A Look At K-pop (July 2021-December 2021)

It’s a new year, and you know what that means. I have more K-pop to talk about! I must confess I did not listen to as much as I wanted to from July to December of 2021, nor did I have time to write about as many comebacks as I wanted. So I am sorry to report that a few relatively big comebacks are missing here, but that’s not going to stop me from expressing the thoughts that I do have.

Something to note for this particular article is that there were several groups in this half of the year that released more than one title track, either on the same album or as a repackage, and I really enjoyed most of them. Normally, I choose one or the other for a group and discuss the other in my honorable mentions, but because everything was so good this time around I decided to give all of them attention. That’s why there’s some entries here that are longer than others. I just wanted to clarify because I don’t want any assumptions that I talked about ATEEZ or NCT 127 for longer because I like them more, I really try to give groups as equal attention as possible even if I do have favorites.

Alright, if you read my last article, you know the drill. Enjoy my rambling thoughts!

July 30: Dreamcatcher – BEcause

Prior to its release, Dreamcatcher told us to anticipate BEcause and the EP that accompanied it as a refreshing, summery break from their usual gothic, metal-infused style. I don’t think they entirely lied, it definitely has a different vibe to it. However the heavy guitar riffs certainly didn’t leave, and the abandoned summer carnival they’re hanging around in in the MV sure looks like at least one person died there. I’m not annoyed about this in the slightest, I just originally thought they would be doing something completely different, especially after Yoohyeon mentioned their next concept would be “cute”. The girls looked lovely of course, but I wouldn’t call this comeback “cute”, necessarily.

All this aside, I think this was one of their most visually interesting MVs, and the song is really good! What stood out to me most was that the chorus is more calm and fluid than the verses are, which I think might be a first for Dreamcatcher. Normally the guitar just slams in after the buildup, which adds to the power of their other songs, but I like how it’s sort of the opposite here. It almost feels like a Latin dance in melody and beat at that point, which is a stark contrast to the hard guitar from the prechorus. And as I’ve already mentioned, the girls perform BEcause in a haunted summer carnival, which provides a really interesting aesthetic. It’s not really my favorite, but it makes for an interesting addition to Dreamcatcher’s discography, for sure.

August 16: Red Velvet – Queendom

It wasn’t until recently that I truly realized how much of a Reveluv I am, and with Red Velvet’s general silence aside from solo releases since COVID started I didn’t spend a lot of time with them in my early days listening to K-pop. I’m hesitant with any girl groups that have a somewhat cute concept, only because it really isn’t my preference, especially as far as the music goes. Red Velvet aren’t just cute, however, they’re also a little psycho (please excuse that very Hot Topic sentence) and explore some not-so-happy concepts as well. Even if I prefer when they embrace their more dark side, however, I have to hand it to Queendom for being the gateway to realizing Red Velvet are really neat and I had been missing out on a lot!

Queendom is a pleasant song celebrating the uniqueness of every individual, and how in a way this all makes each of us a “king or queen”. The tune is very poppy and cute yet refined and tasteful, like they’re just well-to-do elegant ladies who aren’t trying to be adorable but just are inherently. The MV has a lot of special effects of objects floating around as if the girls are doing that somehow (I thought the giant flying Airpod in particular was pretty funny), and with the flowery, magical setting the whole thing feels like a Disney movie. Although I wasn’t blown away by much with this comeback, Queendom is a pleasant serotonin booster of a song, good for if you need something light but upbeat. Maybe it was because Red Velvet’s first comeback in a while, but it was enough to make me think “huh, I haven’t listened to Russian Roulette in a while” and now I’ve listened to their album Perfect Velvet about three times over. Good job girls, you got me hooked. 

