Welcome to another award show review! This time we are going to review South Korea’s most prestigious award show akin to its film counterparts. It is the Korean Music Awards nominations, where music critics, mediamen, and peers vote to determine the best of Korean music in 2021.

This is essentially the only Korean award show I trust. Not the sales, stats and popularity ones, but the critical acclaim ones. KMAs have held a deep part of why I am invested into making critic based K-Pop award shows. We need more of these awards. Not just charity ones.

Artist of the Year

Let’s start big with Artist of the Year! I was somewhat surprised at this category, I didn’t expect Kim Hyun-chul and The Volunteers to get a nod, but I am extremely happy for them. City Breeze & Love Song marks Kim Hyun-chul’s 11th album since his debut in 1989, and he has made a resurgence in 2021. The Volunteers was not in my radar and I want to bash myself because I never have thought Baek Yerin had a band.

Anyway, Lang Lee, IU, and BTS will duke it out for the win, but I have enough reason to believe Lang Lee will win this one. Her album There Is A Wolf has been nominated in the 2021 Awards Circuit and Lang Lee just continues her streak, solidifying her work as the best of the year and the most defining of her career.

Album of the Year

BASED! Super well deserved! This is the most justified category and the MVP of the General Field. As we all know AKMU definitely was one of the best albums of the last year. Kim Hyun-chul’s City Breeze & Love Song was well recieved amongst music critics and many sites have awarded them credit. LILAC is probably one of the most well crafted project IU has ever done since Palette. Lang Lee’s There Is A Wolf, tells a very personal story done in a revolutionary and soulful way, truly one of the most underrated albums of the year. Finally, my favorite, Chun Yongsung’s Drowned which earned an Independent Noise nomination for telling one of the most heartbreaking struggles of a young human troubled in anxiety and depression.

I beg you guys, to listen to everything on this list. This is such a GOATED category, and I don’t care who wins. Everything is just so flawless and artistic. Actually, all of these albums have an INSIDER nomination and I am proud to say I nailed predicting this.

Song of the Year

This is well rounded. aespa with Next Level; AKMU and IU with NAKKA; BTS with Butter; Lang Lee with There Is A Wolf; Lee Mujin with Traffic Light. I am just depressed and sad that ONF’s magnum opus, Beautiful Beautiful has been SNUBBED by the critics even though it had everything in its way to clinching this nod. What a missed opportunity, KMAs. I would have to say Next Level might be a creative and daring release, but it wasn’t original so it kind of defeats the musicality of aespa to award it a nomination, rather than Savage. But hey, if the Producers Guild of Korea gave Savage, Record of the Year, then they surely loved Next Level too.

I know Butter wins this by a mile. Easily a GRAMMY-nominated song will not get shut out of the KMAs. I mean that has never happened, when even the highly-acclaimed Jung Jae-il (composer of Parasite) won a KMA in his debut for classical music in 2004. My personal favorite here is Lang Lee’s There Is A Wolf, because it resonates with the audience instantaneously. There is emotional embellishment and nuance to the songwriting that makes it just the best composed and written song out of all the nominees here.

Best New Artist

This is so shocking for me. When I saw aespa and STAYC getting a Best New Artist nod at the pretty much snobbish KMAs, I was so filled with mixed emotions. I mean first things first, but ITZY was the only K-POP group in KMA history to achieve a KMA nomination for their 2019 material. Seeing aespa and STAYC get in feels kind of pandering towards the mainstream in my view, but I mean if the KMAs didn’t like Seoul Magic Club or DPR IAN then uhm who are we to choose from?

Lee Mujin is most likely going to battle SINCE and Haepari for the win. I mean ITZY lost this award to sogumm, so aespa and STAYC is never going to happen. I have to say the odds are likely still going to Mujin’s favor. Haepari did get an Electronic Album nomination and SINCE has a Rap & Hip-Hop Song nod, so congrats for them, they surely stood out in their respective categories.

Best Pop Album

A very stacked category for starters. LILAC, Next Episode and City Breeze & Love Song battles it out here yet again. I am intrugued by eAeon and Jeong Cha-sik’s nomination, as those albums have really been kind of lost in the middle when it comes to popularity amongst music lovers. Fragile was well recieved though by audiences and more people got to listen to this project thanks to BTS’ RM’s amazing collaboration. Jeong Cha-sik’s Night Driving is a very strong pick, I remember listening to Second Day and that song really made me chill, the usage of ethnic instrumentation and contemporary production is what defines the experience. Night Driving is cacophonic and full of luster, you should definitely listen to this.

I’m kind of torned who to pick here, these are all fantastic releases and it would be a disservice to only award one. But for my prediction, I will go with LILAC. For my pick, it would have to be Night Driving, but everything is amazing here.

Best Pop Song

Interesting. The KMAs definitely love sunwoojunga and as I expected she showed up with a collaboration from Lee Seung-hwan which is also a popular singer. However, the shock here is Wendy’s When This Rain Stops nomination. The KMAs have established that Wendy is a pop artist but BoA which also made a lot of productions and is heavily involved is not, and also TXT who writes their own songs. Very interesting, KMA. Now this might be because Wendy is not dancing here and just singing, that is very bleak though.

Anyway, why not Like Water? Like Water for me was her more versatile but still traditional enough for it to be even in contention in this category. I thought Like Water was really impeccable though and When This Rain Stops is boring for me and didn’t hit me like what Like Water brings to the table. Well, I mean I have to guess, the KMAs love more traditional performances. Sure. I am also wondering, where is Bang Jin-seok’s Barn Orchestra. That was really shut out.

Best K-POP Album

I am going to say one thing. This category is not the best of 2021 for sure. I think only Savage and Atlantis will survive the test of time, and I have to say sorry for Querencia, ALPHA and Better but I respect these bold decisions even if I don’t personally like them. TXT’s album was snubbed and I guess 108 Ent has kind of predicted it when the Awards Circuit was just massively shilling for The Chaos Chapter. I guess SHINee should win this, but maybe aespa has a big shot. On RYM though, Savage is the second best album of the year, just shy below timeabout by YUKIKA.

Other big snubs are YUKIKA, TWICE and Key. I guess they didn’t like those songs, I mean if they hated Beautiful Beautiful then surely they don’t like pop.

Best K-POP Song

Oh, who hates pop now? Well, KMAs surely do love their mainstream pop songs. I mean STAYC and Weeekly is here after all. The eyecatcher is surely TXT’s nomination. Finally, we can all say Korean Music Award-nominee TOMORROW X TOGETHER. Well, deserved to be honest. I think Butter nails it out of the gate already. I have nothing much to sya because its like I’m looking at the nominations made from IZM. Very predictable.

The main headline today probably is the nominations of many K-POP acts and the additional K-POP Category. Personally, I really don’t like separating Pop and K-POP, as they are just the same type of music, popular music. I get that the critics see that Pop is more for singing and songwriting skills, whilst K-POP is more for dancing and production skills. But this makes me wonder, does the KMAs really think K-POP is a lesser art form to be separated from Pop?

That is it folks for my review of the 2022 KMA nominations. How about you? What did you think? Comment down below and we’ll discuss! See you on March 1 for the Korean Music Awards ceremony!