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Best Korean Albums of 2018

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

Our editors' picks for the ten best Korean albums of 2018!

2018 marks the year that BTS made history and opened a brand new chapter of K-pop. Back in May, the global sensation hit the stage of the Billboard Music Awards with the groovy emo smash hit Fake Love, and that's only the beginning of what Love Yourself: Tear has to offer. V's sentimental R&B solo Singularity serves as the first song to kick off the whole album, which includes the 90s hip-hop style 134340, the urban trap and R&B song Love Maze, the upbeat So What, the Jung Kook-penned Magic Shop and the swingy Airplane pt.2, a sequel to Airplane from J-Hope's mixtape. Produced by the renowned Steve Aoki, the pop ballad "The Truth Untold" poignantly conveys desperate feelings through the vocalist members' singing. BTS also alludes that they wish to become a tiny hero like Anpanman and heal hearts with their music!

Which ballad pops up in your mind for the sentimental season of fall? Following last year's Missing You, BTOB makes another autumn hit with "Beautiful Pain," the lead single of Hour Moment. The song has a balladic medium-tempo melody and resonant, realistic lyrics that touch the hearts of those who have ever gone through separation. The album leads off with the funky and vibrant Friends – the only song that enlisted leader Eun Kwang participated in – to celebrate their loving brotherhood. It then follows with the R&B Like It, the tranquil acoustic pop "Butterfly" and the heart-wrenching alternative ballad "Climax." Known for their vocal, rap, songwriting and even comedic talents, the ever versatile BTOB surprises yet again with exquisite self-composed tunes that heal and comfort during those melancholic moments.

DAY6 started their "Youth Series" in the summer with the wild punk rock anthem Shoot Me, which sharply contrasted with their previous musical style. The pop band returns to sentimental soft rock plugs in part two of the series, Remember Us. Lead track Days Gone By recalls 80s British synthpop with a mixture of refreshing beats and vintage sounds. "Hurt Road" continues the usual DAY6 style of melancholic love ballads that they showed in last year's Every Day6 Project. The members also bring a harder rock sound in the fast-tempo hybrids "Headache" and 121U. Matching the concept of "Youth," DAY6 tries a gospel music sound for the first time in "Marathon" to encourage listeners to rest for a bit in their exhausting lives – "it's okay to be slow." The album also contains the funky "So Cool" and their third-anniversary track Beautiful Feeling. Remember Us lives up to its concept by expressing the realistic ups and downs of youth through captivating music.

High School Rapper Season 2 winner HAON is popular not only for his strong rapping skills and well-written lyrics, but also his deep insights and reflections on life. The talented rapper signed with hip-hop label H1GHR MUSIC right after his win and debuted with his first solo album Travel: Noah. Produced by GroovyRoom, title track Noah featuring Jay Park and Hoody expresses HAON's limitless possibilities and his wish to be free, just like how he introduced himself as a traveler in the competition. (Fun fact: Did you notice that Noah is the reverse spelling of HAON?) Another highlight is the groovy plug Nylon featuring pH-1, which tells us to value ourselves as that's always the most important thing. Apart from the aforementioned artists, he also collaborates with producers and singer-songwriters like Sik-K, BOYCOLD and B-free in his debut release. HAON is for sure the K-hip-hop discovery of the year!

Though Heize started her career as a rapper, she is best known for R&B and soul songs like her previous hits "You, Clouds, Rain" and "Don't Know You." Emerging as the R&B female soloist of her generation, Heize has managed to continuously make trendsetting hits. This year's Wish & Wind is again filled with her characteristic sentiments and unique tone. The soulful award-winning lead track Jenga featuring Gaeko illustrates the feeling of anticipating an impending breakup while wishing it won't happen. The album's other title track "Didn't Know You" is more balladic and emotional. The calm yet heart-aching "But, Are You?" tells the desperate situation of experiencing a breakup and wanting the other person to regret it. MIANHAE carries a playful and rhythmic tune to depict that the singer doesn't care about the past relationship anymore and is "sorry" for everything she did. Wish and Wind tells an entire story from foreseeing a breakup, going through it, and then overcoming it. This album can accompany you while getting over a breakup.

