Brave Girls – ‘Summer Queen’
Release Date: June 17
Notables: “Chi Mat Ba Ram”, “Pool Party”, “FEVER”
An album having a cohesive theme or narrative is something I look for when evaluating one, and while ‘Summer Queen‘ doesn’t exactly have the Very Serious™ cache as some other efforts, it does have consistency in delivering the advertised summer tones. The album boldly declares their intentions and covers everything about the season from jubilant dancing on the beach (“Chi Mat Ba Ram“) to a chill pool party at night (“Pool Party“) to disco at a club in the sweltering heat (“FEVER“).
It’s hurt by the fact that it’s a mini with essentially only four tracks, and would’ve been helped if it had another summer vibe to give us rather than an unneeded English version of a song, but Brave Girls didn’t need a whole lot of time to make a compelling claim to the throne.
Stray Kids – ‘NOEASY’
Release Date: August 23
Despite their reputation, which is alluded to in the title, Stray Kids utilize a bunch of different sounds on ‘NOEASY‘ and mostly succeed in showcasing their versatility by generating trendy and memorable tracks that range from aggressive (“CHEESE“) to melancholy (“Star Lost“). The fact that the members themselves have such a significant hand in the writing and production deepens appreciation for the album, even though at times it does seem a bit like throwing a bunch of quality songs into a blender than anything else.
Of course, idol groups are always going to find it hard to compile a wholly cohesive album sound, much less also having a connected narrative or concept, mainly due to having members with vastly different talents (rapping/singing/dancing/etc.), especially with the looming risk of fandoms burning down a company building over line distribution or whatever. But Stray Kids do their best to incorporate the scattershot nature of things into their concept, whipping up a sophisticated answer to critics and a surprisingly complete effort.
ONF – ‘City Of ONF’
Release Date: April 28
Notables: “My Genesis”, “Beautiful Beautiful”, “The Realist”, “Trip Advisor”
ONF‘s efforts this year weren’t accurately represented by their singular placing on the top songs list, as they had quite the impressive output of quality, with both “My Genesis” and “The Realist” being last cuts. More than focusing on individual tracks, though, ‘City Of ONF‘ feels like the group staking their place in the industry, and they generally succeed at doing this through a showcase of their versatility.
ONF have said the aim of the album was to pull off a variety of genres, so not having a single overarching narrative and what not is unsurprising. Nevertheless, the construction of the album is solid in terms of how the tracks play off each other, and they manage to carve out a synth-heavy identity that makes a convincing case for their arrival.