6 super creative K-pop album packaging of 2022: New Jeans, Birthday, and more
2022 was a turning point for the Korean industry in many ways, including the K-pop album packaging concepts. Creativity stretched the limits of the imagination last year from a ballerina-inspired theme to nailing nostalgia with a VHS-styled drama.
One of the major key (and differentiating) factors of the Korean music industry is its album packaging. In 2022, a whopping 74.1 million albums were sold by K-pop artists, as per Circle (formerly Gaon) charts. While the artists themselves play a big role, the multiple inclusions and the album’s (sometimes expensive) collectible value entice fans into buying them.
However, only a few artists go all-out in creativity for their K-pop album packaging. Rather than provide fans with ordinary concepts and inclusions, some artists, such as NewJeans, Red Velvet, TRICKSTER, among others, made buzz with their out-of-the-box album designs.
Disclaimer: The article reflects the author's opinions.
From SHINee’s KEY to NewJeans: Check out 6 artists who stretched the limits of K-pop album packaging
1) SHINee KEY's Gasoline
It’s almost impossible not to include SHINee’s KEY in the yearly K-pop album packaging list. The Ring Ding Dong singer personally took part in the creation of his solo album, from songwriting to concept and album design.
KEY’s re-packaged album Gasoline once again showed off his forte in bringing something new to the unique K-pop album packaging world. Continuing his love for the retro concept, Gasoline was released with an 80s sci-fi horror theme. With fonts and doodles reminiscent of the era, the physical album versions included a VHS tape, floppy disk, and booklet versions.
The VHS tape and floppy disk version, in particular, were the talk of the town as it gave millennials (which supposedly constitutes a majority of SHINee’s fandom) the nostalgic touch they craved, mixed with the thing they love the most - K-pop.
2) NewJeans' New Jeans Bag version
Another unique K-pop album packaging that will go down in history is the Bag, aka the limited version of NewJeans’ self-titled debut album. The group’s esthetic and concept are heavily inspired by Y2K, a fashion trend from 2000s that is making its revival in the contemporary entertainment industry.
ADOR took the concept of a physical album up a notch above by giving fans not just stationery but a fully-functional and fashionable accessory - a sling bag. While albums usually go on shelves, ADOR's strategy has ensured that NewJeans' debut is remembered and talked about months and years down the line. After all, who can overlook the catchy tagline 'We Are NewJeans' and the many adorable doodles with the group's logo on a small round sling bag?
3) Red Velvet's The ReVe Festival 2022 - Feel My Rhythm
Two of the best K-pop album packaging recognitions go to Red Velvet, SHINee KEY’s labelmates. The veteran girl group released two albums last year, Feel My Rhythm and Birthday. While the former crossed 690,000 copies, the latter album crossed one million. Moreover, a major part of those sales are also due to the packaging.
As a senior idol group, Red Velvet’s concept has recently bordered on elegance, chicness and maturity. Feel My Rhythm led them to explore the ballerina concept. The physical album had three versions - two photobook versions, aka the ReVe version, and one Orgel version. One ReVe version had a vibrant, dreamy feel, while the other had a classy, sophisticated ballerina vibe.
However, it was the Orgel version that made people wonder if a K-pop album packaging like that was possible too. This version resembled a music box and included a member-specific standee. A platform cutout inside the album transformed it into a stage as one could attach a standee to it, making it look exactly like an Orgel music box.
4) Red Velvet's The ReVe Festival 2022 - Birthday
Crossing one million units and taking the fandom by storm was Red Velvet's Birthday. 2022 was an incredible year for SM Entertainment as many of its artists released albums that deserved a feature on every best K-pop album packaging list to be published.
Red Velvet celebrated Birthday with quite literally a birthday cake as an album. The expectations for this physical version were so high that it crossed 496,874 sales in its first-week tracking, despite hardly getting a glimpse into its design. The company did not disappoint as it released a limited version Cake edition, apart from the regular yet creatively designed photobook versions.
The Cake version had five types of albums, which were decorated differently and represented each member of Red Velvet. The album, a tin case printed with cake decorations by each member, came in a protective and transparent plastic cover. Similar to the Feel My Rhythm ballerina standee, Birthday also had a "candle" that one could attach to the inside layers of the tin case and put it up for display.
5) ONEUS' TRICKSTER
RBW’s team hit the nail on point while designing ONEUS’ 2022 comeback album, TRICKSTER. Talking about one of the best K-pop album packaging and inclusions from last year and not talking about TRICKSTER would be a mistake.
The agency did a great job with reflecting TRICKSTER’s poker concept in its physical album. The album’s outer box had geometric designs with a main holographic poker card sitting in the middle of it.
Moreover, the inclusions were creative, as they included not one but seven trump card boards (some of which had members’ faces printed on them), a cardboard DIY case to keep all the trump cards in place, a coin board, and whoever got lucky, a limited version of a Joker card.
6) NCT DREAM's Candy Special Version
Almost as if SM Entertainment had cracked the code, NCT DREAM's Special version of Candy packaging also came layered with nostalgia and stretched creative boundaries.
As a vibrant cereal box, Candy's Special version was reminiscent of SHINee KEY's Bad Love, only on the outer surface. Inside the colorful box laced with pastel colors was a tin case resembling a sewing kit and giving millennials another feel of blast from the past. Among other inclusions, it came with paper ornaments of NCT DREAM members in goofy poses.
Last year's K-pop album packaging improved a lot and naturally became a hot topic by luring in more fans. SM Entertainment turned out to be the top dog by incorporating creativity in their artists’ album designs, showing the K-pop industry how it’s done.
2022 also saw a whole new version of physical albums. As one of the pioneers in the industry, SME introduced the SMini version, a mini-case album with a ball chain, NFC CD, a random photo, and one photocard. These are heavily inspired and marketed towards K-pop collectors who love keychain accessories that can be attached to diaries, collectbooks, and mobile phone covers.
With more and more videos of K-pop idols vlogging themselves from an album manufacturing company, fans love its collectible value. It is also safe to say that out-of-the-box K-pop album packaging attracts non-fans and hardcore collectors as well.
Moreover, with only two months down in 2023, it remains to be seen which group will take the courageous route of doing things differently this year.