These Were The 15 Best K-Pop Songs From The First Half Of 2021, According To NME

This British magazine has great taste!

Recently, the British magazine NME, which produces content on music and pop culture, released a list of the 15 K-Pop songs that they believe were the best from the first half of 2021. While of course the list is subjective, there’s no denying that the songs that they chose are all certified bops! Not ranked in any particular order, here are NME’s choices for the best K-Pop songs from 2021 so far.

1. “Butter” by BTS

“Butter” is BTS’s most recent English hit, released on May 21 as a digital single and set to star on their upcoming Butter album to be released later this month. The main music video already has nearly 430 million views, as well as 18.2 million likes and 7.85 million comments!

“Butter”, with its supremely confident attitude and peacocking groove, is perfect for soundtracking struts around sun-baked streets this season, while the sticky, sweltering atmosphere in its crunching bassline and glistening synths is ideal for nights in sweaty clubs (or daydreaming about being back in one).

— NME writer Rhian Daly

2. “Bicycle” by Chungha

“Bicycle” is the lead track off of Chungha’s first full-length studio album, Querencia, which was released on February 15 this year after a couple-month delay due to the artist contracting COVID-19. One of her most powerful songs yet, the music video has reached nearly 35 million views, along with 686.4k likes!

It exudes the fiery spirit of empowerment and is so unshakeably self-assured it’s hard to argue with her. Instead, you’ll want to jump up on the seat behind Chungha and shoot off into the distance with her.

— NME writer Rhian Daly

3. “You Make Me” by DAY6

“You Make Me” is DAY6’s title track for the last album in their The Book Of Us series, Negentropy. Released on April 19 after an extended hiatus for the members to focus on their mental health, the comeback was highly anticipated, and didn’t disappoint!

DAY6 have constantly used their music to advocate for mental health, and [“You Make Me”] is no different. It’s a timely and empowering reminder in the midst of a global pandemic – a friendly note to self that ‘being alive is scary and tough’, but after every storm, there’s bound to be a rainbow.

— NME writer Sofiana Ramli

4. “Yeonnam-dong” by Dvwn ft. IllBOI

“Yeonnam-dong” is the title track off of Dvwn’s debut album, It’s Not Your Fault, as an artist under KOZ Entertainment, the label created by Zico (and, thus, under HYBE Entertainment). It was released on April 26, and is also the soloist’s longest album so far with 8 total tracks!

As chill as the song may be, its easy-going vibe isn’t all that it seems; peek into the lyrics and you’ll find a melancholy that is oddly comforting and relatable.

— NME writer Ruby C

5. “Rosario” by Epik High ft. CL & Zico

“Rosario” served as the lead single off of Epik High’s first much-anticipated album since 2019, Epik High is Here 上 (Part 1), which was released on January 18. The trio, paired with legendary feature artists CL and Zico, did not disappoint with this intense track, and has fans anticipating Part 2 set to come out later this year!

The angsty, dark and intimate affirmation to battling inner and external tormentors isn’t all aggrieved – but it does assert reclaiming of oneself, despite the obvious scars. Plus, Tablo spitting ‘Moment of silence’ is a simply breathtaking ending to the song.

— NME writer Mariel Abanes

6. “First” by EVERGLOW

The title track off of EVERGLOW’s latest album released on May 25, Last Melody, “First” is yet another banger from this young but already much-loved and talented group. The music video has already reached over 60 million views and is close to a million likes, and the album is also their second best-selling with 37k sales!

Building on of their signature heavy-hitting EDM sound fans have come to know and love, EVERGLOW have outdone themselves with the song’s kickass, hip-hop-influenced choreography. “First” truly is the whole package, showing off the group’s undeniable vocal prowess and ferocious stage presence.

— NME writer Gladys Yeo

7. “Happen” by Heize

“Happen” is the title track off of her latest album with the same name, released on May 20 this year. The first album and lead single from the artist after she signed with P Nation, the music video for the song is nearing 10 million views!

Here, the singer-songwriter and rapper presents her case for how things seem to happen in their own time and place: ‘To call it fate / Feels all too achievable / To call it a coincidence / Would need an explanation’. But all it takes is one out-of-place variable to create a completely different outcome. Food for thought, indeed.

— NME writer Ruby C

8. “Spider” by Hoshi

Hoshi’s solo debut “Spider”, which came out on April 2, blew fans away with the artist’s smooth, cool vocals and stunning self-choreography. As his first release outside of SEVENTEEN, it’s definitely been a successful hit, and the music video already has over 11 million views and nearly a million likes!

