This is one of those “unique to The Bias List” countdowns, since most end-of-year lists focus on the artists and not the behind-the-scenes talent. But, I’ve always been a sucker for a great songwriter. Few K-pop acts stick with the same producers for long, making it even more important to find your favorite composers and follow their careers.
Here are ten talents that really fueled 2021 with excellent work.
10. MOON KIM
Branching out from his work with Royal Pirates, Moon Kim collaborated on a lot of idol releases this year. For me, it’s a mixed bag of music. But, he’d earn his spot on this list for DRIPPIN’s fantastic Reach Out Your Hands alone!
DRIPPIN – Reach Out Your Hands
P1Harmony – Scared, Reset, Ayaya, End It
Victon – Up To You
EXO – Don’t Fight The Feeling
SF9 – Hey Hi Bye, Memory, Dreams, On And On
ONF – Whistle
Pentagon – Honey Drop
WEi – Breathing
CRAVITY – Call My Name
MCND – Cat Waltz
After a year away from this list, Bumzu’s work with Seventeen and Nu’est brings him back. It feels like his sound expanded in 2021, which was especially evident on Nu’est Romanticize album.
Seventeen – Ready To Love, Rock With You, Anyone, To You, Heaven’s Cloud, GAM3 BO1, Wave, Same Dream, Same Mind, Same Night, Crush, Pang!, Imperfect Love, I Can’t Run Away, 2 Minus 1
Nu’est – Inside Out, Dress, Don’t Wanna Go, Black, Earphone, Need It, Doom Doom, Rocket Rocket, I’m Not
Even if I thought the overall quality of their work stalled a bit in 2021, there’s no denying the power (and popularity) of Edenary tracks. They crafted a few standouts for frequent collaborators ATEEZ and Dreamcatcher.
ATEEZ – Take Me Home, Fireworks (I’m The One), Eternal Sunshine, Deja Vu, Turbulence, The Real, The Leaders, Time Of Love, Celebrate, Still Here, Be My Lover, Feeling Like I Do, Rocky, All About You, Not Too Late, Be With You, The Letter
Dreamcatcher – Odd Eye, BEcause, Wind Blows, Poison Love, 4 Memory, New Days, Airplane, Whistle, Alldaylong, A Heart Of Sunflower
7. CHO WONSANG
As Lucy’s main producer, Cho Wonsang co-wrote all their best material this year. He’s an extremely gifted arranger and musician, and I appreciate how he’s pushing himself (and his band) toward a diverse set of sounds.
Kenzie is a K-pop legend for a reason. Her work with SM artists has resulted in classic after classic, and her touch almost guarantees a song’s quality. She helped craft fantastic work for SHINee, Key and NCT this year, proving her continued ability to both embrace and set trends.
SHINee – Don’t Call Me, CØDE
Key – Bad Love
NCT Dream – Hello Future, Diggity, Bungee
aespa – I’ll Make You Cry
NCT 127 – Favorite (Vampire)
NCT U – Universe (Let’s Play Ball), OK!
Red Velvet – Pushin’ N Pullin’
5. “HITMAN” BANG
HYBE’s tracks are often composed by SO many people, making it hard to know who was really responsible for their success. But when looking at my favorite 2021 songs from the agency, one name was credited in almost all of them. As HYBE’s chairman, Bang Si-hyuk still manages to harness his creativity. Now, get rid of that awful vocal processing and we’ll be good!
TXT – 0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You), LO$ER=L♡VER, Anti-Romantic, Frost, Ice Cream, What If I Had Been That Puma, No Rules, Dear Sputnik
ENHYPEN – Drunk-Dazed, Tamed-Dashed, Fever, Not For Sale, Go Big Or Go Home, Upper Side Dreamin, Just A Little Bit
Seventeen – Ready To Love
2AM – Should’ve Known
4. RYAN S. JHUN
Ryan S. Jhun must have been the most prolific producer in K-pop this past year. Just look at all the songs he was part of! With so much content, the results are bound to be mixed. I certainly don’t enjoy every song he produces, but anyone who gives us SHINee’s I Really Want You and Mirae’s Killa in the same year deserves attention.
SHINee – I Really Want You
Youha – Abittipsy
Mirae – Killa, We Are Future
Oh My Girl – Dun Dun Dance, Dear You, My Doll, Quest, Who Comes Who Knows, Swan
IU – Celebrity, Flu
CRAVITY – My Turn, Mammoth, Bad Habits
WayV – Kick Back
Weeekly – After School
WJSN The Black – Easy
Taemin – Strings, Sad Kids
LOONA – PTT, WOW, Not Friends, Hula Hoop
Kim Woojin – Still Dream, My Growing Pains, In My Space
Moon Jongup – Us
The Boyz – B.O.Y (Bet On You)
NCT U – Maniac, Universe (Let’s Play Ball)
BTOB – Outsider
fromis_9 – Talk & Talk
NCT 127 – Focus, The Rainy Night
bugAboo – bugAboo, All Night Play
Kai – Peaches, Blue
IVE – Eleven
3. BRAVE BROTHERS
Representing the second-gen sound, Brave Brothers made a huge resurgence alongside his group Brave Girls. He may not have as many 2021 credits as others on this list, but it’s a matter of quality over quantity. He pretty much soundtracked my whole summer.
2. SCORE & MEGATONE (13)
Going into 2022, this is the team I’m most excited about. Score and Megatone make their debut on this list thanks to the killer trilogy of Born To Be Wild, Burn It and Fanfare. This is coming off the heels of last year’s Criminal by Taemin. When their polished, melodic touch is in full bloom, these guys are unstoppable.
1. HWANG HYUN
Hwang Hyun is the most exciting producer working in K-pop today. I’m not sure what he’s going to do during ONF’s enlistment (I selfishly hope Golden Child will become his new muse), but as long as he’s making great music I’ll be happy. He’s so good at fusing experimental sounds to big pop melodies, crafting tracks that are both approachable and compelling.
ONF – Beautiful Beautiful, Ugly Dance, Popping, Goosebumps, My Name Is, Secret Triangle, On-You, Trip Advisor, Feedback, I.T.I.L.U., Lights On, My Genesis (Übermensch), Summer Poem, Dry Ice, Summer End, Whistle, Fat And Sugar, Show Must Go On
Kwon Eunbi – Door
Ailee – Don’t Teach Me
Girls Planet 999 – O.O.O (Over&Over&Over)