It’s absolutely crazy that 2022 is already here!
So much happened in K-pop this year, from BTS winning AMAs and selling out their US shows at SoFi, to BLACKPINK’s Lisa and Rosé both topping charts with their respective solo singles. While the year in events and in-person fan engagement was not optimal, there were some pretty great releases that we mustn’t take for granted! Now that New Years is here, it’s time to make a playlist of the best K-pop albums of 2021 and appreciate all that K-pop has given us this year! Here’s the albums that made the top 5, (chosen from a combination of popular streaming services’ year-end rankings and MAMAs)!
#5: IU 5th Album ‘LILAC’
IU – Solo Artist
This album became a staple in my year in music, as I’m sure it did for so many other K-pop fans! I think I had at least one song off the album in all of my playlists this year, and I’m pretty sure those songs will even stay there for a couple more years. “Lilac” was the perfect spring title track, and now it’s the perfect track to bring us into the new year and the next spring. Even MAMA recognized IU this year, awarding her 2021’s “Best Collaboration,” “Best Female Artist,” and “Best Vocal Performance” awards. Every part of the album’s production is perfect, from the song selection and vocals to the music videos and performances. Thank you IU for continuously gracing us with your art!
#4: Crazy In Love – EP
ITZY – Girl Group
With this album, ITZY’s fandom MIDZY got to see a more mature and emotional side of the ITZY members, whose songs tackled the complex feelings of love and lust. With this album and the last, fans got to see a darker side of the ITZY members in the MV and performance concepts. The title track “LOCO” also came with an English version, and the album came with all the instrumental tracks from all the other much-loved ITZY title tracks. ITZY has been winning MAMAs year after year, but this time they took home “Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10,” “Best Female Group,” and “Dance Performance – Female Group.” You can always trust ITZY to blow you away with their performances!
#3: Hot Sauce – The 1st Album
NCT DREAM – Boy Group
I dare you to listen to this song and not have it stuck in your head all! day! long!! The title song is so catchy, and the music video is so colorful and wild that it was hands down a TOTAL hit all spring, summer, and winter long and will continue to be HOT in the new year. Each of the members showed off their unique charms in all of the side tracks, really showcasing a mature NCT DREAM taking their spot at the top. At the MAMAs, they won the 2021 “Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10,” “Worldwide Icon of the Year,” “Best Male Group,” “Album of the Year,” and “Dance Performance – Male Group” awards! I hope their 2022 is even spicier!
#2: Savage – The 1st Mini Album (Extended Version) – EP
aespa – Girl Group
This album snuck into my life and forced its way into my head, and now I sing at least one song from it every day. I shouldn’t be surprised though, their company SM is known for catchy and absolutely addictive songs, and the production quality of this album is as top-notch as ever. aespa’s only been around since 2020, but their first mini album is already topping the charts as expected. In just under 3 months, their “Savage” music video, which arguably has the most interesting visuals K-pop has seen this year, has already garnered over 140M views. aespa also impressively took home the 2021 “Best New Female Artist,” “Dance Performance – Female Group,” “Song of the Year,” “Artist of the Year,” “Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10,” and “Album of the Year,” awards from the MAMAs! I can’t wait to see what aespa’s “Next Level” will have in store in 2022!
#1: Taste of Love – EP
TWICE – Girl Group
I am not lying to you when I say TWICE’s Taste of Love – EP truly has no skips. “Alcohol-Free” was the song of the summer, “Scandal” is a JAM, and “Baby Blue Love” has amazing vocals.
All of the songs on the album are just so funky and feel-good I can only praise it. The only shame about the album is that it’s only 17 minutes long! At the MAMAs this year, TWICE won “Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10,” “Best Female Group,” “Worldwide Icon of the Year,” and “Dance Performance – Female Group.” With their tour coming up, I can already tell that 2022 is going to be TWICE’s year.
EDITOR’S BONUS: Bambi – The 3rd Mini Album – EP
BAEKHYUN – Solo Artist
I just HAD to include this album as a bonus because it’s my absolute favorite album of the year. I didn’t expect this to become my favorite album, and if you asked me earlier in the year I probably would have unsuspectingly told you that KAI or TAEMIN’s albums were better, but if you took a look at my music library you’d find every single song on the Bambi album is in my personal top-played list! BAEKHYUN skillfully shows off the different colors of his voice in each song, and each song on the album gives off such different and relatable emotions that you find yourself getting lost in the “repeat” button. Even though it’s not objectively the highest on global K-pop streaming charts, it is NOT an album to be forgotten in 2021!
What do you think about this list? Would you change the order or even add different albums entirely? Let me know who you think I’m missing, and which albums are on your 2021 top-played lists!