By Pranjali Wakde
Imagine it’s 2012. You are listening to random songs and encounter one named ‘Gangnam Style’ by someone called PSY. You play it, laugh at the weird-sounding lyrics and move on to the next song. But wait, you come across it again and again and bam! A few days later, you are singing – uttering gibberish, that is – and dancing to it. That’s what K-pop does to you!
South Korean pop music has always been around since the late 90s; however, it has lately gathering precedence – something that the world didn’t expect to happen. The Western-dominated pop scenario is now changing, as people are now discovering the talent that South Korea is unleashing. There are many reasons why these idols are popular, some of which include going under rigorous training to make themselves, simply put, amazing and, more importantly, forging a comfortable and interactive relationship with their fans. The latter point has been one of the key factors in gaining a massive fanbase, not just in their country, but across the world.
While most people already know – or at least have heard about – the most popular boy band in the world, there are some amazing idols and groups that are worth mentioning, as they have helped the K-pop industry reach a prominent place in global music.
This name has become a household name – those who don’t know anything about K-pop at least know BTS. Bangtan Sonyeondan is the ‘Bulletproof Boy Scouts’ who debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment. The septet consists of three rappers, RM, Suga and J-Hope and four vocalists, Jin, Jimin, Taehyung and Jungkook. They started as a hip-hop group but has also been experimenting with other genres over time. The songs – most of which are co-written and co-produced by the members themselves – often speak of themes of mental health, adulthood, individualism and self-love. These tunes are supported by music videos consisting of an appealing alternative universe storyline.
The accolades they have received till date are simply astounding, with important ones being the first Korean group to receive RIAA certification; getting a Grammy-nomination for their single; fastest back-to-back US number-one singles after Michael Jackson; addressing the United Nations 73rd and 75thGeneral Assemblies; as well as being appointed as Special Presidential Envoy for Future Generations and Culture. Their fandom, ARMY, are always vocal about how proud they feel of BTS – now we know why!
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Blackpink, whose songs’ intro Blackpink in your area is enough to drive people crazy! This South Korean girl group – formed by the label YG Entertainment – debuted in 2016 and has gained immense popularity, despite the short span of working in the industry. The group consists of four members, Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa – and their fans are called Blinks.
Formed in 2012, EXO has been climbing that success ladder slowly but steadily. This South Korean-Chinese group debuted under SM Entertainment and is made of nine members – Xiumin, Suho, Lay, Baekhyun, Chen, Chanyeol, D.O., Kai and Sehun. The band saw few members go and come back, but that didn’t affect their music. Their work primarily includes pop, R&B, hip-hop as well as trap and house genres. The band has been hailed as ‘Biggest Boyband in the world’ by the media, the image being elevated by their four no. 1 songs on Billboard’s World Albums chart. Does it then really come across as a surprise that EXO gave a stunning performance in the Winter Olympics of 2018?4. Girl’s Generation:
Their songs and music videos, such as Ddu-Du Ddu-Du, Kill This Love, Ice Cream and How you like that, among others have broken many online records; it’s no wonder that they are the most-followed on Spotify as well as the most-followed girl group and Asian Act on YouTube. In addition to this, ForbesKorea has put Blackpink in the second position in the list of the most powerful celebrities in South Korea in 2021.
4. Girl’s Generation:
A K-pop band becomes popular on the basis of three factors – impressive aesthetic, powerful songs and exceptional performances. Girls’ Generation manifests all these factors and doesn’t fail to add their own finesse to it. The group was formed in 2007 under SM Entertainment as a nine-piece but had eight members by the end of 2014, namely Taeyeon, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona, and Seohyun. Also known as SNSD, the band worked in different genres of pop, including K-pop, bubblegum pop, electropop and J-pop. Billboard has named the band ‘Top K-pop Girl Group of the Past Decade’ in 2017. The group might have been on an indefinite hiatus since 2017, but their songs are still much-loved by people.
4. NCT 127:
NCT 127 is actually a sub-unit of the original NCT group, that was formed by SM Entertainment. This sub-unit – that debuted in 2016 – is a Seoul-based group, which is why its longitude coordinate features in the name. The ten members are Taeil, Johnny, Taeyong, Yuta, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Winwin, Jungwoo, Mark and Haechan. The group is extremely popular all around the world, having amassed a little less than 8 million followers on Instagram and millions of streams on Spotify per month. Their fresh and unique style could be heard from their songs, including the popular ones such as the 7th Sense, Boom, Limitless, Boss and not to forget Cherry Bomb, which provided them with the much-deserved recognition!
5. Monsta X:
Last, but not least, to be mentioned is Monsta X, a group that came into being through Starship Entertainment’s reality survival program, No.Mercy. The group, which debuted in 2015, currently features six members – Shownu, Minhyuk, Kihyun, Hyungwon, Joohoney and I.M. The group tends to blend hip hop, pop and EDM, lacing it with an aggressive style. The versatility of their music is something their fans absolutely adore, along with their ability to juggle between danceable tunes and sentimental songs. Their First English album All About Luv, released in 2020, bagged the fifth spot on the US Billboard 200. Now that’s pretty impressive.
K-pop music can make you dance, give you energy or even touch your soul and fill you with positivity. These groups – and many others – have been deeply contributing to the Hallyu (i.e. Korean Wave) spread all over the world. And if that Hallyu has touched you, flow with it, because it’s worth it!