2021 In Review: Day 14 – Artist of the Year

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2021 In Review

1. Introduction + Best Album Art
2. Song of the Year
3. Album of the Year
4. R&B and Soul
5. Rock and Alternative
6. Rap and Hip-hop
7. Dance and Electronic
8. Pop and Ballad
9. Folk and Country
10. Jazz and Blues
11. Crossover and World
12. Best Collaborative Work
13. Rookie Artist of the Year
14. Artist of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

Artists of the Year are selected holistically, but in general our picks are artists who showed consistency by releasing multiple good works over the year. (One really good work can do in rare cases.)

Often their work would also have meant something for other artists or the scene that they are part of, though that is of course difficult to judge less than a year out. That can mean direct or indirect influence, including collaborations and production credits; less tangibly, it can also include international recognition, cultural significance, and commercial success which typically (not always) brackets the first two.

The “Next 10” are listed in alphabetical order. Note that there is no Honorable Mention list for this category.

Artist of the Year 2021


For LP 독립음악 (Independent Music); single “독립음악 예고편 (Independent Music Trailer)”; collaborative album Dingo X Dejavu Group – Wrote This Tomorrow; featured appearances with Khundi Panda, Giriboy, Hyngsn

The accomplishment of CC established ChoiLB as a name to look out for, but the rapper’s 2021 outdid even lofty expectations. Writing and directing with both the rawness of youth and the coherent vision of seasoned experience, he crafted the most striking debut full-length since perhaps E Sens, and his hitting-close-to-home storytelling appears to have found more a fundamental kind of purchase in listeners’ minds than most albums (even great ones) do. The authenticity laid bare in solo work carried over to a very different-sounding and more ferocious outing with Dejavu Group, acting as a proving ground for ChoiLB’s versatility. Lots of artists tell listeners about themselves through their music. Few make you feel like you know them, the way ChoiLB did in 2021.

The Runner-up

Ahn Ye-eun

For EPs 섬으로 (To the Island) and 섬에서 (From the Island); singles “Proust”, “문어의 꿈 (Octopus’ Dream)”, “창귀 (Changgwi)”, “열달 아흐레 (1009)”; collaborative single “나는 우주 (I’m Flying)”; OST work on River Where the Moon Rises, Night Flower, Yujin and Yujin, Pororo the Little Penguin; compilation work on Immortal Song; featured appearance with Heize; production credits with (G)I-dle, Cho Min-kyu, Wan Yihwa

The EP series that begat our runner-up for Song of the Year was ambitious and masterfully executed, the lore of its maritime voyage bearing an almost mythical flair from the strength of its writing and sound. Yet this was just one outlet of Ahn’s voracious interests, as she continued exploring the intersection of traditional music and horror pop in one release, paid tribute to the spirit of Hangul in another, bridged sizable genre and generational gaps in a collaboration, and more. The extensive work on Pororo wasn’t even a surprise at this point. Ahn seemed to step up to a new level of creative power in 2021, her voice and pen crafting such original, intricate, yet joyfully liberating stories in a way that few others in the scene – let alone among peers – are doing.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)


For EP Savage and singles “Forever” and “Next Level”


For LP Lilac; single “Strawberry Moon”; featured appearances with Sung Si-kyung, Kim Dong-ryul, AkMu; production credits with Jung Seung-hwan


For LP 지지않는 곳으로 가자 (Let’s Take a Step to a Brighter Place) and featured appearance with Kim Jung-won


For LP Querencia; singles “X” and “Killing Me”; collaborative singles “Demente (Spanish Ver.)” and “내 입술 따뜻한 커피처럼 (My Lips Like Warm Coffee)”; OST work on One the Woman; compilation work on Street Woman Fighter Special; featured appearance with Rain


For LP Fragile; singles “어쩌면 (Maybe)” and “바이바이 나의 아이 (Bye Bye)”; collaborative single “고백 Epilogue (Go Back Epilogue)”; project single “친구 (Friend)” (as Night Off); OST work on Nevertheless, (as Night Off)


For LP Void.; EP Talking Book; single “I Mean I Mean.”; OST work on Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol; featured appearances with Giiana, Noair X Daul, Brwn, Brown Tigger, Dnss, Blackdoe, Jflow, Plan8, S/S, Jomalxne & HRDR

Kid Milli & Dress*

*Only for work released jointly; does not count individual work from either Kid Milli and Dress

For LP Cliché and single “Kitty”

Lang Lee

For LP 늑대가 나타났다 (There Is a Wolf); single “임진강 (Imjingang)”; OST work on Areum Married


For LP To See the Next Part of the Dream and re-release of LP Let’s Walk on the Path of a Blue Cat


*Japanese and American releases not counted

For LP Formula of Love: O+T=<3; EP Taste of Love; single “Cry for Me”; OST work on Hospital Playlist

Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music. Kid Milli & Dress artist image captured from Dingo Freestyle YouTube.

Read our past series:

2020 In Review

2019 In Review

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review