I LIKE YOU,” teems with ruthless energy that’ll have you smitten from previously owned infatuation. It’s all butterflies-in-stomach charming up until it isn’t– the chorus is a big-room-house scorcher, provided with such burning love that you can almost smell smoke. TREASURE’s biggest strength is that they (properly) comprehend flirting as both spirited and severe, something summed up in the most expressive point dance this year: all 12 members looking straight-faced at the cam, bobbing their heads as they hold up finger hearts. No other 2020 K-pop novice group felt so positive– it was love at first sight.– JOSHUA MINSOO KIM.
19. BIBI, “I’m proficient at farewells
In a year when convenience was limited, BIBI came through as the personification of forgotten enjoyable and relatable melancholy. The increasing musician had a great year launching music that’s established in between dreamy bedroom pop and R&B, however, “I’m proficient at bye-byes” was especially emblematic of 2020’s basic state of mind; the soft vocals on “I’m proficient at bye-byes” mirrored the isolation we were all sensation as a lost spring transitioned into a lonesome summer season. A lot more noteworthy is her lyrical expertise: this is the swan song of her relationship– it hurts and desperate and she holds on to misleading hope. As she goes from explaining images of endings that happen all throughout nature to discussing how this feels on an individual level, she stresses the gravity of her heartbreak versus the weight of the universes: you might be a little speck in the grand plan of things, however, today, your discomfort stands.– L.S.K-pop
18. Lee Jin Hyuk, “Chaos” Splash!
While K-pop fans succumbed to Lee Jin Hyuk as a member of UP10TION and noteworthy participant on 2019’s Produce X 101 singing competitors, the singer-rapper showed his real rock star power this year with sophomore EP Splash! From the punky chants on the chorus to the softhearted melodic pre-chorus– plus an unforeseen wolf growl on the 2nd verse– “Chaos” serves simply what its title assures, with Jin Hyuk’s energetic shipment browsing a collection of hip-hop designs. Such a shape-shifting track might quickly teeter into the untidy area, however, the musician makes the track both available and interesting with his warm rap design and skillful triplet knowledge.– JEFF BENJAMIN.
17. APRIL, “LALALILALA” Da Capo
For their very first return in 2 years, APRIL plays the charming lead roles of a cosmic love drama, set to a lavish production with synths that shine like gems. Their story about an eventful connection written in the stars unreels in actual terms as they compare each other to K-pop heavenly bodies, determining their love in stellar percentages. If the chorus appears like the grandest thing the group has actually ever done, it’s just due to the fact that they’re attempting to match the epic scale of their overruling sensations. “You will not have the ability to get away/ Just imagine me,” they sing, and APRIL’s persistence to be your world makes the destination of “LALALILALA” hard to withstand.– RYO MIYAUCHI.
16. TXT, “Can’t You See Me” The Dream Chapter: ETERNITY
On “Can’t You See Me,” TXT pulls the dark undercurrent of K-pop their younger whimsy out of under the bed. Crunchy electrical guitars and a jaunty whistle include a revitalizing contrast to the track’s trap foundations, however, where it finest exposes its murkiness is through the quintet’s singing efficiencies. Rotating in between distorted tremolo vocals, hushed whisper-raps, and fragile verses wisping like curls of smoke, the members’ voices stumble in between dulcet and disorienting as they expose the fractures in a relationship. Through disturbing noises and a picturesque video that degenerates into something frightening, TXT lay bare a scary seldom mentioned: seeing a relationship fade prior to your eyes.– MONIQUE MELENDEZ.
15. ITZY, “WANNABE” It’ z Me
ITZY has huge and caring unnie energy. Since their cheerleader romp of launching, they have actually motivated uncompromising self-love by modeling it themselves– K-pop their brand name of lady crush is less the positive scoff of BLACKPINK’s “Take a look at you, now take a look at me” and more “Aim to me, now take a look at you!” On “Wannabe,” they welcome us once again to dance, gilding a shapeshifting electro-pop beat and 2000s guitar-pop chugs with whimsical flourishes: flexatones, DJ scratches, the crank of a winding secret. “I do not wanna be no one, I wanna be me,” they yell in the chorus. Later on, they choose cumulative unity: “If you feel me, turn this batter.” They understand the dancefloor is a sanctuary for perking up self-expression, and they’ll drag you there by hand if they require to.– J.M.K.
