2021 In Review: Day 2 – Song 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

Welcome back to Hellokpop’s 2021 In Review. The two-week series begins today as we recognize our Song of the Year, alongside the runner-up and ten other standout tracks that contended for this spot.

Considerations for Song of the Year include both subjective assessments of musical quality as well as ones of impact, influence, and popularity. In this way, this category differs from the genre picks: sometimes the winner has both types of traits, and sometimes one is just so dominant as to make the other irrelevant.

The “next-best ten” are listed in alphabetical order, to avoid genre category winner spoilers. (Most of these contending tracks will get more detailed treatment in the genre category posts.)

Song of the Year 2021

eAeon – 어쩌면 (Maybe)
Written, composed and arranged by eAeon

The titular fragility of eAeon’s third album is not only evident, but transparent in “Maybe”: eAeon’s narrator speaks gingerly, unsure of his own feelings and memories and even dreams, as his bass and topline alike dither and wobble precariously. So the sudden conviction of the chorus, as the distorted guitars erupt and the backbeat synths land haunting notes, is unexpected; but it’s a stunning expression of the anguish that the vocals hide. As the narrator struggles to understand his “crumbling emotions”, pursuing “our story that’s too long”, the track glides to an understated but emotional conclusion. In eAeon’s most tender work to date, his capture of the yearning for connection – the desperate, spoken wish to hold on despite everything – was the singular achievement of 2021.

The Runner-up

Ahn Ye-eun – 소식 (The Word)
Written and composed by Ahn Ye-eun
Arranged by Strawberry Banana Club, Ahn Ye-eun

One of the year’s most interesting album-scale experiments (and one that makes a powerful case for the EP format) was Ahn Ye-eun’s Island series: where April’s To the Island told the allegory of an ill-fated maritime voyage, November’s sidequel From the Island told it from the side of the destination, the island that those people were trying to reach. “The Word” was the crown jewel of From the Island and arguably Ahn’s career so far, her theatrical flair and penchant for traditional Korean folk music profoundly married to a Western backdrop. The ornate and dignified writing gives extra verve to already-gorgeous lines (“Shall we go see them safe, tugging on clouds’ sleeves; riding on darkness’s back”), and the freeform vocalizations that make up the chorus – unmistakably traditional – are infectious in their joy. Meticulous string orchestration and Ahn’s own soaring performance then expand the song’s heritage, complementing each other, making “The Word” an epic with timeless character.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

AkMu – 낙하 (Nakka) (With IU)
Written by Lee Chan-hyuk
Composed by Lee Chan-hyuk, Millennium
Arranged by Millennium

BewhY, ChoiLB, Khundi Panda, Son Simba, Une, and Viann as Dejavu Group – 지금으로 (Hereby)
Written by Khundi Panda, Son Simba, ChoiLB, BewhY
Composed by BewhY
Arranged by BewhY, Viann

Budung – 씬이 버린 아이들 (Guess Who?)
Written by Budung
Composed and arranged by Budung, Park Joon-hyung

Hong Haelim – 작곡된 것처럼 (March)
Written and composed by Hong Haelim
Arranged by Kim Yong-eun

Jeebanoff – I Mean I Mean.
Written by Jeebanoff
Composed by Jeebanoff, Swimgood
Arranged by Swimgood

Lang Lee – 늑대가 나타났다 (There Is a Wolf)
Written, composed and arranged by Lang Lee

Lee Seol-ah – 보물찾기 (Wonder Road)
Written, composed and arranged by Lee Seol-ah

Tiger JK – 호심술 (Love Peace)
Written by Tiger JK
Composed and arranged by Park Jae-sun

Youha – 오늘 조금 취해서 그래 (Abittipsy)
Written by Youha
Composed by Youha, Vadim Arnaud Constantin, Ryan S. Jhun, Jeremy Lecarour, Rodolphe Lejeune
Arranged by Amo Cost, Ryan S. Jhun, Jeremy Lecarour, Rodolphe Lejeune

Youra – 유기인형 (Bye Bye)
Written by Youra
Composed by Youra, 623
Arranged by 623

Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

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