The top 10 K-pop albums of 2021

A look into the year’s most influential K-pop projects

TXT+courtesy+of+the+official+TXT+Facebook+page

TXT courtesy of the official TXT Facebook page

By Sierra Thornton, Staff Writer

10. ONEUS – “BINARY CODE”

With multiple releases from the six-strong group ONEUS this year, their inclusion was essential for this list.  However, my personal favorite from them for 2021 was their second release back in May, “BINARY CODE.” Compared to their other projects, this EP had a more cohesive and polished discography, each song transitioning seamlessly into one another. With the first track (“BLACK MIRROR”) leading the way for the electronic backing found in all of these songs, it is not surprising that ONEUS created yet another energetic album. My personal favorite track from the project must be “Happy Birthday,” which excellently bounces between hyper and somber effortlessly.

 

9. Twice – “Formula of Love: O+T = <3”

With a veteran group like Twice, the pressure to outdo each release becomes more and more weighty. However, they never seem to falter when it comes to both delivery and outselling fan’s expectations. Within “Formula of Love: O+T = <3,” each song feels different from the next one, but on the same token – sonically similar enough to have smooth transitions from one track to the next. My favorite from this album has to be the fully-English release, “The Feels,” which transports listeners straight back to the mid-2010s with its production. From the lyrics to the music’s multiple crescendos, “The Feels” as well as the whole rest of the album will make it hard for listeners not to dance around.

8. Pentagon – “LOVE or TAKE”

The South Korean boyband tell a familiar story of love on their 2021 album, “LOVE or TAKE.” However, Pentagon’s take on the topic is one to note as each song explores a new avenue and meaning of the feeling we all know so well. I found “1+1” to be the best on the track list with its teen-movie ambiance, yet each song gets better with each listen regardless. Overall, Pentagon hits the mark once again with this solid release.

 

7. IU – “LILAC”

The only soloist to make it onto this list, the incredible singer-songwriter IU strikes gold – or rather lilac – with her 2021 release. Her vocals and instrumentals feel comforting and peaceful, especially in her title track “LILAC,” which highlights IU’s strong suits in the most ethereal way possible. My favorite track from the project must be “Celebrity” as it provides a parallel to her usual sound. The beat drop around the chorus of the song is jarring at first listen, yet by the song’s finale, it becomes a snappy earworm listeners won’t want to turn off.

 

6. CRAVITY – “HIDEOUT: BE OUR VOICE – SEASON 3.”

Given how fresh the 9-strong group are to 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 loop for the majority of my year. Each song has an overflow of energy that will infect listeners immediately. Every track is flawless in its own way. Yet, the fourth track “Bad Habits” shines above the rest. With its abundance of sound effects and palpable rhythm, it solidifies that CRAVITY can only go up from here on out.

 

5. NCT DREAM – “Hello Future – The 1st Album Repackage”

With the repackaging of their album, “Hello Future” NCT DREAM prove 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 the more laid-back atmosphere, the song evokes memories of playful moments on warmer days and stress-free afternoons. Each song from the 13-track release has enough footing to stand on its own, which is to be expected from the group by now.

 

4. ITZY – “Crazy in Love”

In the short span of time between  ITZY’s debut and their current activities, the 5-member girl group have made a name for themselves with their staple message of self-love accompanying the  turmoil of youthful emotions. This can be said for their latest release, “Crazy in Love” as their first track “LOCO” recounts the push-and-pull from a potential lover. My favorite release from the project must be “SWIPE,” which deals with the influence of social media alongside self-worth. Instead of worrying about others’ perceptions and input, the members have decided to not care and continue their aspirations. Coming from an idol group with impressionable fans, messages like this is always appreciated. Not to mention, each song from this album is catchy with both its hypnotic lyrics and upbeat bass.

 

3. SEVENTEEN – “Your Choice”

With a late springtime release from Seventeen come an extensive array of impressive songs. From heart wrenching tracks like “Anyone” to soothing ones like “Heaven’s Cloud,” this album encompasses every emotion ranging from the bitter cold of winter to the reemergence of life that comes with spring. My overall favorite has to come with the final song “Same dream, same mind, same night” with its immaculate vocals and instrumentals that feel like an ode to Bobby Caldwell’s discography. However, each song can and does stand on its own, no matter what season you listen to it.

 

2. Golden Child – “DDARA”

Before the repackaged album, “DDARA” was released, the initial first track “Ra Pam Pam” was a potent song with a summer feeling. However, the refined and suave addition, “DDARA” finesses its way into heads and hearts. In addition, each subgroup’s song has a distinct feeling yet none of them feel forced in the slightest. My ultimate favorite from this projecf is Tag and Jibeom’s “Game,” which tackles a playful tale of gambles and risks. In addition, the song “Fanfare” is both a mood and feet lifter, as its infectious beat causes listeners to move with a smile on their faces. Each track from the album’s discography is one to revel in and appreciate.

 

1. TOMORROW X TOGETHER – “The Chaos Chapter: FIGHT OR ESCAPE”

With each release from the group Tomorrow X Together, their impact on their supporters continues to grow. Each release from this musical series is incredible 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 to the Western pop-punk feel, the lyrics and production solidify its authenticity as a classic from the group. Each song from the soulful track “Anti-Romantic” to the optimistic and English-track “Magic” is crafted with care and attention. My favorite track is “Frost,” which came as a shock to me when I first listened to the album. Its incorporation of chimes and technological beats surprisingly works well, plus the almost-yelling lyrics which show how passionate the members are while singing this emotional track. As their previous story (“The Dream Chapter”) has come to a halt, fans and newcomers alike can anticipate what this new story and group have to offer.

 

Sierra Thornton can be reached at [email protected]