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Best Korean Albums of 2020

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

Our editors' picks for the ten best Korean albums of 2020!

BLACKPINK's first full-length album came fashionably late in 2020, four years after the group's official debut. The "pretty savages" paint youth in black and pink with their music – unleashing sassy and bold energy in black and sweet and sentimental moods in pink. From the pre-release chart-topper How You Like That to the trap EDM Pretty Savage, they go full girl crush with their strong hip-hop beats. The girls also show their emotional sides in the megahit title track Lovesick Girls and dance-pop Love To Hate Me, and wrap up the album with the pithy lines of You Never Know – "But you'll never know unless you walk in my shoes." After collaborating with Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga, the sensational stars continue to flex international connections in their own album, with Cardi B featuring in Bet You Wanna and Selena Gomez in Ice Cream (co-composed by Ariana Grande). Short as this eight-track record may be, the distinctive pop sounds make it totally deserving of the title The Album.

BTOB launched the subunit BTOB 4U for their first group comeback in two years. With all five multi-genre tracks written by the members, the unit's first mini-album Inside proves their shining talent and versatility, even when only half of them are present. BTOB returned in a more mature fashion musically and visually but, of course, they never let us down with their quirky stage presence. Hyun Sik's Moombahton dance number Show Your Love is a catchy piece with an addictive sing-along chorus reminding us not to hesitate in expressing love. As one of BTOB's regular songwriters, Min Hyuk brought two masterpieces this time – the beat-laced punk rock Bull's Eye and the evocative modern rock ballad "Alone" that shows off the members' excellent vocals. Apart from that, the group also surprises with their sultry, tempting vibe in the R&B Tension and the nostalgic Moombahton-based "Mirage." Even after two years of hiatus, BTOB is still top-notch with their melodious songs and healing spirit that is embodied in the entire album, not just their ballads.

Everglow - -77.82X-78.29
Everglow's angsty EDM in their past releases may be hit or miss, but their second mini-album is one that you can't miss. -77.82x-78.92 exhibits the group's charisma and evolving performance style in a series of retro-influenced tunes from a strong songwriter and producer lineup. The girls leave powerful words to haters in their retro electropop banger LA DI DA: "Got no time for haters. Just leave off now… I can't even hear 'em. No I just erase everything." The well-made title track, the 80s disco pop dance number Untouchable produced by David Anthony, the R&B-style island reggae single GXXD BOY about leading a relationship, and the mid-tempo hip-hop jam NO GOOD REASON credited to Melanie Fontana and Michel Lindgren Schulz all add up to construct the heroine image of Everglow in this vintage-themed pop album.

GFriend - Walpurgis Night
For GFriend's third release of the year and the end of the "Hoe" series, the members turn into six fancy "modern witches" and celebrate their own Walpurgis Night. Marking a change in group concept, the retro-pop album presents them as more mature and charismatic female figures emerging in a dark, dreamlike and mysterious musical realm. Co-written by FRANTS and Bang Si Hyuk, MAGO confidently declares their determined love and desires amid a mix of upbeat retro synth riffs and 80s disco beats. Meanwhile, the vintage garage rock Love Spell and city pop song Three of Cups show their chic side. Bringing unit tracks for the first time, the girls celebrate women's friendship in the R&B pop song Secret Diary, explore themselves in the mid-tempo Latin pop Better Me, and break free from worries in the groovy pop R&B Night Drive. Also collecting the previous title singles of the series, the 11-track record ends with the vibrant "Wheel of the Year" to beautifully round off GFriend's 2020 album trilogy.

Following IT'z Different and IT'z ICY, ITZY continue to promote self-confidence in their empowering third release. The promising girl group worked with Dalla Dalla producer GALACTIKA * again for the resounding house EDM title track Wannabe, an inspiring anthem that voices self-love ("I am me no matter what others say. I just wanna be myself"). IT'z ME encourages listeners to speak out in powerful voices with seven tracks, including the funky disco trap Ting Ting Ting, the synth-based Latin-style That's A No No, the youthful pop rock plug Nobody Like You, the plain-spoken You Make Me, the Moombahton house number I Don't Wanna Dance, and the rhythmical 24HRS produced by SOPHIE. IT'z ME encapsulates why ITZY is one of the icons of the new generation¬. This is a feel-good album that you can play on repeat, and sing and dance along to till the sun goes down.

