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[Curated Playlist] Best of Unique and Innovative K-pop Albums

Edited by Yoon
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

K-pop best Albums
Credit: SM Entertainment, Kakao M, YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, Woollim Entertainment

It’s quite difficult for idols to take the lead in making their music as artists. That’s because, in many cases, the album making is conducted under the control of a large production, and trendiness and fashion must be considered. So many of them either focus on their solo careers when the group promotion is over or compose the group songs themselves. And this article introduces the albums that unraveled artists’ own stories through unique and innovative production. 

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f(x) – Electric Shock (2012)

Even from their first mini-album, NU ABO, released in 2010, f(x) chose to differentiate themselves from other groups with their uniqueness. And with their first full album, Pinocchio, released the following year, they showed stable results. f(x) didn’t stop with the brilliance shown in Pinocchio but took a step further to achieve clear distinction only with the sound in their second mini-album, Electric Shock. From “Electric Shock” with bubbly lyrics to “Jet Star” and “Zig Zag” that showcase f(x) ‘s charm and “Let’s Try” that broke the norm of a typical ending track, the entire album sends us “electric shock.” It’s a very innovative album that didn’t just blindly follow the listeners’ preference but instead had f(x) take the initiative.

 

Brown Eyed Girls – Basic (2015)

The message of the album, inspired by quantum mechanics, is very profound and difficult, but Brown Eyed Girls pulls it off flawlessly. With their 6th full album Basic, Brown Eyed Girls proved that they are not just “adult idols (meaning idols older than other groups and have a preference for sexy concepts)” that highlight their sexy charms but actually artists pursuing dense mature music. “Brave New World,” which we’re not sure if it’s talking about the 1980s or 2200s, clearly showcases the direction the album is pursuing. As seen in the concept of “Warm Hole” and “Atomic” and the members’ vocal prowess in “Time of Ice Cream” and “Wave,” Brown Eyed Girls is at the apex of K-pop girl groups for sure.

 

AKMU – Sailing (2019)

AKMU (literal translation is mischievous children musician) is now much older to be called “mischievous children.” Lee Chanhyuk’s emotions and Lee Suhyun’s vocals have matured, and they became serious. And yet, they are still young and fresh. If their first album, Play (2014), is about how they used common objects to make music since they were young, their third album, Sailing, unraveled another growth through music about leaving their home and stepping into the society for the first time. The long titled track “How Can I Love the Heartbreak, You’re the One I Love” breaks away from what’s considered the norm in the ballad genre and calmly expresses the narrator’s feelings about the breakup. Additionally, as you can tell from the lyrics “Our love so deep as the ocean,” the link to the album is also excellent. The voyage of the brother-sister band, who so naturally creates the flow like water with their brilliant song-making skills, is perfect.

 

Wonder Girls – REBOOT (2015)

In the K-pop market, which has been criticized for “mass production” and “self-copying,” this album saw success. Therefore, it’s music that only Wonder Girls can pull off. In REBOOT, released after reorganizing the team with only Yeeun, Sunmi, Yubin, and Hyerim, Wonder Girls improved the “retro” theme, which they have been obsessed with since their debut song “Irony,” by adding members’ individual capabilities. The news of “the nation’s girl group” making their comeback as a band was sneered at, but they proved all the mockers wrong with unbelievably high-quality performance and concept. Though it was the act’s grand comeback after three years, it was also an album that felt like a debut album. One other thing to note is how they expanded their territory as a K-pop girl group.

 

Infinite – The Origin (2014)

In the K-pop industry, there have been no attempts to produce an album containing only instrumental tracks in the past or even now, seven years after the release. Clearly, today’s music market revolves around digital release as only the fandom buys the actual copies of the album. And the act’s attempt to release as many as three CDs with only instrumental tracks is undoubtedly unique and groundbreaking. This album, which stripped down all the vocals, choreography, and visuals, and left only the instruments, was possible because the group was INFINITE that had pride in their music. In fact, INFINITE had an obvious direction in music since “Come Back Again” and “BTD.” And that stubbornness led to the perfection shown in Over The Top (2011) and Season 2 (2014). I highly recommend you listen to The Origin, filled with the pouring sound of the songwriting team SWEETTUNE that is at the center of the smashes mentioned above, through your headphones.

 

Editor Yoon: I love music, especially K-POP, and I dream of becoming an A&R person, lyricist, artist, etc. I will cover various articles, including song reviews, artist reviews, and K-pop market analysis.

Translator Kim Hoyeun: If you are a fan of K-drama, K-movie, and K-pop, I am your guy. I will continue to provide you with up-to-date K-entertainment news.

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