The Top Three K-Pop Songs of September 2021

Monthly Round-UpAt the end of each month, I look back at my three favorite title tracks by K-pop artists. I take my own ratings into account, but there’s a bit of wiggle room as certain songs tend to grow or fade.

September 2021 Overall Thoughts

September is usually a hit of miss month. Releases tend to be all over the place as K-pop transitions from summer to fall and fans (hopefully idols, too!) head home for Chuseok. Still, my favorite songs of 2013 and 2020 both came from September of their respective years, so there’s precedent of incredible highlights popping up here and there.

This was a weird month for me. It was actually stuffed with releases by acts that are hugely popular with international fans. It seemed like every week there was a big-name album or single. Yet, few of these acts even made my honorable mentions. Instead, my list is largely composed of smaller groups who released songs I found more interesting or satisfying.

September opened and closed with strong releases, but lulled in the middle. This lopsided release slate is pretty normal this time of year, and I expect things to pick up again in October and November. With that said, I’m pleased with my top three picks — especially the top two. Honorable mentions that nearly jumped into that third place are AB6IX’s Cherry, Ciipher’s Blind, and Kim Woosung’s Dimples. All three were released towards the end of the month, so I’m eager to see how they grow (or not) with time. Other honorable mentions worth highlighting are HyunA and Dawn’s Ping Pong, which grew on me a lot, and Do Hanse’s daring Take Over. I don’t consider Coldplay x BTS’s My Universe a K-pop track, but I’ve been listening to it a lot as well.

J-pop had a very strong month, and I had a difficult time choosing between Miyavi, Sakurazaka46 and w-inds for my top spot. I ended up going with the track I’ve listened to the most, though things may change as time goes on.

To put it simply, September was a real grab bag. Amidst a string of disappointments, it also delivered one of the year’s strongest singles. I’m hoping we hear a few more of these standouts before I begin to cobble together my year-end lists.

Month Cumulative Rating: 7.9

(compiled by averaging the scores of every K-pop review from this month)

J-Pop Highlights

Exit – Super Star (video)

KAT-TUN – We Just Go Hard (ft. AK-69) (review)

Kis-My-Ft2 – Fear (review)

Sakurazaka46 – Dead End (review)

Travis Japan – Big Bang Boy (video)

w-inds. – Strip (review)


Miyavi – New Gravity (review)


Honorable Mentions

AB6IX – Cherry (review)

ATEEZ – Deja Vu (review)

Ciipher – Blind (review)

Cosmic Girls (WJSN) – Let Me In (review)

Do Hanse – Take Over (review)

E’Last – Dark Dream (review)

fromis_9 – Talk & Talk (review)

HyunA & Dawn – Ping Pong (review)

ITZY – Loco (review)

Kim Woosung – Dimples (review)

Lee Eunsang – Lemonade (review)

Lee Hi – Red Lipstick (ft. Yoon Mirae) (review)

Luminous – Run (review)

Purple Kiss – Zombie (review)

Stray Kids – Cheese (review)

Wonho – Blue (review)


3. A.C.E – Changer (review)

2. ONEUS – Life Is Beautiful (review)

1. Key – Bad Love (review)

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of August 2021

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of July 2021

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of June 2021

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of May 2021

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of April 2021

Top Three K-Pop Songs Of March 2021

2010-2020 Archive Here


45 thoughts on “The Top Three K-Pop Songs of September 2021

  1. Haha I knew Ping Pong would grow on you! it’s so freaking addicting, I didn’t really like it on first listen but I just can’t help but click that replay button. How’d you rate it now?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s all about that great pre-chorus for me! I love the brass.

      I still don’t care for the drop, which limits this to low-to-mid 8’s. Even so, it’s an easy choice for honorable mentions.


  2. I haven’t listened to a couple of September releases, what with moving for university and my classes starting, but I think my top 3 for September would look something like this, not sure about the order:

    fromis_9 – Talk & Talk
    Key – Bad Love
    STAYC – Stereotype

    Talk & Talk really grew on me, somehow even competing with We Go now! fromis just really has a hold on me this year. Stereotype finally clicked and I really enjoy it now, and I’ve had the rest of their mini on repeat, especially Slow Down after watching them performing it. And Bad Love just released but I love it so much already, I can only see it growing on me more.