August 23: Stray Kids – Thunderous

It’s been a hot sec since Stray Kids have been able to bring us a new full comeback, due to the circumstances surrounding Hyunjin and their participation on Mnet’s boy group competition show Kingdom (I do not intend to open either of those cans of worms right now), so I remember Stays being really pumped for this when it was announced. I was happy to see them back too, although I unfortunately do have a couple of problems with the title track, Thunderous. Honestly, I love the verses a lot. They go hard in that signature Stray Kids way I always love, and my dude Changbin killed it on his raps as he always does. But the chorus feels…empty? I don’t really know how to explain it, it’s really instrumental heavy and yet I feel like there isn’t enough of a punch with it. The pre-chorus is very hype too, the vocals and the hand spitting motion they do in the choreo really gets me hyped up and then there isn’t much after it. I’ve seen a lot of love for this song however, so in all honesty it’s probably just me. I still think the song bangs, it just falls slightly short of what I love in a Stray Kids song.

In a few places, the MV was very well done. The 2D animation included in certain sections is an excellent artistic touch, I very much enjoyed that. The color theory is nice as well (my artist side is coming out, sorry) in that the blue will-o-wisps that encircle the boys contrast against their red, uh, sweats? I did think the outfit choices were a little funny, especially for a comeback obviously influenced by Korean culture and traditional Korean music. I probably sound a little unimpressed by this comeback, but really it takes a lot for me to not actively listen to a Stray Kids song. I truly do love their style and I listen to their stuff often, so Thunderous does still have a place on my playlist. I just can’t help but think about how impressed I was with God’s Menu and Back Door back in 2020, and I didn’t feel the same way I did for those comebacks with Thunderous. This was far from a disappointment however, and I think it’s a solid release especially after the boys hit a couple bumps in the road this year. I truly wish these dudes the best, they deserve it.

September 13: ATEEZ – Eternal Sunshine and Deja Vu  

The release of Zero: Fever Part 3 saw the return of main rapper Mingi after his hiatus (welcome back king!!) as well as the title tracks Eternal Sunshine and Deja Vu. For those who don’t pay close attention to ATEEZ’s comebacks, occasionally they will have two title tracks in one comeback, and their fans get to vote on which one they want to see promoted first/be the face of the album. Both tracks do end up on the album and get MVs, but the losing track has to wait a bit longer for its MV release and its promotion. It’s not something I’m a fan of, since it involves releasing previews early for voting and I very much do not like being spoiled on comebacks. On the bright side, it gives an excuse to release two title tracks, and since ATEEZ are my favoritest boys of all K-pop time I can’t complain too much on getting more content.

It’s incredibly hilarious to me the contrast between these two tracks’ concepts. Eternal Sunshine is, as you might guess, a very bright and sunny feel-good track also possessing funk elements, while Deja Vu is an alluring track about…getting really horny. Take a wild guess at which one won the vote. I like Deja Vu a lot, but in all honesty I got a lot more enjoyment out of Eternal Sunshine, and looking back I’m sad it got destroyed in the vote so badly. The MV was staggeringly more interesting and the song’s chorus slaps so much, it just makes you want to get up and dance. Normally, dark and/or emotional concepts are what I really love to see ATEEZ do, but boy if Eternal Sunshine doesn’t cheer me up instantly every time I hear it. It’s so different from anything they’ve done before, and it’s a ton of fun. You can feel their sparkling energy watching them perform the bubbly choreo around a vibrant beach town with huge smiles on their faces. The boys all looked like they were glowing with their own sunshine, and with all the colors surrounding them the MV is quite pleasing to the eye.

This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Deja Vu. Initially I wasn’t feeling the sauce, but given time it was able to grow on me. The more I listened the more I noticed all the background vocals and instrumentals, and this made me further appreciate the track. And I have to give credit to the rap line here, they really set the mood with their voice intonations, very sexy. I still find the MV to be a little odd, though. Most of it takes place either in a parking garage with a bunch of cars or in…the sewers? These locations are more funny to me than anything considering the subject matter of the song, but also not a lot of riveting effects or camerawork were employed here. The last scene is probably my favorite, in which they’re dancing in pouring rain. I’m probably only disappointed because the teaser photos made it seem like they would take a sort of serene, seductive underwater theme, and that very much did not happen. The choreo however…chef’s kiss. Creating a moving chair(?) for Seonghwa to sit in with their bodies is incredible, and that hip move…let’s just say I am Yunho biased and I greatly appreciated that part.

