This is kind of becoming a horrible habit with me, but I keep listening to top class K-pop ages after it comes out, and then I totally miss all awesome stuff that goes around the K-pop reviewing blogosphere. It was literally today when I decided to give the Wonder Girls’s 2011 album Wonder World (arguably one of the best releases of the year) a listen, and I just have to say that they really nailed it. I don’t know why I didn’t realize its merits when I was skimming through it on a International flight a few months ago (In Flight Entertainment has K-pop…who knew?)—it’s probably because of the crappy headphones and how sick I felt.
Anyhow, Wonder World‘s strength is that it’s one of those albums that you can play as a playlist and listen through the end without skipping songs. One thing that I keep seeing in K-pop recently is that when you get an album, it’s really a platter of songs that have next to no substance, whose job is just to hold up one main song, which is usually the promoted song. (Ironically, the main single of Wonder World might be one of my least liked on the album.) Sometimes you do find a decent song in the mix, sometimes even better the promoted song, but the rest of the album you either forget five minutes later, or you try really, really hard to magically get back your wasted 45 minutes.
So I kind of decided to start writing up a list albums in K-pop (or K-pop related albums–Japanese releases are valid) that are actually worth your time listening to, because I wish someone warned me before I tried listening to some of those meh albums. I’ll be updating quite frequently as I come up with/remember titles, and find new albums, so stop by pretty often if you’re interested. If you come across albums that you feel deserve to be on the list, please comment below about them! There is no way that I could know every awesome album out there. And remember, with any sort of list of this kind, it’s going to be opinionated, so I’m sorry if these albums don’t seem to float your boat.
Another Disclaimer: these albums are not necessarily perfect, and it doesn’t mean I love every song—it doesn’t even mean that they’re my favorite albums. These are just albums that hold their own and are thematically unified, rather than being full of throwaway filler. I’ve also put some comments on my favorites under the list.
The List (in no particular order)
- Wonder Girls, Wonder World
- Shoujo Jidai (SNSD), Girls and Peace and Girls’ Generation
- Super Junior, Sorry Sorry
- Tohoshinki, The Secret Code
- DBSK/TVXQ, Mirotic
- Younha, Supersonic, Just Listen, Subsonic
- DJ Clazzi, Infant
- B2ST/Beast, Fiction and Fact
- BIGBANG, Alive
- 2NE1, 2NE1 2nd Mini Album
- SHINee, Lucifer, Misconceptions of… Part 1 and 2
- IU, Lost and Found, Last Fantasy
- 2PM, Grown
- Shinhwa, The Return, The Classic
- Lee Hyori, Monochrome
- BTOB, Press Play (Recommended by Anna)
- EXO, XOXO
- MYK (SALTNPAPER), SALTNPAPER (Recommended by Isabellealyssa)
- Jaejoong, WWW
- Nell, Escaping Gravity
- Favorite Album of All Time:
- My biased opinion would be The Secret Code because I’m a huge, huge, Tohoshinki fan (which hasn’t been all that apparent yet—it will be soon though *goes to plot evil plan*)
- My less biased opinion will have to be Younha‘s Supersonic because it has the all the elements of a K-pop album that I could ever look for: lots of Pop Rock, a clean voice, melodically dependent songs, thematic consistency with some variety in style, and a myriad of haunting melodies.
- My Current Obsessions:
- Younha’s Just Listen
- Much to my embarrassment, I’m liking Exo‘s album way more than I should. But who cares, right? *shifts eyes* (“Heart Attack” is getting far too many plays right now. Don’t Judge.)
- My four favorites from Lee Hyori are also getting a ton of plays right now.
- MYK’s SALTNPAPER
Some Comments on Album Choices
- There may be some people wondering why “Dream Girl” or “Misconceptions of You (Part 1)” is on this list. Yes, it was a dull album, but I really see both Part 1 and Part 2 as the same album, and I firmly believe it’s thematically unified. The purpose of this list is not to write out the “Best of K-pop” but the most intriguing of K-pop. In other words, what albums out there are representative of a particular sound? What albums do a good job at being what they are? Which albums can you think of as truly an album? Most of the time, the albums that fit this criteria are albums that are also very good. That’s not always the case however, and “Dream Girl” is one of those kinds of albums. The second thing about “Dream Girl” is that a lot of us familiar with K-pop judge the album by SHINee standards, and it’s in the “meh” category when it comes to the kind of stuff SHINee puts out.
- The above could apply to “Girls and Peace” but this is no where as mediocre as the aforementioned album. Or maybe our standards for SNSD are freakishly low.
(Images belong to respective owners, JYP Entertainment)