The vast world of K-pop is influenced by, and influences, every conceivable genre of music across the world. While the most popular trends and biggest influences tend to fluctuate, there are two key aspects of K-pop that tie everything together: perfection and performance.
The artists in this list embody these qualities of perfection and performance, shining with incredible music and mesmerizing music videos. This article identifies the top female K-pop artists of 2021, ranked from the very best at #1 (spoiler: TWICE) all the way through #80.. this list could easily have grown to more than 100 entries, but it had to be cut off somewhere!
List of The Top 80 Female K-Pop Artists of 2021
OH MY GIRL
WJSN THE BLACK
KWON EUN BI
Read About the Top 80 Female K-Pop Artists of 2021
It's hardly a surprise to see TWICE claim the coveted Best K-Pop Group of 2021 award. Since the story began in 2015, TWICE has been making an argument for being the absolute best group of the year, year after year, by saturating the market with uncontrollably catchy songs. It's not uncommon for the nine-piece girl group to release several mini-albums, often in multiple languages, each year, collecting more and more ONCE along the way.
In 2021, however, TWICE somehow managed to elevate themselves even higher with two full-length albums: Formula of Love: O+T=<3 in their native Korean tongue and also Perfect World for their favorite secondary market, Japan. Impressive enough on its own, Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung, and Tzuyu skyrocketed ahead of the pack even further by releasing an incredible summer mini-album (Taste of Love) and smashing into the Western market with "The Feels", their first original song in English and potentially best song in their massive, 150+ song discography.
Releasing a special fan song for their dear MIDZY, a mini-album (GUESS WHO), and their debut full-length album (Crazy in Love) in 2021 meant Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, and Yuna had a beyond-busy year. With explosive music videos fueled by impossibly-precise dance routines ("In the morning" is probably the best music video of the year) and b-sides better than most groups' title tracks, it's not hard to see why ITZY sits near the top of the year's best groups, only slightly edged out by the sheer output of their sisters in TWICE.
2021 also found ITZY reissuing English and Japanese versions of their biggest career-spanning hits, showcasing the five-piece's unbelievable global starpower and hooking in audiences around the world with their pitch-perfect vocals and you-have-to-see-it-to-believe it choreographies.
In the morning
In a truly spectacular year of K-pop, it's paradoxically fitting that rookies TRI.BE take a well-deserved slot in the Top 3 best groups of the year. K-pop is undoubtedly packed with amazing performers that get better (and better) with age, but it's also a world where new, younger talent is welcomed with open arms and rookies are given a spotlight to shine alongside their sunbaenims.
TRI.BE came, TRI.BE saw, and TRI.BE conquered with the impeccable VENI VIDI VICI debut mini-album laced with some of the year's best songs. The multi-national, multi-lingual group also dropped two absolutely stellar single albums (CONMIGO and TRI.BE Da Loca) as well as perhaps the best Christmas song in recent memory ("Santa For You") and the theme song for one of the hottest new animated tv shows, We Baby Bears ("The Bha Bha Song"). The future for TRI.BE and the TRUE that support them is as bright as the shining personalities of Songsun, Kelly, Jinha, Hyunbin, Jia, Soeun, and Mire.
WOULD YOU RUN
Confidence has always been the backbone of EVERGLOW, and E:U, Sihyeon, Mia, Onda, Aisha, and Yiren have never sounded stronger than they did this year. Much to the delight of FOREVER who had been waiting to see where the group would go next, the six-piece returned in 2021 with a pair of mini-albums (Last Melody and Return of the Girl) and a for-charity special single.
Already a fantastic group with more than a dozen excellent songs across their discography coming into the year, EVERGLOW somehow managed to have their best year yet: the fierce "FIRST" is their strongest song to date, and "Back Together" is easily their best ballad. No matter what style they tackle, it's clear that EVERGLOW is the winner, winner, winner.
The aespa formula for success in 2021 found the four-piece remaking songs into their own hits as well as issuing their first mini-album of six original tracks. It has been impossible to escape the four-piece this year, a true blessing for both MY and global fans of empowering, powerful K-pop.
With the backing of SM Entertainment, and the sheer starpower and charisma of Karina, Giselle, Winter, and Ningning, the only question is just how much better this already-savage group will get in 2022.
Following the dissolution of I.O.I in 2017, Kim Chungah debuted as a solo artist and went to work, issuing nearly fifty songs in just four years across several singles, mini-albums, soundtracks, and guest appearances. Now in her fifth year alone (but with the support of her loyal BYULHARANG!), CHUNG HA leveraged that extensive experience to deliver a debut full-length, Querencia.