September 17 and October 25: NCT 127 – Sticker and Favorite (Vampire)

There truly are two kinds of people in this world, normal people and Czennies. Proud to say I am the latter, a true devotee to the cause of fighting people who say Sticker is bad. I mean, I completely concur that it’s bad, but you’re all missing the point. Sticker is not only outlandish for NCT 127 (I think it beats even Punch and Kick It), but it is the most absolutely deranged piece of pop music that I have ever listened to in my entire life and I love it with every fiber of my being. Like, come on, how can you not admit that it’s just funny. The intro is enough to make me burst out laughing every single time, like how does someone come up with this? What a memorably hideous yet banging musical composition, I love it.

The MV is not any less unhinged than the song. It’s super flashy, employing a robot cowboy aesthetic with neon lassos and glitzy city lights. It’s definitely an SM Entertainment budget moment. When it comes to this kind of MV, my advice is usually “less is more”, but I think in this case it makes the whole thing even more hysterical so I’m fine with it here. Concerning the song, If there’s anything to know about NCT 127, their music might objectively be crap that somehow still slaps really hard, but their talent is undeniable. Taeil’s vocals in the Sticker chorus make me ascend, and as hilarious as Taeyong’s opening rap is to me, it definitely sounds complex and really hard to do. Honestly, it really feels like they put a lot of effort in with this one. Everyone was able to showcase their abilities very well with this comeback I think, which is always a plus for me with bigger groups. All in all, Sticker may be an abomination within the K-pop industry, but that doesn’t mean I’m not immensely entertained and amused by it.

Favorite (Vampire) came with the repackage of the album, a significantly less bizarre title track compared to its predecessor. And to be honest, it has a message in the lyrics that I really dig. The song talks about being in love with a girl implied to be a vampire, and not caring that to love this girl the singer risks being bitten and becoming a vampire himself. You could draw some analogies to a toxic relationship with this, but I choose to literally believe it’s about vampires because then it’s cooler. The rap lines in the verses are great, but the chorus vocals in Favorite(Vampire) are just immaculate. Doyoung shined so brightly this time around, the song sounds like it was made for his voice. The MV reminds me of Twilight a little bit (but better) and it’s actually really pretty at times. I would also like to personally thank SM for giving my boy Yuta lots of screentime, he deserved it. As nice as this all is, NCT 127 can’t have a comeback without being ridiculous for at least 2 seconds. The dance break in the MV has like, no coherent connection to the rest of the song or the visuals. It’s like they threw in a completely different song in an undesirable way, but that part of the track is only in the performance version so I can forgive it. It’s just sort of rattling when you watch the MV.

October 1 and November 12: Twice – The Feels and Scientist

Back in October, I remember my friend at college who had previously barely listened to girl groups telling me I had to listen to The Feels as soon as possible because it was so good. She would do her own little version of the choreo once in a while when she had her earbuds in and I thought it was the cutest thing ever. And like her The Feels is pretty freaking adorable. Twice is always the best among girl groups at executing cute concepts for me, given that I normally do not vibe with that sort of thing. They have clever lyrics for exceedingly simple concepts, which is something I’ve always adored about them, and they did not fail to deliver in this way for their first English single.

The Feels is really just a simple song about crushing on a boy, and given the aesthetic it’s likely that it’s about having a crush during one’s teenage years in particular. You might say it’s an overdone message in pop music, but for Twice’s older fans I think it’s meant to bring you back to the joyful side of that time of your life and to help you remember the way you felt when you had your first crush. Twice have touched a high school concept before, in Cheer Up, but I think this one was done better. I mean, they were meant to wear those sparkly cheerleader outfits they sported in the The Feels MV. I think Nayeon in particular had a killer outfit, but they just all looked so adorable! And the song is no less cheerful. It’s sinfully catchy and will get in your head extremely quickly.

