TIME picks best K-pop songs of first half of 2021, includes IU, aespa, STAYC
If back in 2003, someone would have told Epik High and other rookie groups that K-pop would become a global phenomenon, they would have probably laughed. But 18 years later, that is exactly what has happened. Thanks to the spread of the Hallyu Wave, music has finally crossed the barrier of language, with people listening to music from countries whose language they might not know. Whether it was PSY’s Gangnam Style that took over the world or Luis Fonsi’s Despacito, people have finally started to open up to new kinds of music. Being acknowledged by the likes of TIME, Billboard or Rolling Stone is on a whole other level that is now very much possible.
With the second half of 2021 beginning, TIME decided to look at all of the K-pop songs released in the first half of the year and curated a list of their favorites. And while the pandemic might have brought the rest of the world to a standstill, K-pop was not affected with artists continuing to release a lot of songs for their fans. This is why TIME had to go through a diverse range of sub-genres and artists before they could pick their top 10 favorites. From hip-hop to R&B and dance-pop, they picked stars like B.I as well as fourth-gen groups like TXT.
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TIME’s 10 best K-Pop songs of 2021 so far
In no particular order, they included WEEEKLY’s ‘After School’, TXT’s ‘0X1=Lovesong (I Know I Love You)’, former iKON member, B.I’s title track from his debut EP, ‘illa illa’, IU’s ‘Lilac’, EXO Baekhyun’s solo single, ‘Bambi’, STAYC’s ‘ASAP’, ONF’s ‘Beautiful Beautiful’, Cherry Bullet’s ‘Love So Sweet’, aespa’s ‘Next Level’ and Epik High’s ‘Rosario’ featuring CL and Zico.
The list is an impressive curation of songs from underrated groups and artists to K-pop stars who have proved their success with outstanding tracks. Soloists like B.I, IU, EXO’s Baekhyun and the K-pop band Epik High made their mark by charting their tracks on several reputable K-pop charts as well as Billboard and iTunes. On the other hand, we had K-pop groups with the upbeat track, ‘After School’ which trended on TikTok for its catchy dance moves, while TXT’s rock song even beat BTS’ 'Butter' on KBS’ 'Music Bank'. ‘ASAP’ showed us a laidback side of STAYC as ONF gave us a sci-fi techno summer bop with ‘Beautiful Beautiful’. Finally, Cherry Bullet and aespa were two opposite ends of the spectrum with a dance-pop and hip-hop dance track respectively that equally gets the listener hyped.
A WEEEKLY fan was excited that 'After School' was included and tweeted, “a song that brings me happiness.” A MOA fan tweeted, “#0X1LOVESONG is one of the best song in 2021! No skip song in their album.” Fans were waiting for B.I for so long that this kind of recognition felt even more touching: “feeling emotional after seeing this article - illa illa by Hanbin (B.I) as one of the best kpop songs of 2021 so far according to Time Magazine. @shxx131bi131 IDs are proud!!” An IU fan tweeted, “IU lilac in TIME’s best kpop songs of 2021 so far, i’m so happy seeing all these good reviews for her she really got both commercial success & music critics acclaims.”
a song that brings me happiness #Weeekly #위클리 @_Weeekly— angie | #WeeeklyWeeek (@moaketcheee) July 2, 2021
#TOMORROW_X_TOGETHER #0X1LOVESONG is one of the best song in 2021! No skip song in their album - #TXT_FREEZE #TheChaosChapter Do check them out! @TXT_members @TXT_bighit https://t.co/RxcwfTtRwx— nvmoo (@nvmoonv) July 2, 2021
feeling emotional after seeing this article - illa illa by Hanbin (B.I) as one of the best kpop songs of 2021 so far according to Time Magazine. @shxx131bi131 IDs are proud!! https://t.co/nxvuDlPwWn #Hanbin #비아이 pic.twitter.com/TO6hswZsOd https://t.co/v0KBEZoGuQ pic.twitter.com/vpSBytAHLv— K_POP_NEWS (@K_POP_NEWS) July 2, 2021
IU lilac in TIME’s best kpop songs of 2021 so far, i’m so happy seeing all these good reviews for her she really got both commercial success & music critics acclaims ❤️https://t.co/8R5kn07LoT pic.twitter.com/VuNTAISeep— 🐱💘stream lilac & negentropy (@bblvsty2) July 2, 2021
An EXO-L tweeted, “serving visuals serving vocals serving the country BAEKHYUN REALLY DOES IT ALL.” A STAYC fan was excited as they tweeted, “STAYC GIRLS IT’S GOING DOWN.” An ONF fan agreed to the list tweeting, “YEAHHHH ONF BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL SOTY.” A Lullet tweeted about 'Love So Sweet', “it's honestly a gem, both song and music video were unusual but SO GOOD ??? it's addictive.” An aespa fan tweeted, “yasss aespa monster rookies !!!” An Epik High fan tweeted, “An "anthem of victory"! Thank you Epik high for giving us this powerful song.”
serving visuals ✅— violet ᴸ⁻¹⁴⁸⁵ 🪐✨| DFTF (@discoplanet1485) July 2, 2021
serving vocals ✅
serving the country ✅
BAEKHYUN REALLY DOES IT ALL ❣@B_hundred_Hyun #BAEKHYUN pic.twitter.com/IsNDw8lDzl
STAYC GIRLS IT’S GOING DOWN pic.twitter.com/Cyfip17vxE— T🍏 (@seladonapple) July 2, 2021
YEAHHHH ONF BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL SOTY💡💡💡💡💡💡 #ONF #온앤오프— tracey :D (@sparklingjoons) July 2, 2021
it's honestly a gem, both song and music video were unusual but SO GOOD ??? it's addictive— Kath 💜 (@kath_pastel) July 2, 2021
yasss aespa monster rookies !!! <3— pía♡ snsd & aespa lovebot ♀️ (@khytrash) July 2, 2021
에스파 카리나 #에스파 #카리나 #aespa #KARINA @aespa_official
An "anthem of victory"! Thank you Epik high for giving us this powerful song. pic.twitter.com/BcX8pvNDwE— Just Dreaming ❄️🦋❄️ (@lovingKMinSeok) July 2, 2021