With extraordinary effort and vision (and a slew of guests), the multi-lingual idol unleashed four distinct sides through her record, each one with its own introductory track and unique atmosphere: "NOBLE", "SAVAGE", "UNKNOWN", and "PLEASURES". While each side of Querencia is a unique experience, CHUNG HA's perfect performances stitch the entire experience together for a truly essential listen.
Dreamcatcher continued to dominate a truly special K-pop niche in 2021 with two fantastic mini-albums and an impressive special Japanese project. [Dystopia : Road to Utopia], the final entry in the Dystopia trilogy, is a proper farewell to an incredible set of songs, while [Summer Holiday] is an exciting, catchy collection of slightly-lighter fare than what the seven-piece is typically known for.
Their unique sound -- a blend of the most popular current music trends and guitar-driven rock -- means that they consistently sit just outside the general public's purview, but InSomnia and fans of something just a little bit different continue to remain blessed by the remarkable efforts of JiU, SuA, Siyeon, Handong, Yoohyeon, Dami, and Gahyeon.
Formed through Nizi Project in 2020, the hype around JYPE's first Japanese girl group fueled the success of several early singles last year, but it's their debut full-length album (which does repackage a handful of those tracks) that truly showcases the reason Mako, Rio, Maya, Riku, Ayaka, Mayuka, Rima, Miihi, and Nina were selected to form NiziU.
U is absolutely packed with unbelievably catchy, motivational anthems inspiring not only WithU but all listeners to be your best self. And if you wanna, wanna, wanna take a picture along the way, more power to you!
Take a picture
You know what it is: B. Girls are back! In perhaps the most unlikely success story in K-pop history, the current iteration of Brave Girls reappeared to the public eye in 2021 on the unexpected and unplanned viral hype of their 2017 single, "Rollin'". Fueled by a massive re-appreciation and re-interest in the group, Minyoung, Yujeong, Eunji, and Yuna returned to the scene with Summer Queen, a truly perfect summer party mini-album.
While it took a full decade for Brave Girls to have their absolute best year ever, Fearless (and the rest of South Korea, especially their military that played a large part in their revival!) hopefully won't wait nearly as long for another stellar year from Brave Entertainment's hottest act.
Chi Mat Ba Ram
Lalisa Manobal, more recognizably known as maknae LISA from BLACKPINK, delivered two hard-hitting bangers for her debut single album, the aptly titled LALISA. The long awaited solo project from the most popular member of the world's most popular girl group exceeded all conceivable expectations while also simultaneously raising the bar for all other solo debuts going forward.
The first soloist on this list, and only one to crack the coveted Top 10, LISA had an absolutely massive year. In addition to her own essential tracks from LALISA, the Thai singer and dancer joined DJ Snake (and Ozuna, and Megan Thee Stallion) for "SG", an unlikely pairing of intercontinental mega-talents on a sexy girl, summer-ready romp.
Sumin, Sieun, Isa, Seeun, Yoon, and J cement themselves as true Stars to a Young Culture in 2021 with two fantastic Black Eyed Pilesung-produced mini albums, STEREOTYPE and STAYDOM. The six-piece group are absolutely infectious on their seven latest songs, from the more laid-back b-sides like "COMPLEX" through their smash-hit title tracks like "ASAP".
The second BLACKPINK member to release a solo project, Roseanne Park used this long-awaited opportunity to showcase her impeccable vocals and slick songwriting. "On the Ground" is a true anthem of empowerment, and "Gone" is a beautiful ballad lamenting loss and heartbreak. R is the culmination of the New Zealand-born, Australia-raised, South Korea-located singer's life to date and hopefully just the first stage in a long, successful solo career.
On the Ground
Debuting early in 2021 allowed Park Ji-eun, Na Go-eun, Dosie, Ireh, Yuki, Chaein, and Swan to have an absolutely packed year. The seven-piece released two very unique mini albums (HIDE & SEEK and INTO VIOLET) as well as two special singles, with several music videos for all of these releases along the way. Perhaps the only thing more impressive than PURPLE KISS in 2021 is the potential of PURPLE KISS in 2022 and years to come!
2021 finds PinkFantasy fully embracing their metalcore influences, with the crushing "Poison" showcasing the incredible potential they've only hinted at in the past few years. B-side "Alice in Darkland"similarly showcases their potential in a different area: hard-hitting, instrumental EDM. The group is peerless in not only the fact that one of their members is always masked and marked with a completely hidden identity, but also in their seamless blending of genres.