Disco was a popular song’s taste of option worldwide this year, however, a couple of pulled it off with as much elegance as Sunmi. With aspects of city pop K-pop and revitalizing touches of flute, provides a story of both enthusiasm and optimism for the K-diva’s very first correct love song launched as a single. Peppered with pangs of melancholy to root it in the grim reality of 2020, the track has feel-good guitar riffs and romantic lyrics of a “purple-hued night” to develop the dreamy sonic trip all of us require even if we’re quarantined in our home.– J.B.
13. LUCY, “Running” Panorama
In “Running,” LUCY considers an easy concern: “If you were to go K-pop far away, where would you go?” And the tune’s sprightly pop-rock develops a wide-eyed innocence well matched for a novice band who search with boylike marvel. The giddy strings play a riff right out of an animation jingle, and the nimbly strummed guitars put a pep to the band’s action. Beneath the warm music lies severe self-questioning: “If you lose yourself/ Can you truly call yourself delighted?” the band starts to question as more excessive ideas fill their minds. Truth undoubtedly cuts into their visions, however, the music of “Running” recommends LUCY will recuperate in no time.– R.M.
12. TAEMIN, “Lawbreaker” Never Ever Gonna Dance Again, Act 1
Taemin’s solo music has actually constantly ventured to the dark side, however since “Move,” he’s peeled back layers of the human mind that individuals typically choose to keep to themselves. On “Move,” he welcomes individuals into his world to dance to his own rhythm. On “Want,” he hangs the decadent, wicked outcome of physical attraction like an unattainable fruit. It’s on “Lawbreaker,” nevertheless, that he entirely crosses over. “Damage me more,” he states, as he welcomes the alternate variation of himself– K-pop Mr. Hyde to his Dr. Jekyll–K-pop regardless of the understanding complete well that it may simply be the start of completion. What makes “Crook” much more engaging is how Taemin controls the turmoil in the tune. His music constantly utilizes visual images as an extension, operating in tandem with the music– and as he takes a look around stunned and deranged, or beckons the risk better, you get the sensation that he’s likewise attracting the alter-ego within you. By the time it ends, you truthfully question whether giving up would be so bad.– L.S.
11. SF9, “Hero” First Collection
It’s just fitting that a person of the highest young boy groups in the K-pop market masters catwalk-ready K-pop. SF9 initially try out trendy home music on “Now or Never ever” back in 2018, however they refined the formula on “Hero.” The tune admires house music through visuals and sounds like, with black-and-white clips similar to ’90s dance video aesthetic appeals, traditional home percussion and piano offsetting their breathy, come-hither vocals, and a “Great/ Great/ Great/ Excellent” refrain that simulates the category’s four-on-the-floor structure. In spite of the track’s suave noise, the lyrics have SF9 almost asking their love interest for an opportunity, closing on the line “Hold me tight prior to it’s far too late.” However, despite the fact that it’s uncertain that they’ll get the lady, it doesn’t matter– these heroes still won.– M.M.
10. Roaming Kids, “Back Entrance” IN生
Exists a sonic concept that had as huge a year in K-pop as The Funky Bassline? The Funky Bassline included plainly in numerous young boy group releases, and while numerous acts were content with letting TFB do all the heavy lifting, Stray Children’s adherence to their “more is more” M.O. offered it a much-required remodeling. Co-produced by members Bang Chan, Changbin, and Han, “Back entrance” invites you in with TFB and captures you with its saucy on-the-nose door creaks, its cooly positive singing efficiencies, and a stomping, floor-filling EDM ending. On “Back entrance,” Stray Children tighten their production without avoiding any liveliness, changing their signature overblown EDM into something more advanced.– M.M.
9. Weekly, “Tag Me ” We are
Who amongst us does not have an internet-damaged brain? K-pop And can you truly blame those people who do? As Weekly describe on “Tag Me (@Me),” our timelines inject enjoyment into daily regimens, and it’s tough to withstand the rush of social media-supplied dopamine. They catch how addicting all of it is with childish glee: the titular action is dealt with like a schoolyard video game, handclaps and yelled chants supply consistent pep, and a “neener neener”- like tune in the chorus drives home how obnoxious they may sound to everybody else. However, they guarantee you it’s OKAY: that in the obsessiveness and oversharing is unflinching self-love. The bridge, with its crystalline synths and driving bass swells, is an unexpected minute of made-up cool– they can share their numerous sides on the Internet, however, they’re constantly gonna be themselves.– J.M.K.
