Each year, it feels like my B-Sides and Album Tracks list grows stronger and stronger. Too often, K-pop agencies miss the boat on releasing these incredible songs as title tracks. 2021 was no different, revealing a host of gems that would have topped my Singles list had they been promoted. Instead, I’ve got two days of standouts to unveil.
This countdown encompasses any track that didn’t receive a full music video. This includes album tracks, as well as songs that may have been performed but never actively promoted. It also includes Japanese b-sides from Korean acts. Just like the Top 50 Singles list, all songs here were released between December 1st, 2020 and November 30th, 2021.
VERIVERY – Underdog
Golden Child – Cool Cool
Dreamcatcher – Whistle
ONEUS – I.P.U
Twice – Scandal
Astro – Footprint
Key – Helium
Lucy – Stove
Everglow – Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
fromis_9 – Airplane Mode
2021 YEAR-END MASTERPOST
40. ONF – TRIP ADVISOR
Abandoning their most experimental tendencies, ONF reigned things in for a blast of warm, retro funk pop. The chorus is sublime.
39. OMEGA X – YOUNGER
Nostalgia is one of my favorite facets of music, movies, dramas, etc. I guess part of this comes with age. Younger hits the wistful sentimentality hard, driven by its surging melody and spoken-word flashbacks. (full review)
38. U-KNOW – NEED YOU RIGHT NOW
Need You Right Now harnesses a simple hook that builds and builds alongside its sophisticated synth-pop groove. The rhythm is so addictive. (full review)
37. NU’EST – ROCKET ROCKET (REN SOLO)
Ren finally gets to unleash his inner Lady Gaga over a hard-hitting club beat. Rocket Rocket makes me ache for a full solo project — especially if it ends up being this fun. (full review)
36. ONEUS – ONLY ONE
The first Japanese track on this list, Only One catches ONEUS in full-on propulsive mode. The entire song feels in acceleration, speeding and swerving toward a slick chorus. (full review)
35. NCT 127 – BREAKFAST
NCT’s album tracks proved more exciting than their titles in 2021, and Breakfast is simply begging for a music video. Like many songs on my list, its beat is irresistibly groovy. (full review)
34. AESPA – YEPPI YEPPI
Even as I tire of everyone seeking to be the next ITZY, aespa prove they have what it takes to elevate the sound. Yeppi Yeppi is a sugar rush of a highlight, buoyed by their strong vocals. (full review)
33. CIX – GENIE IN A BOTTLE
CIX continued to show their versatility with the nimble funk of Genie In A Bottle. Every second is a shot of dynamic rhythm, climaxing in a super sticky hook. (full review)
32. LUCY – RUN TO YOU
I don’t often love OST songs, but Lucy’s Run To You stands apart from its (admittedly great) drama thanks to one of the group’s most insistent choruses. That melody is perfection.
31. ONEUS – YOUTH
Speaking of choruses and melody, ONEUS are so fantastic when they pull back the bombast and focus on the basics. Youth boasts an incredible hook. I love the vocal interplay, utilizing the guys’ varying textures to maximum effect.
30. MIRAE – WE ARE FUTURE
One half of a two-part statement of intent, We Are Future introduces Mirae in fabulous fashion. The song’s jagged synths and swaggering chorus combine to create a confident first step into the industry. (full review)
29. GHOST9 – UNO
UNO kicks off with so much blustering boy group noise, but soon reveals itself to be something far more interesting. The towering chorus is a triumph, segueing into a double-time breakdown guaranteed to raise your pulse.
28. ONLYONEOF – INSTINCT
After the overwhelming intensity of title track libidO, Instinct‘s strummed guitar wafts in to clear the air. I adore it in context of the album, but even on its own this is an unstoppable head-nodder. (full review)
27. DREAMCATCHER – WIND BLOWS
I’ve always preferred Dreamcatcher’s rock-meets-electro hybrids over their more straightforward fare, and Wind Blows is an excellent example. It packs anthemic melody over a driving, strings-assisted beat and clobbering EDM breakdown.
26. ONEUS – INCOMPLETE
I became a huge Seoho admirer this year. His vocals are just riveting, and songs like Incomplete really show this off. Of course, the group is packed with talent and everyone gets time to shine on this stirring track. Pair it with Golden Child’s Burn It for a double shot of huge, sung choruses. (full review)
25. TWICE – F.I.L.A (FALL IN LOVE AGAIN)
Twice + disco = a perfect match, especially when they tackle tropes that feel authentic to the genre. F.I.L.A is all icy strings, rhythm guitar and coquettish vocals, yet conveys a strength and confidence well-earned from years in the business. (full review)
24. WOODZ – KISS OF FIRE
Billed as a double title track, no music video ever materialized for Kiss Of Fire. It’s such a shame, because this is Woodz at his most powerful, emoting over a chugging beat and charismatic melody. He sells every moment of this song and brings satisfying grit to its slick hooks.
23. SEVENTEEN – ANYONE
Seventeen’s 2021 peak arrives courtesy of the tense, groovy Anyone. It’s their strongest melody in ages, framed by dark, broiling production that lends a dark sheen to the hook’s desperate plea. The live performance elevates things even further. (full review)
22. GOLDEN CHILD – ROUND N ROUND
Round N Round‘s stop-start nature creates a fitful energy in the best way. You never quite know where the song is going to go, but Golden Child steer you along the bumpy course with utter panache. The slinky pre-chorus and bridge are total standouts. (full review)
21. KEY – YELLOW TAPE
Key borrows SHINee’s iconic bombast for the dramatic, percolating Yellow Tape. Peppered with blasts of searing guitar, the insistent beat underlines a track in full motion. Key’s natural showmanship seals the deal, making this a definite solo highlight. (full review)