Alice in Darkland
Lee Ji-eun continues to do things ever-so-differently in 2021, and the beautiful LILAC is testament to her ability to continuously remain interesting and exciting more than ten years into her career as one of K-pop's most celebrated solo artists. IU doesn't merely catch your attention; she demands it.
The six-song UNNATURAL is one of the strongest WJSN mini-albums to date, high praise considering their extensive high-quality discography. Seola, Xuanyi, Bona, Exy, Soobin, Luda, Dawon, Eunseo, Cheng Xiao, Meiqi, Yeoreum, and Dayoung are in top form in 2021, polishing the sounds they've explored in the last several years without losing any of the intricate edge that makes the Cosmic Girls one of K-pop's most exciting acts.
Lee Soo-jin, Shin Ji-yoon, Monday, Park So-eun, Lee Jae-hee, Jihan, and Zoa released more than a few incredible songs during their time as rookies in 2020, but it took the massive hit "After School" to (finally, rightfully) make Weeekly a household name. With two great mini-albums and a handful of meaningful soundtrack appearances in 2021, Weeekly firmly established themselves as one of the year's finest groups.
OH MY GIRL
Veterans Hyojung, Mimi, YooA, Seunghee, Jiho, Yubin, and Arin returned in 2021 with perhaps the year's catchiest song, "Dun Dun Dance", leaving most other cute-concept groups scrambling to play catch-up. The seven-piece also added a small handful of other solid songs to their extensive discography, including the special single, "Shark".
Dun Dun Dance
Yujin, Gaeul, Rei, Wonyoung, Liz, and Leeseo debuted as IVE late in 2021 but quickly gained massive support and attention for their first release, ELEVEN. Of course, having members of IZ*ONE didn't hurt their hype, but the important thing about this six-piece is that they delivered an absolute smash their first time out the gate, prompting everyone to wonder (and get very excited for) what they have in store for 2022.
For the first time since their 2019 debut, Rocket Punch paused their colored Punch arc and surprised everyone with Ring Ring and it's titular single. An absolute ear-worm, "Ring Ring" streamlines the more brash Rocket Punch formula to deliver summer-ready synths and crisp, sugary vocals. It worked so well that Juri, Yeonhee, Suyun, Yunkyoung, Sohee, and Dahyun injected some of this sound into their Japanese debut, Bubble Up!, too!
(G)I-DLE leader (and primary writer and composer) Jeon Soyeon steps into her own spotlight for WINDY, lead by the infectious title track and absolutely fire hip-hop closer, "Is this bad b****** number?". Fellow rappers BIBI and Lee Young Ji join her for the latter, with JEON SOYEON repeatedly asking, "Hello, is this bad bitch number?", and getting appropriately fierce verses in response.
Is this bad b****** number?
2020 found Yukika Teramoto delivering city-pop perfection in the form of SOUL LADY, immediately leaving fans of the niche genre to wonder what she could possibly do next. For 2021, YUKIKA expands on her sound in experimental ways that don't quite exceed her debut effort but are certainly interesting, creative, and absolutely worth a listen. timeabout, anchors the efforts through a six-song mini-album, but a handful of collaborations and other singles round out yet another fantastic year for the Japanese singer.
To the Light
While woo!ah! earns a slot on the list of the year's best groups just for releasing possibly the greatest song of all time about mixing colors, Nana, Wooyeon, Sora, Lucy, and Minseo also put out a few other solid tracks to round out a great 2021.
(G)I-DLE started 2021 as a fiery six-piece and released the impressive I burn but quickly suffered a major tragedy when one sixth of their team was improperly ousted by social outrage through evidence-free, source-less "allegations of bullying during grade school". Devastated by the unfair treatment of their bandmate and best friend, Miyeon, Minnie, Soyeon, Yuqi, and Shuhua did little else as unit -- though promised to continue on in the future as a quintet -- for the rest of the year. Still, songs from that early effort easily put (G)I-DLE on the list of the year's top K-pop acts.
WJSN The Black
It's so easy to put SeolA, Bona, EXY, and Eunseo on the list of the year's best groups. As the second official WJSN sub-unit, WJSN The Black issued My attitude midway through 2021 and left a mark on the rest of the year.
