Take a trip down memory lane and revisit the brightest moments from SM Entertainment’s artists in 2021.
From the Beyond LIVE concert series that saw members of EXO, SHINee, and SUPER JUNIOR lighting up the stage to the unveiling of SMCU, 2021 was a busy year for the artists of SM Entertainment. 2021 ushered in the release of the 2021 Winter SMTOWN : SMCU EXPRESS albums, showcasing some of SM Entertainment's brightest stars. You can purchase seasoned artists such as BoA, Girls' Generation Oh!GG, SUPER JUNIOR, TVXQ!, KANGTA, ONEW, KEY, and MINHO graced the fronts of the various album versions, as did acts like KAI, NCT, Red Velvet, aespa, GINJO, IMLAY and Raiden at SM Global Shop! An SMTOWN version was the cherry on the cake.
In between artists taking to the stage and hitting the studio, fans enjoyed a continuous flow of releases from groups and soloists alike. As the year draws to a close, let’s reminisce upon the memorable releases of 2021 to make sure you didn't miss a thing.
On February 22, SHINee built the hype with Don’t Call Me, the group's first release since The Story of Light Epilogue dropped in 2018. The title track, "Don't Call Me," reflected fans' excitement in the charts, debuting at #7 on the Billboard World Albums. Less than two months later, their repackage album, Atlantis, brought us the adventurous single of the same name.
SHINee members showed off their individual prowess through their own solo albums as well. First in line was TAEMIN’s Advice which debuted in May, while KEY stepped to the plate next with his own album, Bad Love. In December, vocal powerhouses ONEW and PUNCH collaborated on the SM STATION track, “Way,” just before MINHO dropped his second-ever single, “Heartbreak,” during the same month.
aespa Made a Fierce Name for Themselves
October 5th saw the history-making debut of aespa's EP, Savage. Savage spent a week at the #1 spot on the Billboard World Albums chart and made it to the Top 10 on the USA Top Album Sales purchase-only chart; they sold nearly 17,500 copies and earned a record-breaking #2 placement. Earlier in May, their single, "Next Level," debuted at #33 on the Billboard K-Pop 100 chart before soaring to #5 the following week.
But the ladies weren't finished: aespa kept up the momentum and charged forward to shatter other records. They became the fastest K-Pop girl group to appear on the Billboard 200 chart, entering it only 11 months after they debuted in November of 2020. They also made a historic performance at the 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, marking them as the first girl group to ever appear at this famous parade.
Alongside debuting at #20 on the Billboard 200 chart, Savage also set a record for the highest-charting debut album by any female K-pop artist, debuting on the Artist 100 chart at #20. They would go on to re-enter it again on December 11th, and in the same week show up in the Billboard World Albums, Independent Albums, Top Current Album Sales and Top Album charts.
EXO Made a Triumphant Return
Coming in hot two years after their last comeback, in June, EXO released their long-awaited special album DON'T FIGHT THE FEELING. The internet exploded with the return of members LAY, D.O. and XIUMIN, making the title track’s music video feel more like a family reunion. Soon after, D.O. showed off his talents as a soloist with his first mini album, Empathy, in July. KAI made the chilly month of November feel nice and warm with the release of his second mini album, Peaches.
Not only did BAEKHYUN release his third mini album, Bambi, he also teamed up with SM Entertainment labelmate, RAIDEN, to star on the track “Runner” featuring rapper CHANGMO.
Girls' Generation Shone Solo
Girls' Generation members TAEYEON and HYO both thrilled fans with summery releases of their own. TAEYEON sang the praises of the freedom of Saturday and Sunday with her bubbly single "Weekend" on July 6. The following month, HYO released “Second," a bouncy and energetic number that held fast to the colorful days of summer and featured solo artist BIBI.
The Queens of Red Velvet Reigned Supreme
In the spring, WENDY released her soothing debut EP, Like Water, while JOY brought a lot of, well, joy to her fans with her solo remake album, Hello. In the late summer, Red Velvet returned with a royal flourish as a group in their sixth mini album, Queendom, debuting on August 16th, nearly three years to the day since their last comeback. Proving that they missed their fans as much as we missed them, on August 1, they celebrated their 7th debut anniversary with ReVeluv on Naver V Live.
NEO City Was Bustling
As a part of their sweeping, full-member project, NCT 2021, NCT released their third full-length album, Universe, on December 14th. This album was bursting at the seams with its various subunits; NCT 127, NCT U, NCT DREAM and WayV all stood out individually with each of them boasting their own memorable songs. To wrap it up, its title track, Universe, was credited to NCT 2021.
In terms of separate units, NCT 127 put out their third album, Sticker, in September, with the repackage album, Favorite, appearing the following month in October. NCT DREAM also took their turn, setting late spring and early summer alight with the release of their spicy first studio album, Hot Sauce, on May 13th, followed by the repackage album, Hello Future, on June 28th.
WayV Made Waves
In March, WayV kicked off springtime with their third mini album, Kick Back. Putting extra focus on some of the group's vocalists, WayV members XIAOJUN and KUN contributed their angelic vocals to the duet single, “Back to You,” under the name WayV-KUN&XIAOJUN. Not long after, TEN unleashed his bold third solo single, “Paint Me Naked,” on August 10th. This came just days before his collaboration with fellow WayV member, YANG YANG, on their lovesick single, “Low Low.”
SUPER JUNIOR Stunned with Subunits and Solos
SUPER JUNIOR put out another instant classic with the spring release of the group's 10th album, The Renaissance. Later that year, we saw the fall debut of SUPER JUNIOR-D&E's first album, COUNTDOWN. Before that, YESUNG also gifted listeners with his fourth mini album, Beautiful Night, on May 3rd.
KANGTA Made a Comeback
Last but certainly not least, KANGTA kept all eyes on him with the release of the digital singles “Cough Syrup,” “Freezing,” “Christmas in July,” and “Maybe.” He even reimagined and rereleased the song, “Free to Fly,” originally made famous in 1997 by his former group, H.O.T.
Phew. Did you catch all that?
Whether you adore earlier generations like SHINee and Girls' Generation or love that fresh 4th generation sound that aespa brings to the table, there was something for everyone this year at SM Entertainment. Did you miss out on any of these releases? Don't panic. You can still grab many of these albums here on the SM Global Shop as well as some cool merch to celebrate your favorite artists!