Top 50 Korean Singles of 2021 (10-1)

Updated: Mar 16

It's finally here! My top 10 Korean singles of 2021!

Honestly, this whole process was challenging to approach. Not only was it difficult to rank each song, but there are other singles that I haven't heard yet that may be on this list in the future. Due to these factors, this list isn't final and may be updated.

However, I'm pleased with the tracks I listed. If you ask me, I thought Korea had a great year in music! Retro continued to dominate, tracks rediscovered groove, a handful of summer anthems released, and some artists discovered new sounds. Looking back, I think 2021 is another great year for Korean music!

With that said, my top 10 is amazing! Each song has its characteristic worthy of being on this list. I wouldn't be surprised if most of these songs become legendary in the future. That's how strong this top 10 is!

Without further ado, I present you the grand finale of the 'Top 50 Korean Singles of 2021'. Enjoy!


10. BDC- Moon Rider

Picking a song for the 10th spot was difficult. I could've chosen viable candidates such as Breathe, Killa, and Trigger. In the end, I went with Moon Rider due to its production and project it was part of.

BDC released the "Moon" trilogy, more accurately the "Intersection" trilogy. Sure, it didn't make waves in the K-Pop industry, but it was an admirable project. Out of the three "Moon" singles, Moon Rider is the most convincing.

Rider lacks the out-of-this-world energy, but that's the weakness it accepted, laser-focusing on its strength instead. The single is incredibly sleek, incorporating a bass guitar to drive the song forward. Once we hit that chorus, it's all melody with a driving instrumental that makes an impact on the ears. The secondary chorus is even more satisfying, as a stab of strings and the phrase "I'm a moon rider" injects a sense of dramatic flair!

It's hard to project if this song will stay in my top 10, but it deserves a mention for one of the best Korean singles of 2021!

9. UP10TION- Spin Off

While the 10th spot was hard to decide, I was sold on my top nine. My ninth pick comes from a relatively unknown group. It's a bit of a shame because UP10TION has delivered some solid tracks. Though I admit, their songs aren't going to cater to the general public.

That being said, this group can release a high-quality track, and it showed through Spin Off.

While there's nothing revolutionary nor was there any importance, Spin Off is ranked high because the production is electrifying and enjoyable!

The instrumental is strong, particularly with that synthesizer. But, the highlight for me was the melody during the chorus. I don't know why, but the melody has a classic J-Pop feel to it. It's all about being fun and explosive simultaneously.

The second verse is its only downside, but I personally don't mind it. Besides, how can I say no to this track when its chorus is compelling? It's a pure knockout punch!

8. Brave Girls- Chi Mat Ba Ram

Projecting Brave Girls to be popular during 2021 would be unbelievable. To those that don't know, this group debuted in 2011(!) but never broke out to be popular among the public. They were on the verge of disbanding in early 2021 until their 2017 single Rollin' went viral.

Due to the viral video, demands for Brave Girls were immense. Fortunately, the group struck while the iron was hot. Not only did they return to perform their 2017 hit on stages, but they also decided to release more music.

Chi Mat Ba Ram was much-anticipated. How will they come back after their resurgence? Well, will let Brave Girls explain that:

"We're gonna be Summer Queens"

Despite the instrumental and theme being predictable, the purpose of the track was to be a summer anthem- and it IS!

It's all about the energy the girls brought in. Their voices are the main reason why this track is commendable. The instrumental is solid, but that alone can't catapult Chi Mat Ba Ram near the top.

We have all longed for a "Summer Queen" ever since SISTAR disbanded. Brave Girls successfully delivered a song that sounds like a summer classic. Let's hope this is the start of a great career for the group!

7. OnlyOneOf- libidO

A concept like this is rare in K-Pop. A song with sexual desire as the theme? Sounds like something Brown Eyed Girls would do. Well, OnlyOneOf weren't afraid of delivering this concept, and boy was this something!

libidO is such an intriguing song. There's no catchiness involved, nor was there something energetic about this track. Yet, the single catch you by surprise with its enthralling production. It's as if it belongs to the industrial genre of music. This doesn't sound like your typical K-Pop song.

The percussion and warped vocal melodies are bewitching to listen to. It's almost like they're casting a spell on you to not escape its production, no matter how odd the style is. It's not a track that allows your head to move up and down, nor does it allow your body to dance. It simply keeps you engaged because it's bewildering captivating!

6. Golden Child- Burn It

If there was any indicator that Korea will have a great year in music, it would be Burn It. This was released in January, acting as a teaser for what type of quality the music industry in Korea will deliver.

Golden Child's singles tend to be upbeat and bright, but Burn It sees them going in a new direction for a brief moment. The song is inspired by tropical music, a genre that can be annoying if it conforms to the sound of popularity rather than cohesiveness. This single revolves more around the latter.

The lone synthesizer is tasty, but there's a sense of sentiment found within that instrument. The vocal performances made it clear that this track isn't meant for you to party. Instead, it enforces you to fight through rough situations.

