Top Kpop Songs Of 2021 So Far
While social events of many types are starting to resurface in some places around the world, it will be some time before concerts—particularly those requiring international travel—return in full force. For Kpop fans who have been longing for their favorite celebrities to play in their home countries, there has been a plethora of new music released since the beginning of the year.
To date, the best Kpop songs of 2021 show inspirations from a variety of genres, notably pop rock, R&B, and synth pop, demonstrating the immense diversity of South Korean music. The songs are by artists with a wealth of experience, ranging from hip-hop duo Epik High and soloist IU, who made their debuts in 2003 and 2008, accordingly, to girl groups who are getting started in 2020.
Below are the top Kpop tracks of the year so far, in no specified sequence.
- “After School,” Weeekly
The seven members of Weeekly have already garnered considerable recognition as emerging icons of cheery pop with only two EPs under their belt prior to releasing their latest record, We Play. The success of "After School" has further added to that status.The music conveys the excitement of longing for the last school bell to ring and the infinite freedom that comes with it, and it's an immediate energy booster with an energetic melody. “Ready, set, go!” “Feel it,” the crowd chants. Weeekly may be singing about just what transpires after classes, but "After School" welcomes everyone to enjoy the excitement of being relieved of responsibilities for three minutes, academically or otherwise.
- “0X1=Lovesong (I Know I Love You),” TXT ft. Seori
TXT's "0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)" stands out among the rock-jam tracks from Kpop singers all across the years—and not just on the charts, in Which the Chaos Chapter: FREEZE, the album upon which track is a lead single, ranked fifth on the Billboard 200.The five members sing of being devoured by darkness, with just the object of their passion beaming as the light sources, in this passionate and gritty song. TXT delivers the lines (which were co-written by RM of BTS) with intensity, with vocalist Taehyun's viciously growled lyrics having the most effect.Seori's dulcet voice lends a richness to the song, smoothing out the minor imperfections from the TXT members' voices.
- “Beautiful Beautiful,” ONF
It takes no time for the energy in “Beautiful Beautiful” to work up. The tune begins with a booming motif of "prrrum's" and "pum's" in a vibrant melody, proclaiming its presence. The track by the six-member ONF creates a sense: it's an energizing banger that should be the soundtrack to all inner pep talks. In the chorus, the group exclaims, "I'm beautiful, sing it," backed by affirmations about gleaming like dazzling stars. Who wouldn't want to join in on verses about presenting a toast to ourselves after more than a year of placing hopes and dreams on wait due to the pandemic?Aside from the uplifting words, the music includes a sound delight when members sing the motif a cappella in softening voices with light beatboxing in the background. It's a chance to catch your breath before the track's high-octane climax kicks in.
- “Love So Sweet,” Cherry Bullet
In “Love So Sweet,” Cherry Bullet captures the spectrum of sensory experiences that come with being in love. They describe the sounds from the 20 decibel-whispers between lovers to the “lupp-dupp lupp-dupp” beating of the heart, and sing of the taste that is “Sweeter than candy/ sweeter than chocolate.” As the seven members of Cherry Bullet delivers their lyrics in sonorous tones, the outcome is a delicious sensation. The hook is the centerpiece of this upbeat synth pop music. A whistled melody is heard first, followed by modest drum beats. The artists then join in with a series of feathery "da's" to the same song. The song "Love So Sweet" may sound simple, yet it's jam-packed with flavor.
- “Next Level,” aespa
The very first time you hear "Next Level," you'll have a lot of questions: Why does it feel like two songs are being combined into one? What exactly do the words "Kwangya" and "Naevis" mean? (They are, it turns out, SM Culture Universe words, whereby the four members of aespa and their virtual avatars belong.)However, as the hypnotic appeal of this hip-hop dance beat takes over, these ideas fade into the background. When the rap lines beginning with "I'm on the next level" begin to play, the anthemic chorus is injected with sharp energy that urges the listener to change any leisurely stroll into an imaginary runway strut.In terms of musical structure, the track is also refreshing. Verses, choruses, and bridges are frequently (though not always) placed in the same places in Kpop songs. With its mid-track speed shifts, “Next Level” provides an unanticipated yet welcome adjustment.
