7 Types of Kpop Albums: Ultimate Guide for New Fans

Written By Eden

Hi there! I'm Eden, a kpop fan, student and online entrepreneur. I created Cute Frog Creations to help you become the ultimate kpop fan!

Last Updated on August 4, 2023 by Eden

Collecting k-pop albums from your favorite artists is a great way to show your support for their work. But with so many different types of kpop albums to choose from, deciding which ones to buy can be a little overwhelming.

For example, should you get a physical album or a digital album? And what’s the difference between single albums, mini albums or a full album? 

It’s enough to confuse even experienced k-pop fans, much less new fans. Understanding the different types of albums can make it easier to build your kpop collection.

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7 Types of Kpop Albums Explained

types of kpop albums
Types of Kpop Albums

When kpop artists plan a comeback, they’ll announce what type of album they’re going to drop well ahead of the release date. The same is true for a new k-pop group that’s about to debut. 

It’s usually up to the artist’s company to decide what kind of album to release unless the artist is working under their own label. Here are the most common types of kpop albums that boy groups, girl groups and soloists release. 

1. Single album

A single album is an album that typically has one main title track, plus a b-side.

K-pop artists can release single albums while they’re working on longer albums. StayC, for instance, released “Teddy Bear” in 2023, which included the title track of the same name and a Korean version of “Poppy”. 

In other cases, one member of a group might make their solo debut with a single album. 

“Lalisa” is a good example of that. The album, which dropped in 2021, marked Lisa of Blackpink’s solo debut with two songs, “Lalisa” and “Money”. 

2. Mini album

Mini albums or extended play albums are longer than single albums but they’re not considered to be full-length albums. 

The number of tracks included on a mini album usually ranges from five to seven songs. Mini albums may feature short intro tracks or outro tracks, which are either instrumental or include some type of narration. 

A mini album usually has one new title song, while other tracks may be new or remixed versions of older songs. When Ateez released “Spin-Off: From the Witness” in 2022, for example, it consisted of one new title track (“Halazia”), three remixes and one outro.

3. Mixtape

A mixtape can be similar in format to a single album or mini album, or it can include even more songs, but it doesn’t serve the same purpose. When your favorite idol drops a mixtape, there may not be any special promotion that goes along with it the way there usually is with a comeback.

Instead, mixtapes are just about releasing music to fans. Artists may fill their mixtapes with songs that have a specific musical theme that’s personal to them. 

For example, BTS member Suga released two mixtapes, “August D” and “D-2” in 2016 and 2020, respectively. Suga has said that both mixtapes reflect his journey as a person and an artist in the k-pop industry.

4. Studio albums

types of kpop albums
Main Types of Kpop Albums

A studio album or full album has eight or more songs and is produced in a studio setting. Western artists tend to release studio albums more often than single or mini albums, but in Korean pop music, full-length albums aren’t as common.

For example, Red Velvet debuted with SM Entertainment in 2014 but in that time, they’ve only released three studio albums. But their discography also includes 14 extended plays, one reissue album, a compilation album and more than two dozen singles. 

Why are studio albums so rare?

For one thing, they can cost more to produce than a single album or mini album. If a kpop company isn’t sure they’ll be able to make that money back in album sales, they might prefer to stick with shorter albums instead.

And for another, writing and recording 8+ songs, even if some of them are instrumental intro songs, can be time-consuming. Given how fast-paced the kpop industry is, it’s not necessarily realistic to expect groups to drop a full-length album every comeback. 

5. Repackage album

Repackage albums are reissues of a previous album. They can be a repackaged version of a previous studio album, mini album or single album.

A repackage or reissue will have additional tracks, which might be new songs, remixes or a different version of an existing song.

For example, when Seventeen released “Sector 17”, which was the repackage of the previous studio album “Face the Sun”, it included four bonus tracks. One of them was the single “World”, while another was the Korean version of “Fallin’ Flower”. 

6. Compilation album

Compilation albums usually include a collection of previously released and unreleased songs, and they can sometimes have a new song or two mixed in. 

Stray Kids, for example, have released four compilation albums, starting with “Unveil Stray Kids” in 2019. BTS has released multiple compilation albums, with their largest so far being 2022’s “Proof”

7. Concert albums

Concert albums are just what they sound like: a recording of a kpop concert. 

Blackpink, Exo and Super Junior have all released multiple concert albums. Kpop groups can also release video recordings of concerts, either on DVD or Blu-ray, that are separate from the albums. 

Related post: What to Bring to a Kpop Concert (20 Things You Must Never Forget!)

Bonus: Japanese albums

​When you’re talking about different types of kpop albums, Japanese albums are their own separate category.

Plenty of groups release Japanese albums to appeal to their J-fans and they’re often very well-received. For example, NCT Dream released their first Japanese single album, “Best Friend Ever” in 2023. 

These can be single albums or mini albums, though again, it’s unusual for a Korean group to release a full studio album in Japanese. And sometimes, songs from Japanese albums will be re-released in a Korean version on a single album, mini album or studio album. 

What’s Included With Different Types of Kpop Albums?

type of kpop album

One of the most fun parts of buying kpop albums is seeing what you’ll get inside of them. 

If you’ve ever watched any kpop album unboxing videos on YouTube, you’ll already know that groups can include plenty of random goods along with the album itself. 

