16 Underrated Korean Songs From The First Half Of 2021 You Won’t Want To Miss
It’s that time of year again! We’re already at the halfway point of 2021, which means it’s time to look back over the last six months of K-pop releases and uncover some hidden gems. From groovy bops to soul-stirring ballads, this list features 16 Korean songs that you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss. Fair warning before you read on: you might just walk away a newly-minted stan of some of these underrated artists or groups!
1. “Don’t play me love” — DAVII feat. PENTAGON’s Kino
If you don’t know DAVII, the irresistibly addicting “Don’t play me love” is a perfect introduction to this talented singer-producer. DAVII strikes a flirtatious tone over a plucky instrumental that kicks into a full-on dance track — before his signature jazzy sound is introduced via fluttering piano notes and rich chords. The song builds towards climatic harmonies and vocal play between DAVII and Kino, whose smooth voice is the perfect feature for this sexy track.
2. “Sneakers” — Ha Sung Woon
Ha Sung Woon never disappoints, and “Sneakers” is an absolute gem! The track grows from a soothing verse to an expansive chorus that invokes a sense of adventure and wonder. Airy and bright, this one is an instant mood-lifter, in large part thanks to the youthful energy brought by Ha Sung Woon’s soothing vocals.
3. “Abittipsy” — Youha
Even if you were never crazy about the retro trend sweeping K-pop for the past year or so, you might just find yourself loving Youha’s “Abittipsy.” The song’s synths are so sparkly that they lend the track a warm glow but still leave room for Youha’s vocals — at times soft and wistful, at times soaring and powerful — to shine!
4. “Rain To Be” — ONEWE
“Rain To Be” begins with a guitar riff that is at once attention-grabbing and contemplative, soon breaking into a breathless chorus that is undeniably catchy! The song maintains a fairytale-like vibe throughout, carried through the group’s variety of instruments and, of course, the standout vocals we expect from ONEWE.
5. “Alone” — Babylon with Lee Hyori
“Alone” is an absolutely stunning ballad from Babylon (of “Boys and Girls” fame), with a lofty, echoey production that gives it an almost spiritual quality. The vocal-focused song, which was written, composed, and produced by Lee Hyori, opens up for a haunting electric guitar interlude before closing with some gorgeous harmonies from Babylon. Seriously, get ready to have your heartstrings pulled at with this one.
6. “Make Up Your Mind” — Ailee
It may be called “Make Up Your Mind,” but this Ailee song is not in a hurry: soothing and wholesome, the track offers a chill beat that accentuates the soloist’s famous voice. The chorus’s drop gives the track an expansive, almost buoyant feeling that keeps it interesting but makes it perfect for lazy-day listening!
7. “Loved You” — BAE173
“Loved You” is BAE173’s follow-up to their debut last year with “Crush on U,” and the song has kept a lower profile despite being arguably a stronger release. “Loved You” is simple yet heartwarming, with a catchy instrumental refrain that is complemented by the wistful vocals of the group, which includes two former X1 members. The track offers something new with every repeat of its chorus: the highlight comes when the instrumental drops out for the song’s second-to-last refrain, leaving just the group’s raw vocals.
8. “Purple” — woo!ah!
From its first beats, “Purple” reveals itself to be refreshingly unique, and it leans into this quality on its chorus of “let’s make purple”: this quirky song gets stuck in your head like no other! Plus, woo!ah! reveals themselves to be a vocally talented group, giving “Purple” a little more power and elevating it to the next level.
9. “Higher” — A.C.E
Honestly, A.C.E can do no wrong, and while the ethereal verses in “Higher” are quite different from the song’s explosive chorus, the group manages to seamlessly transition between these two elements. This keeps the track interesting and makes the nimble rhythm of the chorus stand out even more. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the song is packaged in a gorgeous MV!
10. “I Wouldn’t Look For You” — Kim Jae Hwan
Kim Jae Hwan’s releases are consistently strong, yet he consistently flies under people’s radars. Understated yet powerful, “I Wouldn’t Look For You” derives its emotional thrust from the singer’s vocals. In a song about a couple promising to sever ties for good, Jae Hwan alters between subdued and impassioned, portraying the pain of trying to move on while feelings linger.
11. “Can We Talk Again” — PURPLE KISS
Expectations were high for RBW’s new girl group, and while their debut single “Ponzona” received the most attention, their pre-debut track “Can We Talk Again” is equally as strong. A mournful ballad about not being able to get over a breakup, the song has PURPLE KISS showcasing a soulfulness and maturity that not many groups — let alone freshly-debuted ones — can pull off.
12. “Moonshot” — N.Flying
N.Flying hit it big with “Rooftop,” but their other songs are continually under-appreciated. The group’s simmering single “Moonshot” is indisputably a track for summer nights, and we’re totally here for this lilting band sound. Underlaid by a strong beat with a flair of brass, the lyrics boldly demand that you abandon fear — and of course, N.Flying has the vocal chops to match this strong message.
13. “Poison” — Pink Fantasy
“Poison” takes on a dark concept that Dreamcatcher fans in particular will love, but Pink Fantasy differentiates themselves by leaning hard into the metal vibes — notably with a loud scream after the first chorus. A vocal- and piano-heavy bridge showcases the ladies’ talent and offers a brief rest before the song dives into an amped up finale, complete with electric guitar.
14. “SPIN OFF” — UP10TION
UP10TION delivers a burst of dynamic energy in “SPIN OFF,” which opens boldly and never looks back. The track’s epic and lofty chorus is undoubtedly one of the most memorable of 2021 and yet another reminder that UP10TION remains criminally underrated despite releasing bop after bop.
15. “DADADA” — LUNARSOLAR
“DADADA” is LUNARSOLAR’s second single following their debut track “OH YA YA YA,” and it’s a strong release, especially for a group that has been around for less than a year. Bold chanting and raps give way to a fun chorus, proving that LUNARSOLAR is a girl crush group worthy of our attention.
16. “Son of Beast” — TO1
“Son of Beast” is more high-profile than most of the songs on this list — but considering how strong this release is, it really got slept on. Marking TO1’s re-debut under a new name and agency, “Son of Beast” both simmers with tension and drips with funky confidence. From the fun “whoo!” in the chorus to the hype, overlaid chants in the last refrain, there’s a lot to love in this track!
Hey Soompiers, did you find any new songs to love in this article? Are there any other 2021 tracks you think are totally underrated? Let us know in the comments!
hgordon stays up way too late on weeknights marathoning K-dramas and trying to keep up with the latest K-pop releases.