Only a little over a month later, Scientist was released along with a full album (they already had one last year, Twice are insane). I remember seeing the teaser photos for the track and my STEM major brain being immediately interested, the set was just so detailed with cute parodies of mathematical equations and other scientific notations in the back and foregrounds. Plus, the girls look great as preppy little scientists. I am sad to say I was not a huge fan of Scientist in and of itself when I did eventually listen to it, however. I still think the message is adorable, which is that that love is not as complicated as it seems and it’s not a “science” that you have to be a genius to figure out. There is not one part of the song that seriously grabs me in any way, however. It’s fine, just not something that I would listen to regularly, unfortunately. I do have to hand it to them though, Frankenstein Chaeyoung is the best thing I have ever seen and I’m sad that part of the MV was not longer. Actually precious.

November 9: Oneus – Luna

Okay…this was epic. Oneus were way overdue for their first music show win, but I am so glad that they won with Luna, it really might be the most beautiful thing they’ve ever made. The visual effects, the colors, the dancing, the vocals, everything was so stunning to me. I love everything Oneus does but I seriously cannot get enough of this one! The song itself is strongly traditionally influenced and very pretty, it’s relatively upbeat while at the same time soothing to listen to. Pairing it with the MV, it is reminiscent of an Eastern festival in the moonlight. And yet, there’s an air of melancholy placed over the stretches of this song, which make it all the more beautiful.

I want to give a shoutout to Leedo here, because even though he’s not an exception to a common theme of having a more outwardly tough appearance and performance style among K-pop rappers, he looked like an absolute angel in Luna. It was staggering to me the difference between him here and Oneus’s other releases, and I’m glad he went for something new this time (and owned it too). Of course, they all looked wonderful though, and the incorporation of traditional fans into the choreo is just killer. This comeback gets my award for the best ending pose of the season, the backdrop combined with the color of the fans at that bit is just so, so magnificent. Basically, all my expectations were exceeded with Luna. It’s awesome, listen to it!

December 3 and 10: ATEEZ – Turbulence and The Real (Heung Ver.)

Yes, this is the second ATEEZ entry of this article. No, it isn’t my fault my ult group released four entire title tracks in the second half of the year. I have opinions and I really need to share them, because Turbulence and The Real (Heung Ver.) together might have been my favorite comeback from ATEEZ since I became a fan of them. To clarify, this comeback was NOT a voting scenario, they just decided to spoil us for no reason.

Turbulence is a ballad track, and it’s some real sad boy hours. There’s no choreo to go with it and all of the members are separated from each other in the MV. Pretty sure that fact has something to do with their storyline but I’m nowhere near caught up on what’s been happening there. It’s a very pretty, emotional song, marked by the vocal line singing their little hearts out (especially San and Jongho). It makes me sad but at the same time I really reverberate with it, since I can relate to the lyrics of desire for someone to come along and not make one feel so alone. Also, the outro of the song being vocals singing to the melody of the beginning of one of their other title tracks, Wave, was not funny and I definitely almost cried. Many thanks to ATEEZ for helping me feel a little less alone with Turbulence.

Concerning The Real (Heung Ver.), it’s not a new song. ATEEZ have had this track since spring of this year, as it was their original song composed for the finale of Mnet’s boy group competition Kingdom. Considering they just had a separate comeback not too long ago, I am happy that instead of everyone pushing themselves to prepare for a totally new song, they took an old song, revamped it by adding the “heung version” part (basically adding a few traditional instruments here and there) and releasing it as a full comeback, and it had just as much impact as any other release. The Real was already a super interesting song that goes hard as hell, with the lyrics telling us that giving everyone around you respect is important, but at the same time you should fear no one since you deserve respect as well. It’s heavy with Korean idioms as well, and a few members even speak in different Korean dialects right before each bass drop. If all this cultural richness in the song wasn’t enough, they gave The Real literally the best MV ever, and it’s in my top 5 K-pop MVs for sure. It’s the perfect blend of badassery and comedy and I love it so much. I adored the high school delinquent theme, it really almost felt like I was watching a 90s anime. If there is any K-pop MV I want everyone I know to see, it’s this one.