The post-chorus is the most intriguing section of the song. It revolves around the repetition of "Burn It" and the dramatic "Oh", both delivered over the sentimental synth to ignite a soul-stirring emotion.

Honestly, this could be a soundtrack for us to fight over the pandemic. That's why Burn It is a definite early highlight!

5. TXT ft. Seori- 0X1=Lovesong

Like I mentioned in TXT's Loser=Lover, the transition to rock with an emo inspiration was the main factor in the group's extraordinary discography during 2021. 0x1=Lovesong, in particular, is the pinnacle of their transition.

Before this, who would've guessed that this group would go from pop to rock? I don't think anybody predicted this outcome, but it was a more-than-pleasant surprise. The guys knew how to approach the sound with angst!

While the verses opted for a gentle approach, the chorus operates like a snowstorm!

The melodies are colossal, and it helps that the percussion sounds like something that's made for stadiums. During the post-chorus, Seori's voice blends with the member's vocals very well, and the arena-like "Oh" gives this section a sing-along experience.

Taehyun mentioned "drug" in the chorus, and that's what I would use to describe this track. It's an irrefutable drug you can't stop taking. More appropriate, it's an amazing song you can't stop listening to!

4. Brave Girls- After We Ride

If Chi Mat Ba Ram isn't your style, then After We Ride will earn your respect!

After giving us summer bops, the girls took a melancholic approach with this track. And what better way to do that than use the retro sound?

It's a shame this single wasn't promoted. The synths, guitar, and vocals make this an effective tears-on-the-dancefloor track! Beyond that, I see this as a personal letter from the group, thanking us for giving them another chance as they cry tears of happiness.

The future looks bright for Brave Girls. Hopefully, they can release high-quality tracks in the future. Until then, this is the best return gift we didn’t expect to receive.

3. SHINee- Atlantis

From here, the list treads toward S-tier territory. To start, we have the legendary K-Pop group SHINee!

Before this release, their studio album, Don't Call Me, came out as one of my favorite albums of 2021! Although, the lead single, as solid as it sounds, didn't impress me enough. Fortunately, the group came back with a stronger single in the form of Atlantis.

Tracks like this show why SHINee is an accomplished group. Over an enticing bass loop, the song gave us multiple highlights for amazement. Highlights include the chorus, Minho's rap, and Onew's long note. However, I feel like the single itself doesn't sell itself with the highlights I mentioned. It sells itself as a WHOLE!

With mighty vocals and a tight instrumental, Atlantis is another single that extends SHINee's catalog of incredible songs. Let's hope this doesn't end the consistency for K-Pop's awe-inspiring group!

2. ONF- Beautiful Beautiful

In early January, there was a notion that boy groups were favoring dark, moody singles that turned out to be... not great. It seems like the bright concepts were going to go extinct. It's not a sound that the general public would instantly fall in love with. Well, ONF ignored that opinion and released Beautiful Beautiful.

This single isn't just good... it's a highlight! The verses are lively, making sure the track stays on its feet as it's all about being animated. The vocals are vibrant and the instrumental is incredibly funky. Fun stabs of synthesizers are sprinkled to give this song a tastier appeal.

Then we have the chorus.

The melody here is fully embraced by ONF, transforming it into something greater. The "Brrram bbabam bbabam bbambbam" phrase during the secondary chorus isn't creative, but it's delivered in a way that you can't scoff at after hearing the first part of the chorus.

However, the true highlight comes during the bridge. In particular, Hyojin's high note to the acapella is the section that I'm sure everyone will attach to greatly.

Taking all of these aspects into account, it's no wonder this song became the group's highest-charted single on Gaon. ONF had an amazing, busy year, and Beautiful Beautiful is the cherry on top of the group’s incredible 2021!

1. Key- Bad Love

Like I mentioned at the start, retro continued to dominate the music industry. A handful of retro tracks made it on my list, but none compared to the behemoth which is Bad Love. Not only is it the best retro singles, but it's one of the best singles of 2021!

For those that don't know, Key is a member of SHINee, making him one of the artists featured multiple times on this list! This shows that not only can he deliver something amazing in a group, but he can also deliver an amazing song as a soloist!

Everything about Bad Love is satisfying! From Key's taut vocal performance to the fun electronic arrangements, it's easy to see why this single became irresistible. The production is conclusively vigorous!

While the track is strong as a whole, its chorus remains the ultimate winner!

The mixing of his main vocals and ad-libs is incredible! It's like hearing two Keys singing this chorus. The instrumental, particularly the synth, gives the chorus a healthy backbone. I can't describe it more in words, as this song is a must-listen!

With retro dominating the music industry in the past couple of years, Key's Bad Love shows why the genre isn't going away. Producing a persuasive instrumental and vocal presentation can elevate a retro song to the top, and that's exactly why Bad Love found its way at the top of my list!

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