2021 in K-POP so far: Risers & Fallers

Risers & FallersA review is just a snapshot in time, and sometimes I end up regretting the way I rated a song. There are so many factors that influence the longevity of K-pop. Familiarity, album context, live performances and cultural saturation can all boost or sink a song’s fortune.

I run this feature during the mid-point of each year, giving me the chance to adjust song ratings that are no longer accurate. This year, there were far more “risers” than “fallers,” which isn’t too surprising. In general, songs tend to grow on me as time passes.

Any track I’ve rated a 9.25 or higher isn’t included here (unless that rating fell). Those songs are more likely to approach a “perfect ten” rating in the future, and that’s a different post entirely! I’m also not including songs released in the past week or so, though the longevity of NCT Dream’s Hello Future is looking good…

Below, you’ll find my biggest risers and fallers of the year, each with a newly-evolved rating to match its climb or descent. Each section is ordered from biggest to smallest shift in rating. Make sure to leave your own “risers” and “fallers” in the comments section!

Risers & Fallers Archive: 2016 // 2017 // 2018 // 2019 // 2020


Brave Girls – Chi Mat Ba Ram (review)

Old Rating: 8.5 >> New Rating: 9.25

Almost immediately after publishing my initial review, I realized that my 8.5 rating was not going to cut it. This is a bonafide summer anthem, and hit me hard as the days went on.

MCND – Crush (review)

Old Rating: 8 >> New Rating: 8.75

It seems I underestimate MCND each time they come back. Crush is such a playful jam, and grew more addictive with each listen.

MCND – Not Over (review)

Old Rating: 7.75 >> New Rating: 8.5

Underestimated again!! Seriously, watching the guys perform these songs live makes all the difference.

ONEUS – No Diggity (review)

Old Rating: 7.25 >> New Rating: 8

This will never be my favorite ONEUS title track, but I learned to appreciate it for what it is — flamethrowers and all.

STAYC – ASAP (review)

Old Rating: 7.75 >> New Rating: 8.5

This has become a sleeper hit on the Korean charts, and I’m not immune to the powers of ubiquity. ASAP is too catchy to ignore.

Super Junior – House Party (review)

Old Rating: 7.5 >> New Rating: 8.25

That jarring breakdown sunk House Party’s initial rating, but as usual I came around to it.

AB6IX – Stay Young (review)

Old Rating: 8.25 >> New Rating: 8.75

This may lack the punch of some of AB6IX’s titles, but that gorgeous synth gave it unexpected longevity.

Lucy – I Got U (review)

Old Rating: 8.5 >> New Rating: 9

Lucy always impress, but I Got U has proven itself a more durable pop hit than its simple structure first suggested.

Nu’est – Inside Out (review)

Old Rating: 7.5 >> New Rating: 8

I was really hard on Inside Out. A strong album gave the song more context, and improved its standing.

OnlyOneOf – libidO (review)

Old Rating: 9 >> New Rating: 9.5

I loved it on release day and absolutely adore it now. Will this one eventually turn “legendary?” Only time will tell!

Twice – Alcohol-Free (review)

Old Rating: 7.5 >> New Rating: 8

I still don’t think this is the right sound for Twice, but the song’s subtle hooks have definitely gotten under my skin over time.

TXT – 0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You) (ft. Seori) (review)

Old Rating: 8.75 >> New Rating: 9.25

Being released on the final day of May prevented this from taking its rightful spot at the top of my monthly round-up. What a grower this has become!

Smaller risers:

CIX – Cinema (Old Rating: 8.5 >> New Rating: 8.75)
Oh My Girl – Dun Dun Dance (Old Rating: 8.25 >> New Rating: 8.5)
Sejeong – Warning (Old Rating: 8.25 >> New Rating: 8.5)
SHINee – Don’t Call Me (Old Rating: 8.5 >> New Rating: 8.75)
UP10TION – Spin Off (Old Rating: 8.75 >> New Rating: 9)



ENHYPEN – Drunk-Dazed (review)

Old Rating: 8.5 >> New Rating: 8

I’m sorry. I know a lot of people love this one. The vocal processing no longer bothers me, but I’ve come to really dislike that repetitive, droning chorus.

