Feature

The Top 10 K-Pop Albums of 2020

Compared to last year’s dynamite collection of albums, 2020 didn’t quite live up. But, that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few highlights. As usual, mini albums were generally stronger than fulls, which makes sense given how hard it is to retain a high quality across a dozen or more tracks.

Like last year, my top ten list is cut in half, with the top five mini albums and the top five full albums. Each category has a few honorable mentions, along with a special mention of an album that would have made the list if it had met my specific criteria.

Speaking of criteria, here’s what it took to be eligible this year:

  • Mini albums must have at least five tracks to qualify (intros count)
  • Repackages are considered the definitive version of an album (unless otherwise noted)

2020 END-OF-YEAR MASTERPOST


MINI ALBUMS

Honorable Mentions:

WJSN – Neverland
Golden Child – Take A Leap
GFriend – Song Of The Sirens
ITZY – It’z Me
Kai – Kai
TOO – Running TOOgether

Special Mention:
Everglow – -77.82x-78.29 (not enough tracks to qualify)


5. The Boyz – Chase

Song for song, I think Chase is actually my favorite album from The Boyz so far. That wasn’t initially apparent, but the cohesion of the six tracks really makes for a satisfying listen. The group further explores their funky side of brilliant b-sides like Insanity, and keeps the energy high throughout.

Standout Album Tracks: Insanity, Whiplash


4. GHOST9 – Pre Episode 1: Door

Across five full tracks, GHOST9 managed to show a diverse set of musical charms without Door feeling piecemeal or disjointed. This is thanks to production team Papermaker, who crafted each song with a focused eye on the emerging GHOST9 sound. There’s something here for everyone, yet it all feels distinct and intentional.

Standout Album Tracks: Reborn, It’s Gonna Be Hot


3. YooA – Bon Voyage

Oh My Girl’s YooA impressed with a variety of genres on her debut mini Bon Voyage. The title track sets the stage, but it’s b-side Diver that really harnesses her dance pop skills. No two tracks sound alike on this album, yet they work together to create a very satisfying experience.

Standout Album Tracks: Diver, Abracadabra


2. DRIPPIN – Boyager

DRIPPIN debuted in true Woollim fashion, with an album filled with classic K-pop sounds. Boyager caters to trends here and there, but its songs have a timeless appeal. And though title track Nostalgia focuses more on performance than vocals, b-sides Light and Colors showcase the group’s promising collection of voices. There’s not a weak song on here.

Standout Album Tracks: Overdrive, Light


1. TXT – Minisode1: Blue Hour

TXT takes the top spot for the second year in a row, and Blue Hour actually feels like the spiritual successor to last year’s Star. The album returns the group to the upbeat pop of their debut, delivering a series of incredible b-sides. Ghosting makes for a striking opener, while Wishlist bounds with feel-good energy. Blue Hour works extremely well as a singular experience, yet its tracks can be equally appreciated on their own.

Standout Album Tracks: Ghosting, Wishlist


FULL ALBUMS

Honorable Mention:

Yukika – Soul Lady

Special Mention:
WayV – Awaken The World (technically a C-pop album)


5. SuperM – Super One

Super One is an odd album, and at times feels more like a grab bag of different sounds than a cohesive work. But, as a sampler platter of what SM has to offer, it’s a strong collection of tracks. Pinballing between Korean and English, the album doesn’t shy away from the kind of aural bombast that befits a group like SuperM.

Standout Album Tracks: Together At Home, Big Chance


4. Dreamcatcher – Dystopia: The Tree Of Language

Dreamcatcher have already established a super-strong discography, so their first full-length album had a lot to live up to. Thankfully, they stuck with their usual collection of producers to craft a diverse, exciting suite of songs. From heavy metal to laidback grooves, the songs have a daring energy that keeps Dystopia engaging and inventive.

Standout Album Tracks: Black Or White, In The Frozen


3. Twice – Eyes Wide Open

Twice have emerged as strong albums artists, and Eyes Wide Open seals the deal. It’s not easy to sustain high quality across thirteen tracks, but there really isn’t a dud to be found here. The group has stepped into new shoes as elder stateswomen of the current K-pop scene, and their dance pop sound has evolved to reflect that. Eyes Wide Open is fun, polished and quite sophisticated at times.

