2020 In Review: Day 1 – Introduction And Best Album Art

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2020 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

One of the consequences of 2020, this year of unprecedented and difficult disruption, was a sense of shared experience. Though we may all have been affected differently by it, everyone everywhere had to live through a world changed by COVID-19 in some sense. And popular music, itself being a shared experience, reflected that world throughout the year. Countless artists helped to articulate and express the struggle, despair, and helplessness of 2020, as well as the adaptation, the triumphs, and the joys found in-between. As the pandemic also shaped the livelihoods of musicians, changing (permanently, in some cases) how music is delivered and consumed, 2020 will be an important year to document in cultural history.

That makes for all the more reason to recognize and celebrate some of the best, most enjoyable, and most significant works that came out of Korea over the year. 2020 marks the 10th edition of Hellokpop’s annual Year In Review series, and we hope you’ll be joining us again for the two weeks of this little tradition. This year, the series proper kicks off on January 15th, 2021, so check back then for our Song of the Year.

Series Structure

Starting on January 15th, we will follow the schedule at the top of this page, with one post every day highlighting one musical genre or category. As always, each genre post will feature twelve albums and twelve songs, including the best pick, a “runner-up” pick, and the next-best ten.

We also have honorable mention lists of varying length (We try to keep each genre under ~80 songs or albums, but this year, some categories come in at around 100 honorable mentions). The general categories follow a similar format, but “Artist of the Year”, “Song of the Year”, and “Album of the Year” have no honorable mentions.

In order to recognize as many works as possible, the Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and respective runner-ups will not show up in the genre categories.

Since 2018, we have been placing the “Song of the Year” and “Album of the Year” posts at the beginning of the series; this ensures that we can include the Song and Album of the year in the Spotify playlists that we provide with the genre categories, without preemptively spoiling those picks.

On Day 15, we’ll have some fun and present dozens of whimsical “awards” that recognize non-traditional or intentionally cherry-picked accomplishments.

Finally on Day 16, we’ll summarize what other publications have been picking in their own year-end lists.

The coverage period is December to November: works released between December 1, 2019 and November 30, 2020 are eligible to be included here.

Best Album Art

As has become tradition, we begin the series by recognizing 100 notable pieces of album art from the year. I pick these across a flexible set of criteria: some of them are aesthetically pleasing, others are evocative or meaningful, and still others are just striking.

They also serve as a prelude of what’s to come: many of the albums and singles represented below will also show up in the “award” categories in the main series.

The gallery is organized by alphabetical order of artist name. Original high-res covers can be found at most major Korean streaming sites, and these particular images are sourced from Bugs Music.

Gallery: Best Album Art 2020 (click for larger image)

Read our past series:

2019 In Review

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review