Kingdom – Excalibur (review)

Old Rating: 8.75 >> New Rating: 8.25

I think I still enjoy this more than most, but the best thing about Kingdom is their concept and visual. The song hasn’t held up at the same level.

Rocket Punch – Ring Ring (review)

Old Rating: 8.75 >> New Rating: 8.25

Honestly, the vocals just feel really strained, and that came into greater focus after watching them perform this for a few weeks on music shows.

TRI.BE – Doom Doom Ta (review)

Old Rating: 8.5 >> New Rating: 8

This is still ridiculously catchy. But like a commercial jingle, I can really only enjoy it in small doses.

WEi – Bye Bye Bye (review)

Old Rating: 8.25 >> New Rating: 7.75

Initially, I was excited to hear these guys perform a more melodic track. But, Bye Bye Bye is as generic as summertime K-pop gets, and lands in the 7’s because of that.

BAE173 – Loved You (review)

Old Rating: 9 >> New Rating: 8.75

A small tumble, but a so-so vocal performance knocks Loved You out of the 9’s.

fromis_9 – We Go (review)

Old Rating: 9 >> New Rating: 8.75

I still really like this… just not enough to give it a rare “9” rating.

Kim Sungkyu – Hush (review)

Old Rating: 8.75 >> New Rating: 8.5

Infinite’s Sungkyu in the “fallers” section?? I still like this song (and love him as a performer). I just haven’t played it very often since release.

What about you? Any 2021 tracks surprise you after you got to know them more closely?


36 thoughts on “2021 in K-POP so far: Risers & Fallers

  1. For me the biggest riser has been undoubtedly KEEMBO’s Inside, I think it’s my favourite song by them now (and one of my highlights of the year so far).

    I love how menacing it sounds. That extra-charged second pre-chorus, that subtle peak with the high notes, that weird percussion…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m a bit scared FBI is tracking you cause they want to get inside of your brain, steal a part of it and make a perfect AI (that Lee Sooman will then use). Jokes aside though, I’m loving all the new sections and fun posts you’ve been introducing us to this year! [dance emoji]

    SO glad I Know I Love You got its deserved rating! I also don’t really like Drunk Dazed much even though I initially liked it alright, so you’re not alone.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The three songs that I fully hated the first time I heard them were Doom Doom Ta, Next Level and First but all three became highly entertaining pieces of party music that I now listen to regularly. A song that I found aged badly for me was actually House Party which I really enjoyed at first but over the months have found particularly annoying

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My Personal Risers and Fallers:


    ATEEZ – FireWorks
    6.75 –> 7.75
    It’s still my least favorite track from the guys, but seeing them perform it was a blast, and well…ATEEZ has such a unique atmosphere and vibe to them, It really grew on me. They Still Should’ve Picked Take Me Home as the title track.

    Aespa – Next Level
    7 –> 7.75
    Much Like Everyone Else, this song grew on me. I think it was a bit too fragmented for me to like it, but I have grown to its charms and understand its appeals now!

    Eternity – I’m Real
    1 –> 10
    One of the best songs ever yo. There, I said it eternity, now please free my family.

    Lucy – I Got U
    9 –> 9.5
    This is such an incredible song, I loved it at first listen but it’s proven to be more addictive. This might just take the crown for June’s assault of classics! But I am still deciding….

    MCND – Crush
    8.5 –> 8.75
    This is just wonderful, MCND are one of the best performers in the current generation and I really love their expressiveness.

    OnlyOneOf – Libido
    8.5 –> 10
    I was really unsure how “Libido” would’ve aged, but it has grown on me ALOT. It might as well just be my favorite song of the year, with an addictive groove and menacing structure.

    Sunmi – Tail
    7.75 –> 9
    What proved to be jarring at first listen transformed into something so incredible! Sunmi’s evocative performance just hypnotizes you.

