So far, 2017, has been a slightly underwhelming year for K-Pop. There haven’t been that many outstanding tracks in the first half of the year. Many of my favorite groups released mediocre tracks which meant my Top 10 list had a lot more soloists than usual. Considering this, I am happy that a number of excellent albums that have come out this year.
These are not necessarily the most popular artists and these are albums that I might have easily overlooked. But there is some really good music that I hope listeners do not miss out on. As with all album listens, it really helps to read the lyrics in order to better appreciate the works. These albums may not have individual tracks that really stand out but the albums, as a whole, are cohesive and well-crafted.
Jonghyun- The Collection: Story Op.2
I have been a big fan of Jonghyun’s solo work and his last album She Is was one of my favorites last year. I enjoy his quirky style and I see his albums as an opportunity for him to experiment outside the SHINee style. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed by the title track, Lonely. I did not expect the rest of the album to be much different. I was pleasantly surprised when I gave the entire album a listen. The songs are not necessarily linked to each other and therefore have a lot more variety. The compilation album is entirely written and co-produced by Jonghyun himself. As always, the highlight is his unique vocals.
Favorite track: 따뜻한 겨울 (Our Season)
Zion. T- OO
Many feared that we would lose the Zion. T style music after he moved to YG Entertainment but OO assured us that we can continue to expect his unique music no matter what company he is with. In this album he sticks to his signature R&B style with some hip-hop and jazz. As with much of his work, OO makes for easy listening in large part because of his laid back vocals. This whole album goes to further establish his musical identity while also showcasing his skills as an artist.
Favorite track: Complex (feat. G-Dragon)- you need the lyrics to really appreciate why G-Dragon is such a great choice for a featuring artist.
Jung Joon Young- The First Person
I enjoy pretty much all the music Jung Joon Young has ever released. First Person shows a different side of Joon Young where, instead of the usual rock sounds, his deep vocals take center stage. This album has more emotional and melancholic tracks. It highlights his versatility and ability to create some excellent ballads while staying true to his style.
Akdong Musician (AKMU) – Winter
Although, I have enjoyed all of AKMU’s previous title tracks, I had never been tempted to check out their full albums. Winter was an exception. This album really defines and establishes the AKMU sound. Their ability to make fun, lively songs about everyday things, is what sets them apart. Winter gives them another opportunity to show off that style while still maintaining a sense of growth.
It is easy to forget that there was an entire 10 track album behind I LUV IT and New Face. You really have to check out the lyrics to understand what makes the album special. The themes presented in the tracks include, references to his own works, his relationships with other people, and his own growth. The collaboration tracks are particularly well done.
Favorite tracks: LOVE (feat. Taeyang), Auto Reverse (feat. Tablo) [It is hard for me to be unbiased when it comes to Tablo but their track, about fears of growing old and being forgotten, is my favorite.]
One word I would use to describe all of the albums I listed would be introspective. Whether the artist is defining their musical style or making observations about their own lives, the content for each of these albums is very personal. With all the latest comeback announcements, I am hoping the rest of the year is better for K-Pop. I look forward to more great albums in the next half of the year.
Are there other albums that you would consider must-listens of 2017? Do let me know so that I can continue to explore.