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Best Korean Albums of 2022

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

Our editors' picks for the best Korean albums of 2022!

(G)I-DLE unleashes a go-hard-or-go-home spirit in their first full-length album! Rebranding as a five-member group, the (G)I-DLE girls go bold and adventurous in I NEVER DIE, confronting prejudices and stereotypes with eight tracks mixing alternative rock, pop, R&B and hip-hop. So Yeon again penned most of the album songs including the catchy, chart-topping pop-punk single TOMBOY, which defies gender stereotyping by telling the world "yeah, I'm fu- tomboy" and "this is my attitude." They keep on affirming individuality with the free-spirited Never Stop Me and the funky Villain Dies that vibes with the album concept "I never die." Yuqi contributes two works – the sentimental Polaroid and rock number Liar – while Minnie expresses soft emotions in her compositions Already and Escape. I NEVER DIE closes with the anthemic hip-hop plug My Bag, which embodies the strong stage presence that makes (G)I-DLE stand out.

The Black Skirts - TEEN TROUBLES
Three years after Thirsty, K-indie talent The Black Skirts finally blesses listeners with another top-notch full-length conceptual album. Serving as a love letter to the year 1999, TEEN TROUBLES captures the lingering feelings of young love and coming of age through his successful formula of indie rock blending emo, dream pop, punk and ballad elements. Opening track Flying Bobs takes us back to the summer of 1999 as a protagonist "living on Nyquil and dreaming MTV." Baptized in Fire reminds of a time when we lived like there's no tomorrow, while the upbeat and dynamic Sunday Girl and Follow You recollect a hot summer romance. The Black Skirts also shows his sweet romantic character in the dreamy Garden State Dreamers, Jersey Girl and Love You The Same, while Min and Ling Ling are sentimental. As the album draws to an end, the singer-producer illustrates more complex teen moods in John Fry and the edgy 99%. Our Own Summer meticulously concludes this movie-like journey evoking young summer memories.

"Do you think I'm fragile? Again and again, I will rise over and over again. I'm antifragile." HYBE and Source Music jointly launched their first official girl group, LE SSERAFIM, in May this year. Following a debut EP displaying the group's Fearless side, LE SSERAFIM's second mini-album declares that they're ANTIFRAGILE at just the right time. Despite setbacks at the beginning of their journey, the girls tenaciously come back with tailor-made jams and jaw-dropping dance moves. Opening with a stylish intro, ANTIFRAGILE takes off by narrating the album concept, and then proceeds to the Afro-Latin-style title single revolving around the theme of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." The members show their airy and silvery voices in the R&B number Impurities and go edgy in the empowering pop punk plug No Celestial. Wrapping up the album, the tranquil Good Parts (when the quality is bad but I am) encourages us to love every good and bad part of ourselves. Though some of the vocal performances are slightly underwhelming, the overall quality and musicality of ANTIFRAGILE places this album among the best of the year.

Lee Mu Jin - Room Vol.1

Captivating listeners with a unique husky vocal timbre, Lee Mu Jin fully brings folk-pop to the mainstream Korean music scene with his first mini-album. Room Vol.1 centers around everyday life stories from personal experience, spanning from his childhood to university days to after his singing debut. The lighthearted folksy melodies are accompanied with playful and interesting lyrics that hit home. In title track Reference, he roasts teachers who pretend to care, singing that he'd just take their advice as "reference." Acoustic-based with a hint of jazz, Astronaut looks back on the past when the singer-songwriter was genuinely mesmerized by the universe. Room No.8 is a letter to himself who has gone through many days and nights in the practice room. Lee Mu Jin shares his insights on hatred through relaxing singing and whistling in To. Greedy, and gently says goodbye to his free and ordinary days before exploring the outside world in Orpheus. The songs in Room Vol.1 may not have charted as high as Lee Mu Jin's other hit singles, but the peaceful folk-infused music and relatable lyrics are undoubtedly noteworthy.

Lim Young Woong - IM HERO
Trot sensation Lim Young Woong takes a deep dive into soft and tender sentiments in his genre-blending first album that harmoniously mingles ballad, trot, pop, hip-hop, dance and folk. IM HERO sets off with the balladic title track If We Ever Meet Again, which poignantly conveys feelings of longing and melancholy. With its upbeat melody and comforting lyrics, Rainbow provides solace to burned-out souls who want to break free. He makes a heart-fluttering confession in the sweet ballad Lovely Touch, digs into deeper emotions in Our Blues, Our Life and Father, and hypes up listeners with the hip-hop-inflected A bientot featuring fiery rap. Meanwhile, Love Station, Nest, I Love You, Love Letter and Loving You are authentic trot pieces that express the beauty of the traditional music genre. Lifted by Lim Young Woong's powerful and evocative voice, closing outro A Psalm of Life is an orchestral ode to life that guides us to look back on precious moments in times gone by.