    TXT – I know I Love You
    8.75 –> 9
    The weak verses kind of dragged the entire thing down at first, but the anthemic chorus just hits me right in the feels.

    UP10TION – Spin Off
    8.75 –> 9.5
    Though I wish it could’ve been tighter, I am kind of in love with that second verse now. But It doesn’t even comes close to the excellent the other parts of the song hold. From that Bombastic Chorus to the excellent finale. It’s just so good!


    Enhypen – Drunk Dazed
    9.25 –> 8
    Yeah…I remember calling it a hurricane-like song..but that vocal processing just gets more mushier and annoying.

    Wei – Bye Bye Bye
    7.75 –> 7
    It was fine at first but I keep on forgetting about it…so..yeah.

    That’s really about it, Honestly there are a few..but there not THAT bad. So Yeah!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Nah, I still like Bye, Bye, Bye quite a lot – I’ve really liked the live stages, when they bother to show the footwork properly.


  5. Like many others, aespa – Next Level was a big riser for me. Hated it at first but it’s got that special sauce some SM songs just have that makes them addictive (the last song that did this to me was NCT127 Kick It). Don’t Call Me also grew on me a lot – now I’m pretty into SHINee’s take on that specific trend because they are… SHINee.

    fromis_9 – We Go grew on me too, it being released the same day as Ring Ring made it seem generic since the songs were so similar, but I am still listening to it a lot.

    TXT grew on me to a lesser extent, since I liked it a lot at release.

    I agree about Drunk-Dazed. It’s so almost good but there’s something in how droning it is that makes its replay value not so good.

    Other risers – Hoshi Spider, STAYC ASAP, Weeekly After School, BI illa illa/Waterfall
    Other fallers – Everglow First (I was taken by the prechorus, but the breakdown did not age well for me)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I figured We Go was not quite the nine level it was when it didn’t get the top three monthly. There’s definitely

    As for me, I think LOONA’s PTT definitely was a unique valley case for me where I started okay with it, started hating it then I’m back to actually appreciating it despite not loving it entirely. Basically, what I felt with So What and Why Not except those songs had an awful first impression compared to PTT.

    As for my ult group at the moment, I think I love PIXY’s Wings more than ever. I did really like Wings the first time I listened unlike most people, but it’s really solidified over time for me. That song really rocks despite how unmelodic and choatic it can seem. LMK is still good but I appreciate it a lot more after much listening.

    Aside from that, for rising.

    STAYC – ASAP is crazy catchy and is a great song.
    Aespa – Next Level is also just so fun to listen to despite my initial thoughts. Even the Kwangya stuff is genuinely fun to sing.
    TWICe – Alcohol-Free is definitely good even if I still don’t like it that much.
    Wheein – Water Color, that song was on repeat for a bit.
    WJSN – Unnatural ended up stuck in my head for a while. Dreamcatcher – Odd Eye is also way stronger than what I thought it was when I first listened.
    Pink Fantasy – Lemon Candy was also more interesting than my first time listening, which I honestly didn’t even remember until Poison.

    As for fallers, I would say it’s less falling more that I was fine with just the first few listens:

    Joy’s Hello
    N.Flying’s Moonshot
    Wonho’s Lose
    Yuqi’s Giant
    ENHYPHEN’s Drunk-Dazed
    WOODZ’s Feel Like
    CIX’s Cinema

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Even the Kwangya stuff is genuinely fun to sing.” I found it super cringe at first and while I still have my doubts about including all this random terminology in the lyrics, now I find myself unironically yelling out “NU EVO” “Naevis” “Kosmo” with the song haha. It really is fun to sing!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. For me an unfortunate direct relationship – as STAYC’s “ASAP” rose for me, Weeekly’s “Afterschool” fell. Mostly because once I got into “ASAP”, it has stayed on rotation for me and the same can’t be said for “Afterschool.”


