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Best Korean Albums of 2017

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

Our editors' picks for the ten best Korean albums of 2017!

In Heize's third mini-album /// (You, Clouds, Rain), the rapper focuses more on her vocals to better express the sentiments of sorrow, remorse and yearning. Inspired by gloomy rainy days, the soulful electro-pop jam "Don't Know You," the joyful-sounding yet lonely "Dark Clouds" and the hit heart-wrenching bluesy duet "You, Clouds, Rain" come together to create a consistent silky vibe that beautifully expresses the internal fear of facing one's true self.

IU developed a quirky fantasy style through a series of fairytale-themed albums, such as Last Fantasy, Modern Times and Chat-Shire. Now 25 years old, the singer-songwriter finds her inner comfort zone and learns the harsh reality of becoming of an adult in the genre-hopping album Palette. The singer confidently tells of her changes in her coming-of-age journey in the unadorned and simplistic R&B plug Palette. She also examines broken relationships from different perspectives in the expressive piano and string-accompanied "Ending Scene," the offbeat R&B duet "Can’t Love You Anymore" and the yearning acoustic folk ballad "Through the Night." The truth of reaching adulthood may be sad but IU encourages people to enjoy the moment in the whimsical jazzy track "Dlwlrma."

Through collaborating with different hip-hop artists, Junggigo has been expanding his R&B spectrum. In his first full album Across the Universe, the singer-songwriter finds a new musical direction by mixing a heady cocktail of R&B, hip-hop, funk and neo-soul. Eschewing his warm ballad style, the singer surprisingly gives off a sexy, wild vibe in the atmospheric and funky Nocturne, which flaunts his seductive falsetto. Junggigo's soul roots are rediscovered in the groovy breakup ballad "247," which perfectly exhibits the distinct vocal characters of the singer and guest artists Dean, Zion.T and Crush. Despite the predictable R&B sound, Across the Universe and Let Me Love You beautifully depict sweet love tales with their dulcet tunes. The musical experiment in this album helps Junggigo further widen his audience base.

Futuristic duo offonoff's music is like a mirror that reflects feelings and emotions hidden deep inside. In their first full album boy., singer-songwriter Colde and producer 0channel capture loneliness and despair through dark and depressing tunes that feature simple yet addictive drumbeats and enticing synth chords. The ambient mood created in the laid-back Cigarette offers a psychedelic backdrop for Miso, who sounds as if she is singing about a bittersweet fleeting romance in a haze of cigarette smoke. Gold has a rather relaxed and sunny ambience that allows the duo to share in an unhurried way their hopes of pursuing dreams in the indie music scene. Their dreamy and soothing vibe is shown not just in the melodies but also in the lyrics – notably from boy., Moon, 12:04am and Gold – which deliver different aesthetic interpretations of natural features like clouds, the sea and the sky.

K-pop fans have probably heard Beenzino's Dali, Van, Picasso, Zion.T and Crush's "Just" and Zico's "I Am You, You Are Me." Despite their distinctly different genres, the songs are held together by a common vibe – composer/producer Peejay's irresistible smooth hip-hop style. In his second Walkin' release, the producer skillfully mixes hip-hop, jazz, blues, soul, R&B and electronic music to depict the subtle traces of emotion. Songs on the album, such as the romantic bossa nova track After Summer Day, Crush's synth-filled Stranger, Zion.T's quirky Na B Ya and the nostalgic acoustic guitar-driven Moonstruck performed by Qim Isle and Oh Hyuk, exhibit Peejay's sophisticated expression of psychological shift through his intriguing instrumentation. The avant-garde Walkin' Vol. 2 is a breath of fresh air that brings life to the monotonous K-pop scene.

Primary is a carefree musician who doesn't define his music as any specific style. Known for his unorthodox fusions, the versatile producer established his music brand by mixing old-school jazz, R&B, electronic music, hip-hop and New Wave. The unpredictable musician keeps surprising fans with his second EP Pop, which marks his foray into the pop world. Instead of completely going pop, Primary incorporates some indie elements to make the album stand out in the mainstream scene. Both the producer and the featured idol singers – including Highlight's Yang Yo Seop, GOT7's JB and EXID's Sol Ji – step out of their comfort zones and expand their music spectrum through this fresh and well-produced album.

Despite her idol background, Tae Yeon went beyond fans' expectations with her successful solo debut I, which showcased her incredible vocal versatility. The Girls' Generation leader further proves her vocal power and establishes herself as a new-generation diva in her first full album My Voice. Despite the sad theme of separation, the songstress sends positive energy through different self-empowering songs. Contrasting starkly with the self-contradicting plug Fine, the uplifting "Feel So Fine" leads listeners to a bright future. A sensual side, hardly seen in her previous songs, is shown in the mysterious urban R&B jam I Got Love and the seductive jazz-rock fusion I’m OK.

Zico, who has been criticized for being an idol rapper, stands his ground as a real hip-hop artist in his second solo release Television. The Block B leader shows his musical artistry and unbeatable confidence in the jazz and hip-hop fusion Artist. However, he displays no ego in his music and compares himself to a frantic swan that pretends to be graceful in the mystical Behind the Scene. The rapper even gives voice to his haters in Anti, whose mysteriously sinister tune matches well with the self-deprecating lyrics. Whether you love Zico or not, Television allows you to see him in a new light.

Zion.T is good at telling stories through music. Known for his avant-garde R&B style, the talented musician sings about different life stories in a peculiar tenor. This year, the singer-songwriter further expanded his musical spectrum with a refreshing hip-hop vibe. Rather than entirely going hip-hop, Zion.T creates an exotic fusion by blending rap music with his idiosyncratic neo-soul and R&B styles, as well as jazz and bossa nova in the album. Symbolizing Zion.T's trademark spectacles, OO shows the singer's unique worldview through a number of self-reflexive songs, including the bouncy title jam "The Song," the romantic bossa nova-style "Cinema," the offbeat guitar-driven "Bad Guys" about loneliness, and the gloomy piano-accompanied Comedian.

Many singers celebrate their debut anniversary by releasing greatest hits compilations. K-pop trendsetter Seo Tai Ji revisits his 25-year career through the voices of other singers from different genres in the commemorative album Time:Traveler. The featured artists, including BTS, Crush and Urban Zakapa, enrich the classic songs with their unique styles. The Bangtan Boys extensively rewrite the gangster rap song Come Back Home and explore a dream-chasing theme based on the singer-songwriter's desperate teen runaway story. Crush highlights the nostalgic feeling of the bittersweet "Last Festival" by adopting the romantic bossa nova genre. Younha and Urban Zakapa heal hearts with their covers of Take Five and Moai. Time:Traveler is a perfect combination of the legendary singer's unflagging music spirit and today's musicians' views on life.

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Published December 27, 2017

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