The top K-pop albums of 2022

A look into the year’s greatest K-pop projects

Photo+courtesy+of+VERIVERYs+official+Facebook+page.+

Photo courtesy of VERIVERY’s official Facebook page.

By Sierra Thornton, Collegian Staff

1. VERIVERY – SERIES ‘O’ [ROUND 3 : WHOLE]

One of the current pioneers for the K-Pop horror concept, VERIVERY’s latest album shows that they still have so much to offer. The album’s title track (the leading song used in an albums promotion),  “Undercover” deals with themes such as facing one’s internal darkness, which is further emphasized in its paired music video. For my favorite tracks, I have many off the album, but I’ll stick with two to emphasize: “O” and “Our Spring.” Although “O” was included for their series in a previous release, it showcases how exquisite their freighting title tracks can be. The song deals with the concept of self-identity while taking an R&B-inspired production. “Our Spring,” is one of many songs that showcase the group’s vocals. This the track I fall back onto time and time again. Though fans eagerly wait for another release in their overarching story, this album is more than enough to hold anyone over for the time being.

2. STAYC – YOUNG-LUV.COM

Arguably having one of the group’s most acclaimed songs, this album put STAYC in the limelight early this February. The title song “RUN2U” is filled with both character and an optimistic energy to accompany it. The song sits on their Spotify page as their number one song and has been streamed over 64 million times. The entire album features enjoyable and entertaining tracks, with my personal favorite being the final track “I WANT U BABY.” Balancing the energetic title track, this song closes the album on a somber and more relaxed note but has both strong vocals and high notes to make this it totally attention-grabbing. With both their previous and following releases, this sophomore album from the group solidified that they are one to pay attention to.

3. LUCY – Childhood

A rising K-Band, LUCY delves into a multitude of emotions, thoughts and concepts in their August release. The title track “PLAY” feels authentic and honest. Sonically, one aspect that makes the band stand out is the inclusion of a violin in their band’s arsenal, and it really works in their favor for this song. The faint inclusion of the violin helps influence the feeling of nostalgia and retreating into one’s own memories. For the remaining songs, they all evoke similar emotions, but the one I return to has to be “Don’t forget our night.” While listening to the song, each replay reminds me of another story or memory I have since forgotten about, making each listen a new and refreshing experience. With an album like “Childhood,”  LUCY holds the listener’s hand while leading them down a stroll through memory lane.

4. GOT7 – GOT7

The history and legacy of GOT7 has been fascinating to see unfold and expand. Even as one of the major powerhouses of the third-generation boy group line-ups, the group left their company, JYP Entertainment, in January 2021. The title track from this release is “NANANA,” which feels refreshing and well-appreciated, considering the time that has passed since their last album. GOT7 invites both long-time fans and newcomers with a playful backing tune and a relaxed chorus. The rest of the release has many great tracks with different styles and genre influences, but they still manage to feel cohesive overall. Without their previous label overwatching them, this album shows the true charisma and talent of its members.

5. Dreamcatcher – [Apocalypse : Save us]

One of the most interesting girl groups currently releasing music is Dreamcatcher, who continues to successfully show why they are so highly admired as the go-to horror-inspired K-Pop juggernaut. This set a sturdy foundation for a new chapter in the group’s overall story and concept. As expected, the title track “MAISON” is fantastic and emphasizes a grunge and slight rock sound. The remaining songs are equally memorable, but my favorites have been “Starlight” and “Together.” Both tracks are more somber in nature, but pack big punches in the way they get stuck in your head. The remaining songs are solos from the group, all excellently crafted and constructed in their own way. Though they released another album in their expanding era, this first one needs to be acknowledged for the fantastic foundation it presented.

6. Xdinary Heroes – Hello, world!

Another K-Band on this list, Xdinary Heroes has the status of a rookie group with the skills of an experienced group. Their album “Hello, world!” has many great tracks, including the title song “Test Me.” In the spirit of a more grunge essence, the lyrics boost this sentiment, along with the teasing nature of the chorus and electrifying instrumental. The other songs are filled with fiery passion as well, with my personal favorites being “KNOCK DOWN” and “Pirates. Though their discography is limited since they only debuted last year, this album and band should be on your radar.

7. Seulgi of Red Velvet – 28 Reasons

The first release from this industry veteran shows her refined taste in tone and musical composition. The title track “28 Reasons” takes on the style of a low, but palatable R&B influence. The song deals with the complex codependency that the forces of good and evil have with one another. Though all the b-sides (tracks not released as singles) are fantastic in their own way, the fourth track “Anywhere But Home” is by far my favorite. The backing track has the atmosphere of driving on a barren street at midnight, especially due to the more ethereal chime and special effects. For those who love Red Velvet’s “velvet” side, this album will perfectly slot alongside those tracks.

8. ASTRO – Drive to the Starry Road

The group ASTRO knows the secret ingredients to creating a memorable and enjoyable discography, with “Drive to the Starry Road” being no exception. The title track “Candy Sugar Pop” reminds me of Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” in the way it makes you want to dance along on the first listen alone. The rest of the album is a mix of playful songs (i.e. “More”) and more nostalgic-feeling tracks (i.e. “Light the sky”) from the group. The latter half of the album features solo songs from each member, with my personal favorite being “S#1” from Rocky. This song reminds me of the start of a teen coming-of-age movie with the playful and sympathetic emotions it conveys in the track. As a whole, this album is a fun experience from start to finish.

9. ENHYPEN – DIMENSION : ANSWER

One of the front runners for most popular fourth generation boy groups, ENHYPEN’s first release of the year proves why they deserve to be part of that discussion. Under the same entertainment company as BTS and TXT, ENHYPEN showcases that they too have a lot of talent that is not to be overlooked or unacknowledged. This album is a repackage of their previous release, “DIMENSION : DILEMMA,” yet this does not take away from the production infused into both projects. The additional tracks to this album do not feel unnecessary nor incomplete but add an additional layer to this chapter of the group. The repackaging of the project “Blessed-Cursed” pairs well with the additional song “Polaroid Love” due to their differing styles and tones. The former is grittier in nature, describing the dilemma that comes with choice and free will. Meanwhile, “Polaroid Love” showcases the group’s ability to handle a more relaxed and chilled song with their typically mature concept. Overall, “DIMENSION : ANSWERS” will have you itching for a relisten and looking towards the next page in this group’s journey.

10. LOONA – Summer Special [Flip That]

Despite the confusing fate of the girl group LOONA as of late, their music from this year has been an incredible listen. The title track “Flip That” is energetic and fun, but not overwhelming in nature. Since it was released between late spring and early summer, the song perfectly emulates the feeling of that time. The other tracks are also fantastic, with my favorite from the bunch being the somber “Need U.” Though this release is not my favorite from the group, it most definitely deserves its spot on this list.

Sierra Thornton can be reached at [email protected]