The best K-pop songs of 2021: from 'LaLisa' to 'Butter'

We look back at some of the best and trendiest South Korean pop of 2021

From Netflix's Squid Game shaking up top trends on social media and breaking viewing records on streaming sites, to K-pop acts touring (and some even visiting the UAE), it's safe to say that the South Korean entertainment industry has had a busy year.

South Korean artists continued to push the genre's boundaries by incorporating global elements ranging from Latin and R&B to rock and electropop. Now, we look back at some of the best and trendiest songs in a year that was challenging for many, but inspiring for others:

'LaLisa' and 'Money' by Lisa

Blackpink's Lisa broke out of her shell this year as she made her debut as a solo artist. Her project LaLisa, after her full first name, consists of two songs: LaLisa and Money. The single album has broken records on Spotify while LaLisa has also gathered 383 million views on YouTube.

Meanwhile, anyone scrolling through TikTok will be familar with Money, which has a contemporary American rap music style. This song also has more than 360 million views on YouTube. Lisa was ranked among Spotify’s top 30 K-pop artists of 2021 globally.

'Butter' by BTS

Butter, the second English-language track from BTS, was the song of the year. The jam from the K-pop boy band had everyone dancing and, well, craving butter. It dominated radio stations globally, including the UAE, and social media platforms.

With 649 million views on YouTube, the dance pop track has taken home several achievements including topping the charts in South Korea’s K-pop 100 and peaking at No 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The single won a number of awards including "Song of the Year" at the Asia Artist Awards, Melon Music Awards and Mnet Asian Music Awards.

'House Party' by Super Junior

The group, with more than 15 years of experience in the music scene, came to the UAE in October to perform at The Palm Fountain in Dubai as part of the Korean Festival. During their concert, they premiered their newest song, House Party.

The track, with more than 27 million views on YouTube, is the second from the group’s latest album, The Renaissance.

Its music video has received positive feedback for its pandemic and social distancing-friendly theme that many found to be creative and easily relatable.

“Whenever the pandemic kind of slows down and we do have the opportunity to tour, you can probably expect another Super Junior album," Kyuhyun told The National in an exclusive interview.

'Don’t Call Me' by SHINee

The four-member boy band, who made their debut in 2008 as five members, is one of South Korea’s most beloved groups.

The Don’t Call Me album is their seventh and the first not to feature their late member Jonghyun, who died in 2017. The title track has 58 million views on YouTube and reached No 1 on South Korea’s Gaon Album Chart.

'What Type of X' and 'Coldblooded' by Jessi

Jessi, whose real name is Ho Hyun-joo, is a soloist in South Korea but originally from America. Her song What Type of X has shaken up social media with many taking to TikTok and Instagram to emulate her dance moves from the music video, which has also gathered more than 60 million views.

The sensational rapper has also released a song called Cold Blooded for the show Street Women Fighter, where Korean dancers compete to be crowned the country's best dancer. Jessi is under P Nation entertainment which is owned by famed Gangnam star, Psy.

'Rollin' by Brave Girls

Brave Girls, a group consisting of four members, had a particularly memorable year. Their song Rollin’, originally released in 2017, suddenly gained popularity thanks to YouTube.

A compilation video of the group performing the track for the South Korean military went viral, causing a surge in popularity and the song to rise in the music charts.

It became a nationwide hit, and hit No 1 on the Gaon Digital Chart and the K-pop Hot 100. The members have mentioned that they were close to disbanding right before their luck changed.

The clip stands out because of its unique dance moves, which had whole of South Korea, including entertainment channels, rolling along.

'Alcohol-free' by Twice

Alcohol-Free from Twice's 10th EP, Taste of Love, is about what it means to fall in love. The summer track, which has elements of bossa nova and hip-hop, peaked at No 41 on the Billboard Global 200 where it spent eight weeks.

The also song reached No 6 on the Gaon Digital Chart and at No 7 on the K-pop Hot 100. The video has more than 200 million views on YouTube. The diverse, nine-member girl band made its debut under JYP entertainment in 2015.

'I Am Not Cool' by Hyuna

Kim Hyun-ah, famously known as Hyuna, has had a very busy year. I'm Not Cool is her seventh extended play and she released a single of the same name.

The colourful song has a fast upbeat tempo. I'm Not Cool has been nominated for Best Album at the 2021 Asian Pop Music Awards.

The singer released several songs and performances this year, solo and with her boyfriend Dawn, who is under the same label, P Nation. She made her debut as a member of Wonder Girls in 2007.

'Bicycle' by Chungha

Bicycle, a song about moving ahead, is off Chungha’s first studio album, Querencia. The song has R&B, trap and dance-pop beats, which is perfect for those who need to get hyped up or get through an intense workout at the gym.

The music video has more than 38 million views on YouTube and made its debut on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales chart at No 11.

'Next Level' by Aespa

Of all the groups listed, Aespa is one of the newest, yet also the quickest to create a name for themselves in the K-pop industry and around the world. From their dance moves to the lyrics, the group stands out.

They won Best Dance Performance at this year's Mnet Asian Music Awards, and were nominated for TikTok's Song of The Year. Spotify also named Next Level the best K-pop song of 2021.

The dance and hip-hop infused track is a continuation of the group's story from their debut single Black Mamba.

Updated: December 24th 2021, 8:31 AM