Kiss Your Lips
Billlie debuted in 2021 with a wildly experimental mini-album, the Billage of perception : chapter one. Blending traditional songs such as "Carol of the Bells" and "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" into powerfully-produced K-pop with non-traditional song structures, Billlie -- currently Moon Sua, Suhyeon, Haram, Tsuki, Sheon, Siyoon, Haruna -- mark themselves as one of the year's best artists and one of the most exciting to look forward to in 2022.
RING X RING
flipp!ng a coin
The long-awaited solo debut album from Ennik Somi Douma finally arrived in the form of the eight-song XOXO. Lead by THEBLACKLABEL production and songwriting, the former I.O.I star shined bright in 2021 with her remarkable voice and attention-demanding persona.
The ever-evolving LOONA returned with [&] in 2021, the next phase in the constantly-evolving duodecet's discography. Following their signature formula of beginning with a hard-hitting intro song, HeeJin, HyunJin, HaSeul, YeoJin, ViVi, Kim Lip, JinSoul, Choerry, Yves, Chuu, Go Won, and Olivia Hye quickly join the fray on the title track, capturing your attention the entire way. The group also expanded their reach into Japan for the first time with HULA HOOP.
PTT (Paint the Town)
Lee Jin, Soo Jung, Da-Kyung, Joo A, Ha Yun, and Ye Seul debuted in the summer of 2021 with the bright and bubbly Go High three-track mini-album, lead by the too, too infectious title track, "Too Too (22)".
Too Too (22)
Though some of Cherry Bullet spent the summer competing on Girls Planet 999 for a chance to join a brand new girl group, Haeyoon, Yuju, Bora, Jiwon, Remi, Chaerin and May did release the exciting five-song Cherry Rush early in 2021.
Love So Sweet
Six-piece bugAboo hunt bugaboos on "bugAboo", the title track on bugAboo, while singing the infectious chorus: "BbugAboo, bugAboo, bugAboo, bugAboo, bugAboo!". It's one of the stranger K-pop debuts of 2021, but it works, and leaves us all wondering what Eunchae, Yoona, Rainie, Cyan, Choyeon, and Zin will do next!
All Night Play
Mayna, Nahyun, Hyeongshin, Dana, Yewon, Yebin, and Dain exploded into 2021 with the fierce ISSUE MAKER and equally interesting followup, ICONS. Loaded with powerful dances and soaring choruses, HOT ISSUE are one of the genre's most exciting and promising rookie groups.
K-pop all-star Lee Sun Mi continues to assert her dominance in 2021 with anthems like "You can't sit with us". While the former Wonder Girls singer spent much of the year mentoring the next generation of idols on GIRLS PLANET 999, she still found time to drop a handful of singles and even collaborated on "Shivers" with Ed Sheeran and Jessi.
You can't sit with us
Kim Hyun-ah continued to shine in 2021 with two new exciting mini-albums, including the first formal collaboration project, HyunA&DAWN, with her long-time romantic partner, DAWN.
I'm Not Cool
Miya, Seokyoung, Seoryoung, Anne, Minju, Soso, and Lena added THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOON to their already-strong discography, with the fiery "Like It Hot" title track and five excellent b-sides.
Like It Hot
Dear Diary Moment marks the return of cignature, their second mini-album and first as the the current team of Chaesol, Jee won, Seline, Chloe, Belle, Semi, and Do Hee. This time around, cignature sounds more composed and mature -- and it works -- but they never quite deliver the smashes they hinted at just a year earlier as rookies.
DreamNote followed up the bright and bubbly Dream Wish with Dreams Alive in 2021, a darker effort that showcases another interesting side of Sumin, Eunjo, Lara, Miso, Youi, and Boni.
Ji Su-yeon, Elly, Choi Yoo-jung, Kim Do-yeon, Sei, Lua, Rina, and Lucy deliver I AM ME. in 2021, a further refinement of their signature sound. While title track "Siesta" is immediately familiar, it is also perhaps a hint of where Weki Meki might be headed as the group continues to mature.
Who am I
PIXY invite you to join their Fairy Forest through a series of very ambitious mini-albums this year. It feels cold and dark in their fantasy world, but Ella, Lola, Satbyeol, Dia, Sua, and Dajeong offer a warmth and light that makes PIXY's 2021 output an irresistible listen.
Mina Otomonai isn't one to mince words, and the rapper's third full-length album is a brash reminder of that fact, with biting bars layered over equally icy beats. 2021 also finds CHANMINA hopping on a throat-cutting remix of Saweetie and Doja Cat's "Best Friend".