The K-pop industry is heavily focused on one single per release. Whether it’s an EP, LP, deluxe version, greatest hits or anything in between, K-pop artists tend to define releases by one central song. But thanks to how listeners now curate their own playlists and soundtrack stellar social-media moments with music, the single is not necessarily the only song on a release to get attention.
In addition to K-pop having more worldwide eyes than ever, today’s listening habits demand more material from artists and more quality material on par with the singles already getting expensive investments and heavy promotional pushes.
Luckily, these 25 artists below not only delivered on their title tracks and singles but created bodies of work that deserve further exploration beyond the glossy music videos. From TVXQ!‘s Max Changmin, BTS‘ J-Hope, and Red Velvet‘s Seulgi letting listeners into new parts of their minds with their solo efforts, to AKMU’s Lee Chahyuk adopting a whole new character with his concept album Error, plus RM creating a musical museum to honor his twenties on Indigo, there was a lot to dig into this year. Meanwhile, unexpected viral sensations came from B-sides by (G)I-DLE, TREASURE and ENHYPEN, proving that these artists packed their records with songs and messages to connect even further with fans.
From satisfyingly short EPs to the more in-depth full-length albums, each of these releases stood out thanks to the artists reaching for something beyond a quick hit single. Read on for Billboard‘s staff picks for the best K-pop albums of the year.