2017 In Review: Day 6 – Pop And Ballad

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2017 In Review

1. Prelude (Best Album Art)
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop and Ballad
7. Folk and Country
8. Jazz and Blues
9. Crossover and Other
10. Best Collaborative Work
11. Rookie Artist of the Year
12. Artist of the Year
13. Song of the Year
14. Album of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

Pop and Ballad is generally the deepest category of the series, in terms of the number of honorable mentions. 2017 is the first year where that isn’t true (Dance and Electronic takes the title this year), but the quality at the top remains as strong as ever. Of particular note is the number of excellent solo works by idol-group artists in 2017: you can see five of them featured below, including the final work of Jonghyun, a bittersweet recognition for his painstaking work and a job well-done. A great deal of others – Suho, Suzy, Yoona, and Nam Tae-hyun, just to list a few – barely missed the cut.

Important: as in previous years, the Album of the Year and Song of the Year (and their runner-ups) are not included in the genre categories. That means that, for example, there could be a pop album that isn’t being recognized on this page because it’s the album of the year. Also, note that all “First Ten Out” and “Honorable Mention” picks are sorted by artist name.


Best Pop and Ballad Album 2017

Kim Yoon-ah – 타인의 고통 (The Pain of Others)

 The Pain of Others stays on its message – that to illuminate suffering and extend empathy – with steely resolve. Kim Yoon-ah laments that “we are all as frail as glass” (“Glass”), fights “the darkness that took you” (“Poison”), and wonders “why this pain the pounds my heart cannot kill me” (“Kyrie”, a haunting elegy that was our runner-up for Song of the Year 2016). Kim’s a premier vocalist, of course, and she chooses to shoulder essentially the entire emotional load throughout the album: instrumentation is usually kept to a minimum, often just a single piano or violin, as Kim strings together extraordinary performance after performance that takes us through depths of bleakness and sorrow. By the time triumphant guitars offer respite as she declares “All Shall Pass”, I’m dazed and just a little bit relieved at the salvation.

Runner-up Pop and Ballad Album 2017

Park Ji-yoon – parkjiyoon9

Park has experimented quite a bit since 2012’s Tree of Life, but her ninth studio album sees her back in much the same place as five years ago: a forest of gentle, lush, flowing instrumentation, visceral melodies, and thoughtful writing. At its best, parkjiyoon9 is as emotionally potent as ever, offering explosive catharsis (“Without You”) and understanding consolation (“Everything Goes Away”) alike. Like the pick above, this an album willing to work through the hard stuff in infinite patience and provide a soundscape of refuge; Park also gives us a glimpse of what lies beyond, in the land of healing.

The First Ten Out

Dal Johnbam – Nu Moon

Jonghyun – 종현 소품집 ‘이야기 Op.2’ (The Collection ‘Story Op.2’)

Jung Joonil – 더 아름다운 것 (More Beautiful Thing)

Kang Seung-won – 강승원 일집 (Kang Seung-won The First Album)

Lucia – 환상소곡집 (Fantasy Pieces) Op.1

SE O – For You

S.E.S. – Remember

Subin – 동그라미의 꿈 (Circle’s Dream)

Taeyeon – My Voice

Temperature of Saying “Hi” – 사랑에 관한 각자의 기억 (The Individual Memory of Love)


Best Pop and Ballad Song 2017

IU – 밤편지 (Through the Night)

The stillness of night brings out thoughts close to the heart. Grateful incredulity, fretful worry, and tender confession all make their way into the letter that IU lovingly pens to its recipient. A simple acoustic arrangement delivers no frills but a lot of room for IU to navigate a soothing but surprisingly tumultuous melody, and her performance has a wiry, soft kind of strength. “Through the Night” is a wonderfully intimate moment, played out with experienced ease and comfort.

Runner-up Pop and Ballad Song 2017

Lucia – 촛농의 노래 (Song of Candle Dripping)

From the first to last note, “Song of Candle Dripping” is tensed up with drama. Ever the careful lyricist, Lucia uses the wick of a candle to describe the finiteness of love, and her operatic performance is characteristically filled with beautifully constructed imagery. A weighty melody that positively pounds on every down-beat drives the track forward, while an expressive string accompaniment cuts sharply into measures and sweeps up in support of the main melody. Enwrapped in the doting care of bells, accordions and harmonica, the track hurtles towards a breathless, inevitable climax, burning the last of its light in radiant flame.