8. BTS, “Black Swan” Map of the Soul
BTS has actually gotten in touch with an around the world fanbase in big part thanks to the universal-but-still-personal styles of their music, and “Black Swan” represents among their most intimate confessions. Dreamy, bleak hip-hop soundscapes lay the background for the chart-toppers to K-pop open about their darkest worries: that they might one day fall out of love with music. Utilizing the title as a metaphor– to represent both the distinctive phenomenon they are and the 2010 motion picture where a ballerina makes the supreme sacrifice for her art– the superstar septet examines their hidden stress and anxieties up until stating they will not let fear win over-enthusiasm in the end. It’s a full-fledged movie loaded into simply over 3 minutes to inform an uncommon, real-life story of among the world’s most significant stars.– J.B.
7. TWO TIMES, “I CAN’T STOP ME”Eyes Wide Open
Like Dua Lipa and Woman Gaga, Two times was hip to electro K-pop basslines this year in “I CAN’T STOP ME.” The lady group indulges in the flexible, strobing synth that pulses under the attractive nu-disco track, and it snaps into development come the chorus. The tune requires a grand event, however, they’re too sidetracked attempting not to enjoy their own treacherous desires: “I simply can’t return any longer/ Out of control,” Chaeyoung sings prior to the remainder of the group totally give up to temptation. Two times battle to keep one’s cool, though it’s tough to see when they nail such a pristine efficiency.– R.M.
6. WOODZ, “BUMP BUMP” WOOPS!
This was an excellent year for musicians in K-pop, and nobody was more truthful with themselves than WOODZ. The push-and-pull of any love is typically the most luring yet demanding element of all of it. In the middle of airy pledges from his fan is the gloomy possibility of being left alone, however, he approaches this mixed-messaging with a revitalizing sincerity. In our own whirlpools of flirting and recall, IG-reels, and missed out on messages, “BUMP BUMP” was comfortingly uncomplicated– with WOODZ communicating what he desires, precisely how he desires it. It was the incorrect year to be young and in love in 2020, however, a minimum of we had WOODZ to keep our business.– L.S.
5. Weki Meki, “COOL” (NEW GUIDELINES
Weki Meki revamps their technique in “Cool” by switching their preppy dance-pop for steely electro. The group’s attitude is as spartan as the icy beat, and they enhance their bratty voices to assert their flawlessness. Their cockiness peaks in the chorus, which functions as a taunt and a mantra: “Be hotter/ Beyond the control,” they sing like a drill instructor. “Leave all the dull guidelines.” If “Cool” K-pop sounds standoffish, then the tune prospers at what it sets out to do. Weki Meki does not desire to be a good example for achievable, girl-crush cool however rather explain the space in between you and them. “Cool” is a pompous event of self, though in some cases it simply feels pleasing to flaunt what you got.– R.M.
4. GFRIEND, “MAGO” Walpurgis Night
” MAGO” distills disco to its best qualities, glittering– rather actually– with synths and consistent beats, constructing a heady, climatic high. As cohesive as it is musically, its magic depends on how completely it suits the principles of 回: Walpurgis Night. The album is built on the concept of modern-day witches, at the center of which are ladies who work out the very same firm and power of the tune’s name, and GFRIEND has a good time while doing it.
Sprinkled with pictures of the women dancing K-pop the night away– not what you’d anticipate from a principle handling the occult– are lyrics that overflow with self-confidence and aspiration. Instead of believing in fairy tales and awaiting a Prince Charming, their only love is the images of themselves smiling in the mirror. It’s a saucy method to satirize how society views fearless females, considering that the title itself equates to “wizard.” In commemorating their endless aspiration, “MAGO” casts a spell that keeps you returning for more.– L.S.
3. SEVENTEEN, “Left & Right” Heng: garæ
” LEFT & RIGHT” is so abundant that every noise– from doorbell chimes to 808 cowbells, organ synth riffs to full-bodied brass– bursts forth like acoustic confetti. K-pop One might easily declare SEVENTEEN have actually made their own “Cupid Shuffle,” however they’re going for something beyond simple dance training: this is a tune for changing every minute into a cause for the event. In a time when in-person celebrations aren’t possible, “LEFT & RIGHT” transform bedrooms into dancefloors. And with exultant shouts and stimulated rapping, they inform you to keep your chin up, to diminish red carpets, to dance.
