At 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.
November 2021 Overall Thoughts
We may still have December before us, but according to the norms of this blog, today marks the official “end” of 2021 releases. Countdowns will start in about a week-and-a-half! So, how did the year finish? Well, this has been a strange one — in many ways like the inverse of 2020.
2020 opened weak but finished strong, and that general trend was flipped in 2021. After a spectacular start, the year began to lose steam mid-summer and never really recaptured momentum. Of course, this is purely subjective. But, it feels odd to move into the year-end-countdowns on a whimper instead of a bang.
Let me dig further into this claim to prevent misunderstanding. When I call a month of releases “underwhelming,” I don’t automatically mean the month was full of bad songs. A month can deliver tons of solid material and still feel underwhelming. At this point, my music library holds thousands upon thousands of “good” songs (ie: ones I’d rate in the 7’s or low 8’s). When I’m looking at a month of K-pop, I’m really searching for spectacular standouts: those tracks that bowl me over and refuse to leave my playlist. Sadly, I haven’t found many since summer.
With that said, it’s not like 2021’s final quarter was completely without merit. Each month offered a few standouts, and November was no different. I’ve been quite charmed by my top two picks. And despite a lighter release schedule, there were still plenty of options for honorable mentions.
In some ways, November was all about the “grower.” Nothing absolutely blew me away on first listen (as I’m sure you could tell from the tone of my reviews!), but I ended up returning to some songs more often than expected. Topping this list is Billlie’s Ring x Ring. Once I watched the group perform it on music shows, everything clicked and I realized why it had been so well-received. Other tracks that pulled me in to varying degrees were SF9’s Trauma, MJ’s Get Set Yo and GHOST9’s Control.
Historically, November tends to be VERY stuffed with idol comebacks. These past few weeks have felt comparatively light, with many big releases pushed to December instead. I’m not sure there’s anything to this beyond coincidence, but it feels like a bit of a change.
Like I mentioned before, my top two choices of the month were fairly easy picks. Third place was much more difficult. Honestly, I didn’t love any other song enough to confidently put it in the top three, so this spot is feeling a little interchangeable. I ended up going with the track that’s been stuck in my head the most since release.
J-pop was also pretty light this month, with the bulk of my favorites coming from Johnny’s acts. But, I’m really loving Naniwa Danshi’s debut single and coupling songs — more so than I would’ve expected. The songs have a classic J-idol appeal featuring great musicality in both composition and production. The sound and concept certainly won’t be for everyone, but for me it’s been an appreciated burst of musical sunshine in a landscape that often favors darker, broodier fare.
Now, it’s on to December. Are you ready for the exhaustive end-of-year countdowns? Place your bets now!
Month Cumulative Rating: 7.8
(compiled by averaging the scores of every K-pop review from this month)
Naniwa Danshi – Naniwa’n Way (video)
Shirose – Boyfriend (video)
TOP J-POP SONG OF THE MONTH
Naniwa Danshi – Ubu Love (review)
B.I – Cosmos (review)
Bang Yongguk – Race (review)
Billlie – Ring x Ring (review)
Chungha – Killing Me (review)
E’Last – To.Lie (review)
Gaho – Right Now (review)
GHOST9 – Control (review)
Hwasa – I’m A 빛 (review)
MJ – Get Set Yo (ft. Kim Taeyeon) (review)
Monsta X – Rush Hour (review)
Super Junior-D&E – Zero (review)
T-ara – Tiki Taka (review)
Victon – Sweet Travel (review)
TOP THREE SONGS
3. SF9 – Trauma (review)
2. ONEUS – Luna (review)
1. Twice – Scientist (review)