- “Lilac,” IU
Singer-songwriter IU discussed the purpose behind the title of her upcoming album, and is also the title of the lead song, in a March 2021 interview with W Korea. In flower language, “lilac” symbolizes “memories of youth,” she explained. And the title tune is all about remembering and honoring such experiences while also acknowledging their fleeting nature. The experienced performer sings, "Love me only until this spring/ Like a warm breeze." While many of IU's songs have a heavier sound to them, her singing here is light and airy, whether it be in the sweet falsetto or the whispery ooh's that fill the post-chorus. IU's timbre, like the "misty dream" and the falling lilac petals she sings about, echoes the fleeting nature of memory.
- “illa illa,” B.I
“Oh, at the end of my sleeves is a beach/ ‘cause I wiped out the water flowing on both cheeks,” B.I sings in the song “illa illa,” which is titled haebyeon or “beach” in Korean. B.I sings painful lyrics that connect his emotions to the sea in this title tune for his first album as a solo artist (he departed boy band iKon in 2019).The singer adds to the vivid visual with piercing phrases like, "I'm swept away again by the waves that sway about my eyes," as he easily switches between singing and rapping over peaceful instrumentals.
While it's simple to become lost in the limitless splendor of the ocean at the beach, B. I’s metaphor goes farther. The singer sings joyfully of not shedding new tears in the song's final verses, which are set on dry ground on the other side of the sea. "Though I know it will crumble/ I'll probably build a sandcastle again," he says. B.I. demonstrates that he is as much a storyteller as he is a songwriter with the width and depth of emotions he portrays.
- “Rosario,” Epik High ft. CL, ZICO
“Rosario's” theme is to turn foes' hatred into power. Much of the diss track in this collab between Korean hip-hop trio Epik High, CL, and ZICO is focused at individuals who continue to attack with their words. The professional artists, on the other hand, are unconcerned, focusing instead on an impending triumph. “If you weren’t around when I shed tears/ you’d better not be around when I’m smiling,” Tablo, the leader of Epik High, raps over a smooth guitar melody. CL follows her train of thought in the chorus, singing, "Go ahead, tear me to pieces and talk your shit," before exclaiming, "Out of my way, I am a legend and I'm here to stay." “Rosario,” which was released in January amid a general sense of loss in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, has since become a triumph anthem.
- “ASAP,” STAYC
Although “ASAP” does not have the same quick earworm appeal as its predecessor, “So Bad,” its allure is evident once the song's hooks have taken control. STAYC's debut song featured a powerful chorus and a fast-paced tempo, but the new song includes more laid-back sounds over a softer pace. The track has all the elements of a pleasant and lively summer hit, including a snappy instrumental hook. STAYC's attractiveness is on full display as members jokingly request that their other halves appear before them, well asap." They provide themselves a show of support all through the song with this feisty muttered reaffirmation: “I think I'm extremely cool.”
- “Bambi,” Baekhyun
Don't be fooled by the references to "Neverland," "Tinkerbell," and "fairytale": "Bambi" is not a children's tune. The R&B single, which was released before EXO vocalist Baekhyun's recent military induction, covers topics that are slightly more sophisticated than your ordinary bedtime story.Baekhyun sings about a beloved someone he refers to as his "Bambi" over funky guitar licks. The musician sings, "It's a perfect night for you." The song is silky and sensual, especially as his voice swells into falsetto. The wordplay in the song's title emerges obvious when Baekhyun portrays the night rain "dripping down on us all night until the morning."In Korean, bam denotes night and bi indicates rain. While the name "Bambi" refers to a fictitious deer, it also refers to the beautiful setting in which Baekhyun aspires to spend time with a lover.