  8. I think the large majority of songs tend to grow on me as well, which sometimes I’m honestly a bit embarrassed of – I fear that just listening to a song lots of times “brainwashes” me into liking it and I’m just becoming another stan who forces themselves into liking songs from groups they want to like. But then some songs come along which I dislike and then dislike forever, or songs fall, and I’m relieved haha.

    I feel like I’m missing a lot, but here’s my list (I have quite a few in common with you!):

    aespa – Next Level | Definitely the biggest grower, like a lot of people. I could not stop singing, well, every part of the song 😂
    TXT – 0X1=Lovesong | I already liked it on release, but now it’s a definite favourite!
    STAYC – ASAP | Yep, it’s just too catchy
    Loona – PTT | Didn’t really like it initially due to the chorus, and while I still can’t quite get over it, it’s really catchy and I like the rest of it enough so here it is! Been stuck in my head since release (which is only a couple of days, but I don’t see it leaving any time soon)
    Everglow – First | I think my disappointment about this being a follow-up to La Di Da made it sound worse than it did, and I’ve definitely surprised myself by turning around on it!
    Twice – Alcohol-Free | I think I liked it more than most did on release, but now it definitely grew on me! Playing it all the time.

    Enhypen – Drunk-Dazed | I definitely agree with you on this one, it’s just become annoying to me.
    WJSN – Unnatural | I still like it, but I haven’t returned to it much since the initial week after its release.
    NCT Dream – Hot Sauce | The chanting and cycling distorted vocals in the chorus…not for me at release and even worse now.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Yay for MCND melting hearts here on the blog!

    Crush was pretty much an instant hit for me, but I did not expect it to have so much longevity… whenever it comes on replay I still never skip it. Their energy is unique – they are one of the rare groups that I actively enjoy watching performances of.

    This year I just haven’t given songs much of a second chance, so not that many risers for me I suppose. If I didn’t absolutely love it, I probably haven’t listened to it again.

    Drunk Dazed noticeably was a faller for me, too.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Risers:
      Next Level 6.5 -> 8.25
      Ready to Love 8-> 9
      Inside Out 8-> 8.5
      0X1Lovesong 8.5-> 9
      Easy (WJSN the black) 8-> 8.75
      Alcohol-Free 5 -> 8
      U Mad (Bobby) 4 -> 8
      Water color 7.75 -> 8.5

      Butter 9 -> 8
      Hwaa 8.5 -> 7
      Beautiful Beautiful (sorry!) 8.75 -> 8
      After School (Weeekly)
      9.5 -> 8.25

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve not given it much of a second chance to be honest. It’s not offensively bad or anything, it’s just so, so bland compared to Seventeens other material (in my personal opinion). Still like the album.


  10. Risers
    Odd eye (got obsessed)
    Next level (i really like it)
    Giant (it grew so much, every time i listen to it i feel its emotions more)
    After school (it’s so adorable)
    Atlantis (still obsessed)
    Asap (out of nowhere started to enjoy)

    Ring ring (got annoying)
    We go (got outshined by Airplane mode)

    Liked by 2 people

  11. RISERS

    TXT – I Know I Love You
    8.5 >> 9.25
    Same as everyone. Taehyun’s pre chorus line gives me chills every time.

    AB6IX – Close
    8.25 >> 8.75
    I was kind of put off by the fact that I’d already heard this exact kind of sing before, but I eventually came around to that bassy drop.

    Everglow – First
    7.25 >> 8
    Just ignoring the brass riff, and focusing on that pre-chorus and bridge made a big improvement to the song.

    NCT Dream – Hot Sauce
    8.5 >> 7.5 >> 8.5
    Well, that was quite a journey. I have no idea if I’ll like the song next week or not.

    BTS – Butter
    9 >> 9.5
    I liked it when it first came out, but I had doubts about its longevity. Looks like their songwriters knew that this going to be played just about everywhere, because it’s still my favourite track from them since Idol.