    Other honourable mentions might be Loco and Let Me In. Loco’s already grown on me, but I doubt it will ever top their first three singles. I also enjoyed the Coldplay x BTS track, despite it feeling quite generic and similar-sounding to other Coldplay songs.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Top Three K-Pop:
    1. Do Han Se “TAKE OVER”: Great rapping + great styling + great beat + great MV = everything I want in a k-pop song. This will probably be on my top 10 tracks of the year.
    2. ATEEZ “Déjà vu”: I’ve been watching a lot of fancams this month.
    3. NIK “Santa Monica” + “Universe”: Not perfect, but they won me over with a couple of solid dance tracks, good choreo, and that edge of hunger that comes out when you’re getting towards enlistment age and are debuting for the second or third time.

    A.C.E “Changer”
    Ciipher “Blind”
    E’LAST “Dark Dream”
    LUMINOUS “Run” + “Intro”
    OMEGA X “What’s Goin’ On” + “Baila Con Ox”
    PURPLE KISS “Zombie”
    WooSung “Dimples”

    Top Three Album/EP:
    1. Han Yo Han “Lambo Flow (feat. Jimmy Paige)”, “This is Me (feat. CHANGMO)”, “Akrapovic”, “From Today (feat. Swings)”, “Ctrl C + Ctrl V”, “I’m Not Okay (feat. NO:EL)”: This is a hop-hop album with an opening track featuring Jimmy Paige. It’s amazing. Also, literally the only k-hip-hop I playlisted this month – everyone’s busy with SMTM I guess?
    2. A.C.E “Intro: Revolutions”, “Changer”, “Remember Us”, “Talk You Down”, “Jindo Arirang (Prequel)”: The title hasn’t really grown on me, but the original b-sides are lovely. And it’s A.C.E.
    3. ATEEZ “Déjà vu”, “ROCKY”, “All About You”, “Not Too Late”: ATEEZ b-sides don’t always do it for me but I’ve been enjoying these.

    ** MIYAVI “New Gravity”, “Warrior”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Living In Fire”, “Hush Hush (feat. KANG DANIEL)”, “Youth of the Nation (feat. Troi Irons)”, “Super Hero”: If it were Korean it’d be number one for sure, but I’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Absolutely packed full of bangers in a month strangely low on bangers.

    ITZY “LOCO”, “Sooo LUCKY”, “B[OO]M-BOXX”, “Mirror”
    LeeHi “ONLY”, “Intentions”
    MEGAMAX “MEGAMAX (INTRO)”, “HUG”, “On Your Way”
    NCT 127 “Lemonade”, “Dreamer”, “Promise You”
    PURPLE KISS “Zombie” “2am”, “Cast pearls before swine”, “So WhY”, “Twinkle”, “ZzZz”

    BIBI “Pado”
    Seori “Dive with you (feat. eaJ)”
    TAEWOO “Hitmeup”

    BIGONE “EVERY NIGHT (feat. Jayci yucca)”
    NELL “Sober”, “Beautiful Jeopardy”
    Somdef “Picturesque 1”, “It was (feat. GSoul)”, “Picturesque 1 (feat. CADEJO)”
    South Club “on a starry night (Star Dust)”
    W24 “Fine”

    Hwanhee “Don’t Go Today (2021)”
    KYUHYUN “On A Starry Night”

    Park Hyun Ho “Money Money Money”

    Liked by 3 people

      • Yes! NELL is on my shortlist for a discography deep-dive – I discovered them with “Glow In The Dark” back in July and I really like their sound, honestly because it reminds me of US music that I like but can’t listen to because of English lyrics.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Belatedly adding Key’s “BAD LOVE” and “Yellow Tape” to the honorable mentions for the month. I’ve been watching the “BAD LOVE” stages – they do the closing formation! I’m so happy! – and it’s grown on me. “Yellow Tape” is pretty great, too, although “Hate That…” remains my favorite song from the EP. I think I just don’t love Key’s voice – it’s not at all bad, but he uses a lot of falsetto, especially on “Saturday Night”, and that isn’t my jam.


  4. I knew STAYC and NCT127 would be omitted by the second sentence of the second paragraph.

    That’s ok!

