As I was looking back in preparation for this countdown, I realized that it’s actually been quite a strong year for mini and full albums, even if 2017 as a whole seemed to lack impact compared to past years. Quite a few solid albums failed to make the cut due to this heavy competition, but we’re left with ten super-solid collections of the best k-pop 2017 had to offer.
As with last year, the following criteria apply:
- Albums must have at least five tracks to qualify
- Repackages are considered the definitive version of an album (unless otherwise noted)
- I’m harder on minis than fulls, since it’s more difficult to sustain success through an entire full-length album
AKMU – Winter
B1A4 – Rollin’
Golden Child – Gol-Cha!
Seventeen – AΙ1
Twice – Twicetagram
10. Super Junior – Play
In many ways, the deck was stacked against this latest Super Junior comeback. But this is a group who knows their strengths, and Play capitalizes on this. Across ten tracks of old school, funk-driven k-pop, Super Junior proves that they’re still a force to be reckoned with — trends or no trends.
Standout Album Track: Scene Stealer
9. G-Dragon – Kwon Ji Yong
Returning after a four-year absence, G-Dragon delivered his most introspective, uncommercial album yet. Unlike most k-pop minis, it’s not simply a collection of unrelated tracks, but an artistic statement best appreciated as a whole.
Standout Album Track: Middle Fingers-Up
8. GFriend – The Awakening
Coming off a dynamite 2016, GFriend returned with their strongest album yet. The Awakening is aptly titled, offering a slew of new sounds while keeping with the girls’ lushly-produced pop sound. More of this in 2018, please!
Standout Album Track: Please Save My Earth
7. NCT 127 – Limitless
Opening the year with a near-perfect collection of assured, contemporary k-pop, NCT 127 more than proved their mettle as NCT‘s flagship unit. Several of Limitless‘s b-sides would have made stronger title tracks than follow-up Cherry Bomb.
Standout Album Track: Good Thing
6. ONF – On/Off
Releasing the year’s best album by a debut group, ONF burst onto the scene with a consistent electronic sound that set them apart from any other act out there. Produced entirely by Monotree, it’s the rare album with a host of b-sides as good (or better) than its title track.
Standout Album Track: Difficult
5. Seventeen – Teen, Age
Seventeen‘s previous album AI1 would have easily taken this spot if not for the group’s inspired idea to pre-release unit tracks before Teen, Age was unveiled in full. This makes it an album full of hits, bursting with creative sounds and new directions for one of k-pop’s most exciting acts.
Standout Album Track: Without You
4. EXO – The War: The Power of Music
The War was already strong upon its release in July, but the addition of three fantastic re-package tracks bumped it up a notch. EXO has been releasing solid albums for years now, and The Power of Music is an excellent representation of their many sounds fused into twelve big-budget pop songs with just enough trendiness and forward-thinking to evolve their career.
Standout Album Track: What U Do?
3. Snuper – The Star of Stars
Short but sweet, Star of Stars‘ five tracks represent Snuper at their peak. Borrowing just enough from the tropical house trend to stand as a definitively “2017” album, the guys bring their collaboration with Sweetune to a newly explosive level. Even album closer I’ll Do It, their first non-Sweetune track for the Korean market, is a sweet trifle of a pop song.
Standout Album Track: Hide and Seek
2. Red Velvet – The Red Summer
The Red Summer‘s opening trio of tracks are among the best that 2017 had to offer. The album is a perfect blend of Red Velvet‘s experimental side and the pure, unadulterated pop sound that SM Entertainment churns out so reliably. No album represented summer as strongly as this, with its bombastic title track propelling the group to an even bigger level of superstardom.
Standout Album Track: Zoo
1. Astro – Dream Pt.01
While Astro didn’t release quite as many singles as during their debut year, they funneled their glossy pop sound into their best album yet. Fans of the lighter, catchier side of k-pop need look no further. There isn’t a dud among Dream‘s eight ultra-melodic tracks, but there are a couple surprisingly hefty ballads and more than a few dynamic jolts of sing-along power-pop. It’s a collection that could have spawned multiple hit singles if k-pop’s release strategy wasn’t so title track focused. Look past the cotton-candy cuteness of the cover and indulge in some of the year’s most inspired pop.
Standout Album Track: Dreams Come True