The First Ten Out

Bolbbalgan4 – 썸 탈꺼야 (Some) (link)

Dal Johnbam – & I Love You (link)

Echae Kang – 기억의 언덕 (Hill of Memories) (link)

Fly to the Sky – 너의 계절 (Your Season) (link)

Grace Shin – The Faith (link)

Ha Dong-qn – 지금 그리고 우린 (The Maze of Reality) (link)

JK Kim Dong-wook – Universe (link)

Park Ji-yoon – 그러지마요 (Without You) (link)

Subin – 달 (Moon) (link)

Taeyeon – Time Lapse (link)

Honorable Mentions


Bolbbalgan4 – Red Diary Page.1
BTOB – Brother Act.
Fromm – Reve
Ha Dong-qn – Polygon
Hello Gayoung – 단편집(그리움에 가까운) (Collection of Short Stories(Almost Like Missing You))
IU – Palette
Jida – Fade Away
Jung Joon-young – 1인칭 (First Person)
Kang Hyun-min – Reflective
Kim Feel – From Feel
Lee Hae-ri – h
Organic Science – Organic Gesture
Sulkyung – 꿈속의 정원 (Garden of Dreams)
Yoon Dukwon – 농담 (Joke)


Ahn Ye-eun – Deep Blue
ALi – Black and White
The Barberettes – 봄, 곰 (Spring, Bear)
Choi Baek-ho – 바다 끝 (End of the Sea)
Dia – 잠 못드는 밤에 (Sleepless Night)
Evan – 사막물고기 (Daydream) (Feat. Choyoung)
Fromm – Beautiful World
HA:TFELT – 새 신발 (I Wander) (Feat. Gaeko)
Hello Gayoung – 어디에 있을까 (Where Is Love)
Hwanhee – 그래 (So It Is)
IU – 사랑이 잘 (Can’t Love You Anymore) (Feat. Ohhyuk)
Jang Hee-won – 배드민턴 (Badminton)
Jenny – 너와 나만의 이야기 (Expiration)
Kang Hyun-min – 추억 (Memory) (Feat. Kim E-Z)
Kim Do-hoon – 이대로 (Like This) (Feat. Naeun)
Kim Na-young – 널 미워하지 않길 (No Blame) (Prod. Ha Dong-qn)
Kim Yoon-ah – 꿈 (Dream)
Kiravi – 마음 (Heart)
Lalasweet – 서울의 밤 (A Night in Seoul)
Lee X Lee – 별별별 (Star Star Star)
LeeSA – 비행기 (Airplane)
Loona 1/3 – 알 수 없는 비밀 (Sonatine)
Lucia – 파탈리테 (Fatalité)
Mathi – Wake Up (Feat. Hash Swan, Kim Ho-yeon)

No Reply – 여정 (Journey)
Park Ji-yoon – 어디로 가고 있는걸까 (Everything Goes Away)
Ravie Nuage – 기도 (Prayer)
Ruel – 오로라 (Aurora)
S.E.S. – Remember
SE O – You Are My Dream
Seo Young Do Electric Ensemble – 무사고 (No Accidents) (Feat. Cho Jung-hee)
Shin Ji-hoon – 별이 안은 바다 (You Are a Star Already)
Sojung – 우린 왜 이별하는 걸까? (Better Than Me)
Stella Jang – 월요병가 (A Case of the Mondays)
Subin – 동그라미의 꿈 (Circle’s Dream)
Sunha – 비나리는 (Raining)
Sunwoo Jung-A – 모른 척 (Pretend Not To Know)
Temperature of Saying “Hi” – 평생 겨울일 것만 같아 (Forever Winter) (Feat. Grace)
Tim – Beautiful
Wine Loop – 로맨스 시즌 (Romance Season)
Yang Da-il & DK – 한 편의 너 (Cinematic Love)
Yoon Jong-shin – 좋니 (Like It)
Zitten – No Rush

Sources: album art and IU header image from Bugs Music

Read our past series:

2016 In Review

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

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