2019 In Review: Day 14 – Artist of the Year

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2019 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

Artists of the Year are selected holistically, but generally they are going to be artists who showed consistency by releasing multiple good works over the year. (Or alternatively, one really good work can do.)

Often their work would also have meant something for other artists or the scene that they are part of, though that is of course difficult to judge less than a year out. That can mean direct or indirect influence, including collaborations and production credits; less tangibly, it can also include international recognition and cultural significance.

The 2019 output from each of these listed artists exhibited multiple characteristics from the above.

Artist of the Year 2019


For full-length album 항해 (Sailing)

An endorsement for AkMu in this spot is largely an endorsement of Sailing, which produced the runner-up pick for our Song of the Year and was itself the year’s second-best pop album. Even in a vacuum, the duo’s 2019 achievement was triumphant, characterized by visionary storytelling and uncommon power.

When considering the context, I think it’s even more meaningful. For AkMu, 2019 represented breakthrough growth and a sense of completeness earned after a significant hiatus; and for a music industry ailing from core-shaking scandals around chart manipulation and survival programs, Sailing’s runaway success reminded us of the power of outstanding music to cut through the noise.

The Runner-up

Lim Kim

Speaking of hiatuses, Lim Kim’s seeming disappearance off the face of the Earth after leaving Mystic89 in 2016 was one of the more curious mysteries of the scene. She finally broke silence in 2019 with Generasian, changing absolutely everything: her production, vocal tone, styling. The outcome was explosive.

On a raw and heady crossover of Korean traditional, industrial EDM and hip-hop, Kim laid out a willful and confident manifesto, most memorably lashing out against the stereotyping of Asian women in “Yellow” but also touching on ideas like cultural heritage and youthful solidarity. It was a bold and unexpected swerve and some of 2019’s most sonically satisfying music. The first part of Kim’s career suffered from (not unfounded) criticism that her music lacked identity; to say she convincingly dispelled that notion in one fell swoop would actually be an understatement.

The Next-Best Ten (Alphabetical)

9 and the Numbers

For full-length album 서울시 여러분 (Many Minutes in Seoul); and singles “서울시 여러분 (Many Minutes in Seoul) Part 1”, “Part 2”, “Part 3”


For full-length album The Movie Star; project single “나의 땅 (My Land)”; compilation work with Kill Bill and Show Me the Money; and featured appearances with ChoiLB, Geegooin, Boycold, Paloalto, Viann


For EP Map of the Soul: Persona; OST album BTS World; and featured appearance with Steve Aoki


For full-length album 夢 (Dream); single “귀환 (Return)”; and featured appearance with Brwn


For full-length album 100년제전문대학 (100 Years College Course); EPs 땡큐 (Thank You) and KGVOVC from wybh Vol. 1 and Gab Boon Gi; singles “교통정리 (Traffic Control)” and “2 Little Bites from [Fatal Album III]”; collaborative single “Super Brthday” (with Superbee); compilation work with Show Me the Money; and featured appearances and production work with Gray, Indigo Music, Jvcki Wai, ChoiLB, Cosmic Boy, IMJMWDP, Han Yo-han, Woo, Huckleberry P, U-Know, Fisherman, Heize, Pentagon, Hotchkiss, Rhythm Power, Sik-K, Jessica, George, and Yunhway


For singles “물고기 (Goldfish)”, “유영 (Swim You)”, “Dive”, “환상 (Fantasy)”, “소나기 (Flashback)”; single “우리는 여기에 있을게 (We’ll Stay Here)” as Seoulmoon; and featured appearance with Crack Bit


For full-length albums Come Back Home, 동두천 (Dongducheon), and 동물, 원 (Garden, Zoological); collaborative EP 소요 (Soyo) (with Kim Yunji); and singles “낙검자수용소, 밤 (Monkeyhouse, Night)” and “우와! (Woowa!)”

Rock N Roll Radio

For full-length album You’ve Never Had It So Good; single “Hope Springs Eternal”; and featured appearances with YB and CaptainRock


For full-length album Sobrightttttttt and collaborative full-length album Not My Fault (with Dress); collaborative singles “사랑해줘 (Trust Me) Remix” (with Yumdda) and “Meet Me When This Rain Stops” (with DJ Wegun); and featured appearances with Punchnello, Bang Yong-guk, Marcus Way and Brady, Jeebanoff, Bigone, Kona, Glam Gould, Dress, Maalib & WRKMS, and L-Like


For full-length album Purpose; single “Four Seasons”; OST work with Hotel del Luna and Frozen 2; and featured appearances with Yoon Jong-shin and Chancellor

Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music and FN Star [Cacophony].

Read our past series:

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review