Though k-pop rises or falls on the strength of its singles, a group’s real strengths can often be found in the lesser-known material that makes up their mini albums and full lengths.
The definition of “album” in k-pop is so wide that I’ve got to lay down some ground rules before composing any sort of proper countdown. Here’s the criteria to be eligible for my “Top Five Best Albums” lists:
- Albums must be at least five tracks in length (intros count)
- Japanese albums are eligible, but I remove any re-recordings of Korean tracks, leaving only the original material
- When an album is repackaged, I’ll choose the version that is stronger (usually the repackage)
With that out of the way, it’s time to look at the best albums by k-pop boy group INFINITE!
5. Paradise (2011)
Infinite’s first full-length album, released as they were exploding in popularity. It’s home to two of their most iconic title tracks, but its b-sides have proven to remain just as enduring. From the sing-along, melodic pop of Julia and Amazing, to the experimental 1/3 and ebullient Cover Girl, it’s an album with very little filler. It’s also the first time the guys presented solo and unit works, giving us the birth of Infinite H.
4. Reality (2015)
Reality saw the group expanding its collaborations with producers like Rphabet and Youngbae/Iggy and pushing their trademark sound in new directions. It includes one of their best ballads (Between Me And You) and two absolute dance floor stompers (Moonlight, Up To You), alongside dramatic title track Bad.
Title Tracks: Bad
3. Infinitize (2012)
Home to Infinite’s best single, The Chaser. But despite that song’s intensity, the rest of the album is a more subdued affair, experimenting with production styles as diverse as acoustic (In The Summer) and orchestral (Feel So Bad). In many ways, it feels like a love letter to summer, and stands as one of the group’s most cohesive works.
Title Tracks: The Chaser
2. New Challenge (2013)
Though the guys were at the height of their commercial power, New Challenge seems to be one of their more underrated albums. Produced entirely by Sweetune, its six songs are among the poppiest material Infinite has given us, taking title track Man In Love’s lead with a synth-heavy, 80’s inspired theme. As Good As It Gets and Inconvenient Truth are two of their most addictive b-sides, and stadium power ballad Beautiful showcased member Woohyun’s impressive composing skills.
Title Tracks: Man In Love
1. Be Back (2014)
Song for song, Be Back is probably my favorite k-pop album by any group. At fifteen tracks, it’s also one of the longest. Drenched in ornate strings and synths, the album is remarkably consistent in both sound and quality. It kicks off with flawless title tracks Last Romeo and Back. From there, the goosebump-inducing torch song Diamond segues into the triple-punch of Follow Me, Rosinante and Breathe. The album presents solo and unit tracks from all the members, and caps everything off with the exhilarating dance blast of Shower. For Infinite, it’s a mix of the old and new, blending work from Sweetune, Rphabet and a host of lesser-known producers. K-pop often has a difficult time filling an entire full-length album with material strong enough to stand up against the title tracks, but Be Back is solid from beginning to end. And most importantly, it holds together as one complimentary piece of work– a powerful pop music statement with a truly unique vision.
What are your favorite Infinite albums?