Continuing with my second part for this first series ‘My Top 10 K-Pop Songs of the Year’, I previously listed and reviewed a few ‘Honorable Mentions‘ that I liked, but didn’t like enough to make it onto the actual list. Now I’ll be moving on to discussing about my favorite K-Pop albums of the year.
It’s important to note that I’m a casual listener of many K-Pop groups (as well as Khip-hop artists), but I don’t listen to EVERY single album of EVERY single group out there. I can be quite picky at times as well so these albums that I’ll be listing are from some of my personal favorite groups, but are also from artists or groups whose albums I’ve been impressed with before (hence, why, I gave their new music this year a listen). With that being said, here are my favorite albums of 2018:
*Click on the artist and album name to listen to the album!
TOP ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
You can’t go wrong with Jooyoung.. ever really. He first emerged in 2010, but became a little bit more known after joining Starship in 2014 who houses other K-Pop groups like Monsta X, WSJN, and the former girl group powerhouse SISTAR. It was then that I heard of Jooyoung due to his collaboration with Kisum in ‘You and Me‘ which I greatly enjoyed. Jooyoung’s career has been interesting and a little rough because although he clearly has the talents and vocals, Jooyoung hasn’t been the most promoted or greatly managed. His enlistment service in 2015 put a halt on his career for a few years as well so we didn’t see much of him at that time. Thankfully, the solo artist returned with some new music this year and gifted us all with his album ‘Fountain.’ The 6-track album features H1GHR Music artists like pH-1 and G.Soul and ranges from a variety of genres. After giving the entire album a listen, Jooyoung’s vocals was really what kept the album so strong, consistent, and stable. You just never get tired of his voice and then combine that with the songs he was singing and the artists he was collaborating with and you had an overall enjoyable and amazing album. My personal favorites would have to be ‘Planet Girl’ featuring pH-1 and the last track ‘Fountain.’ However, this entire album is solid and I’m glad that Jooyoung was just finally able to bless us all with some new wonderful music. Here’s to hoping he’ll make just as great of a comeback next year as well.
Personal Favorites: 'Planet Girl' featuring pH-1, 'Fountain'
Woo hoo hoo, this one was perfect all throughout. There was not one single bad track from this album. Popular solo artist Sunmi has been delivering great music since her solo career back in 2014 with ’24 Hours’ which was undeniably a huge hit. Then she followed it up with other hits like ‘Full Moon’ and the popular ‘Gashina’ which definitely caused a craze throughout South Korea. She returned with some new music this year including ‘Heroine’ as well as ‘Siren.’ Her latest album ‘Warning’ has to be inarguably one of the best albums of 2018. Every single track is solid and strong, but the thing that I appreciate the most is how consistent it is with Sunmi’s concept as a solo artist. She’s always been confident, sassy, and charismatic on stage, and you definitely feel that throughout the album. Sunmi – from the Wonder Girls days to her solo artist days – has given us more retro kind of music and ‘Siren’ definitely falls into that category. It’s what she does best and that’s not to say that Sunmi can’t try other genres or that she fails to experiment out of her comfort zone. If Sunmi wanted to try something different, she totally could and would probably excel because she embodies the confidence and energy needed. However, she’s built a forte for herself which she sticks with it which is totally fine. Sunmi knows what works best for her and she’s doing great with that. Though there’s no telling if Sunmi will try something different in the future, all the music she’s been giving us the past few years has been more than enough and has definitely proven to be successful for her as well.
Personal favorites: 'ADDICT', '비밀테이프'
I know I know. Some of y’all might be questioning my music taste and why I chose this album as one of the top albums of this year. I’ll just keep it simple. I don’t really listen to TWICE nor follow them (the most I do is just check out their title tracks and that’s it). However, I decided to give their ‘Yes or Yes’ album a listen after hearing many fans recommend the b-side tracks. The first song I listened to from the album was ‘Young and Wild’ and I surprisingly liked it. Then I gave ‘La La La’ and ‘Sunset’ a listen and also found myself enjoying those tracks as well. So while I didn’t really care for ‘Yes or Yes’, I liked three of the album tracks and was quite surprised myself at how much I enjoyed them. TWICE has yet to experiment with their music and concepts so most of their songs are upbeat, bubbly, and cute. ‘Yes or Yes’ is no exception and follows the same recipe that their other title tracks like ‘What is Love?’ and even ‘Dance the Night Away’ utilizes. However, for the consistent but repetitive sound that TWICE delivers, I was quite impressed with their ‘Yes or Yes’ album. I don’t shy away from listening to “cute”, “innocent”, and “bubbly” songs that girl groups like TWICE sings. When I first got into K-Pop, that was mostly what girl groups were putting out (read: Girls Generation). I actually enjoy cutesy kind of songs which could explain why I liked TWICE’s ‘Yes or Yes’ album. Regardless, it doesn’t take away the fact that their most recent album was enjoyable for me. Some might have been disappointed with this comeback from the girls, but I liked the album and am still listening to the songs to this day. It was on heavy repeat when it first came out and still is. Along with TWICE’s many comebacks this year came some cute, simple, and adorable songs that I enjoyed.
