The 5 Best Albums of 2012: An introduction

Putting together a list of the best albums of any given year has always been a big challenge for me -- even bigger than ranking 50 of my favorite songs. Albums are a lot harder to judge than songs, mainly because you can't just say "okay, all the songs on this album are good" and end it at that. An album is never, ever, just a few songs thrown together, no matter how good those songs may be on their own.

An album is one, solid, cohesive entity -- it's a package. If it wasn't, then what's the use of an album? Acts should just release individual songs and not a group of them. That's why judging one has to be about how the songs work together as much as it is how good they actually are alone, and that's really hard. There are albums with spectacular songs that, when put together, aren't cohesive at all, but then there are also albums with mediocre songs, or a mix of different qualities, that somehow manage to really click, and make for a fantastic album.

But sometimes even an album with chemistry between the songs isn't enough -- having chemistry doesn't always mean that it's the good kind. In some of the albums considered this year, there were good songs that were cohesive with each other, but that cohesion kind of fell flat of what could have been and didn't really live up to expectations.

Thankfully, there are albums that make my job easier by just being their outstanding selves, all while also making my job such a pleasure. There are albums that come with fireworks and explosions left and right, but at the same time have all the foundations laid out firmly. It's those kinds of albums that made the list this year, but first I had to find them, because believe me when I say that there weren't a lot.

So you can imagine how hard it was for me to choose five albums that are really, really, really good. I actually planned to choose ten, but then I realized that some of the albums in that tentative list of ten weren't really that good, and I was only putting them on the list because there was nothing better. So I just cut it down to the five albums that remind me of why I got into K-pop in the first place, and prove that the industry is capable of delivering outstanding material.

Of course, a list isn't without limitations. I couldn't listen to all the albums released in Korea this year, because I'm not a full-time writer (yet!!!!! :D), so obviously the first limitation is that this is a list of the best of the albums I've heard. The rest is below:

1. The album must have been released between January 1, 2012 and December 15, 2012. Albums with singles released prior to January 1st are only eligible if at least 85% of the entire album was first released on or after January 1st. Repackaged albums are eligible, as long as they follow all other rules.

2. The act receiving main billing must be of Korean nationality, regardless of the territory the album was first released in.

3. All releases, regardless of intended format (whether EP or LP), must have a minimum of FIVE (5) original tracks (no covers!), at least 50% of which is credited solely to the "main" artist. Remixes and radio edits will not be counted or reviewed.
For example, Ailee's "Invitation" has a total of six tracks, all first released in 2012. In three out of the six tracks, she shares credits with other artists, meaning exactly half of her album contains tracks featuring only her. "Invitation" is eligible.
4. Special intros, instrumental preludes, etc., are counted as part of the album but are not counted as a track credited to the main artist, unless he/she provides vocals/performance. However, regardless of billing, these tracks will still the judged along with the rest of the album.

I guess that's it. Watch out for the list tomorrow!

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