    By far the Stereotype minialbum is my most played of the month. Its style of kpop is filtered through an indie pop/r&b lense and I found that really enjoyable. Across the whole release, I loved every song genuinely. Also, the album includes a scented card, apparently, STAYC has an official scent. I got grapefruit from it. I think that’s cheeky…love it.

    Lots of good and mediocre music this month. It was exciting to see a lot come out. We’re ending on a high note. Recently I’ve like only been listening to the Bad Love mini-album and revisiting Cibo Matto’s “viva la woman”

    Liked by 1 person

    • other thought for the month…

      Why is Purple Kiss and Oneus getting paired w really well-suited music but Mamamoo seems to be getting really really boring material?

      I know they’re not promoting in the same way but still…….
      I’m sure the upcoming Hwasa single will be very popular and a “moment”

      Liked by 3 people

      • Personal theory? I’m guessing that RBW has been more hands off with MAMAMOO the last few years and it turns out that the members are better at picking music that suits them individually than as a group. Purple Kiss and ONEUS seem to have some involvement in the production side, but I bet the majority of the musical decisions are being made by the agency.

        Liked by 3 people

    • I just decided to buy STAYC’s Stereotype as part of a mini album haul! I heard that their albums came with scented cards back at their debut, which is a neat inclusion, and so I’m excited to now be able to see (smell) it for myself haha. Love the album as well, it took Stereotype some time to grow on me, but now it’s clicked and I love it. I’m really happy to see how quickly they’ve gained recognition and they totally deserve it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It was nice to see Hanse, Woosung, and Purple Kiss on there.
    Five I liked this month (I suck at permanent ranking)

    NCT 127 Sticker
    Do Han Se – Take Over
    Key – Yellow Tape
    Woosung – Dimples
    Duoxini – The Game of Death (really good true thrash metal)


  6. All of the releases I came by this month with dates:

    Sept 1:
    fromis_9: talk & talk
    It’s a good song, but I don’t find it interesting enough.
    Lee Eunsang: Lemonade
    It’s a nice song, a bit too “sweet” though for a song called Lemonade. (the chorus sounds a bit like Mikrokosmos by BTS)

    Sept 2:
    Ace: Changer
    ONEUS: Life Is Beautiful
    Summer pop music that is easy on the ears.
    Astro: Alive
    Generic and more like,” I feel empty,” because that’s how the song feels
    Heo Young Saeng: Mi Casa Su Casa
    It’s kind of forgettable?? (for me), but not bad either so it made the playlist.

    Sept 3:
    Lee Hi: Saviour (ft. B.I.)
    Another chill song. I have enough of them for studying so it didn’t make it into any playlists.
    Loona: Not Friends
    It felt like the song had no chorus but it grew on me ALOT. (The first-person POV gun parts of the MV made me feel like I was watching the trailer of The Villainess.)
    Stray Kids: The View

    Sept 4:
    Taewoo: hitmeup
    Good enough for my (study) playlist.

    September 6:
    StayC: Stereotype
    Was underwhelmed at first but the song grew on me A LOT after a week.
    Omega X: What’s Going On
    Young K (day6): Guard You
    It was too generic, and the was a debut song too.

    Sept 8:
    Purple Kiss: Zombie
    I don’t think this song would grow on me so much, but it did. It’s a lot better than Ponzona and the zombie bie bie hook is amazing. (Would Disney care to add this into the Zombies 3 OST? No?)

    Sept 9:
    Hyuna, E’Dawn: Ping Pong
    It’s very I’m Not Cool, which is a song I liked, but it felt like more of a performance piece when it came out. However, the drop chorus ended up getting stuck in my head and the rest is history.
    Lee Hi: Red Lipstick ft. Yoon Mi Rae
    One commenter commented that retro style was hit or miss, which I totally agree with. However, This song made it into my playlist for now. Lee Hi’s vocals are so nice to listen to, and I prefer this song to Savior.
    Luminous: Run
    Will defiantly be paying attention to their next comeback.
    Nell: U-Hee

    Sept 10:
    BIBI: Pado
    Big Mama: Another Me
    Lisa: Lalisa
    The music, choreography, and lyrics could have been better. Lisa is an amazing performer, singer, rapper, etc, and this feels like a song a rookie group could pull off or release.
    The “Lalisa love me, Lalisa love me,” line is catchy as fire, however, the song failed to reach up to its potential (if it had any.)
    I don’t know why I liked it more than On the Ground when it first came out someone fix my brain.
    Stray Kids: Cheese
    Love it, love it, love it, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah cheese!
    OnlyOneof: mOnO (unknown ballad 2.3)
    It’s nice, it’s just that I don’t listen to many ballads.