Standout Album Tracks: Do What We Like, Up No More


2. GFriend – Walpurgis Night

GFriend had a great year when it comes to albums, and they saved the best for last. Walpurgis Night kicks off with a four-song salvo that ranks among this year’s strongest. At once nostalgic and imaginative, the music pushes the girls’ sound in new directions while retained their distinct charms. And though Night loses some of its dancefloor focus as it goes on, the songs remain consistently appealing.

Standout Album Tracks: GRWM, Three Of Cups


1. Stray Kids – Go Live

Just listening to its title track, you won’t get a sense of just how varied and adventurous Go Live can be. It’s an album that gets better as it goes on, with a walloping climax that includes highlights like the driving Haven and the rambunctious Ta. In between are some satisfying experiments, like the emotive EDM of Phobia and the lighthearted pop of Blueprint. It all holds together via the sheer force of Stray Kids’ personality, pointing toward a musical future that feels wide-open when it comes to genre and style. The group would later dilute the power of Go Live with so-so repackage In Life, but I like to consider each a distinct album of their own.

Standout Album Tracks: Haven, Ta

43 thoughts on “The Top 10 K-Pop Albums of 2020

  1. Pingback: K-POP Best of 2020 Masterpost | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  2. I agree wth this list very much. I found the lower half of SKZ’s go live album to be extremely strong. Pacemaker was great but i really began enjoying it after we hit phobia. Tracks 7-11 (phobia, blueprint, ta, haven, top) were 5 back to back fantastic tracks that had me speechless the first time i listened through them.

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  3. I would’ve given the top spot to GFriend in the full album list, but I totally agree with that TXT mini taking its crown. Ghosting + Blue Hour is a gorgeous combo.

    Happy to see TWICE and YooA here too!

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  4. DRIPPIN has the absolute best album in the mini album section out of all of them.

    Honestly, I have no idea why you chose Blue Hour over Boyager…

    Boyager has these amazing selections of these Songs: Nostalgia, Overdrive, Colors, Light and Shine

    Minisode 1 has Blue Hour, Ghosting , Wishlist and…. we lost the summer and way home.

    Ghosting might be the best album track out of those two albums, But taken as a whole this is my ranking.

    1. Nostalgia
    2. Ghosting
    3. Overdrive
    4. Blue Hour
    5. Wishlist
    6. Light
    7. Colors
    8. Shine
    9. We Lost The Summer
    10…. Way Home

    I mean this is my opinion… so each to their own!

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  5. Great list, though surprised not to see ATEEZ’s Treasure Epilogue even as an honourable mention. I believe it’s eligible (assuming outros are treated the same as intros), and Answer, Horizon, and Precious were three of my favourite tracks of the year. I especially love how it caps off the entire Treasure saga.

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  6. Wayv’s Awaken the World was hands down my favorite album of the year. I have been listening to it for six months straight and yet my appreciation for each song has only grown. Every time I think I finally know which song is my favorite I am proven wrong. I know its technically Cpop but I just can’t sing this albums praises enough. After replaying it so much I definitely should have gotten tired of it by now but I’m not even close. I would go so far as to say it’s up there with my favorite full albums ever.

    Dreamcatchers: Dystopia the Tree of Language is also definitely a standout for the year.
    For mini’s my favorites are A.C.E’s The Butterfly Phantasy and Oneus’s Lived.

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  7. I agree with most of these but Yukika holds a special place in my heart. I listened to Soul Lady on repeat so often this year that every single song including the intro, outro, and interlude made it on my 50 most listened to songs of the year. Listening to each song in order is quite the experience but I get that she’s not everyone’s cup of tea and the songs do tend to blend together but Soul Lady is still number one to me.

    But I’m glad Go Live ranked first. It’s second place after Soul Lady, for me, because besides Easy and Gone Days, every single song is a solid bop and it does a good job carrying the energy through the album. I personally would have switched the order of some songs (maybe put TA and Phobia earlier on after Pacemaker) but still an incredibly solid album. Except for the fact we never got a Ta music video. That still pisses me off.

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    • For J-pop, I might actually do a feature or mention, so I’m going to hold off on that.

      For pop albums… I just don’t listen to enough to have much of an opinion. The few that I did hear this year weren’t anything that I returned to with much frequency. It’s not even that I don’t like it, it’s just that there’s not much time or energy left after consuming so much KP/JP.

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  8. Loved that you picked Blue Hour as the number 1 mini album. Ghosting and Wishlist are probably two of the best b-sides released this year. The whole album is quite cohesive and brings a fun and nostalgic feeling to the listeners.

