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The Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2021 (Day One: 50-41)

Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2021The end of the year countdowns are finally here! As always, we’ll kick off with the big one: The Bias List’s top 50 songs of the year! Each day this week, I’ll be counting down ten of the year’s best, until number one is revealed on Friday. 

To be eligible for this top 50 list, songs must have had a Korean release as a title track, follow-up or promotional video between Dec. 1st, 2020 and Nov. 30th, 2021.

Curious about past countdowns? Check out the masterpost here!

Honorable Mentions


50. U-Know – Thank You

2021 kicked off with a standout from one of K-pop’s elder statesmen. U-Know’s Thank You borrowed just enough DNA from TVXQ’s music and tied it to his own charismatic energy and ambitious vision.
(full review)


49. Youha – Abittipsy

Synth pop was a common thread throughout the year, with shimmering midtempos emerging from groups and soloists alike. In many ways, Abittipsy‘s evocative melodies and satisfying build set the template. (full review)


48. Rain x JYP – Switch To Me

K-pop legend meets K-pop protégé, trading barbs over a funky new jack swing beat. Switch To Me is endlessly nostalgic and feels like genuine fun. The industry could do with more intergenerationalism — especially when the music is this light on its feet. (full review)


47. A.C.E – Changer

A farewell (for now) track with bite, Changer sent the first stage of A.C.E’s career off on a high. Its satisfying, chant-heavy drive moves relentlessly forward, fusing the guys’ adventurous energy to sentimental spirit. (full review)


46. AB6IX – Close

Though AB6IX’s music often dabbles in popular trends, it’s at its best when given a sleek and stylish sheen. Close is a real earworm, tailoring chunky 90’s dance beats to listeners’ modern taste for deep house throb. (full review)


45. BAE173 – Loved You

Even years after their latest release, Bigbang’s influence looms large. Loved You is a sturdy “Junior Bigbang” emote-o-thon, powered by a surging instrumental and cathartic chorus that begs to be echoed to the heavens and back again. (full review)


44. IU – Lilac

K-pop’s ever-beloved chanteuse delivers a wisp of springtime breeze with the blissful Lilac. Its light city pop influences are a great match for IU’s bright tone, tying together a series of gentle melodies perfectly suited to its season. (full review)


43. NCT Dream – Hello Future

While the vast majority of 2021’s NCT releases leaning toward tough edginess, Hello Future‘s bright melody and confident vocal acrobatics were a welcome salve. It’s daring in its own way, but that ebullient chorus is pure pop bliss. (full review)


42. Brave Girls – Pool Party (ft. E-Chan)

Brave Girls completely conquered the summer, and even though follow-up single Pool Party was woefully under-promoted, its fizzy hooks and bounding, synth-kissed instrumental offered the perfect soundtrack for beachside adventures. (full review)


41. E’Last – Dark Dream

E’Last’s symphonic sound reached a climax with the slow-burn of Dark Dream. This song sunk its teeth in over a series of weeks, its dramatic flourishes bringing much-appreciated grandeur to the K-pop stage. (full review)


NEXT: NUMBERS 40-31

36 thoughts on “The Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2021 (Day One: 50-41)

  1. My list does not go this high.

    NCT “Hello Future” is one of those that I should like more, it sounds like it should have been more of a hit. I like the song, I like it a lot. But I never sought it out, or nudged the child with a request to play it, or anything.

    I left it off my real list including honorable mention. I would sooner put Hot Sauce dippy dip doo or Stickahhh on my list than Hello Future. I guess that means its on my own personal under-rated list.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, Hello Future, you really should not be this low.

    With Lilac. Hmm. I don’t like it. This song could have been so much better if IU was belting instead of kawaii-whispering. I know a lot of people LOVE that, but it honestly feels like somebody whispering into my ear, which is a feeling I really hate. Weird reason for not liking a song, I know, but what can I do about it.