    EnHypen – Drunk-Dazed
    8.75 >> 9.5
    This was on the Fallers list for most of the others, but it has only gotten better for me every time I listen to it. It think its because of the autotune that I’m still able to get over the droning. Damn you HYBE.

    MCND – Crush
    8.75 >> 10
    That chant is more catchy than the coronavirus. One of my favourite songs of the year.

    MCND – Not Over
    8 >> 8.5
    Just about every MCND song I’ve listened to has grown on me, and this is no exception. Love that whistle riff.

    Seventeen – Ready To Love
    8.5 >> 9
    Just like Nick, I had doubts about its longevity too. But it held up well, mainly because of that bassy synth in the instrumental.

    SHINee – Atlantis
    9.5 >> 10
    Favourite single of this year hands down. No objections taken.

    ONF – Ugly Dance
    9 >> 10
    I don’t understand why everyone keeps forgetting about this song. The amount of times I’ve listened to this, I might have added a million views to the MV myself.

    Aespa – Next Level
    7.75 >> 8.5
    For obvious reasons. I knew I’d come around to it, and I wasn’t wrong.

    Super Junior – House Party
    8 >> 8.75
    I hated that random switch-up in the middle at first. Now, I kinda love the song for that.

    Taemin – Advice
    7.75 >> 8.5
    Most people didn’t like this, and I can see why. It’s probably just my biases coming through, but I can’t stop myself from clicking on the song each time it becomes recommended.

    Stray Kids – Wolfgang
    7 >> 8.5
    I never knew a single performance can improve upon a song this much, but apparently, it can. I don’t think it sounds like anything Mozart would release, but atleast now I can talk to the dogs in my neighbourhood.
    Cringey jokes aside, I really like this song now.

    ATEEZ – Fireworks
    8 >> 8.375???
    I used to listen to it solely for the chorus, but something slightly clicked after watching it performed on Loud.

    Cravity – My Turn
    6.25 >> 7.75
    I don’t think any song has made me laugh this much. But I really wish Starship gives them better songs.

    OnlyOneOf – libidO (9.25 >> 9.5)
    NCT Dream – Hello Future (9 >> 9.25)
    Brave Girls – Chi Mat Ba Ram (8.75 >> 9)
    Monsta X – Gambler (9 >> 9.25)
    P1Harmony – Scared (8.75 >> 9)
    Blitzers – Breathe Again (8.75 >> 9)
    GHOST9 – Seoul (8.75 >> 9)
    ONEUS – Black Mirror (8.75 >> 9)
    A.C.E – Higher (8.75 >> 9)
    SHINee – Don’t Call Me (8 >> 8.25)
    LOONA – Paint The Town (8 >> 8.25)
    CIX – Cinema (8.5 >> 8.75)


    NCT 127 – Cherry Bomb
    6.75 >> 9.5
    I only joined the K-pop community in 2020, so I wasn’t around when this was released. But after me falling head over heels for Make A Wish, I decided to check NCT out. This is one of those songs I absolutely hated at first, but now it’s probably on my Top 5 Songs From 2017 list.

    Stray Kids – Side Effects
    5.5 >> 11
    I don’t think I’ve hated a song that much at first listen, or loved a song this much any time. This is my favourite song of all time.

    FALLERS (There weren’t many)

    Wonho – Lose
    9.25 >> 9
    I still really like it, but just not as much as when it was released.

    EXO – Don’t Fight The Feeling
    8.75 >> 8.5
    Goddamn trap breakdown. Not just one, but two of them.

    NCT 127 – Save
    8.5 >> 8
    Probably the only NCT song that hasn’t aged well for me. I just never feel

    BAE173 – Loved You
    8.75 >> 8.25
    I really like the genre that this aims at, but I Know I Love You became a much better example of this kind of bittersweet rock, mainly because of Loved You’d weird mixing.

    TXT – Magic
    8.5 >> 7.75
    I only ever listen to this because of that chant. Too much vocal processing ruins a potentially good song. This and Balance Game are the only songs on The Chaos Chapter: Freeze I can rate lesser than an 8.5.

    fromis_9 – We Go, Oh My Girl – Dun Dun Dance
    8.5 >> 7.75
    Songs with the same vibe, the same initial ratings, the same kind of downgrading in quality. I just never feel the impulse to listen to both of them.

