August 2021 was yet another exciting month in the world of K-pop, with beloved girl group Red Velvet making their long-awaited return with their empowering new anthem ‘Queendom’. There was also TXT’s 2000s-inspired punk rock hit ‘LO$ER=LO♡ER’, as well as releases from K-pop staples like Sunmi, THE BOYZ and Dreamcatcher.
- READ MORE: The 15 best K-pop songs of 2021 – so far
Last month also proved to be a massive comeback season for boybands: up-and-comers CIX and CRAVITY made their return, while Kingdom: Legendary War winners Stray Kids reunited with member Hyunjin for the bombastic ‘Thunderous’. Without further ado, let’s jump right into the eight K-pop songs from August 2021 you need to hear.
CIX kicked off a new chapter in their burgeoning career with ‘OK Prologue: Be OK’, their first full-length album. The record, which features title track ‘Wave’, comes just six months after the close of their four-part ‘Hello’ series.
What NME said: “That transition to adulthood can be turbulent, in spite of any apparent tranquility…. Title track ‘Wave’’s thumping chorus [acts as] the calm before the storm, if you will. The song builds, reaching its peak and comes crashing down.” – Abby Webster
CRAVITY’s ‘Gas Pedal’
Up-and-coming boyband CRAVITY have officially arrived with the release of ‘The Awakening: Written In The Stars’, part one of their debut studio album. The record is fronted by the powerful title track ‘Gas Pedal’.
What NME said: “Riding on the automobile theme last heard in their ‘Season 3. Hideout: Be Our Voice’ single ‘My Turn’, which arrived earlier this year, CRAVITY narrow in on one very important auto part for this title track: the humble but powerful ‘Gas Pedal’.” – Ruby C
In classic Dreamcatcher fashion, the girl group’s banging new single ‘BEcause’ draws from nu-metal and rock. But its accompanying special album ‘Summer Holiday’ also finds the septet exploring city pop, EDM and more.
- READ MORE: Dreamcatcher on new mini-album ‘Summer Holiday’ and experimenting with genres outside of rock
What NME said: “‘BEcause’ tells the story of a love that slowly grows into an obsession, and its creepy, spine-tingling arrangement certainly lives up to the story and emotions the group hope to express. The track effortlessly transitions between upbeat synth verses and intense choruses powered by electric guitar riffs, with its slow but melodic bridge bringing the song to a satisfying climax.” – Angela Patricia Suacillo
Red Velvet’s ‘Queendom’
It’s been (almost) two long years without new music from SM Entertainment’s current ruling girl group Red Velvet, but the quintet are finally back with the empowering anthem ‘Queendom’, from the mini-album of the same name.
What NME said: “[The song finds] an innocuous middle ground as Seulgi urges us to ‘spread your wings and be yourself’ and Yeri commands: ‘Be boss, blow the whistle / The bigger world is noticing you.’ Its intention is very clearly to be an empowering anthem – a feminist bop that’s gender inclusive thanks to its “’Cause we are queens and kings” line.” – Rhian Daly
Stray Kids’ ‘Thunderous’
Fresh off the high of winning the Mnet reality TV competition Kingdom: Legendary War, alongside the return of member Hyunjin, Stray Kids have brought their A-game with sophomore album ‘NOEASY’. The record’s highlight is none other than its self-assured title track ‘Thunderous’.
What NME said: “This lead single retains its strength and self-assuredness from start to the end, anchored by a cacophonous combination of thundering, brassy horns and controlled EDM beats.It even comes with a surprising pre-chorus hook, as Lee Know and Han both smugly deliver: ‘I’ll always say what I have to say, Ptui, Ptui, Ptui’.” – Ruby C
Sunmi’s ‘You Can’t Sit With Us’
After three years of churning out hit singles – such as 2019’s ‘Noir’ to this year’s ‘Tail’ – Sunmi has finally released her long-awaited third mini-album ‘1/6’, which features the title track ‘You Can’t Sit With Us’.
What NME said: “Of the retro-inspired concepts that Sunmi has utilised thus far, ‘You Can’t Sit With Us’ is definitely the most in-your-face, using ’80s elements in both the song and its flashy music video to give the track energy without overpowering Sunmi’s vocal delivery.” – Angela Patricia Suacillo
THE BOYZ’s ‘Thrill Ride’
THE BOYZ ditch the darker, more conceptual vibe of their more recent releases for something “witty and tongue-in-cheek” on their new mini-album ‘Thrill-ing’, they previously told NME.
What NME said: “Title track ‘Thrill Ride’ unites hip-hop influences and laid-back pop merrymaking to create a vibrant piece that encapsulates the essence of summer. It’s reminiscent of the infectiously playful sound that the 11-piece act also employed for their older lead singles like 2018’s ‘Giddy Up’ and 2019’s ‘Bloom Bloom’.” – Carmen Chin
Tomorrow X Together’s ‘LO$ER=LO♡ER’
K-pop’s ‘It Boys’ TXT continue to embrace punk rock on ‘LO$ER=LO♡ER’, taken from ‘The Chaos Chapter: Fight Or Escape’, a repackaged version of their sophomore studio album ‘The Chaos Chapter: Freeze’.
What NME said: “‘LO$ER=LO♡ER’ picks up where ‘0X1=LOVESONG’ left off, its driving guitar melody and expletive-filled lyrics masking the song’s more romantic layers. The song’s concept lies in its loser’s ‘desire to be a hero’ – or a lover – to their soulmate and its lyrics shine a light on the importance the group place on love.” – Rhian Daly