    50. EVERGLOW – Pirate
    Playing the expectations game. They were pretty down after the teasers, so I was very pleasantly surprised when this was club EDM when I went in expecting a Blackpink rehash. I like everything about it now. Also just realised that when they repeat the chorus for the last time, they’re actually singing the pre-chorus for the 3rd time, not the chorus. I’m dumb

    49. Golden Child – Ra Pam Pam
    It hasn’t aged the best, but they carry reggae better than most of K-Pop. This was the song that got me into them, and while I still can’t recognise anyone other than Joochan and Y, their music is great. Especially the Miracle album which I listened to after Nick reviewed it. That’s been on repeat for a long time now, Lady is such a beautiful song

    48. MONSTA X – Rush Hour
    This is one that I objectively cannot explain why I like it, except that I’ve been replaying this a lot. Almost too much

    47. CIX – Cinema
    Nothing CIX has released have connected with me except for this. The thing that differentiates this the most from the rest of the bass-heavy songs is just how atmospheric and thin it is. Too much falsetto is usually a turn-off for me, but it works wonders here.

    46. NCT U – Universe (Let’s Play Ball)
    Yes, December releases made it in because of a very special guest that pops up at second place. About this song, I really like it. I was predisposed to like it because NCT bias, and there are some things that definitely could have been changed, but I really don’t have anything bad to say about the song

    45. MCND – Movin’
    This is definitely a song I don’t think would breach many Top 50s, but I love this. As in Not Over, it is brought to life by their performances. Also, bring songs to a climax, people. Don’t just abruptly end it.

    44. BLITZERS – Breathe Again
    BLITZERS are by far my Rookie Of The Year (sorry Mirae, I just really hate Splash), because rock is always a win. This song is a tad unpolished, but is all the better for it.

    43. HyunA&DAWN – Ping Pong
    Another song I don’t think will be up this high for others, and another song which I really cannot explain objectively why I like it, but it is ADDICTIVE. This is the kind of song I really can’t get tired of. Go PNation.

    42. UP10TION – Spin Off
    SHINee is very easily SM’s peak. Everything they as a group or even as soloists touch seems to turn to gold. But the most important thing is that they have established a musical identity. Spin Off pulls a lot from their discography, and I wish more groups would do this. The only reason this is this low is because I. JUST. CAN’T. GET. OVER. THAT. GODDANG TRAP BREEEAAAAAKKKKK

    41. ONEUS – Black Mirror
    Quite honestly, the only American artist my family likes is Michael Jackson. No other pop artist ever makes that cut. So despite how much I don’t understand them not liking K-Pop, I should be thankful to him for that. That’s probably why I’m nostalgic for the 80’s even though I was born a decade after that lol.
    ONEUS have very easily had their best year yet. Almost all of their singles minus No Diggity and Shut Up Bakkul Crazy Hot (which just missed it at 66) have made it in the list.
    This song, I mean it’s an MJ tribute. There isn’t an easier way to get through me. In any way, it is almost too lowly placed for what it is just because I’ve been playing Born To Be Wild a little too much and like Nick, I can’t help but compare this to that.

    Liked by 3 people

    • “Yes, December releases made it in because of a very special guest that pops up at second place.”

      75% sure that it’s ONF’s Goosebumps!

      Like

    • I like CIX “Cinema” too. Its an old-fashioned straight ahead boy band song, delivered well. No flash or dash, no posturing, just a solid melody well done.

      True story:
      The other day a lesser song I didn’t remember came around on the shuffle.
      I asked “Child! Who does this song?”
      “Oh, its some group called Kicks.”

      And this is what happens when they try to do something clever with a band name.

      Liked by 1 person

    • If I didn’t have a compulsive desire to follow rules then I think “Pirate” would have been honorable mention or in the 40s for me too. I love that club sound. 44 is in in the 30s and 45 is HM. I’ve got three other ONEUS tracks higher on my list but “Black Mirror” isn’t one of them. I like it a lot, but it doesn’t hit the love threshold. They really did have an amazing year, though. They’re on my b-sides, album, choreo, MV and artist best-of lists.

      Like

  3. We’ve started with Day one and I have to say, some of these choices are surprising and some of them are expected. The Way I would place them is:

    U-Know’s Thank U: I don’t really like this, it relies too much on sing-talk and chanty structures. Even if the performance is top-tier, that is to be expected from a member of one of K-pop’s finest groups.

    Youha’s Abittipsy: This and Woosung’s Dimples make quite the pair. Satisfying drive and good melody, but I don’t think this would make it into my honorable mentions.