December 10: NCT U – Universe (Let’s Play Ball) 

I can talk about my gripes with SM for making NCT 2021 happen when we just had NCT 2020 last year and two members (Lucas and Winwin) could not join the comeback this time due to other circumstances, but Universe (Let’s Play Ball) is really addicting so I have to give them that. A hiphop track with a street baseball-themed MV and instrumentals, the track didn’t grab me off the bat (haha, bat), but when the chorus graced my ears, that changed completely. That part is such an earworm that eventually it infected the rest of the song for me and now the “Let’s play ball, let’s play ball, you, you’re my universe” chanting is very much stuck in my head. Nice play, NCT U.

If you’re unaware, by the way, NCT U is the NCT subunit that’s always changing. I see it as literally picking random NCT members and saying “here you’re assigned this song”. There’s no boundaries at all when picking these members other than balancing vocalists and rappers, really. You’ll get members from all the other subunits involved. Universe (Let’s Play Ball) specifically features Mark and Haechan (NCT 127 and Dream), Doyoung and Jungwoo (NCT 127), Jaemin and Jeno (NCT Dream), Yangyang and Xiaojun (WayV), and Shotaro (who only participates in NCT U). These dudes rock and did an amazing job of running this track all the way to home base (I’ll stop the baseball puns now). It’s just a jam, and as is often the case with NCT U MVs, I love the little details of including the members names in the wall graffiti, you can just tell they put their heart and soul into it.

Honorable Mentions

BTS – Permission to Dance

I didn’t feel like talking about this one much because it was another simple, feel-good song that BTS released, similar to Dynamite and Butter, and I’m going to sound like a broken record with my thoughts on new BTS songs at this point. I did like Permission to Dance more than I did Butter, however my thoughts are similar in that it really is nothing special compared to most K-pop. I liked the message it conveyed, it’s nice, but other than that there isn’t much going for it for me.

Mamamoo – Mumumumuch

Mamamoo don’t mess around, they’re really the best at providing pure talent and beauty, even in a low-key vibe song such as Mumumumuch.This track is just so pleasant, utilizing summery, funky beats that honestly are relaxing to listen to. It wouldn’t be Mamamoo without Hwasa and Solar throwing it back a little, but despite their occasionally teasing actions I think the whole song and MV is absolutely adorable. I love seeing them be so consistent in quality.

Key – Bad Love

Okay, first of all, 10/10 aesthetic for the teasers and MV. The futuristic space exploration paraphernalia is so awesome, I loved it. Bad Love is a real slapper too. Key’s vocals are to die for here and the track has a nostalgic feel to its instrumentals and tune. I honestly don’t have much more to say than that, it’s just good music.


This one was talked about so much that I didn’t want to milk it, but basically: I like it. I’ve seen a lot of memery around LALISA, making fun of how Lisa “said her name 40 times in a row and called it a song”. Honestly though, I think it works, and this is coming from someone who often frowns on the lack of variety in Blackpink’s discography. Call it lazy lyric writing, but when it comes down to it, if the song slaps, it slaps, and I will listen to it a billion times until I get tired of it. The MV however…it’s too much. It’s like they had so many ideas for the concept and decided to throw them all together into some weird compilation. Not very impressive.

aespa – Savage

I’ve decided that aespa needs more time to grow and find a better direction to go in, because it feels like they’re trying to be different and experimental, which I can totally get behind but their music is just…not doing it for me. I’m not someone who thinks their stuff is complete noise, but it just needs…better composition. Savage feels all over the place and it’s actually sort of anxiety-inducing for me to listen to. The prechorus is very nice but that’s about the only part I like. Also, they had their avatar models that usually show up in their MVs dance with them in this one and it looked…so bad. I’m sorry. I hated that. Don’t do that again SM.

