Best K-R&B Songs Of 2021 | #KHIGHRewind

Ranging from the euphoric bliss of listening to artists like GSoul and meenoi, to the velvety releases of JAY B and GEMINI, and further on, to the lugubrious songs of DPR IAN, WOOSUNG and HOODY – 2021 has been a rollercoaster ride for the entire R&B community. With songs that are perfect for summer afternoons or even rainy evenings, this year seemed to cater to every feeling, every thought, ever reflected on by the listeners. Come take a look at our 11 favorite K-R&B songs of 2021 as part of #KHIGHRewind.

[The list is unranked, in alphabetical order. It is a compilation based on the critiques of Team KHIGH.]

 

BIBI – BAD SAD AND MAD

Having swiftly carved her name into the modern K-R&B forerunners list, BIBI had progressed her artistic direction by releasing her 2nd EP, ‘Life Is a Bi…’ in 2021. The 5-tracked EP talks of life being “an endless loop of happiness, sadness, difficult times, and more” and is highly captivating, to say the least. Even among these, “BAD SAD AND MAD” stands out as an emblematic song filled with sexual innuendos and double entendres as even the title can be shortened to BDSM. Demonstrating her fine penmanship and wordplay abilities through metaphorical lyrics like “you red (read) my mind”, BIBI whips up an eargasmic experience using sensual lyricism, soft-husky vocals, groovy rhythm, and a music video that ties everything together excellently. A 1 minute 30 seconds gem, “BAD SAD AND MAD” has its listeners reeling and eager for more!

 

DPR IAN – Scaredy Cat

With his 2021 album ‘Moodswings In This Order’, ‘MITO’ for short, DPR IAN has just divulged on a new path of artistry – from being just a magnificent creative director of DPR Regime to a rising R&B singer-songwriter. Using this project to show a reflection of his deepest-darkest inner world (symbolized by a character he created called MITO), DPR IAN has blurred the lines between modern R&B, alternative R&B, early pop, rock, electronica, and more.

“Scaredy Cat” which is directed as a continuation of the story from 2020’s “No Blueberries” release, is a confession of this conflicted persona of the artist. Singing, “Why does no one understand / When I say I am just afraidWhy does no one lend a hand/ When I say I will drift away” and admitting to feelings of deep loneliness and anxiety, as an upbeat instrumentation rings in the background, also lend a haunting and uncanny nature to the song. It really doesn’t take long for the listeners to be enthralled by the symbolic yet in-your-face lyricism, well-thought music composition, and the lingering emotions of the artists’ trauma, even after the song ends!

 

GAHO – Right Now

Gaho who can be heralded as the latest addition to the list of OST Kings, had release his 1st full-length album titled ‘Fireworks‘ in 2021. Aiming to be the quintessential album for the youth, and by the youth, the album documents the dreams, regrets, perseverance and hopes of the people in their 20s.

The title track, “Right Now” is one of the most compelling songs which starts off as a suspenseful ballad-esque piece and induces goosebumps with its deep lyricism and climax near the end. The supporting black-and-white music video also adds to the enthralling listening experience. With this, Gaho has proven his mark not only as an OST expert, but also as an expressive and polished soloist.

 

GEMINI – MIA (ft. CAMO, WOODZ)

Unveiled as the 1st artist to sign to GroovyRoom’s label, AREA, R&B singer GEMINI has used 2021 to carve an even deeper impression in the mellow K-R&B niche. Teaming up with velvety-voiced WOODZ and CAMO, GEMINI released “MIA”, a minimal-yet-attractive track that sings of loving so deep that it “doesn’t matter even if I (Gemini) lose myself forever”. The vibrant pop of the guitar melody, the comfortable familiarity of consistent beats, and the light crooning vocals of GEMINI in the refrain, “MIA, MIA, MIA, MIA, MIA” (literal meaning: ‘mine’ in Spanish), all add to the inviting feeling of the song. The polished verses of CAMO and WOODZ, not only enhance the eargasmic listening experience but also the qualitative penmanship shown by the trio. Perfect for a suave late-night jam; it doesn’t get any better than this!

 

GSoul – Natural

A veteran of the Korean music scene, GSoul has proven his unparalleled vocal talents time and again. However, with 2021’s EP ‘NATURAL’ promising his listeners to showcase a different charm of the R&B singer, it is only natural that the expectations were running high; and GSoul met and exceeded them. The title track also called “Natural”, is a highly expressive love song, despite the charming weightlessness of the music on the whole. Describing his love for his other half in terms of nature’s bounty, GSoul’s seraphic vocals flow through the listeners. They make them experience not only deep-caring love but also revel in the beauty of natural elements like the warm sunlight peeking through a tree’s leaves and the splashing of the blue waves on the rocky shore. It is a mesmerizing composition that draws the listeners in naturally and imparts a bliss unlike no other!

