The 20 Best K-Pop Albums of 2021 – PopMatters

Posted: December 1, 2021 at 1:44 am


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K-pop is a very busy niche to keep up with as there are seemingly countless active groups and soloists, and some even put out more than one EP or LP per year. The odds that a year will go by without good music in K-pop are very low. With so many releases, there has to be somethingfor everyones taste.

From experimentation that entices the interest of casual listeners to formulaic repetition that K-pop fans love, 2021 was a year with a lot of satisfying K-pop. Among all that talent, its only right that our list of Best K-pop albums (which includes EPs and LPs) features no less than 20 works by K-pop idols and a few R&B or indie artists that are changing the landscape for pop as well.

SHINees Lee Taemin may have gone into an artistic hiatus (due to his compulsory military enlistment), but he left listeners good music to enjoy until hes back. Advice is less impressive than Taemins previous solo works, but its still a great example of the unique finesse the singer and dancer brings to K-pop. Taemin proves his versatility in tracks like the doo-wop, R&B Strings, and the synthpop Sad Kids; and his qualities as an entertainer in Advice.

When a songwriter and music producer is also a recording artist, theres always a song that they cant decide if they pitch it to another artist or keep for themselves. For example, the classy Unnatural, recorded by the group WJSN, was penned by a songwriter and music producer who also releases her own music: Song Heejin. But judging by her solo debut, Soda, Song has saved some goodies for herself too.

For example, tracks like Question Mark and Get Outta My wouldve also sounded amazing if recorded by a girl group such as MAMAMOO or Red Velvet, respectively. But we can only be happy that Song Heejin recorded them and released Soda. Shes really good singing soft contemporary R&B (Dirt), as well as in upbeat tracks (Dancing in the Moonlight). Tylenol is the apex of the songs experimentation. And the funky, smooth homonym track is one of the most refreshing summer releases of 2021.As a songwriter and as a recording artist, Song Heejin is a name to keep an eye on.

Bambi, a solo work by the EXO member Baekhyun, is a sultry and elegant set of R&B and neo-soul songs. Baekhyuns vocal range almost steals the spotlight from the beautiful melodies. The falsettos in Bambi and All I Got will give you goosebumps. Baekhyuns sentimentality is on the edge in Cry for Love: Every time that I cry / My tears dont ever dry, he sings. Baekhyun reaches great heights with his voice in Bambi; but in spite of how intense these songs are, theyre still smooth and provide a relaxing feel. Its a short EP, yet its rich with emotions and executed to perfection.

The sixth album by singer and songwriter Younha, End Theory, is an emotional piece of art. Highlight is, indeed, one of the highest points of End Theory, and Stardust is a dreamy pop ballad that can make you feel as if youre floating adrift in the universe. The new-age-inspired song Here is so majestical that it deserves to be experienced at an opera theatre or ballet. Younhas soft, high-pitched vocals imprint the right emotion that each composition deserves, making End Theory a graceful experience.

Sometimes an introduction to a song is so good that its a waste that it isnt a full track. When that happens, the following songs must keep the listener just as interested. Thats the case in Border: Carnival, the second EP by the boy group ENHYPEN. Intro: The Invitation is a gloomy alt-rock / new wave track that sets the scene for the trip ENHYPEN takes on a disturbing yet exciting trip, with few moments to breathe in and relax (like the cute Not for Sale).

Border: Carnival is, most of the time, a seductive fusion of R&B, dance, moombahton, and reggaeton. The tracks in between the first and last dont have the same dark edge as the bookenders. Still, its music that grabs you by the neck and drags you to deeper depths: the emotional turmoil in Drunk-Dazed, the burning desire in Fever, the warmth from falling in love in Not for Sale.

Trap beats and rock guitars combine in the production of Mixed Up. It creates contrast with the airy Outro: Wormhole, whose lyrics are metaphorical of ENHYPENs journey through different states of consciousness. Though its the last track, the lyrics hint at new beginnings: And when we wake at this tunnels end / What vision awaits?

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The 20 Best K-Pop Albums of 2021 - PopMatters

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December 1st, 2021 at 1:44 am

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