Every month, there are numerous releases out of the world of K-pop. In May 2021, some of the most engaging releases came from BTS, Heize, Everglow, and NCT Dream, with each artist and group pushing their musical style and career forward with this latest sonic era. Aespa – Next Level Although they’re less than a year-old and only have three songs to their name, Aespa – stylised as “aespa” – are already making waves. The rookie girl group’s third single is worth checking out just for its world building. But even if you tune in for the storyline, the engaging hip-pop song and its wrist-bending dance number will draw you in and make you want to check out the quartet as they reach new heights of storytelling in pop music. BTS – Butter The second all-English single from the septet, Butter , and later its Hotter remix version, set the act up with an upbeat song of summer that draws on the K-pop superstars with references to Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal and Queen-esque panache. It has gone on to make history multiple times over. Enhypen – Border: Carnival EP The boy band ’s second EP continues their exploration of high-energy dramatic pop and R&B-fuelled dance tracks, with singles Drunk-Dazed and Fever providing them the opportunity to put the spotlight on their charismatic performance style and vocal synergy – with a cinematic fantasy storyline that sometimes sees them as vampires, sometimes as princes, to go along with it all. Everglow – First This girl group has confidently showcased their fluid performance style in each of their singles, but with First they show their maturing dynamic. With authoritative energy recalling earlier singles Dun Dun and Adios , the propulsive earworm First is a pulsating, tone-jumping declaration of Everglow’s powerful spirit and the members’ vocals. Fromis9 – We Go In a year where most people were travelling nowhere, Fromis9’s addictive, high-energy We Go is a bright, funky dance song dreaming of being with the right person. A music video full of social media mock-ups of enjoying a holiday, even when staying at home, it’s the high energy song for the warm months in the age of Covid-19 when most people around the world can only dream of taking off and going somewhere else. Heize – Happen LP The stalwart vocalist returned with a stirring album that explores the depths of emotions, and features some of South Korea’s most versatile artists including Changmo, Kim Feel and Ahn Ye-eun. Unsurprisingly, it’s become a sure fire hit in the country, with Heize’s single groovy break-up song Happen – released with an Edward Hopper-themed music video starring none other than actor Song Joong-ki. Jay B – Switch It Up As Got7 carves out its new path after the members parted ways with long-term label JYP Entertainment, each one is trying out his own things. Jay B, also known as JB, surprised this month with the news of joining Jay Park’s H1ghr Music, and got sensual on the smooth Switch It Up featuring sokodomo, showing off a new side to himself while showcasing his hard-earned skills that have made him fans across the world. Joy – Hello EP In her first solo album, the Red Velvet member revitalizes songs of the past, with six tracks that re-imagine songs from the ‘90s and ‘00s. The second of the group to release her own album, following Wendy’s earlier this year, Joy’s sweet, soothing tone refreshes the tracks, updating them for the present with her own distinct flare. Keembo – Whatever There’s been a surge recently of older songs by K-pop acts going viral and becoming sleeper hits in South Korea, but there are also the likes of Keembo, a duo made up of former Spica members who have teamed up to release music together. Whatever is their latest, a retro pop song full of brass produced by production team Sweetune, who has made hits for some of K-pop’s biggest acts, who joins the two Kims – Kim Bo-young and Kim Bo-a – to create a sax-fuelled sleepy sweet summer track to groove along to during the hottest days NCT Dream – Hot Sauce LP The Dreamies have never failed to release addicting, energetic tracks, but with their first full-length album the formerly teenage NCT unit NCT Dream have grown up and relayed their maturing style through Hot Sauce ‘s 10 tracks, including the fiery title track. The album has reportedly sold over two million copies, joining a very small group of K-pop acts who have done the same. Rocket Punch – Ring Ring The infectious, Ring Ring -ing style of Rocket Punch’s latest song picks up one of this year’s biggest musical trends – disco pop – and runs with it far and fast, full of synths and euphoric, catchy hooks. Taemin – Advice EP Nobody really does it quite like Taemin in the world of K-pop, blending theatricality and pop dynamism, and his final EP, Advice, ahead of a hiatus while he serves in South Korea’s military continued his growth as a pop auteur. Tomorrow X Together – The Chaos Chapter: Freeze LP The quintet’s second LP is fronted by the alt rock 0X1=Lovesong (I Know I Love You) featuring singer Seori and co-written by BTS’s RM, and feels both old and new, drawing on aesthetics closely associated with the rock and punk pop movements of a few decades ago. The album as a whole blends intense dance and rock elements, typical of TXT, and features several songs produced and written by the members themselves, pushing the band’s maturing sound forward and to new heights.