2018 In Review: Day 8 – Pop And Ballad

By  | 

2018 In Review

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

This year’s pop/ballad albums category has a slight slant towards lyrically outstanding works, as well as towards shorter albums: even a few EPs made their point in focused bursts and made our cut. It was difficult leaving out the excellent full-length efforts from Aurorasting, Epitone Project, Lyn, and many others, but that’s why we encourage you to check out the honorable mentions.

Sunwoo Jung-A – 백년해로 (Eternity) is being omitted from this post, as it was named our Song of the Year back on Day 2.


  • The “next-best ten” and honorable mention lists are sorted by artist name.
  • This year, we’re providing Spotify playlists of music featured in these lists (provided that Spotify carries the music). The 2018 Pop and Ballad playlist is here and also embedded below:


Best Pop and Ballad Album 2018

Moon Jung-hoo – 대항해시대 (Age of Exploration)

Age of Exploration is not high on lengthy explanations: Moon Jung-hoo (she’s the Biuret vocalist Moon Hye-won) wrote in language that’s often terse, indirect, and repeated within each track. Yet it somehow got right to the heart of the matter, as Moon incisively laid bare the giddy flutterings, aimless wanderings, and devastating regrets of her experience. From “Stranger”‘s absorbing omissions to “Puberty”‘s belted laments, every track invited re-readings and re-listens to peel away the layers of poetry. The Sailing Log essays and short story included in the album furthered the commitment, and this best-written album of 2018 then came alive in acoustic and orchestral grandeur, and the emotional heft of Moon’s vocal performances.

Runner-up Pop and Ballad Album 2018

Echae Kang – Hitch

Is it possible to have this much dazzle and vitality in five tracks? Hitch felt even more colorful than its predecessor (and our second-best pop album of 2016), with its refreshing, spring-oriented tones and flowing instrumentation. Echae Kang’s violin play was of course the star, the rich lifeblood of “Hitch” and “Hi” and a moody backdrop when plucked in pizzicato. But what elevated Hitch to greatness was her compositions, which had all the boldness and catchiness of pop’s best. An infectious earnestness and moments of deep, anticipatory breaths coexisted right up to the explosive album-closer “Two”, which might be Kang’s finest work to date.

The Next-Best Ten

Ahn Ye-eun – O

Cho Jung-chi – 3

Echae En Route – Echae En Route

Elaine – 1

Jung Seung-hwan – 그리고 봄 (Spring Again)

Kim Dong-ryul – 답장 (Reply)

Kim Yeon-woo – 나의 너 (Forever Yours)

Lee Moon-sae – Between Us

YeaSeol – 시집 (Anthology)

Yuha – 젊은이 (Youth)


Best Pop and Ballad Song 2018

Moon Jung-hoo – 대항해시대 (Age of Exploration)

In a metaphor that goes on to span the whole album, Moon Jung-hoo sings of navigating the tumultuous waves of life as the captain of a sailing vessel. In just a handful of lines, the waves and the oceans captured a lot: the realness of our struggles, the crests of the “pain we ride on”, and the steadiness it takes to put on a smile each day. The composition perhaps reflects that by not having a real chorus, instead carrying its gorgeous, uplifting string accompaniment to buoyed pre-chorus highs before coming back down. Like much of the album that bears its name, “Age of Exploration” asks us to fill in the blanks, and in return offers to understand what we bring to it.

Runner-up Pop and Ballad Song 2018

Yoon Jong-shin & Jung In – 추위 (The Coldness)

Yoon Jong-shin’s ode to artists was chilly to the bones, expressing the solitude and droughts of the act of creation in bleak language. The encroaching self-doubt, the temptation of compromise, the reason in settling: everything got a fair shake here, from a singer and producer who’s really gone through it all. The drama comes to a head in the rousing melody and Jung In’s searing performance; there are no cheap assurances in the breathless final chorus, but there is hope in the clear-eyed knowledge of what’s ahead. “The Coldness” may have been written for artists, but its courage and inspiration is useful for all of us.

The Next-Best Ten

Bolbbalgan4 – 여행 (Travel)

Cho Jung-chi – 날 치료해 주세요 (Fix Me) (Feat. Savina & Drones)

Corduroy – Concentrate

Echae Kang – 둘 (Two)

Fromm – 서울밤 (Seoul Night)

Kim Dong-ryul – 노래 (Song)

Kim Yeon-woo – Homesick

New Authors & Elaine – Goodbye

SoLaTi – 아프게 잊혀지지 않게 (Fermata)

Sunwoo Jung-A – 여정 (Journey)

