by Nora J., 12
K-pop, or Korean popular music, is a growing phenomenon, and everyone’s probably seen it somewhere before, regardless of whether they recognized it or not. A combination of eye-catching choreography, strategically placed English words, and colorful music videos sets the industry up for global success. The Pyeongchang Olympics may have introduced some to the genre, but even that, in my opinion, wasn’t the best K-pop has to offer. For those people who are confused about the concept or just want more information, here’s a quick guide to what I think are the best groups for beginning K-pop fans to listen to.
K-pop: A Brief History
In the early ’90s, Korean music started to become more Western and take on the vibe it has now. That was the First Generation, and lasted to about 2000. During the Second Generation, K-pop started to become more recognized world-wide, and became more rap and hip-hop-influenced. It lasted until about 2012. We are currently in the Third Generation, where dancing is more important and highly focused on.
Though most huge Second Generation bands, such as f(x), SNSD, 2ne1, and Big Bang are disbanded, many groups follow the concepts they used to have, and the style of Third Generation bands is quite similar to that of Second Generation bands. Many people believe that we are entering the Fourth Generation, due to a rise in the number of solo artists.
The K-pop Lifestyle
K-pop stars, or “idols,” as they are known, audition at a young age. Entertainment companies hold global auditions in Thailand, China, Canada, and the U.S, among other places. If they are accepted, trainees move to the headquarters of their company, where they learn to sing, dance, and act. They train anywhere from one to ten years.
Once they debut, if they debut at all, they’re busy until they retire. Foreign idols only get to see their families once a year, and Korean idols don’t get to see theirs much more often. They hold fan-meets, perform concerts, go to awards ceremonies, and live in cramped dorms with their band mates. All-in-all, it’s life on camera for a long time.
Bands Everyone Should Know
Honorable mentions: CLC, Weki Meki, Nu’est, Twice, and CL
This four-member girl group consists of Lisa, Rosé, Jennie, and Jisoo. They debuted in August 2016, and have risen to fame incredibly quickly, mostly due to their January 2017 song “As If It’s Your Last” (Korean: Maji Mak Cho Rom), which was featured on the Justice League soundtrack. They’re great dancers, in my opinion the best female dancers in K-pop, as well as great vocalists. Two members, Lisa and Rosé, aren’t even from Korea! I think their talent is best showcased in “Playing With Fire,” so take a look at it below.
Words cannot describe BTS’ popularity. Everyone seems to either listen to them or have a friend who listens to them. BTS (Korean: Bangtan Sonyeondan), is a boy band that consists of seven members: J-Hope, RM, Jin, Jungkook, Jimin, V, and Suga. They are known for their incredible dance skill, as seen below:
and their singing, especially rapping. Four members can rap. They performed at the AMA’s in November, the first K-pop group to do so, and were guests on the Ellen DeGeneres show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Their hit song “Mic Drop,” with Steve Aoki and Desiigner, was a huge hit. But they really hit it out of the park with “DNA,” which they performed on numerous occasions in the U.S.
Kim Chungha is a 22-year-old solo artist who was born in Korea, but lived for eight years in Dallas, Texas. She studied dance for seven years and in 2016 participated in girl group survival show “Produce 101,” where trainee girls from various different companies competed to be voted into a temporary 11-member girl group. She was ranked fourth and subsequently placed in I.O.I., which was active from May 2016 to January 2017. After I.O.I., she debuted with the single “Why Don’t You Know.” Her latest single, “Rollercoaster,” has quite the colorful music video. Try not to be blinded.
This boy group has 13 members, but that doesn’t stop them from being one of the best dance groups in K-pop. Under Pledis Entertainment, it would be a surprise if they weren’t. Aside from their dance skill, they possess great voices as well. They hail from all over the globe, two members from China, one from Canada, and another from the U.S. They write, compose and choreograph many of their songs, making them a rather unique group. They gained some fan base in the U.S., but still not enough people are aware of their talent. They have a more EDM (electronic dance music) vibe than many other groups, as seen below in “Don’t Wanna Cry.”
Pristin, who get their name from the words “prismatic” and “elastin,” are Seventeen’s sister group, also under Pledis Entertainment. Two members, Nayoung and Jieqiong, were, like Chungha, a part of I.O.I. before debuting. They specialize in dance, despite their rather large number of 10 members. Two members, Sungyeon and Yehana, write and compose their music, like Seventeen does. A very new rookie group, they debuted on March 21, 2017 with the track “Wee Woo.”
Last but certainly not least is girl group Red Velvet. The band consists of five members: Yeri, Joy, Wendy, Seulgi, and Irene. Earlier this month, they performed in Pyongyang as part of a group of South Korean singers and dancers sent to the North Korean capitol. They are extremely popular in Korea, but relatively unknown in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Known for their classier, more R&B(Rhythm and Blues)-influenced style, they focus more on vocals, though they are quite good dancers. Their style is unique in part because their “rapping” is much more fluid and more like singing than anything else (no offense). Though they are trying to kill each other in “Russian Roulette,” (seen below) they are quite nice in real life.
*If boy groups are your preference, check out EXO, Nu’est, and NCT U.
Well, that’s that. These groups are my favorites and the ones I think are the most talented, though there are tons more out there for everyone. Hopefully this gave you a place to start looking. Happy trails!