Personal favorites: 'Sunset,' 'La La La', 'Young and Wild'
BTS’s last three comebacks (‘DNA’, ‘Fake Love’, and ‘IDOL’) has been a wild roller coaster ride for me. While the entire ‘Love Yourself’ era has to be my least favorite era of BTS (I’ve been a fan of theirs since debut) and there were quite a few things about the era that felt underwhelming, I also have to admit that they did deliver some good music during this era. Out of the three albums they released for the era ‘HER’, ‘Tear’, and ‘Answer’, my personal favorite would have to be ‘Tear’ which was released in May of this year. After listening to ‘HER’ and feeling a bit disappointed at how underwhelming the album was, I was losing a little bit of hope in BTS. I felt like they could have done better (as they’ve done before with prior albums) so I began to feel a bit iffy about their next comeback after ‘HER.’ Thankfully, my faith and confidence in them ascended tremendously with ‘Love Yourself: Tear.’ I still recall the first time I listened to the album; I was up in my apartment at around 2AM-3AM in the morning and I just felt so relieved that every track on the album was satisfying. I certainly didn’t feel this way about ‘HER’ and never quite got the same feeling of content with ‘Answer’ either so I was so happy that ‘Tear’ delivered. ‘Fake Love’ and ‘Tear’ overall was a little bit more dark and sophisticated compared to ‘DNA’ and ‘IDOL’, but I liked that (of course, it also aligned with their theories, storytelling, etc.). In a way, ‘Fake Love’ kind of reminded me of ‘Danger’ and BTS’s first full-length album ‘Dark and Wild’ which could be another reason as to why I might have liked ‘Love Yourself: Tear’ so much. Regardless, ‘Tear’ is the best album of the three and consists of many solid tracks overall. Plus, the music video was really nice and the styling wasn’t that bad. LOL. I can see why BTS won daesangs with ‘Love Yourself: Tear’ and I find their wins rightfully deserving so. The boys have worked incredibly hard this year (as they’ve done in the past), but they also put out some great music with this album. While it’s not clear what BTS’s future plans are (with Big Hit planning to debut a new boy group sometime next year), I’m hoping we’ll get some more albums like ‘Tear.’
Personal favorites: 'Anpanman', 'Airplane Pt. 2', 'Love Maze'
I love love love Sam Kim and I love him even more for constantly delivering great music. From this debut album ‘I Am Sam‘ which consisted of amazing tracks like ‘Seattle’, ‘Mama Don’t Worry’, and ‘Touch My Body’ to his newest album ‘Sun and Moon’ featuring artists like Zico and Crush, Sam Kim NEVER disappoints. I actually had no idea that he was releasing a new album this year until I happened to come across the music video for his first title track ‘Make Up.’ I can’t even say that I was surprised at how good of a song the track was because Sam Kim always has great songs, but I immediately fell in love with ‘Make Up’ upon first listening to it. I then moved on to listening to the first part of his album and also fell in love with album track ‘Sun and Moon’ which his album is named after. Sam Kim then released the second part of the album with a new music video featuring Zico and several additional album tracks. Sam Kim’s music kind of reminds me of Jooyoung in that both are incredibly talented vocalists and musicians and their vocals are the highlights of their music. Every single song from ‘Sun and Moon’ is enjoyable and worthy of being the title track. I know I can always count on Sam Kim to deliver good, consistent, and solid music, and I’ll definitely keep looking out for him in the future.
Personal favorites: 'Sun and Moon', 'It's You', 'If'
2018 has been an interesting year for Red Velvet. 2017 was a great year for them as they solidified their status as one of the top girl groups of the third generation (alongside BLACKPINK and TWICE). They promoted early this year with ‘Bad Boy’ and then went on to make a summer comeback with ‘Power Up’ which I didn’t enjoy at all (even their ‘Summer Magic’ album was underwhelming and disappointing). As I stated in my review of the comeback, it felt like SM was trying to create another ‘Red Flavor’ part 2 without actually using the ingredients and steps from ‘Red Flavor.’ Though Red Velvet excelled with ‘Power Up’, it was their latest album ‘RBB’ that impressed me. While it took me a while to warm up to ‘Really Bad Boy’ and definitely does not come close to being one of my top three promotional tracks from Red Velvet, I have to admit that the song isn’t that bad after you get used to it (I know some people didn’t enjoy all the ad-libs and screaming and there was a lot going on in the song, but I eventually got accustomed to it and actually don’t mind listening to ‘Really Bad Boy’ now). I think what made me enjoy ‘Really Bad Boy’ a lot more though was the album itself. All the other tracks from ‘RBB’ are exceptional and amazing. So while I might have been disappointed with ‘Really Bad Boy’ as the title track, I was highly satisfied with the rest of the album. It might even be my favorite album from the girl group after their repackage ‘The Perfect Red Velvet.’ ‘Really Bad Boy’ would have made a good album track and I think I would have appreciated and liked the song more if it was. However, since ‘Really Bad Boy’ was the title track, it felt a little underwhelming to me (compared to their other title tracks) and is probably what I would consider the weakest song from the album in my opinion. That’s not to say that ‘Really Bad Boy’ is such a bad and boring song or that you should never listen to it. It’s just that compared to the rest of the tracks from ‘RBB’, ‘Really Bad Boy’ pales in comparison, but I guess it works out fine since ‘RBB’ the album delivered when ‘Really Bad Boy’ the title track failed to.
Personal favorites: 'Taste', 'Butterflies'
And that’s it for my top albums of the year! In my next and last post of this series, I’ll be discussing my top 10 K-Pop Songs of 2018! Of course, I can’t forget about Korean dramas as well! A post about that will be coming up as well so look out for that 🙂