    HyunA – I’m Not Cool
    8.25 >> 7.25
    Other than Red and Good Girl, the songs I’ve heard for HyunA are often on the fallers list, and I’m Not Cool is unfortunately not an exception. It’s a weird case, where the verses grew on me a lot, and the chorus equally erode.

    2PM – Make It
    8 >> 7.5
    I think I should trust Nick’s rating from now on. I liked it when it was first released, but in just a few days, the whole thing began to come off as monotonous.

    Itzy – Mafia In The Morning
    7 >> 4.75
    It’s not like I liked it when I first heard it, but now I really really really really really really really really don’t like it. If there are people who like the song, I’m sorry, it’s just not to my taste of music.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Pingback: 2021 in K-POP so far: Risers & Fallers | Beatsway

  13. I don’t rate songs so it’s a little hard to track, but…

    Risers: ONF Beautiful Beautiful & Ugly Dance, IU Lilac, IZONE D-D-Dance, ATEEZ The Real, Fromis We Go, Sejeong Warning, Lightsum Vanilla, DRIPPIN Young Blood, Golden Child Breathe

    Fallers: ENHYPEN Drunk-Dazed, Oh My Girl Dun Dun Dance, OnlyOneOf Libido (sorry…), Shinee Atlantis (also sorry), Cherry Bullet Love So Sweet


  14. I wish I had more to say about this but I’ve mostly fallen out of K-Pop this year (toxic fan culture + GFriend disbanding + being busy with grad school) so outside my favorites and a few select cuts from this blog I haven’t really actively pursued things to listen unlike before when I would listen to almost every K-Pop release.

    I will say: I was wrong about Butter. I said it was a high 8 at best. I’ve come around to a 9 as the rating. It’s just so… good. It doesn’t feel like their most inventive thing ever but I’m comparing it to 10s like BS&T/Dope/Spring Day which are 10/10 as far as I’m concerned and it kicks everything they’ve done since Idol. It’s a simple song but it does things right. 9 is right, maybe 9.25 even for me, and a year-end shout-out looks increasingly likely.

    Also, Eternity’s “I’m Real.” At first I was completely on board with the (well-deserved) shellacking it got on this site. But goddamn if the hooks aren’t on point and don’t have you singing along after one exposure. The whole song is still an unlistenable mess, but I still think the Episode debut is worse. Really hard for me to quantify this growth but it goes from like 1 -> 4 for me. Lol. It’s definitely not making my year-end list though.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I don’t really listen to music in a way that encourages risers and fallers – if I love something on first view of the MV, it goes on one of a half dozen playlists that I usually play on random. If I’m not sure on something I’ll save it for a second listen on the good headphones and then playlist or dump it. But I did take the holiday weekend to give everything recommended here (including the comments) a second listen if it didn’t make the playlist right away, which was fun but I only ended up playlisting “Hush” and “Loved You”. I was expecting “Next Level” and “First” to make a better impression, but not so much. “PTT” has sucked me in after watching a couple music show performances though, as is often the case with LOONA.

    My weekend marathon of music I didn’t especially enjoy did help me figure out why some very popular songs don’t appeal to me, which can mainly be distilled to “I don’t like synth-pop”. Honestly I feel better having realized I don’t just have inconsistent good taste. My bad taste is fairly consistent, after all. 😉


  16. Super late but…
    Doom Doom Ta: 7.75 to 8.5
    I Know I Love You: 8.25-8.75
    First: 7.75-8
    Hot Sauce: 7.25-8

    Next Level: 8.5-8.5

    Burn It: 8.75-8.5
    Ring Ring: 9-8.75
    Don’t Fight The Feeling: 8.5-8.25


  17. Pingback: 2022 in K-POP so far: Risers & Fallers | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

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