The visual for “Spider” wraps Hoshi’s offering up with a big shiny bow in the form of his stellar self-made choreography. In a captivating sequence of dances, the K-pop idol tells the story of a man who can’t escape from a spider-like lover. Hoshi successfully manages to encapsulate the concept’s essence through his soft yet precise movements.

— NME writer Carmen Chin

9. “Lilac” by IU

“Lilac” is the latest title track in IU’s nearly 13-year-long career, and serves as the lead single for her album of the same name released on March 25. Lilac has quickly become her best-selling album to date with nearly 375 million sales, and the music video for “Lilac” has reached over 40 million views as well!

“Lilac” serves as a fitting conclusion to [IU’s] coming-of-age story. A fizzy city pop-inspired toast to her golden years, “Lilac
isn’t just an ode to IU’s roaring twenties, but also a celebration of life.

— NME writer Sofiana Ramli

10. “Atlantis” by SHINee

Serving as the title track for the repackaged version of their Don’t Call Me album, Atlantis, this single of the same name was released on April 12 and gave SHINee fans even more beautiful new music to listen to from the group for the first time since 2018. The music video has over 20 million views, and together both Don’t Call Me and the repackaged album have sold just under 450k copies!

While SHINee’s sound has evolved and taken countless forms over the years, the funky, electro pop-driven “Atlantis” feels strangely nostalgic. To longtime fans, “Atlantis” is undoubtedly reminiscent of classic SHINee hits such as “Lucifer” and “Sherlock (Clue + Note)”.

— NME writer Gladys Yeo

11. “ASAP” by STAYC

STAYC is still a very young rookie group, but they’ve already proven their worth in the K-Pop industry with their debut as well as their latest album, Staydom, released on April 8 with the title track “ASAP”. The music video has already reached impressive numbers for a rookie group with well over 30 million views, and the album has also sold an incredible 70k units!

Gone is the bombastic and in-your-face vibe of more recent title tracks by other girl groups, giving way to a more delicate, low-key production. But don’t let the song’s modest nature fool you. Its weird but wonderful combination of bubblegum pop and sensual R&B, though initially confusing, becomes an enchanting potion that only STAYC’s hit-making producers Black Eyed Pilseung could craft.

— NME writer Puah Ziwei

12. “Tail” by Sunmi

“Tail” is the title track off of Sunmi’s latest album of the same name, released on February 23. The choreography for the song was particularly unique, sensual, and interesting to watch, with the performance-heavy music video reaching around 32 million views as well as over 700k likes!

Sunmi has tried her hand at almost every genre and concept over her 14-year career as a K-pop idol, but for the first time in a long time the celebrated soloist has returned to the sultry, seductive sound of her solo debut album Full Moon. We’re all better off for it: “Tail” evokes the tantalising magnetism of 2013’s “24 Hours” and her 2014 single “Full Moon”, but with the added benefit of maturity and creative freedom.

— NME writer Puah Ziwei

13. “Like Water” by Wendy

“Like Water” was the title track off of the Red Velvet member’s solo debut album, which came after an over year-long hiatus due to the serious injuries she suffered in late 2019. This main vocalist was also the first member of the group to have a solo release, and the album did incredibly well with just under 175k total sales.

The straightforward metaphor is a plus for Wendy: People needing people, like how everything in the world needs one of the most basic things – water – has a simple yet poetic symbolism that the K-Pop idol effortlessly interprets. Wendy’s honest approach makes what could have been an otherwise ordinary single that much more meaningful and special.

— NME writer Mariel Abanes

14. “Unnatural” by Cosmic Girls

Working as the lead single off of the same-name album released on March 31, “Unnatural” is already one of Cosmic Girls’ most successful songs to date, with the music video already over 14 million views. The album is also their third best-selling at over 92k total sales!

“Unnatural” is a song of forceful yet pleasant contrasts, quickly erupting into a fully-throated chorus from its gentle opening verses. Despite the variety of sounds the track presents, a strong, constant beat sits at its core.

— NME writer Carmen Chin

15. “Ain’t About You” by Wonho ft. Kiiara

And finally, “Ain’t About You” isn’t actually the lead single off of the album it’s on — Love Synonym Pt.2: Right for Us — since that title goes to the song “Lose”. It’s still, however, a beautiful track with an aesthetic music video featuring American singer-songwriter Kiiara, and the release of this song and album on February 26 continues to prove that Wonho is doing well on his own as a soloist.

‘I wish it wasn’t hell / To love you more than you love yourself’, the duo tell each other, adding how a ‘love that hurts like this [is] so hard to resist’. It’ll also be hard to resist blasting this catchy bop at top volume, while on a long highway drive with the windows down.

— NME writer Ruby C

Source: NME and Image (1), (2) and (3)