    Sept 11:
    Monsta X: One Day
    meh song. Not bad content, but nothing remarkable. Another generic English K-pop song.
    2pm: With Me Again (JP)
    ughuhuigdahgu their voices are so good and the song is also great.
    Spet 12:
    Hwang Chi Yeul: Too Late

    Sept 13:
    Ateez: Deja Vu
    Olivia: “Do you get deja vu?”
    Ateez: “I Know you get deja vu.”
    Seriously there are too many songs called Deja Vu.
    I didn’t think I’d like this song but it was another one of the many songs that grew on me this month.
    Zia: Please
    Stray Kids: Red Lights (Bangchan and Hyunjin)
    It’s a nice song, more of a performance piece. Mature concepts rarely win me over, so it’s a miss for me.

    Sept 14:
    Wonho: Blue
    Lee Hi: H.S.K.T.
    *flashbacks to Hip*
    Han Yo Han: This is Me ft. Changmo
    It sounded so noisy but good at the same time.

    Sept 15:
    Mamamoo: mumumumuch
    Very uninteresting. I miss their jazz sound.
    Stray Kids: Surfin’
    Their voices sound like robots. It sounds like something Hybe would produce.

    Sept 16:
    Jeonghan: Dream (KR and JP ver)
    Sounds like a kdrama ost song
    MIYAVI: New Gravity (JP)
    Amazing. Just amazing.

    Sept 17:
    NCT 127: Sticker
    Didn’t like it at first but then it marinated and now I like it.
    Stray Kids: Gone Away
    Another Kdrama OST-like song.

    Sept 19:
    DK: On that night (December)
    Sakuraza46: Dead end

    Sept 20:
    Yang Yo Seop: Brain
    Yukika: loving you

    Sept 22
    Jay B: AM PM ft. Heein (PROD. GRAY)
    Kevee: Train Bed ft. BUMKEY

    Sept 23:
    WJSN: Let Me In

    Sept 24
    Itzy: LOCO
    I was underwhelmed at first, but it grew on me really quickly. The post-chorus is so awesome.
    Kebee: SHOW
    Onestar: September 24th
    Released on Sept 24. 🙂
    w-inds: Strip (J-pop)
    I’m not one for mature music so it’s a pass.

    Sept 25:
    Do Han Se: TAKE OVER
    INI: Rocketeer

    Sept 26:
    Itzy: Swipe
    Grew on me. Again.
    Jang Heewon: I Wouldn’t Have Loved
    Sojeong: Nothing Between Us

    Sept 27:
    “Imma bite you off your lips.”
    What even?
    Besides the English lyrics, it’s a nice song but not enough for my playlist.
    Viral Affair: Align
    DOWOON: Out of the Blue (Duet with Song Heejin)
    JAY B: FAME (ft. JUNNY) (prod. GroovyRoom)

    Sept 28:
    Ciipher: Blind
    The vocal “roll” in the beginning was so aesthetic.

    Sept 29:
    Soup _ SRR(스르르)(zZZ)(feat. Hong Euijin)
    CL: Lover Like Me
    E’Last: Dark Dream
    COLDPLAY X BTS: My Universe
    Was initially very underwhelmed by this song, but its slowly growing on me.

    Sept 30:
    ADOY: Antihero

    66 songs.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve not kept up with new releases all that much (this has been a very busy month, I have barely slept the past week) but I don’t think I’ve missed all that much. My top 3:

    3. Oneus – Life Is Beautiful
    2. Woosung – Dimples
    1. Key – Bad Love

    fromis_9 – Talk & Talk is a pretty close 4th, then Ciipher – Blind. Though tbh the top 2 ran away with this month — I’ve had both songs on repeat the past week or so.

