A look at the most influential K-pop projects of the year
10. ONEUS – “BINARY CODE”
With several outings from the six-person group ONEUS this year, their inclusion was key to this list. However, my favorite of them for 2021 was their second release in May, “BINARY CODE”. Compared to their other projects, this EP had a more cohesive and polished discography, with each song fitting into each other perfectly. With the first track (“BLACK MIRROR”) paving the way for the electronic accompaniment found in all of these songs, it’s no surprise that ONEUS has created another energetic album. My favorite track from the project has to be “Happy Birthday”, which swings between hyper and gloomy effortlessly.
9. Twice – “Formula of love: O + T =
With a veteran group like Twice, the pressure to top every outing is getting more and more heavy. However, they never seem to waver when it comes to delivery and fan expectations. In “Formula of Love: O + T =
8. Pentagon – “LIKE or TAKE”
The South Korean boy band recounts a familiar love story on their 2021 album, “LOVE or TAKE”. However, the Pentagon’s take on the matter is noteworthy as each song explores a new path and meaning of the feeling we all know so well. I found “1 + 1” to be the top of the track list with its teenage movie vibe, but every song gets better with every listen regardless. Overall, the Pentagon is hitting the nail on the head again with this solid release.
7. UI – “LILAC”
The only soloist to appear on this list, the incredible singer-songwriter IU takes gold – or rather lilac – with its release in 2021. Her voice and instrumentals are heartwarming and peaceful, especially in her lead song ” LILAC, “which highlights UI’s strengths in the most ethereal way possible. My favorite track from the project has to be “Celebrity” because it offers a parallel with its usual sound. The drop in beat around the song’s chorus is shocking on first listen, but by the end of the song it becomes a sharp earworm that listeners won’t want to put out.
6. CRAVITY – “CACHE: BE OUR VOICE – SEASON 3.”
Considering how fresh the group of 9 people are on the music scene, it’s amazing how stellar CRAVITY’s discography has become in 2021. Continuing their “HIDEOUT” series, this latest addition to their discography has been on repeat. for most of my year. Each song has an overflow of energy that will immediately infect listeners. Each piece is impeccable in its own way. Yet the fourth track “Bad Habits” shines above the rest. With its abundance of sound effects and palpable rhythm, it confirms that CRAVITY can only go up from now on.
5. NCT DREAM – “Hello future – The 1st Reconditioning of albums ”
With the repackaging of their album, “Hello Future” NCT DREAM proves that the project can stand on its own for years to come. My favorite track from this collection has to be “ANL”, short for “All Night Long”. With a more relaxed atmosphere, the song evokes memories of playful moments on warmer days and stress-free afternoons. Each song on the 13-track release has enough room to stand on, which is what one would expect from the band now.
4. ITZY – “Crazy in love”
In the short time between ITZY’s beginnings and their current activities, the 5-member girl group made a name for themselves with their essential message of self-esteem accompanying the turmoil of youthful emotions. This can be said for their latest release, “Crazy in Love”, as their first track “LOCO” chronicles the push-and-pull of a potential lover. My favorite version of the project has to be “SWIPE,” which deals with the influence of social media alongside self-esteem. Instead of worrying about the perceptions and contributions of others, the members decided not to care and pursue their aspirations. Coming from an idol group with impressionable fans, posts like this are always appreciated. Not to mention that every song on this album is catchy with both its hypnotic lyrics and catchy bass.
3. SEVENTEEN – “Your choice”
With a Seventeen release in late spring, a huge range of awesome songs. From heartbreaking tracks like “Anyone” to soothing tracks like “Heaven’s Cloud”, this album encompasses all emotions ranging from the freezing cold of winter to the reemergence of life that comes with spring. My overall favorite has to come with the ending song “Same dream, same mind, same night” with its immaculate vocals and instrumentals that sound like an ode to Bobby Caldwell’s discography. However, each song can stand on its own no matter what season you listen to it.
2. Golden Child – “DDARA”
Prior to the release of the repackaged album, “DDARA”, the initial debut track “Ra Pam Pam” was a powerful song with a summer feeling. However, adding refined and suave, “DDARA” refines its way into heads and hearts. Plus, each subgroup’s song has a distinct feeling, but none of them feel the least bit forced. My ultimate favorite from this project is “Game” by Tag and Jibeom, which tackles a playful story of betting and risk. Plus, the song “Fanfare” is both a mood and a foot booster, as its infectious beat gets listeners moving with a smile on their face. Each piece of the album’s discography is to be savored and enjoyed.
1. TOMORROW X TOGETHER – “The Chapter of Chaos: FIGHT OR ESCAPE”
With each release of the Tomorrow X Together group, their impact on their supporters continues to grow. Every release of this musical series is amazing and has stood the test of time, the newest addition to this repackaged album, “LO $ ER = LO ♡ ER” is one that surely sticks with listeners. From its echoes of the Western pop-punk sensation, the lyrics and production reinforce its authenticity as a band classic. Every song, from the soulful track “Anti-Romantic” to the upbeat, English track “Magic” is crafted with care and attention. My favorite track is “Frost” which shocked me when I first listened to the album. Its incorporation of technological chimes and beats works surprisingly well, along with the almost screaming lyrics that show just how passionate the members are when they sing this soulful tune. As their previous story (“The Dream Chapter”) has come to a halt, fans and newcomers alike can anticipate what this new story and new group has to offer.
Sierra Thornton can be reached at [email protected]