Lee Juck - Trace
It's been a long time coming, but Lee Juck finally released a new album this year, his first in seven years. And he even called up his old Panic bandmate Kim Jin Pyo for the song "Stoning"! This rousing yet soothing rock collaboration carries a strong message of embracing differences and supporting one another. From the groovy funk of "Water" and the gentle acoustic ambience of "Trace," to the weeping guitar of "Breath" and the natural, formless flow of "Numbers," the singer-songwriter's entire sixth album is a meaningful, comforting listen that sails through myriad emotions and memories. Trace is the work of a musician who's still at the top of his game, 25 years into his career.

NCT - NCT 2020 Resonance
Two years after NCT 2018 Empathy, NCT reunites again (with more members) to get across their worldview in Resonance. And audiences finally get a clearer picture of how the NCT U system works thanks to their two-month-long promotion. From the addictive whistling dance number Make A Wish (Birthday Song) and R&B pop ballad From Home that tells "the story of NCT," to the retro hip-hop hit 90's Love and the stylish electro dance Work It, Resonance Pt. 2 is grandly packed with 21 tracks that escort us on a journey across time and space. In a nutshell, NCT is just the representation of infinite possibilities. They go fierce and fearless in Misfit, Raise The Roof and Volcano. They tug at your heartstrings with ethereal vocals in My Everything and "Faded in My Last Song." They delve into a jazzy, romantic ambience in Dancing in the Rain and "All About You." NCT 127, NCT Dream and WayV's songs are also tailor-made in harmony with the style of each group.

ONF - Spin Off
ONF's fifth mini-album arrived two months after the finale of Road to Kingdom, which brought attention to the group's well-arranged compositions. Again collaborating with MonoTree's Hwang Hyun, ONF broadens their musical spectrum in Spin Off, which carries on with the group's time-travel and parallel-universe story. This time, they dream of heading to a utopia and breaking free in the lead single Sukhumvit Swimming. The song's dreamy and flashy arrangement blending future bass, trap and reggae is arguably one of the finest in K-pop this year. "Belle Epoque," a sequel to "Happily Never After" (from their third mini-album We Must Love), gives off fluttering feelings of first kiss in the sweet and upbeat melody, while ballad "Cactus" narrates an ordinary story about moving on in the singers' calm and clean vocal timbres. Spin-Off also comes with the rhythmical "Geppetto" inspired by Pinocchio, the refreshing summer song "Good Good," the fan song Message, and a new version of their Road to Kingdom final single "New World," all of which help establish the "ONF style" of music.

Pentagon - Universe: The Black Hall
Setting aside their bright and cheery sounds, Pentagon forged a major transition in the group's style in their first full-length album Universe: The Black Hall, which has a dark and alluring ambience. Rather than merely sexy, they ambitiously pursue a "crazy sexy" style in their music and choreography, and showcase their artistry with self-penned tracks. Hui's Dr. BeBe captivates ears with dreamy, catchy hooks and choruses, while his other composition, "Shower of Rain," expresses heartbreak in a lighter mood. The boys dig deep into a miserable love with tracks like the Kino-produced Die For You, the seductive EDM The Black Hall, the edgy synth-pop Worship You, the groovy Zoom Up and The Black Hall. Bonus track Happiness concludes the album with a warm and lighthearted tone. Though it didn't get as much recognition as it should have, Universe: The Black Hall is a successful concept album that marks a breakthrough in Pentagon's music journey.

Gaining recognition from Produce X 101 and X1, WOODZ (Cho Seung Youn) made a successful solo comeback with his first EP Equal and "Love Me Harder." While his first release happened to be a hit, his second mini-album WOOPS! is also too good to be overlooked. Starting off with the fiery country hip-hop-style "Trigger" that calls out haters, WOODZ's self-written record projects cinematic imagery with dramatic sounds and figurative lyrics. This all-round collection of music seems to capture love in different seasons. The retro pop rock track BUMP BUMP and "On My Own" signify a budding romance that reminds of spring and summer. Thanks To, which expresses gratitude, is as sentimental as fall, and, lastly, sweet R&B number Sweater (featuring Jamie) and the acoustic tune Tide are perfect winter listens.

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Published December 24, 2020

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  • Region & Language: Hong Kong United States - English
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