    RAIN X JYP’s Switch To Me: It’s very forgettable…so…not sure about this one.

    A.C.E’s Changer: Now we’re getting to the good stuff! It melds A.C.E’s intense style with a brighter template, very good and would land somewhere on my honorable mentions.

    AB6IX’s Close: Love this song. It’s funky, sleek and has such a satisfying groove. AB6IX and Deep-house is a perfect combination. Honorable Mentions or 50’s.

    BAE137’s Loved You: Without a doubt, This song would be higher. 40’s-35’s or something. I am a sucker for anything guitar (or Bigbang too!) and when you add something like Loved You’s immense, cathartic hook on top, then that’s just nirvana to me.

    IU’s Lilac: I am thinking this song would be in my top 30’s. This is top-tier IU, the production is immaculate, her voice is heavenly and that melody is beautiful. Without a doubt, one of my personal favorites of March.

    NCT Dream’s Hello Future: The Power of Kenzie. She’s produced two out of three of my favorite SM songs this year and Hello Future is definitely one of them. Just listen to that bass, and that knock-your-socks-out vocal arrangement. On My Top 50-45’s!

    Brave Girls Pool Party: I didn’t get the hype that Brave Girls seem to got because I thought both Chi Mat Ra Bam and Pool Party were quite average. Looking back, these songs were so, so good! Pool Party is most probably gonna be in my honorable mentions but Brave Girls have two other singles which will most definitely place high here.

    E’last’s Dark Dream: I prefer the Kingdom singles to this honestly. Dark Dream is fine to me, I see the appeal to it but I just can’t get into it. I would honestly go listen to some KAT-TUN songs instead if I needed some theatrical fury.

    Can’t wait for tomorrow’s segment!

    (Also, I remembered right now..I lost that KAT-TUN mail too. Don’t know if it’s asking too much, but will it be alright if you can re-send it as well?)

    Like

  4. I liked several of these, most notably “Thank You”, which got a five-star rating from me but didn’t quite make my HM list. It’s become clear to me that a couple of the styles that you and other commenters love – new jack swing, summer songs – just aren’t my jam, and that’s okay!

    I managed to split my top 50 into fifths but my brain firmly refused to do any further rankings, so here are my #41-50 in alphabetical order instead.

    A.C.E “Down”: Is this a great song? No. Does it make me happy when I listen to it? Yes. Did I possibly give this a bump because, while I like “Changer” I don’t love it and I wanted to put A.C.E in my top 50? Maybe. Was it my fourth most played song of 2021? Yes, although play count doesn’t really reflect my listening habits since I tend to listen to shuffled playlists.

    ENHYPEN “Fever”: I love the haziness of this song, the fact that the vocal processing makes the vocals merge with the synth. I don’t remember having strong feelings about it when I first heard it, but it was one that kept me pulling my phone whenever it came on to check who it was.

    ENHYPEN “Tamed-Dashed”: This one I remember finding pleasant but bland when it came out, but like “Fever” I was surprised how much I liked it every time it came up on shuffle and eventually I remembered who performed it.

    EUNHYUK “be”: Another hazy gem. And the choreo was fantastic. I’m mostly a fourth gen fan, but I can’t deny that some of the vets can still bring it.

    LEE JIN HYUK “5K”: I understand why he’s not popular here, and sometimes even I find him a little too obnoxious (yes, that is possible) but he’s a great performer and that comes through in his music. 5K is lower key than most of his tracks but a whole lot of fun.

    MCND “Crush”: My favorite MCND songs are b-sides, but this is an ear worm. It would probably be higher on the list earlier in the year – it’s lost a little bit of its shine, but not much. Plus MCND get big bias points from me because they’re just such fun performers (maybe something in the water at TOP).

    PENTAGON “DO or NOT”: I disliked the MV the first time I watched it, but the song grew on me quickly watching live stages. I’ve been sorry that they took the rest of the year off, but with Jinho back, maybe we’ll be getting something new soon?

    ROSE “On The Ground”: Something about this grabbed me and never let me go. It’s cheesy and it’s in English and the drop is a big blah, but I still love it. It reminds me of 1990s Jewel right down to the strummy guitar.