Jaurim returns in top form with their first album in five years and the first self-titled work of the band's two-decade career. Continuing in the direction of Goodbye, grief., the album leans more on lyrical rock ballads while maintaining their edgy alternative rock style. The band plays with sounds and beats in typical Jaurim fashion: the wild rhythm and reverberating guitar of "Mad Dog Generation," the catchy hook and sultry ooh-aahs of Aneun Ai, the playful sound effects and funky tempo of Pyscho heaven. As always, Kim Yoon Ah's lilting voice and beautiful low notes shine the most in the slower rock melodies, particularly the drowsy and alluring Sleeping Beauty and the piercing ballads "It is" and "Forever Forever." This is an album worthy of the title Jaurim.

While most veterans usually stick to their signature styles, Lim Chang Jung is ambitious enough to attempt new things. Following megahits "The Love I Committed" and "Love Again," the singer returns with a series of soulful ballads that express autumn sentiments. Though he is new to the R&B pop ballad genre, title track "There Has Never Been A Day I Haven't Loved You" sounds exceptionally fresh, and even peaked at #1 as the "Song of October" on the Melon music chart. He also tugs at listeners' heartstrings with his usual style of ballads in "Karaoke," "Please Don't Share" and "10 Years as Friends, 1 Year in Love." Besides new songs, Lim Chang Jung remakes the well-known "Love Again" and "A Guy Like Me" into newly arranged versions of different atmosphere. The album closes in slightly comical manner with the EDM "Leave Me Alone." It's no wonder that Lim Chang Jung can still go viral over 20 years into his career.

Acclaimed quartet Mamamoo is known for their outstanding artistry, vocal and songwriting skills among idol groups. This summer, they beat the heat with the mini-album Red Moon and rapper Moon Byul's rhythmic solo single Selfish featuring Red Velvet's Seul Gi. R&B track Midnight Summer Dream comes first to unveil the album; then Latin-pop plug Egotistic follows with a totally different mood. Egotistic particularly fits the album title with its fierce and passionate edginess and the members' powerful vocals. R&B ballad Rainy Season made history as the first pre-release single from a girl group album to hit #1 on digital music charts. Meanwhile, "Sky! Sky!" may surprise listeners by giving a taste of the rarely seen "cute" and "innocent" side of Mamamoo. They swiftly turn back to a funky hip-hop style in "Sleep in the Car," which has funny yet realistic lyrics.

After adding member Jung Woo, NCT 127 presents their ambitious first full-length album NCT #127 Regular-Irregular. In line with the group's worldview, they again explore dream and reality in the 11-track record. Just as stated in the title, the album is divided into two parts – "Regular" and "Irregular." Starting with the soothing pop ballad City 127, the "Regular" half brings a series of R&B, ballad and soulful numbers with a dreamy ambience, including the addictive Latin trap lead track Regular. Before shifting to the next half, an interlude with narrations by the members is inserted to better differentiate the dichotomy. The "Irregular" side carries four tracks of aggressive hip-hop, along with the English version of Regular. The lyrics for Regular declare "We don't chase after Won, be the one one one," and if this album is any indication, NCT 127 is well on the way to achieving something big in the future!

From Gashina to "Heroine" to Siren, Sun Mi has brought multiple hits to the music scene within just one year of leaving JYP. The singer has risen as a "girl power" icon with her "Warning" trilogy's strong beats and assertive lyrics. Besides her charismatic performances, Sun Mi also shows her songwriting skills through Warning. The seductive yet powerful English intro track ADDICT emphasizes the main theme of the album and her image. Following the "Warning" trilogy, mid-tempo "Curve" and jazz pop Black Pearl, the album wraps up with the retro "Secret Tape," a track she composed for her "secret sister" Seul Gi. Though Sun Mi was already famous during her Full Moon and Wonder Girls eras, Warning marks her solo career breakout and proves that she is a multi-talented artist.

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Published December 28, 2018

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