Ten & Yangyang – Low Low

I love Ten and I love Yangyang, so what could be better than them doing their own little song together? Low Low’s teasers were so funny, they were certainly going for a 2000’s movie cover vibe. But the MV is so nice and colorful, and Ten and Yangyang looked really cute. The song is a refreshing little bop that I can hum thoughtlessly to, and I love it for that. There’s nothing remarkable about it, but it’s just nice, you know? Quality stuff.

Seventeen – Rock With You

I loved the rock vibes with this song which I don’t think is something new for Seventeen, but it’s good to see, especially after I was slightly disappointed with their last comeback Their rocker boy looks were not too over the top, and their vocals are top tier. Immaculate vibes, I enjoyed it very much! 

Xdinary Heroes – Happy Death Day

I decided to check Xdinary Heroes out because after their debut this year, I saw them being talked about everywhere. I love a good K-band so I listened to Happy Death Day, and it’s definitely..interesting. It’s a punk-influenced rock song, which I think is a unique direction for a K-band to go, but I’m not completely sure I like it. I’ll give them a few more releases to see if I still vibe with them, but for now it’s a little up in th air.

KAI – Peaches

I have one big thing to say about Peaches, and that is that blue hanbok outfit is probably my favorite thing I have ever seen Kai wear. He looks so pretty in it with the long hair, well done, stylists. The song itself is nice too. It’s nothing special in my opinion, just a pretty little song about being very…very intimate. Compared to Kai’s last solo release, Mmmh (yes that’s the title) I don’t know if I liked Peaches more as far as the song, but the MV beats it by a long shot.

Monsta X – One Day

I wasn’t paying attention to Monsta X at all when this came out because I kind of fell off of them after Wonho left, but my roommate played One Day in the car one day (haha) and I thought it was extremely pleasant, hence why I didn’t listen to their other comeback this last half of the year (sorry). One Day is a pretty stereotypical breakup song, but the chorus melody really ropes me into listening to it repeatedly. It’s just a calming song even if the message does slightly annoy me.

NCT 2021 – Beautiful

From the all-encompassing NCT 2020 track last year, Resonance, I was not expecting something like this. Resonance was a long melody of other tracks on the album and it was very high energy and flashy, but Beautiful is a ballad track involving all the members celebrating the beauty of each individual. I liked that they didn’t make the track involving all members super intricate and bold. It was neat to see all of them delightfully singing to a simple track. Nice and low-key while also at the same time very cute.

Final Thoughts and Comments

First of all, I want to thank you if you made it to the end of this article. I appreciate anyone who is willing to listen to my silly little intricate thoughts about music and pretty boys and girls, even if they aren’t exactly coherent. Why I have them, I still can’t really explain. I’m having a hard time pinpointing what it is exactly that I love about K-pop and what has kept me not only still here listening to it, but getting involved in writing articles and consuming side content almost two years later. It’s not just the idols themselves and their looks/personalities/talent, but it’s not only the music either. Although if the music wasn’t good I certainly would not be a K-pop fan. It just all feels really homey for some reason, and I can’t escape it.

But I can’t say I didn’t get a little closer to finding why I’m still so enamored with this area of the music industry from the comebacks that we had these past 6 months or so. It was certainly a really exciting time for me, considering I’m a huge fan of ATEEZ and NCT, who both had plenty of releases in a very short time. I think the conclusion that I am coming to is seeing the idols having fun, expressing themselves, and bringing positive feelings with the music that they provide is a large part of why I love K-pop. It’s almost too good for someone struggling with negative thoughts. In fact, I plan to write an article in the future on how ATEEZ in particular helped me cope with my mental issues and the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t know if that’s it entirely, but from the fact that K-pop gives me things to look forward to and lots of encouragement, it’s something that I am fairly confident in stating. Once again, thank you for your time! I’ll be back again with another K-pop comeback article in around half a year, most likely.

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