 

Heize – Happen

Vanquishing her writer’s block in 2021, popular R&B songstress, Heize came back with her 7th mini-album titled ‘HAPPEN’. Conveying the generally brushed-aside message of how everything in life happens not by chance, but due to the pre-determined destiny of an individual, the album imparts feelings of poignant understanding, comfort, and optimistic wait for good days to return. The music video of “Happen” (the same-titled lead track) which features the famed K-Drama actor, Song Joong Ki, brings to life this message, even as we hear Heize wistfully singing, If I hadn’t, in that moment gotten lost/If you hadn’t, on that day gone through a painful breakup…With what precarious time we have/We waited for one another.” The contradictory tempo and vibes of the upbeat and filled-with-life instrumentation and the pastel-subdued vocals of Heize, accentuate the ” light intertwined with dark” symbolism of our fated lives.

 

Hoody – When The Rain Stops

Speaking to the unsaid emotions that well up in our hearts as we listen to the rain pouring, HOODY experiments with a new sentimental style in “When The Rain Stops”. With listeners attuned to these emotions that her soft and tranquil (almost to the point that it hurts a little) vocals evoke, the song takes on a poignant quality – one that draws the listeners in and lingers in their minds just like the feelings it appeals to. The muted ambient instrumentation (produced by Fisherman) also elevates the impact of HOODY’s vocals – supporting both her subdued tones and the flawless high notes. Minimalistic yet dynamic, this song hence becomes a must-add to every R&B enthusiasts’ rainy day playlist!

 

JAY B – Switch It Up (ft. sokodomo)

Released upon his signing to the highly versatile H1GHR MUSIC label, JAY B’s “Switch It Up” does exactly what the name suggests – switches up his idol musical identity to one that is freer and more artistic. Showcasing the true potential of what JAY B’s lauded timbre and falsetto can do, this song produced by hitmaker Cha Cha Malone, unveils a sultry and atmospheric soundscape reminiscent of the 90s R&B sounds. Juxtaposing JAY B’s soft vocals to rapper sokodomo‘s almost adventitious rap verse, on a bass-driven trap beat supported by airy synths, the song’s provocative appeal seems even more amplified. JAY B silken crooning, “Just like a wave/ Baby, ride my body/ Girl, nice and calm/ Baby, I wanna switch it up/ All I see is you right now”, plays on repeat in the listeners’ minds after the very first listen – proof of its addictive and alluring nature!

 

meenoi – salang salang

From her 1st full album, in my room’, title track “salang salang” is the instant mood-booster we all need on days when things go haywire. Putting together a cute, bursting-with-vitality music video, the quirky songstress is quick to confess how her heart races at everything pertaining to her lover/crush. Underlining the giddy and head-in-the-clouds kind of feeling even more, meenoi uses the catchy onomatopoeic sound ‘salang salang’ as part of her hook that rings, “salang salang/ Every time I think of you/ salang salang/ I’m flirting with you/ salang salang.” The song with its cheerful mood lifts spirits and is refreshing to every weary ear – a natural serotonin dose indeed!

 

oceanfromtheblue- icygirl (ft. SOLE)

A neo-soul-inspired track from his EP ‘forward’, “icy girl” sees R&B singer oceanfromtheblue and his mellifluent feature, SOLE, engaged in an ebullient exchange of love. The perky background melody line that weaves through the entire track, accentuates the bubbly feelings of anticipation and joy that the duo conveys through their polished vocals. The listeners hence get to experience the start of a young love, with oceanfromtheblue serenading, “There are a lot of boys around me that stand out/ but they are nothing compared to me/ I dance more to ease my uneasy heart/Look here/ I know you’re so icy girl” and SOLE smoothly replying, “You want me, not only you/ Everyone knows me/ You should know that.” “icy girl” truly is a homogenous blend of cool moments and warm love!

 

Woosung – Island

Coming from his first full-length album ‘GENRE’, the less-than-2-minute song “ISLAND”, draws a parallel between being stuck on a paradise island yet feeling desolate, and of being tipsy in young love yet suffering from insecurities. The minimalistic instrumentation, as only a slow guitar strumming melody can be heard throughout, also adds to this evocative imagery of a dismal island. WOOSUNG’s efficient use of his unique vocals, inflected with wispy touches and endings, and simple yet pregnant-with-meaning lyrics, also make “ISLAND” an emotionally raw song. When lyrics like, “I land on ground feeling empty / A night without you, I cry like a baby (wah, wah) / I land on ground feeling 20 / You and I were not afraid, I remember lately”, are vocalized in WOOSUNG’s voice, it is hard not to let yourself be swept away by the atmospheric feels.

 

Aside from these lyrical compositions in our Best K-R&B songs of 2021 list, the tracks that also made the global K-R&B community sway to their rhythm include Yugyeom’s All Your Fault and I Want U Around, The Good Days Boys’ rwm, Ha Dong Qn x JUNNY’s ME.N.U, Thama’s Blessed, Colde’s The Museum, and SUMIN & SLOM’s Miniseries’ EP releases. Even after these though, the 2021 K-R&B playlist goes on and on, bop after bop!

 

Which album from our Best K-R&B songs of 2021 made it to the top of your playlist? Spill your favorites in the comments.
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