    TXT “Magic”: It’s something of a nothing-burger compared to the rest of the EP but it gets me moving every time. I’m noticing that a big theme of this part of the list is “fun songs that made me happy” and that is okay.

    WONHO “Lose”: I didn’t expect this one to be as high, but it goes right along with “Fever” and “be” for hazy, R&B-ish vibes and that sound really does it for me. My eighth most-played song of the year, somehow.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Spoiler alert: Wonho “Lose” is mine, or rather, darling daughter’s 4th most played this year. Both inn English and Korean. Its not even close, so I gotta put it in fourth place on my blended list. She subjected me to it almost every day for a long while.

      Also my Eunhyuk Be is higher though not High high.

      Like

      • This is not the first time I’ve thought that your daughter and I seem to have somewhat similar tastes. For the life of me I can’t remember ever intentionally playing “Lose” though, so I can’t account for the play count.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Chapter 1

    Yuto oppar, a member of ONFlop, is running through the empty hallways, late for classes. He’d finally gotten away from the military hands that his oppars had been taken from for about a few years. As he runs, he bumps into a familiar person and falls to the ground.

    “Onion haseyo jagiya uwu,” said the person he bumped into. Yuto gets up and sees who it is. It’s Oily London oppar. As he’s about to scream and shout, there’s no doubt, Oily oppar tells him not to worry.

    “Aren’t you dating JYPapi oppar though?” said Yuto oppar. “Why did you call me jagiya?”

    “Yes, but I can cheat on my namjachingoo for a bit uwu,” said Oily oppar.

    “gwaenchaen-a,” said Yuto oppar. “Then how about we kiss?”

    “Ok uwu,” said Oily oppar as he and Yuto enter the men’s bathroom.

    Meanwhile…

    JYPapi oppar is announcing the rankings for 50-41. He brings out 10 pieces of fruit and places them on a counter. Of the fruit, the 43rd one was a yeppeo watermelon. As he cut the fruit, one by one, to announce the scores, when he got to the watermelon, he heard a voice from the back of the room.

    “Please don’t cut the watermelon juseyo,” said the voice.

    “Did y’all hear something?” said JYPapi oppar?

    The class shakes their heads.

    “Felt like someone is telling me not to cut this watermelon,” said JYPapi oppar. “Arasseo, must be my imagination.” He continues to raise the knife to cut the watermelon but he hears the voice again when he brings it down. “HAJIMA!!!”

    But it was too late, the deed had already been done. The watermelon, containing a note that stated the 43rd place, was now cut in two halves. JYPapi raises up the note to announce the winner.

    Everyone turns around as they hear an anguished sob. The student, Mork Lee, was on the floor now, crying his eyes out. One Hoe, a student, was alarmed, he went up to Mork Lee but he continued to scream and shout, there’s no doubt.

    “You murdered my husband!!! How could you JYPapi-nim!? You were such a good teacher and you do this to me!!!??? :(((((”

    Right at that moment, Yuto oppar walks into the classroom after meeting up with Oily oppar.

    “Mianhae JYPapi-nim,” Yuto says as he bows down. “Hey, what’s Mork doing there on the ground?”

    “Arraseo,” said JYPapi oppar. “Just sit down.”

    “Ok?” said Yuto oppar as he sat down on his desk, looking at the students surrounding Mork Lee, who’s still crying and screaming.

    “Why the heck are you in love with inanimate objects?” said One Hoe to Mork Lee.

    “Watermelon oppar is real!!!” shouted Mork Lee. “You just don’t know it!!!”

    “You’re a freakin delulu,” said One Hoe. “Watermelons aren’t sentient.”

    “You’re being rude One Hoe,” said Minold. She walks up to Mork Lee, trying to reason with him and calm him down. “Mork, what was watermelon oppar like to you?”

    Mork took a deep breath and said, “Very charming and handsome. So hot, so beautiful, so smexy, so cool, so green, so red, so stripey, so magnificent. He neomu saranged me. I neomu saranged him. He supported me. He wanted to meet you Minold unnie, but he had fallen ill, which is probably why he couldn’t tell JYPapi to not cut him which is why he didn’t hajima. Watermelon oppar, I sarang you.”

    He started crying again, with Minold and JYPapi oppar joining in.

    Yuto, sitting there, starts to hear voices and starts panicking in his chair. It seems like they’re making him go insane.

