2021 In Review: Day 4 – R&B and Soul

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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

The R&B scene had another banner year in 2021, with the alternative scene again bearing bountiful fruit. This may have been an especially good year for albums, both EP and full-length: the high quality of work that did not even make our top 12 – from lavish mainstream albums by the likes of Lee Hi and Yerin Baek to decidedly indie Grace Shin (whose “Llewellyn Moss” would be the first track outside of the list), Jeong Jia, and Protonebula – speak to the top-to-bottom depth that this scene has now maintained for a few years. R&B musicians are also more interdisciplinary than ever, and even beyond the usual crossover to hip-hop, artists like Ailee, Susan, Msftz, Park Moon-chi, and Wonstein flexed their talents in multiple domains.

The “Next 10” and honorable mention lists are alphabetically sorted by artist name.

The 2021 R&B and Soul Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below:


Best R&B and Soul Album 2021

Sogumm – Precious

An intriguing mingling of R&B vocals with acoustic, rock & roll, even shoegaze sounds; the year’s best-sounding R&B album. Aggressive arrangements like “Complex” and “Prescriptions” have Sogumm’s trademark vocals gliding through the haze and distortion, while surreal lyrical themes add to the concept.

The Runner-up

Thama – Don’t Die Colors

Singular dedication to old-school soul crafted a rich and uniquely warm soundscape, where the pianos and acoustics caress and gently pulse. A vocal delight as Thama tells starkly frank stories in smooth and unassuming confidence.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

Chancellor – Chancellor

Jeebanoff – Void.

Jerd – A.M.P.

Jhnovr – A Nocturnal Visit

Mind Combined – Circle

Misozium – 꽃꽂이 (Flower Arrangement)

Shindrum – Who I Am

Sumin & Slom – Miniseries

Western Kite – Ultraviolet!

Youra – Gaussian


Best R&B and Soul Song 2021

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

A string of unanswerable questions and irresistible petitions, written out in blunt but achingly evocative language. The double-tapping synths, shining and echoing through the haze of the beat, mesmerize just as much as Youra’s disarming performance.

The Runner-up

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

A triumphant chorus that seems to condense and then explode, letting out that base need – to explain a mistake, a regret, why we do what we do – into the crisp atmosphere. A rare moment to hear Jeebanoff soaring and shouting with abandon in deeply satisfying melody.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

Ailee – 525

Bibi – 인생은 나쁜X (Life Is a Bi…)

Divin’ – Touch

Ioah – Faceless (Feat. Hunjiya)

Katie – Faux

Lee Hi – Darling

Mokyo – Edwin (Feat. Yein)

Susan – Amateur Lover

Thama – Blessed (Feat. G.Soul)

Western Kite – Couch

Honorable Mentions


Ahn – Status Quo
Babylon – Hardy
Baekhyun – Bambi
Bibi – 인생은 나쁜X (Life Is a Bi…)
Brwn – Muse
CL – Alpha
Colde – 이상주의 (Idealism)
Common Ground – Conspiracy
DPR Ian – Moodswings in This Order
Hoody – D-Day
Jackingkong – At My Peaceful Garden
Jay Dope – Genre
Jeebanoff – Talking Book
Jeong Jia – 입수 (Into Water)
Jung Jin-hyeong – Whimsical
Katie – Our Time Is Blue
Lee Hi – 4 Only
Mokyo – Accent Fried
Mrshll – XYZ
Msftz – Belief
Oceanfromtheblue – Forward
Ovcoco – In the House
Park Moon-chi – ParkRuRa
Penomeco – Dry Flower
Protonebula – Biophilia
Seodo – Influencer
Shin Youme – Laid Back Like Hippie
Susan – Eros
Wildberry – Des:re
Woodz – Only Lovers Left
Yangyang – Beautiful Mess
Yellowasis & Nason – Y&N
Yeonsoo – No Love
Yerin Baek – Tellusboutyourself
Yugyeom – Point of View: U
Z4vwm – Imagine #Love


Ailee – Make Up Your Mind
Alive Funk – To-Kyo (Feat. Samuel Seo)
Baekho – Need It
Baekhyun – All I Got
Baekhyun – Bambi
Bamsem – Angel (Feat. Owell Mood)
Bloo – Drama
Chancellor – Afterlife
Chungha – All Night Long
CL – Lover Like Me
Colde – 미술관에서 (The Museum)
D’allant – Gravity
Devine Channel – 나쁜 비 (Bad Rain) (Feat. Sumin)
Dnss – Runnin (Feat. OLNL, Sya)
Dnss – 미라지 (Mirage) (Feat. Jeebanoff, Bamsem)
GiiANA – 지루해 (Melting Me) (Feat. Jeebanoff)
Gil Hak-mi – Ring Out
Gond – Hotel Room
Grace Shin – 3XXX
Grace Shin – Llewelyn Moss
Hoody – D-Day (Feat. Giriboy)
Houdini – TGIF (Feat. Faver)
Hyngsn – ㅠㅡㅠ (You)
Jackingkong – Cowboy
Jay Dope – Marine Drive (Feat. TK, Nieah)
JayM – What You Want
Jeebanoff – Before Sunrise.
Jeebanoff – Leave Me.
Jeebanoff – Off You.
Jeebanoff – 난 아니야 (Not Me!)
Jerd – Knock Knock (Feat. Paloalto)
Jhnovr – Body
Junggigo – Gravity
Jung Jin-hyeong – Back
Jung Jin-hyeong – Hours
Kai – Come In
Katie – Our Time
Lee Hi – 머리어깨무릎발 (H.S.K.T.) (Feat. Wonstein)
Mingginyu – Zzz
Misozium – 수국 (Hydrangea) (Feat. Clavita, Sue Museum)
Misozium – 이끼 (Moss) (Feat. Jaguaa, Subaru)
Mona – Pizza
Mrshll – Butterflyz
Mrshll – Date Nite (Feat. Yoon Mi-rae)
Mrshll – Focus on Me (Prod. Jay Dope)
n0xx1 – ADHD
NCT 127 – Magic Carpet Ride
O3ohn – Snooze
Onthedal & Lanjoon – 유영 (Uyoung)
Park Moon-chi – Move! (with Ruru, Rara)
Penomeco – Jaja
Primary – 악마는 디테일에 있다 (The Devil Is in the Detail) (Feat. Kriz, Benzamin)
Purple Kiss – Can We Talk Again
Purplers – Summerlike
Risso – Waves
Samuel Seo – TDC (Feat. The Quiett)
Samuel Seo – Vulture (Feat. DeAndre’)
Seodo – Starinthenight
Seori – Lovers in the Night
Shinee – Marry You
Shin Youme – Hitchhiker
Sogumm – 아니 벌써 (So Soon)
Sogumm – 컴플렉스 (Complex)
Sogumm & DJ Wegun – Imagine (Feat. Hoody)
Soovi – ASAP!
Sumin & Slom – 신기루 (Mirage)
S/S – Seesaw (Feat. Sumin)
Summer Soul – 돌아갔던 길 (The Way Back)
Susan – Allergy
Susan – Eros
Taeyeon – What Do I Call You
Thama – Mapo
Vangdale – LSD (Feat. Junny)
Wildberry – Feel the Sky
Wonstein – 나무 (Tree)
Wonstein – 캥거루 (Kangaroo)
Yangyang – Alcohol
Yelloasis & Nason – Act Like Dat
Yerin Baek – Hate You
Yonko – Lost
Youra – 미미 (Mimi)
Youra – 숨을 참는 괴물 (Airplane Mode)
Yugyeom – Running Through the Rain
Ziyoon – 이불 (Covers) (Feat. June)

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