Honorable Mentions


Aurorasting – 730
Ben – Recipe
Bolbbalgan4 – Red Diary Page.2
Cha Eun-joo – Cha Eun Joo
Cho Hyung-woo – Where
Damsonaegongbang – 사랑오운 아띠 (A Lovely Friend)
Davichi – &10
Epitone Project – 마음속의 단어들 (Words in the Mind)
Eric Nam – Honestly
Fromm – Midnight Candy
Jeong Eun-ji – 혜화 (暳花) (Hyehwa)
Jeong Se-woon – Another
JK Kim Dong-wook – The Book of John: Part 1
John OFA Rhee – How Long Can We Go?
Joonil Jung – Elephant
JY Lee – Fisherman
Kim Young-geun – 아랫담길 (Under Wall Road)
Kwak Jeong-im – 괜찮아질거야 (Tomorrow)
Lee Hyung-eun – Love Yourself
Lucia – 몸과 마음 (Body & Soul)
Lyn – #10
Night of Seokyo – Moonrise
Park Ki-young – Re:Play
Park Won – r
Ramda – Blue Bird
Ravie Nuage – 그리고, 겨울 (And, Winter)
Sweden Laundry – 우리집 (Home)
Taeyeon – This Christmas: Winter Is Coming
Vanilla Acoustic – 어울리게 칠해줘 (Fit Me)
Very Very Good Life – 꿈의 세레나데 (Serenade of Dream)
Younha – RescuE
Zyeun – Lovessay #011


1SaGain & Nuun – Fade Away
9 (Song Jae-kyung) – 작은 마음 (Little Heart)
Ahn Ye-eun – 같은 생각 (Same Thought)
Ahn Ye-eun – 유 (有) (You)
Ben – 열애중 (Love,ing)
Boy.D – 이상한 날 (Strange Day)
Bumzu – 그리워 안 해 (I Don’t Miss U)
Cacophony – 숨 (Breath)
Cha Eun-joo – 사랑 그 언저리 (Around the Love)
Cho Hyung-woo – 후회 (Regret)
Cho Jung-chi – 헤어져서 좋은 일들 (Perks of Break Up) (Feat. Fromm)
Cho Kyu-chan – 비 온 날 (Rainy Day)
Damsonaegongbang – 그네 (Swing)
Doo – Love Always
Dress – Hug & Kiss (Feat. Miso, fka, Sogumm, Lydia Paek)
Echae Kang – Hitch
Echae Kang – 안녕 (Hi)
Elaine – Wake Me Up
Eunkyo – 어여쁜 소녀 (Little Girl)
Fromm – Milan Blue
Fromm – 영원처럼 안아줘 (Hold Me Like It’s Forever) (Feat. Car, the Garden)
Heyday – 오늘 밤 (Tonight) (Feat. Joy o’Clock)
Hot Potato – 중력의 여자 (Gravity Woman)
Hyuna Choi – Sea
Jang Hee-won – 편지 (Letter)
Jeong Se-woon – 20 Something
John Park – Understand
Joonil Jung – Say Yes
Jung In – 달라요 (Difference)
Jung Seung-hwan – 비가 온다 (It’s Raining)
Ju Yoon-ha – 밤의 동화 (Fairy Tale of the Night)
Ju Yoon-ha & Jang Yoon-ju – 낯선 꿈 (Strange Dream)
Kim Dong-ryul – 답장 (Reply)
Kim Na-young – I Want You
Kim Yeon-woo – 반성문 (My Apology Letter)
Kim Young-geun – 아랫담길 (Under Wall Road)
Lee Hyung-eun – Love Yourself
Lucia – 너의 꽃말 (Your Flower Language)
Lulileela – 언젠가, 우리 (Someday)
Luna – 그런 밤 (Night Reminiscin’) (With Yang Dail)
Mamamoo – 칠해줘 (Paint Me)
Martin Smith – 미쳤나봐 (Crazy) (Feat. Jung Sung-ha)
Moollonkyen – 소화기 (Fire Extinguisher)
Moon Jung-hoo – 유하 (Yuha)
Okdal – 발란스 (Balance)
Park Hyo-shin – 겨울소리 (Sound of Winter)
Park Won – 나 (Rudderless)
Seenroot – 바람 (I Wish)
Stella Jang & Pleyn – Monsieur
Sunwoo Jung-A – 남 (Fine)
Taeyeon – Circus
Uju – Moon, Crystal, Love
Won Da-hee – 떠나볼까 (Feat. Jeon So-hyeon)
Yang Hee-eun & Sung Si-kyung – 늘 그대 (You)
Yangpa – 끌림 (Trembling)
Yoon Gun – 너도 그냥 날 놓아주면 돼 (Just Let Me Go)
Yuha – 나는 (I) (Feat. Lee Neung-ryong)
Yuha – 얄궂은 비행 (Mischievous Flight) (Feat. Guntac)
Yun Seokcheol & Echae Kang – 처음 먹는 나이 (Passing)

Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

Read our past series:

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review