2021 will mark the sixth time I’ve deconstructed a “Year in K-pop” through a variety of countdowns. Add a wealth of throwback posts and countdowns, and I feel like I’ve gained some perspective. K-pop has changed a lot since I started this blog at the beginning of 2016, but I’m not sure it’s changing nearly as quickly these days. The industry has become such a hulking beast, stuffed with more acts than a casual fan could count. Because of this, it’s harder for seismic shifts in trends to take place. Change feels slow and incremental, but I guess if it’s not broke, why fix it?
For me, 2021 felt like a tale of two contrasting halves. As the year kicked off, I was more optimistic about the state of K-pop than ever. Those first several months were incredibly strong, and will be well-represented in my countdown. Then, a barren July gave way to a second half of 2021 that was solid but unspectacular. Because of this, I fear many of this year’s countdowns will feel a little lopsided.
Compared to 2020, this year’s Top 50 countdown is more top-heavy. For me, there’s a pretty strong gap between… say… the top fifteen and the rest of the countdown. I had no problem structuring the upper reaches of this countdown. Below that, the songs can be somewhat interchangeable depending on mood.
2021 marked another year where in-person events were sparse. Industry focus shifted toward online outreach. This meant a continuation of 2020’s immense album sales, with so many artists selling more than ever before. A few of the newer-gen groups (2017 and onward) really came into their own. In contrast, this year lagged behind others in exciting new debuts. Most of the big agencies were silent on this front, choosing to promote 2020’s slate of rookies instead.
As always, 2021 saw its fair share of trends. I loved some of them (retro synth) and became tired of others (girl crush). Most of my favorite songs of the year took an entirely different approach, forging ahead with new sounds or reinventions of old favorites.
As of today, I’ve published 762 posts in 2021. That’s an average of 2.2 each day, which explains how jaded and grumpy I can sometimes get (lol). That’s 296,762 words — down slightly from last year. And, you have flooded into the comments section with so many great perspectives and knowledge (13,417 comments’ worth, to be exact!). Thanks again for making this community what it is. I love reading all of your diverse opinions, even if I may not respond directly to each and every one.
Notable and new features this year include The Bias List Bracket (which was… interesting), Battle of the B-Sides, Bite-Sized Album Reviews, Debut Re-Evaluation, The 90’s J-Pop Roadmap, Breaking Down the Song and The Great Bias List Debate. For fans of any of these features, rest-assured. I haven’t forgotten about them and none are officially discontinued. But, I’d love to hear which new features have been your favorite (or least favorite).
For tomorrow’s main countdown, the eligibility rules remain the same:
- A song must have been released as a title, follow-up or promoted track between December 1, 2020 and November 30, 2021.
- A song must be paired with a full music video or big-budget performance video (the lines get more blurred each year).
- English-language singles are eligible. Japanese singles by K-pop artists will be part of the J-pop countdown.
It’s always funny to highlight “bias” in the context of a blog called “The Bias List,” but I want readers to know that this list is very much my own. It’s not a list cobbled together by committee or one that’s trying to be objective or cater to every taste. I’m sure some of you will agree with the bulk of my choices and others will wonder what the hell I’m thinking. Either way, I hope you discover (or re-discover) a song or two that click with you.
I’ll see you tomorrow for the kickoff of 2021’s Top 50 list, which opens the floodgates for several weeks of countdowns here on The Bias List! Before that, here are the ten songs that narrowly missed this year’s Top 50.
60. ENHYPEN – Tamed-Dashed (review)
59. Pixy – Bewitched (review)
58. Kim Sungkyu – Hush (review)
57. Do Hanse – Take Over (review)
56. ONEUS – Shut Up 받고 Crazy Hot! (review)
55. Woosung – Dimples (review)
54. AB6IX – Cherry (review)
53. fromis_9 – We Go (review)
52. GHOST9 – Seoul (review)
51. Ha Sungwoon – Strawberry Gum (ft. Don Mills) (review)