2021 In Review: Day 1 – Introduction and Best Album Art

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2021 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

For a second consecutive year, music reckoned with a fundamentally changed world. As how we understood and responded to a modern pandemic evolved, music also continued to explore new ways of delivery and performance. And while themes like separation and longing were less overt in 2021’s crop – we thematically “recovered” for the most part – many songs and albums explicitly sought to be a source of comfort and solace in these times.

We recognize music of that tenor and all others in Hellokpop’s 2021 In Review, the 11th annual edition of our year-end series where we celebrate the best work coming out of Korea across genres and categories. The series will post over two weeks as always, this year’s posts starting on January 15, 2022. Be sure to check out our Song of the Year on that day, and stay with us as we recognize the best of the best in coming days.

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 for each category, up to about 100 entries per category. 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 be double-counted as winners 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, 2020 and November 30, 2021 are eligible to be included here.

Best Album Art

As has become tradition, we do a little prelude by recognizing 100 notable pieces of album art from the year. We 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 to 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 2021 (Click for Larger Image)

Read our past series:

2020 In Review

2019 In Review

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review