Of course, the music itself largely determines the quality of an album, but what’s on the front of the album plays a role as well. Not only is the album cover the first impression listeners have of the music, but, when executed well, it can also be a visual representation of the message the musician is trying to impart. Korean music does have its fair share of hilariously bad album covers; however, there’s a wealth of remarkably good ones out there too. Read on to see some of the best Korean album art in the realm of modern Korean music.

12 Notable Album Covers in Korean Music

Red Light by Zion.T (자이언티)

Red Light Korean album2013

Zion.T’s first solo album Red Light was met with critical praise, and was awarded “Best R&B and Soul Album” at the 2013 Korean Music Awards.  Red Light’s cover features a graphic illustration of the singer, whose bold red clothes and lips stand out from the cover’s mainly greyscale color palette. The artwork was created by a Seoul-based illustrator, who goes by the name of Rudcef. Check out Rudcef’s other graphic works on his website.

Song Pick: “Babay” feat. Gaeko

24:26 by Beenzino (빈지노)

24 26 album art for Beenzino2012

Beenzino intended his first album to be a reflection of his emotional state between the ages of 24 and 26, hence the fitting title. In an interview about 24:26, Beenzino disclosed, “I was dominated by many slumps and times of tiredness. After releasing the album, I came to know that equally worse hardships were waiting for me and that it wasn’t only as fun as I had imagined it to be. . . I was very tired so I think that’s why I put that camel on my album cover. I imagine the camel walking slowly through the desert.”

Song Pick: “Nike Shoes” feat. Dynamic Duo

 

22  by Hyukoh (혁오)

Hyukoh's 22 korean album art

2015

The hand drawn quality of 22’s album art is perhaps an homage to the band’s indie roots. Where to begin with this cover—What are those ominous explosions in the background? Why are those girls doing handstands in the middle of a multicolored sea? What is that red-eyed donkey doing in a gas mask? The ambiguous space and array of characters floating around lend to the cover’s surreal quality, a reflection of the album’s dreamy sound and mix of eclectic genres.

Song Pick: “Comes And Goes (와리가리)”

 

Lucky Numbers by Dynamic Duo (다이나믹듀오)

Lucky Numbers album cover

2013

There’s a mix of the traditional and modern in this multilayered cover for Dynamic Duo’s seventh studio album. This incredibly well-executed artwork features traditional Korean art-style clouds and temples with a modern, graphic twist. Despite the busyness of the various elements in the image, the predominantly blue tones and flowing layout bring a sense of calm to the viewer.

Song Pick: “BAAAM feat. Muzie”

 

Walkin’ by Peejay (피재이)

Peejay's Walkin' - artisically rich album cover

2015

This simple-yet-striking album cover for the notable producer Peejay’s first solo album was produced by IAB Studio. IAB Studio is an avant garde Korean art collective known for its collaboration with Beenzino in producing his album covers and colorfully eccentric music video for his recent single, “Break”. A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cover for Walkin’ is especially interesting, as it symbolizes how music draws from the artist’s many experiences to produce a single output.

Song Pick: “I Get Lifted X Beenzino”

 

Shoebox by Epik High (에픽하이)

Shoebox album art by Epik High

2014

The album artwork for Shoebox, Epik High’s eighth studio release, is beautiful in its delicacy. A portion of a ballerina lacing her shoes is shown in the top left corner, with the name of the album and duo in unassuming scrawl at the opposite corner. The rest of the cover consists mainly of pale blue-green empty space, leaving the viewer to wonder what this emptiness reveals about the album itself. Oh, how far they’ve come since this less-than-stellar cover released in 2006.

Song Picks: “Rich” feat. Taeyang and “Born Hater” feat. Beenzino, Verbal Jint, B.I, Mino, Bobby

 

Why So Serious? – The Misconceptions of Me by SHINee (샤이니)

Misconceptions of Me album cover

2013

Why So Serious? – The Misconceptions of Me is the second half of the group’s third studio release. The album cover features silhouettes of all five members, and the mix of mediums creates an interesting collage-y vibe and a sense of confused identity.

Song Pick: “오르골 (Orgel)”

 

Man on the Moon by Eluphant (이루펀트)

Man on the Moon album art

2015

This clean cover for the hip-hop duo’s third album incorporates minimalist aspects. Though the artwork consists of just black and white, it manages to avoid feeling uninspired through the stark contrast between astronaut and background, the details on the spacesuit, and the quirky, off-centered moon.

Song Picks:  “MOTM” feat. Suda, Huckleberry P, and RHYME-A- and “SimSim(심심할때만)” Feat. SoYou

 

Where the Story Ends by W(Where the Story Ends) (더블유)

W by Where the Story Ends

2005

The simple line work of the cover of the trio’s decade-old release offsets the fact that there’s so many things going on at once. A woman sits in her futuristic star-power bubble as rabbits, robots, smiling minions and other miscellaneous creatures go about their day in what we’re guessing is some sort of happiness factory. The illustration is also reminiscent of childhood coloring book days, providing a sort of calming simplicity reflected in many of the album’s tracks.

Song Pick: “Shocking Pink Rose”

 

While these next three picks are singles rather than albums, their stunning cover visuals still deserve a spot on this list.

 

“풀어(Pour Up)” and “I Love It” by Dean (딘)

Pour UpDean - I Love It album art2015

This 22-year-old singer-songwriter hasn’t released a studio album yet, but has worked with quite established musicians such as Zico, Mila J, and Eric Bellinger to produce a variety of soulful singles. His two singles, ““풀어(Pour Up)” feat. Zico and “I Love It” feat. Dok2 both use the same artwork, though with variations in color. The colorful and bold paint-stroke elements add unexpected variety to the otherwise grayscale depiction of the passionate singer.

 

“Just Do It” by Gray feat. Loco (그레이, 로꼬)

Just Do It2015

The softness of the painting and blue and purple-infused pastel color palette create an appropriately serene atmosphere, while the flecks of color on Gray’s skin, marbling of the water, and shadow play add both artistry and depth to the illustration. The image of the tub is fitting, as in the song, Gray mentions he used to dream about having a house with a bathtub.

 

“Parachute” by Code Kunst feat. OhHyuk and Dok2 (코드 쿤스트, 오혁, 도끼)

parachute

2015

The artwork for the single “Parachute” is stunning in its simplicity. Like the cover for Shoebox, it incorporates a single, main element into otherwise empty space, and the blues and reds in the artwork parallel the color scheme in the equally beautiful music video. The open, blue skies and absence of a real parachute suggest a sort of desperate-yet-enthralling leap towards freedom. The artwork was designed by art director Rowdee, who has produced quite a few other impressive album and singles covers.

 

Image Credits: Red Light | 22 | Lucky Numbers | Walkin’ | Shoebox | The Misconceptions of Me | Where the Story Ends | I Love It | Just Do It | Parachute

 

What are your favorite examples of album covers in Korean music? Let us know in the comments below!