SEVENTEEN serve as leaders and hypemen here, however, the function they fill finest is that of life coaches: in spite of their talk of races and goal, they exclaim that “not running is a response too/ who cares what we do.” They grant permission to merely be: a pointer that making it through every day suffices today. And after all, if you’re stagnating forward, why stagnate “LEFT & RIGHT,” right? They comprehend something that needs to be taught in schools around the globe: busting your ass ought to be supplemented K-pop with time invested shaking it.– J.M.K.
” LEFT & RIGHT” is so abundant that every noise– K-pop from doorbell chimes to 808 cowbells, organ synth riffs to full-bodied brass– bursts forth like acoustic confetti. One might easily declare SEVENTEEN have actually made their own “Cupid Shuffle,” however they’re going for something beyond simple dance training: this is a tune for changing every minute into a cause for the event. In a time when in-person celebrations aren’t possible, “LEFT & RIGHT” transform bedrooms to dancefloors. And with exultant shouts and stimulated rapping, they inform you to keep your chin up, to diminish red carpets, to dance.
SEVENTEEN functions as leaders and hypemen here, however, the function they fill finest is that of life coaches: regardless of their talk of races and goal, they exclaim that “not running is a response too/ who cares what we do.” They grant permission to just be: a suggestion that making it through every day suffices today. And after all, if you’re stagnating forward, why stagnate K-pop “LEFT & RIGHT,” right? They comprehend something that must be taught in schools worldwide: busting your ass ought to be supplemented with time invested shaking it.– J.M.K.
2. Apink, “Dumhdurum” APPEARANCE
K-pop tends to be a young adult’s video game–K-pop both the market and its labels frequently move their top priorities to more youthful artists– however Apink’s “Dumhdurum” makes an extraordinary case for the continuing effort and financial investment in senior acts. The track opens with a swirling synth-pop hook strong enough to stand as a chorus all its own, prior to diving into verses and choruses that strike pop gold with simply the correct amount of appealing repeating and melancholy yearning.
Apink information the intricacy of staying calm in the existence of a previous love, even when one’s heart’s still beating for them– a principle that could be challenging for more youthful groups to believably manage.
This fully grown message effectively gotten in touch with a big audience, and “Dumhdurum” ended up being a knockout success in both Korea (topping all regional music charts) and the Signboard charts (connecting for their longest-running hit on World Digital Tune Sales). 9 years into their profession, Apink are still more than geared up to bring their A-Game, which should have bigger acknowledgment all in itself for the market to pay equivalent attention to both its senior and established artists. Matured, musical K-pop magic waits for.– J.B.
1. EVERGLOW, “LA DI DA 77.82 x-78.29
Thanks to a virtual flattening of borders, musical patterns in the States now get shown in K-pop in realtime. Throughout 2020– in both the U.S. and South Korea– throwback noises were common. This year’s K-pop magnum opus, EVERGLOW “LA DI DA,” mirrored the U.S.’s pop magnum opus, The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” just months after its release. However, where The Weeknd’s work is cooling and ominous in its look for love, EVERGLOW’s is a spry kiss-off to all the haters, the bad guys, and the gamers.
An effective pastiche of the ’80s that’s crafted by manufacturer Ollipop, “LA DI DA” mixes myriad impacts: the layered cheerleader chants of Toni Basil’s “Mickey,” the spunky lady power of Cyndi Lauper and the Go-Go’s, the name of Bananarama, and above all, the glittering synth-pop noise that penetrated the leading half of that years. “LA DI DA” combines these entirely, with K-pop twists: an eliminating part stressed by handclaps, a tempo-shifting rap area brought by leader E: U, and an earworm of a tune expressive of early ’10s K-pop– a time when choruses were loaded with hooky singing tunes instead of hollow drops.
While 2020 has actually been far from a banner year for K-pop, with the coronavirus pandemic affecting the market through dissolutions, canceled trips, and shelved resurgences, there have actually sufficed enjoyable surprises to keep fans plugged in. And when a group drops the best tune of 2020 less than 2 years into their profession, you can’t assist however feel enthusiastic for the future of K-pop music at large.– M.M.