The 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!
20. BTS – Butter
I’ve got no beef with glossy, sellout pop music as long as the melodies are strong. Butter impresses with its whopper of a hook — breezy and euphoric and smooth as… well, you know. Too many commercial placements chipped away at its effect over time, but this is still capitalistic pop at its most concentrated. (full review)
19. CIX – Cinema
Cinema became one of 2021’s biggest growers thanks to it unassuming, unadorned simplicity. This approach has become all-too rare in K-pop, and requires a clear melody to compel attention. Luckily, CIX found their greatest tune yet: a soft yet rousing slice of timeless pop. (full review)
18. Yuqi – Bonnie & Clyde
(G)I-DLE’s Yuqi was finally able to unleash her full potential and we were lucky to reap the rewards. Bonnie & Clyde takes an insistent, trance-like energy and melds it with rock production. Her husky vocal completes the package, powering a knockout chorus. (full review)
17. ONEUS – Life Is Beautiful
Somehow, it seems fitting that my highest-ranked ONEUS single of the year is also their most straightforward pop song. You just can’t beat a killer melody and surging, well-produced instrumental. The catchy woodwind ornamentations are delicious icing on the cake. (full review)
16. Jessi – What Type Of X
Jessi’s What Type Of X is a force of nature. Do not trifle with this song unless you want an aural beatdown. By fusing her hyper-charismatic rap with rock guitar, a stomping drop and a little help from agency-head PSY, Jessi found the formula for her strongest single yet. (full review)
15. ONF – Popping
Riffing off the bright sounds of their triumphant 2018 track Complete, Popping tied a bow on the summer season with its optimistic energy and hard-hitting percussion. Performed with addictive enthusiasm, the final product is just quirky enough to counter its sugary-sweet melodies. (full review)
14. aespa – Next Level
Next Level shouldn’t work. A Fast & Furious b-side, chopped up with ‘Black Mamba’ SM nonsense and a bridge that feels ripped from another song entirely? I mean, come on. But, aespa own every syllable of the track, transforming a bizarre hodgepodge into one of the year’s most iconic moments. (full review)
13. UP10TION – Spin Off
I can’t overstate the importance of a great chorus. Spin Off messes about too much during its verses, but that colossal hook is always waiting in the wings to sweep you off your feet. Even without the power of their full roster, UP10TION remain an underrated force. (full review)
12. Monsta X – Gambler
As popular as they are, Monsta X rarely pop up in my end-of-year countdowns. Thankfully, Gambler shifts their sound right into my wheelhouse, bringing hard-hitting funk as the track careens into a groovy centerpiece. But, it’s the go-for-broke climax that really sets this song apart. (full review)
11. BDC – Moon Rider
BDC’s “Moon” trilogy has been one of 2021’s best surprises, and it climaxed with the powerful (and, yes… propulsive!) Moon Rider. This is my kind of sleek, sci-fi dance music, driving ever-forward as strings add majestic flair to the taut melody. (full review)