NCT Dream - Candy
This winter, NCT Dream warmly delivers a sweet and surprising gift for fans – their first seasonal album Candy in a cutesy Christmas concept! Remaking H.O.T.'s golden hit, NCT Dream brings back the bright, youthful and refreshing charm in their feel-good bubblegum-pop rendition of Candy newly arranged by Kenzie. Even after 26 years, this song is still a total bop! Besides Candy, the boys confess their love in the upbeat retro synth-pop Tangerine Love (Favorite) and Take My Breath, heal hearts with the sentimental ballad Moon, liven up the mood with groovy pop dance plug Walk With You, and tug at heartstrings with the dreamlike R&B pop Graduation about bidding farewell. Reminding of the group's bubbly debut era, NCT Dream's Candy is a welcome ray of sunshine in wintertime.

NewJeans - New Jeans

Embracing Y2K vibe in both sound and style, HYBE and ADOR's first girl group NewJeans hit it big from the get-go with their stylish debut EP New Jeans, one of the biggest K-pop releases of the year. Produced by K-pop creative leader Min Hee Jin, NewJeans exhibit more possibilities in K-pop with their retro-influenced minimalist numbers and distinctive, refreshing style. From the addictive chart-toppers Attention and Hype Boy to the hip-hop dance-pop Cookie and the pared-down R&B Hurt, New Jeans highlights the joy and sentiments of teens in love with youthful energy. Like a breath of fresh air in the music scene, the easy-listening tunes and clean vocals in New Jeans demonstrate the beauty of "less is more."

Red Velvet - The ReVe Festival 2022 – Feel My Rhythm

Red Velvet fondly defines "spring" with their ethereal seasonal release The ReVe Festival 2022 - Feel My Rhythm. Title track Feel My Rhythm sparked a trend of classical sampling in K-pop this year, but none of the other releases could surpass it in terms of blending and mixing. Featuring samples of Bach's Air on the G String in multiple verses, Feel My Rhythm creates an elegant and warm ambience with its natural flow and newtro mix of beautiful string melodies and powerful trap beats. The six-track album continues to evoke a dreamy and carefree fantasyland with quality R&B-leaning side tracks – the retro-style BAMBOLEO about swaying all night and coming alive when in love, the mid-tempo Good, Bad, Ugly about embracing the good and bad in life, the ballad In My Dreams about a bittersweet one-sided love, and the groovy, dynamic Rainbow Halo and Beg For Me. Of course, the Red Velvet members' delicate and harmonious vocals are the cherry on top for this refined and exquisite album.

Tae Yeon - INVU
From My Voice to Purpose, every full-length album from Tae Yeon has been a masterpiece, and she does it again with her third album INVU! The songstress pulls off warm and masterful vocal performances in 13 songs that wander through various moods and mature emotions in love. The dreamy, house-based pop dance title track INVU (meaning "I envy you") follows a brokenhearted person letting out her misery. The vocalist also shows off her beautiful falsetto in the R&B ballad Some Nights and her lyric-writing skills in the pop punk single Can't Control Myself. INVU includes well-made B-sides like Set Myself On Fire about foreseeing a breakup, the disco-pop dance track Toddler about dreaming of a happy ending, the mid-tempo synth-based Siren that uses the seductive Siren of Greek mythology as a motif, the retro synth-pop Timeless and Heart that share her gratitude for loved ones, You Better Not that conveys relieved feelings after breakup, and the jolly disco-pop Weekend.

tripleS: Acid Angel from Asia - ACCESS
K-pop is bringing in new blood and young talents to refresh a saturated industry. Apart from NewJeans and LE SSERAFIM, rookie girl group tripleS announces their arrival with the first subunit project Acid Angel from Asia (AAA). The EP ACCESS delves into stories of their generation in acid-pop jams underlined by euphonious instrumental sounds and a dark and mysterious aura. Title track Generation delivers an addictive sing-along chorus, the Moombahton-style Rolex conveys pure thoughts of wanting something badly, and the dreamy Charla is about believing in love. Also on the EP are AAA's version of tripleS's French-house conceptual track Dimension and +(82), which acts as a teaser for an upcoming release. The songs all add up to an impressive debut that builds up anticipation for the next act. If the concept sounds a bit similar to Loona, it's because tripleS is a brainchild of Jaden Jeong, who is credited for the success of the Loonaverse.

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Published December 23, 2022

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  • Region & Language: Hong Kong United States - English
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