By Quinci LeGardye published
2021 was a great year for k-pop. As the world bounced back from the confusing years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the k-pop industry innovated with virtual performances and gave us several amazing comebacks this year. From rookie comebacks to stars' solo debuts, fans have had plenty of music to enjoy year-round, as idols and artists incorporate more futuristic sounds and theatrical concepts. Here are our 20 favorite new K-pop songs of 2021, a year packed with hits.
"Celebrity" - IU
IU's latest song about the nature of celebrity and public scrutiny, "Celebrity" wins you over with its uplifting lyrics and soft house beat breaking into an EDM chorus.
"Rosario" - Epik High ft. CL, ZICO
Korean hip hop group Epik High has been around for literal decades, and they remind you of their impact and greatness with this track, featuring their fellow K-pop icons CL and Zico.
"I'm Not Cool" - HyunA
In the title track from her first full EP under PSY's label P-Nation, HyunA showed her originality with a quirky EDM beat and powerful dance.
"Beautiful Beautiful" - ONF
This cheerful song by boy group ONF is a full pep talk in a track, with an upbeat instrumental and inspirational lyrics.
"On the Ground" - Rosé
BLACKPINK member Rosé stands out in introspective solo debut, which melds acoustic guitar with an EDM chorus, paired with a stunning video.
"After School" - Weeekly
Rising girl group Weeekly became ones to watch with this catchy bop on waiting for the final school bell to ring.
"Unnatural" - WJSN
Veteran girl group WJSN, also known as Cosmic Girls, took on K-pop's updated disco trend with this powerful dance track.
"Spider" - Hoshi
SEVENTEEN member Hoshi debuted as a solo artist with this impressive performance, a dark love song with literally upside-down choreography.
"ASAP" - STAYC
Rookie girl group STAYC took over the K-pop industry and Tik Tok with this bright, bubblegum pop song, and its chorus hip dance is one of the best of the year.
"Fever" - ENHYPEN
Another smash Tik Tok hit, this B-side song from rookie boy group ENHYPEN has a moody R&B beat.
"Next Level" - aespa
This hit song, which remixes a song from a Fast and Furious soundtrack, takes listeners on a ride, switching beats halfway in what's become aespa's trademark sound. Don't be surprised if the entire song gets stuck in your head.
"Advice" - Taemin
Taemin's last comeback before entering military service, this dramatic track has hip hop and classical influences.
"0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)" - TXT ft. Seori
TXT came back with a pop-punk concept this year, collaborating with solo artist Seori and BTS' leader RM on this heartfelt rock ballad.
"Butter" - BTS
BTS' second English comeback is an R&B-inspired bop filled with Usher and Michael Jackson references, that shows off each of the members' unique styles.
"Alcohol-Free" - TWICE
In this summer song, TWICE compares the thrill of love to a drunken feeling, with happy and light lyrics and a bossa nova-inspired beat.
"Ready to Love" - SEVENTEEN
After six years as a group, SEVENTEEN is known for their bright, catchy title tracks. In "Ready to Love," the group returns to their dance-pop roots, with lyrics about wanting more than friendship.
"NAKKA" - AKMU ft. IU
AKMU, a brother-sister duo, teams up with their mentor IU about companionship about a hard time. Together, the three blend their beautiful, clear voices with a retro-tinged instrumental.
"Zombie" - Purple Kiss
Rookie girl group Purple Kiss' first comeback gives their dark concept a fun twist, with this funky track comparing the pursuit of love to being chased by zombies.
"LALISA" - Lisa
In her self-titled solo debut, BLACKPINK's main dancer Lisa, real name Lalisa Manoban, shows her personality with a fun, infectious dance track.
"Bad Love" - Key
SHINee member Key's first solo comeback since he left the military is a R&B-inspired synth-pop track with an intergalactic theme and lyrics about love gone wrong.
Quinci LeGardye is a LA-based culture writer who covers TV, movies and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.
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