What you’ll get really depends on the group and how their company approaches album packaging. Some of the most common inclusions are:

  • Photo cards
  • Booklets that feature concept photos, the track list and lyrics
  • Stickers
  • Polaroid photo 
  • Photo prints
  • Foldable posters

Groups can also get creative and include things like paper standees of group members, four cut photos, mini board games or a hard card that’s printed on cardboard instead of regular photo card paper. I’ve also gotten postcards and bookmarks as kpop album inclusions before. 

And you can also buy signed kpop albums. These albums come with all of the usual inclusions but they also have a member (or all the members”) signature somewhere on them.

Just be sure to keep track of what you have to keep your kpop album collection organized. And if you notice that your collection is getting too big to manage, you might decide to sell some of your kpop albums for cash.

Are There Different Versions of Kpop Albums?

When you’re talking about the different types of kpop albums, it’s important to know that each one can have different versions too. That can make planning your album purchase even more of a headache if you don’t know what it all means. 

So to make things easier, here are a few key kpop words to know that describe different album versions. 

  • Standard version. A standard version of a kpop album is the basic version. There may be more than one standard version; for example, it’s not unusual to see groups release standard versions with two or three different album covers. They’ll come with a random photo card, a poster, photo book or other goodies. 
  • Deluxe version. Deluxe versions of kpop albums may include more content, more inclusions or both. There may only be one deluxe version of an album and they’ll usually cost more than standard versions. 
  • Limited versions or limited editions. Limited versions are similar to deluxe versions, in that they might have special freebies or extra content that isn’t on the standard version. A limited version may only be available in certain quantities or be sold at certain retailers. For example, Walmart, Barnes and Noble and Target all have deals to sell “exclusive” versions of albums from groups like Ateez, Stray Kids and Le Sserafim. Weverse also releases special versions of albums for its affiliated artists.
  • Compact. Compact versions come with fewer inclusions than standard albums but they cost less, too. You might buy one of these if you’re trying to save money or if the compact version comes with an exclusive photo card. 
  • Jewel case. A jewel case version of a kpop album comes in a clear, plastic case just like any other CD. Groups might issue jewel case versions for each member or versions that have different photos of the group. 
  • Digipack. Digipack albums are more or less the same thing as jewel case versions, except the packaging is all made of paper. Instead of getting your album in a clear plastic case, the case is made of cardstock and the album cover is printed right on the front of it. 
  • Photobook. A photobook version of a kpop album is usually a soft-bound book that’s filled with different concept photos for the artist or group. There’s usually a pocket at the back where the CD goes, though sometimes it’ll be in the middle of the photobook in an envelope. Photo book versions can include different photo cards but they don’t always come with posters or other extras. 
  • Kihno version. Kihno albums include an air kit version of a kpop album. They usually look like miniature versions of a standard album and they do have inclusions but the difference is in how you listen to the music. Instead of a CD, you’ll listen to the album through an app on your phone, for which you’ll need an internet connection. SM Entertainment, Jellyfish Entertainment and DSP Media helped popularize Kihno kits but now lots of other companies, including HYBE and YG, issue albums in the Kihno format. 
  • Digital. Sometimes a kpop artist or group will release digital singles or a digital version of the album in place of a physical copy. The tracklist is the same but you don’t get the inclusions that would come with a physical album. A stand-alone digital single or album can be streamed on Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube Music. For example, Monsta X’s I.M released his first solo mini album “Duality” as a purely digital album in 2021. Some digital albums can also have a poca version that includes photocards and an album download link.
  • LP version. LPs or long play versions are vinyl versions of a kpop album. Resurging interest in vinyl is one of the new trends that more kpop groups are cashing in on, with groups like BTS, Monsta X, Twice and NCT 127. 

Why Do Kpop Groups Release So Many Album Versions?

There’s one really simple answer as to why there are always so many versions of a kpop album issued: money. 

Kpop is a business and just like any other business, companies and artists want to make money. One way they do that is by selling multiple versions of the same album. 

Selling multiple versions can also help kpop groups snag a spot on music charts. The higher a group’s album sales, the better their odds of landing a spot on Korean music charts and international charts as well.

Strong album sales, along with solid music video streams, have helped groups like Stray Kids, Ateez and Tomorrow X Together rank at or near the top of the Billboard 200 while BTS, Blackpink and Twice have all made it to the Billboard Hot 100. 

Does that mean you have to buy all of the different types of kpop albums or versions?

Nope and trust me, it can get really expensive if you try to do that. 

There are some diehard fans that will buy all of the albums for their collection and it’s always fun to watch them unbox their latest buys. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to assume they’re spending some serious cash to get them.  

Knowing where to buy kpop albums cheaply can help you save money. But don’t feel like you need to buy all the things to show your support for your group. You can also do that in other ways that don’t cost money, like streaming their music video on YouTube, streaming on Spotify or voting for them on kpop apps.

Final thoughts on the different types of kpop albums

​If you haven’t been a kpop fan for a very long time, you might be blown away by how many different options there are when you’re buying an album for the first time. Knowing what the different types of kpop albums there are, and the different versions, can take the stress out of deciding what to buy. 

Need more tips? Read these posts next:

What are your favorite types of kpop albums?

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