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  9. I haven’t listened to all of the albums on this list, but I definitely agree Super One deserves a spot. The songs are much more versatile than I was expecting, & honestly this was what I was hoping NCT 2020’s releases would be like. NCT 127’s Neo Zone would probably be on my list though. Although it’s an English album, Monsta X’s All About Luv is hands down my favorite album of the year. I also really enjoyed both of Seventeen’s minis, & Semicolon would take my top spot. Ateez’s All To Action had some of my favorite songs, & Fever is also a solid mini.

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    • I loved All About Luv as well. On repeat 24/7 lol. That was the first “kpop” album that I loved all the songs on. And by kpop, I just mean sang by a kpop group.

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  10. it’s funny how i’m still listening to albums from 2019 and have barley given a second listen to some this year!

    surprisingly, suho’s self-portrait album has been my favorite this year… I guess sweet and sentimental was something i lived off of considering every song off that album was in my top 20 spotify rewind this year with let’s love being my second most listened to song of the year.

    other then self-portrait which i listened to religiously, i recall listening to nct 127’s neozone a lot as well. the few songs on day6’s book of us: gluon were on repeat (like i said, sweet and sentimental). i loved running toogether, not shy, minisode, go live, and both of ateez’s mini’s.

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  11. I didn’t listen to/don’t remember a whole lot of Kpop albums and minis from this year, so my short list is Dreamcatcher’s Tree of Language: Dystopia+Lose Myself, Day6’s Book of Us: Demon, Gfriend’s Song of the Sirens, and Purple Rain’s Wanderer-Fantasy based solely on the number of tracks from the album I added to my regular playlist.

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  12. Am I the only one who thinks Song of The Sirens is better than Walpurgis Night? The only songs I like from the album are MAGO and Better Me, meanwhile I can listen to SOTS without a skip

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    • You’re not the only one. SSOTS is the most striking album of them for me. Apple is the hyponitizing villain, Eye of the storm, Room of Mirrors and Tarot Cards are the triple queens, Creme Brulee is the sweet treat and Northern Stairs makes me want to cry.

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  13. Honestly I was pleasantly surprised that Skz made it to number one on the full album lists! With my bias into account, I have to agree! Although the begining of the album is not everybody’s cup of tea- I happened to really like the first few tracks. But I agree the latter half of the album certainly had more power to it. However, I do not think the repackage ENTIRELY diluted the power of the album. I appreciated some songs that were added into the fold (Ex, Any, Wow). The only songs I did not love as much as the others were B Me and My Universe. I have to be in a certain mood to listen to them. Overall, Go Live was probably more cohesive, but I think IN LIFE added in some interesting spices into the mix. In that sense, the “album recipe” was diluted by some different flavors. (Excuse the cooking metaphors).

    As for Ghost9, I am very happy to see their mini album on the list. Just like how Skz’s Go Live album was very cohesive, Ghost9’s mini albums have stayed strong with that. The sound is consistent and their concept is dark- with a flair of something new. Techno, but almost haunting at the same time. It is like a small twist on what I thought would be another “edgy” boy group. Not that “edgy” is bad. I actually like the dark concept we have been getting lately. However, the direction they are taking it is refreshing. I can’t wait to see how their future music develops and once they gain a fandom name- I will be proud to be apart of it.

    Finally, the boyz have grown leaps and bounds this year. I am so proud of them and what they accomplished. I think their title track stealer definitely showcases their talents more than reveal. However, I was actually fond of their last album. It gave me salty and goodbye. I know you did not like the direction they went with it, but the dark songs catered to my song pallet. (I do not regret them evolving from that with this mini album though. It was like they took their strengths from the Reveal album and capitalized on them. It made the mini album all the more refreshing). Chase ended up being the first kpop album I ever bought. I am glad to finally have something to add to my collection.

    Looking forward to reading your other lists!

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  14. This is honestly more exciting and more satisfying compared to most of korean year end awards! Lol! I’m happy to see TxT and SKZ here! They are both relatively junior groups but they are both very consistent in delivering quality albums 😊

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  15. SuperM over Taemin’s solo albums? SuperM’s album was so bland, their songs could be found on any SM boygroup’s album. Their 2019 EP was stronger, they took some risks and sounded more unique. But I guess their playing it safe this year paid off.
    I prefer the album with Heaven on it to the album with 100 on it.

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