It’s that time of the year. As summer comes to a close, there is the question of who ruled the summer? After all, summer is seen as the season of the girl groups, with Sistar having been dominant during this season. Red Velvet and AOA both have summer bops, continuing the girl group legacy. But in recent years, we’ve also had amazing releases from Seventeen, Golden Child, and more.
This month, we ask our writers: What was your personal favorite release of the summer? When we look back on this summer, what song do you think will stand out and be the representative song of the summer?
Rimi: Real life took up much of my summer and I haven’t had time to dive deeper into albums beyond title tracks and songs performed on music shows. Going by music show tracks alone, one group stood out above all others in the summer of 2021: TXT.
Think of “0 X 1 = Lovesong”, “Anti-Romantic” and “Loser = Lover”, could music be any more nostalgic yet relevant? Melodic and rock-y yet entirely K-pop-y? At this point, I’m not even sure I can place my finger on what works for me about these songs, but they make me sad and hopeful at the same time – a mix of feelings that BTS’s music once used to evoke (although with much greater intensity), and which brought me to K-pop and to massive change in my life. If anything, it only serves to emphasize the importance of the team behind the music. Slow Rabbit, credited with producing many of BTS’s songs, has also produced the three TXT songs above.
Other favorites are Golden Child’s “Ra Pam Pam”, Enhypen’s “Fever”, Taemin’s “Advice” and so many of the remixes and covers on MNET’s Kingdom: Legendary War. A month after the show, SF9’s cover of “Move” has emerged as my clear favorite, and is on my repeat playlist on Spotify.
Pat: I’ll be honest, I haven’t really been keeping up with K-pop this summer. I’ve been sticking to my tried and tested groups, so I’m excited to see who else everyone picked! Personally, Seventeen’s “Ready to Love” was on repeat due to the simple and easy listening experience. It doesn’t require me to think or be actively listening. While this may sound counterintuitive for music, it is what I look for when I am chilling or going about my work. This is especially true during the summer. Due to the same reasons, Red Velvet’s “Queendom” is much more of my style. It manages to have those summery vibes without it being too hyper ala “Red Flavor” and “Power Up.”
In a complete opposite to these two, I loved Loona‘s “Paint the Town” which is different from some mainstream K-pop without it being too out of the box for my ears. There’s a momentum to the track that pumps energy through my veins–but it is also a track that could have easily fitted in any season and isn’t really a Summer Track like my other two choices.
As for a potential new Summer Ruler, I think Brave Girls is worth mentioning–ever since they’ve managed to capture the audience’s interest, they have been making good use of their momentum. Their tracks suits the season and continue the legacy of girl group summer tracks. Other than them, I do agree with Rimi. TXT has had an amazing summer of releases that hints at their potential developing into more. I still can’t believe they debuted in 2019 and not last year.
Siena: I second all the groups you both have mentioned, with Brave Girls and TXT standing out in terms of my personal playlist this summer. But to be honest, I have a hard time even remembering what comebacks happened in the summer of 2021. That’s not to say that good music didn’t come out. Instead, there just seemed to be a lack of a definitive summer season in K-pop this year, maybe in part because there weren’t many songs that were whole-heartedly pursuing a summery sound. I’m not really a cheerful music person to begin with (I could fairly accurately describe my music taste as moody philosophical with a healthy dose of theatrics), but even I found myself missing a burst of summer musical brightness.
Still, a few releases come to mind as summer of 2021 favorites. Sunmi’s 1/6 is musically full of laid back summer vibes, and I like the album even more as I’m slowly diving into its deep lyrical content. At the tail end of August, Kwon Eun-bi unexpectedly swept me away with her delightfully jazzy solo debut “Door”. I’m not a huge fan of Somi’s “Dumb Dumb” as a song, but I’ve loved her stages, mostly because the choreography for the song is a blast. So, in summary, the queens are carrying the summer again!
Then again, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t always listen to music in real-time, so catch up with me in about 600 years and I’ll probably be delighted to regale you with a long, long, long playlist of my favorite songs released in summer 2021. But for now, it goes down in my book as a good but not great summer.
Qing: Oh, Siena, I do wish I’d still be a K-pop grandma-turned-fossil fan if I were to reincarnate 600 years later. Nothing sprang to mind when I thought of this K-pop summer, but looking through the releases, I was surprised to find I had several favourites, many characterised by rock influences and a nostalgic, at times wistful sound.
Since the Wonder Girls rebooted in the summer of 2015 with a glorious, glorious 80s pop sound, I’ve come to sonically associate the season with not just bubblegum pop, but also retro genres. “You Can’t Sit With Us” was an easy stand-out with Sunmi’s insouciant delivery buoyed by twinkling synths. Despite how fun it sounds, there are moments when she sounds almost haunted, tying in with the album’s biographical themes of mental health struggles that Lo so eloquently laid out in her review.
Moody also characterises TXT’s “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” and Seventeen’s “Ready to Love“, both rock-driven tracks with strong melodies. There’s something enchanting about the contrast between the delicate verses and the bold longing in the chorus of “Ready to Love” (and angsty belting, in the case of “0X1”). “0X1″‘s chanted refrains and the vocalisations in the background give the track a bittersweet, heady air, as though you’re living out a vivid memory.
Nostalgia-steeped releases aside, Ha Sungwoon‘s effervescent “Sneakers” sparkles with hope and levity; listening to the album makes me feel like I’m strolling along a breezy beach with a lemon soda in hand. And although it came out in February, ONF‘s “Beautiful Beautiful” is very much the grandchild of early 2000s summer hits like UN‘s “Wave“. It puts a huge smile on my face each listen! The verses and chorus are already pure joy, but just wait till you get to the bridge. If it were possible to pinch a song on the cheeks, I would a hundred times over, and I’d happily foot its Botox fees.
Sara: I may hate the summer heat, but there’s something special about the music released during this season. Like many others have mentioned, TXT has consistently dominated my playlists and on repeat rotations these past few months. I instantly fell in love with “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” and its rock feel and grittiness that feels both new and nostalgic. “Loser=Lover” took me a little longer to like (I couldn’t/can’t stop laughing and shaking my head whenever I hear the chorus, but I guess that’s part of its charm), but it carries on an anthemic sound that makes it stick with listeners. With these releases and “Anti-Romantic” blowing up on TikTok, I definitely think that TXT claimed the summer of 2021 as theirs.
Other personal favorites are the addictive “Thrill Ride” by The Boyz, the laidback “Low Low” by Ten and Yangyang of WayV, and the melancholic “After We Ride” by Brave Girls. I wonder if “Thrill Ride” was released earlier (The Boyz’s album came out in early August) it could’ve been a bigger summer hit. The track is a definite earworm with its bouncy hook and fun choreography complete with a rollercoaster formation. “Thrill Ride” also shows off the playfulness of The Boyz without falling into a strictly “cute” concept. The group struck a significant balance that felt fresh while staying true to The Boyz’s growth following Road to Kingdom and Kingdom.
As for the last two songs, “Low Low” is an easy listen that captures TenYang’s boundless energy, perfectly matching the vibe of summer. Meanwhile, “After We Ride” just has something about it that reminds me of summer ending. My brain also hasn’t stopped thinking about the emotional opening and those synths.
What were your favorite summer tracks? Let us know in the comments below!