    I feel bad about leaving A.C.E off this list. I haven’t been particularly enamored with their output this year, but that’s because I normally have such high standards for them. Changer is a good enough song and I don’t hate it, but there’s something about the production and arrangement that leaves me a bit cold. That said, I will miss Donghun and Wow sorely. Not sure how they’ll handle these enlistments. Forgot this was a thing with boy groups (being mainly a girl groups + N.Flying stan, and 2seung are done/exempted)…


  8. Top 4 (no particular order)

    StayC: Stereotype
    Was underwhelmed at first but the song grew on me A LOT after a week.

    Stray Kids: Cheese

    Ateez: Deja Vu
    I got such a Fever (Enhypen) vibe from this.

    Itzy: LOCO
    I was underwhelmed at first, but it grew on me really quickly. The post-chorus is so awesome.

    NCT 127: Sticker
    Didn’t like it at first but then it marinated.
    MIYAVI: New Gravity (JP)
    Loona: Not Friends
    Hyuna and E’Dawn: Ping Pong


  9. Been a very weird month. It wasn’t necessarily strong but there were two standouts I see being some of my year’s favorites and a lot of songs proved to be decent growers.

    Two standouts:

    1. Key – Bad Love…It’s been getting better every listen. The 80s/Retro trend has been present for more than a year so it’s pretty crazy that we’ve gotten what I consider the best song from it this late in the game. Key gave a great performance on it and the instrumental is great.
    2. Do Hanse – Take Over…This has gotten a lot of play out of me recently. I like the use of EDM in the production, it gives this industrial-esque feeling that I think compliments Hanse’s interesting rap style pretty well.

    Honestly can’t say I have a confident 3 this month. That being said I thought Life Is Beautiful, Dimples, Dark Dream, and Blind were pretty solid. I’ll also add ITZY’s Loco & STAYC’s Stereotype has grown on me a decent bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Forgot to add Fromis_9’s Talk & Talk to my grower list. Initially, I was a bit disappointed considering Fromis is one of my fav groups active currently and while I don’t like it as much as some of their other stuff, it’s still a really good time.


      • also…forgot to add PK’s Zombie to the grower list as well. Never hated it but it didn’t stand out to me at all at first. But I think it’s pretty catchy and I’ve played it a decent bit since release.

        BUT…October looks very promising. Golcha, Aespa, SVT, Woodz, Blitzers, N.Flying, Tri.Be, Kingdom, and Twice. I have high hopes…


    • Oh, same for me! Took me a few listens before I could finally grasp Bad Love (plus it’s quite Lady Gagaesque, which I’m not fond of), while I was hooked right away with Take Over. But Bad Love has more layers and complexities, which in the end won me over


  10. This was one of the slowest months by far for me. I still haven’t made up my mind on the top 5 nor have I finished listening to all the songs either 😭

    Ateez Deja Vu is definitely there! ❤️ Strongest for this month for me. That hype ending rap is one of the best song endings this year so far.

    Songs that really appealed to me this month :
    Wonho Blue, Key Bad Love (these two would probably make it to top 5 too lol.. I love to see soloists in their comfort zone💎)

    Ciipher Blind (Another strong contender)

    Luminous Run

    All the SKZ stuff (Buy I wanna throw something at them for making Domino the new Ta aagagahah!!!)

    T1419 Get the Bomb

    Among gg – I still haven’t listened to Hot Issue but everything else was ok I guess. PK’s Zombie is my favorite.

    And yes I hate to admit it – the song I am sightly appalled by but haven’t been able to resist listening to every time I come across it – NCT 127 Sticker 😂🙃❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Key’s Bad Love sitting there at number one like it deserves! I love more than half of the other groups on your honorable mentions list as well as the other top 2 groups but Bad Love is the song I’ve been playing non stop since it came out.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 1. Do Hanse – Take Over. Currently sitting in my top 5 of the year so far.
    2. NCT 127- Sticker.
    It gets better every time I listen.
    3. Either Purple Kiss – Zombie or a surprising grower on me has been Key x Taeyeon – Hate That

    For October I’m fully expecting a great aespa song so with my luck it will be a massive miss lmaooko

    Liked by 1 person

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