    “Nyeoseog!” said One Hoe. He’s sitting next to Yuto.

    “Uh, annyeong,” said Yuto. “I was just, daydreaming.”

    “OK then,” said One Hoe. “Just hajima get me worried, alright?”

    “Alright,” said Yuto.

    To be continued…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Off to a good start, still haven’t completed my list but I feel like I’d have Hello Future, Loved You, Lilac, Close, and Abbitipsy all in similar ranges.

    Like

  7. Again, I couldn’t possibly make a list down this far, and because of that, from these 10 I think Switch to Me, Lilac, Hello Future, and Pool Party all fall into a similar category where I like them, but I don’t know how I’d rank them because I can’t decide 😂. I think that’s what I’ll be doing for all the next posts except the top 10, just point out the songs I like but I don’t have a personal rank for them.

    Also, I think the link to “last year’s countdown” links to the 2019 one, just thought you might want to fix that

    Like

  8. I don’t know if anyone remembers this particular ‘Haruko’ (it’s a common name online haha), but… Hi! This is the same Haruko who used her Twitter account to comment on The Bias List who (formerly) had a blurry, beige-themed Korean male idol as the profile picture.

    By the end of 2021, I would have read this blog for… 2 years (since 2020). Granted, I haven’t been commenting much lately. But whenever I get around to reading the posts, it’s always a joy to see the community grow and engage in so much insightful discussion. There’s even fun moments like the iconic poem chain Nick started when he posted the review on WEi’s Starry Night!

    Reading your blog, Nick, has not only gotten me so much more interested in K-pop when you talk about K-pop composers but it has also fueled my desire in wanting to try writing. 2021 is the year when I’ve met some great K-pop review bloggers (you have collaborated with them before for the summer collab!) that also helped my interest in writing.

    I really am grateful to have known a great community that you have created, Nick.

    The K-pop review community is also what encouraged me to try running a blog myself which I started earlier this month! I don’t have much to offer right now but I would like to do K-pop reviews as well as different other styles of posts in the future!
    The fact you’ve been running this blog for 5 years is… crazy! I think its admirable that, despite how K-pop can be boring in some months, you still continue writing reviews of those songs.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on (a lot of) K-pop and also J-pop, Nick!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: The Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2021 (Day Two: 40-31) | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  10. Ah Dark Dream has made it on the list 🙂 I really like it and it’s fairly higher on my list. So my 50 – 41 (and it gets weirder starting here 😂)

    50. Dreamnote Ghost
    A surprisingly interesting song which went harder than I expected.

    49. ONF Beautiful Beautiful
    Ok, this song is super good and happy and even I’m a bit surprised I put it down here 😅 But their next two cbs upped the ante even more and that’s the only reason I put it here. It’s definitely a great song and I might have overplayed it a little bit 😅

    48. T1419 Asurabalbalta
    Yes, I have made my love for this clear on more than one occasion 😂 The rap line delivered quite unexpectedly in this and I absolutely loved the vocals. A song from January which still gives me the same enjoyment it did back then.

    47. Blitzers Breathe Again
    I absolutely love this debut! A surprising structure and the right balance of vocals and rap!

    46. Golcha Burn It
    Sacrilege! 😂 But yeah… this was BEFORE my Golcha craze started. While I really love the song a lot now I missed out on the hype period 😅

    45. BDC Moonrider
    I absolutely love the old vibe of this song. And the chorus is stunning!

    44. TXT Loser Lover
    The live sold me on this like most TXT songs. I especially love the chorus ft Taehyung and Huening Kai and Yeonjun’s rap.

    43. Pentagon Do or Not
    Happy and easy and the chorus still gives me a good cheer even now!

    42. Ghost9 Control
    Ok, this definitely grew on me!!! Props to the guys for such an intense choreo and those really high notes! It’s like Kang Daniel’s Paranoia but with a dramatic opera touch! ❤️

    41. Cignature Boyfriend
    Another song that surprisingly grew on me! At first the title put me off… but theres something so gentle and comforting about the song and I really enjoyed it!

    Like

  11. This is where I marvel at everybody else’s well articulated opinions because I can never rank songs like this. But I love to see the diversity in the comments!

    Like

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