Top 15 best K-Pop groups
K-pop is a musical genre from Korea. Korean pop music is upbeat, fun and full of energy, so if you're not convinced, what are you waiting for? With its catchy dance sounds, wildly colorful aesthetic, trend-setting fashion, and million-view videos with perfect choreography, K-pop has become a global phenomenon, ingrained in Korean culture and its stars spread around the world.
It's part of what's known as "Hallyu," which literally means "Korean wave," used to refer to the colossal and ever-increasing impact of South Korean culture, manifesting itself in everything from K-dramas on Netflix to the meteoric rise of K-beauty.
Despite this, K-pop is a cultural export that you may not be very familiar with, even though it's a 5 billion dollars in the music industry. In fact, one of K-pop's most popular groups, BTS, sold more albums than Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande last year. So we think it's time to know everything about them, because they are becoming more and more important.
But unfortunately, it is impossible to talk about K-pop without being confronted with tragic stories. There is a very high rate of suicides among K-pop idols, including that of Sulli, 25, in October last year, a former member of the girl group f(x). A month later, Sulli's friend Goo Hara, 28, who played in the group Kara, also committed suicide. In 2017, Kim Jong-hyun, 27, committed suicide, after revealing the immense pressure that comes with the success of his group SHINee. It seems that with the fame of K-pop comes an unbearable standing: that of being perfectly polished, perfectly synchronized and simply perpetually perfect hence the fact that many K-pop stars is resorting to plastic surgery.
"From an early age, Korean idols lead a mechanical life, following a Spartan training regimen," said Lee Hark-joon, a South Korean journalist. "They rarely have the chance to develop a normal school life or normal social relationships." Mr. Hark-joon also added that K-pop stars are subjected to torrents of online abuse, as their profession is closely linked to social networks. That's why the South Korean government has considered introducing cyberbullying education in schools.
Clearly, there's more to K-pop than its synthesized music and choreography, and it's easy to see why the fascination with this huge genre continues to grow. But for now, what better way to learn about the K-pop phenomenon than through its music? Here we've rounded up the best K-pop groups to get you started on this burgeoning movement. Turn on the Spotify playlist and get ready to tap your feet...
This seven-member Korean boy band has taken the world by storm and is arguably the biggest name in K-pop. BTS has sold out concerts in the U.S. and the U.K., hit number one twice in the U.S., has 16 million monthly listeners on Spotify, has sold 16 million albums (Map of Soul is the best-selling album in Korean history), and was the best-selling artist at its debut in the 2010s. According to IFPI's Global Artist Chart, BTS was the second biggest selling artist in 2018 (behind Drake), as well as the only non-English speaking group to chart. The seven members are rappers Suga, RM and J-hope, and singers Jimin, V, Jin and Jungkook.
SuperM is the latest K-pop supergroup, formed only last year, with some of the genre's most iconic artists. The seven members are part of four successful and still active K-pop groups EXO, WayV, NCT 127 and SHINee.
One of the best-selling boy bands in the world, Big Bang was formed in 2016 and has sold over 150 million records. In March 2019, member Seungri announced his retirement from the industry due to the sex scandals surrounding the Burning Sun nightclub, where the pop star was accused of organizing prostitution, illegal gambling and embezzlement.
4. GIRLS' GENERATION
Known as "The Nation's Girl Group" in South Korea, Girls' Generation's albums are filled with original electro-pop tracks, and in 2017, Billboard crowned them "Best K-pop girl group of the decade." The group has eight singers - Taeyeon, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona and Seohyun.
Made up of girls Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa, Blackpink is another girl group born in Seoul that is enjoying huge success. In November 2019, they became the first K-pop group to join YouTube's "billion view club" when the video for their single Ddu-Du Ddu-Du has over one billion views on YouTube. The only other Korean group to join the club is Psy with Gangnam Style (remember them?). Blackpink also recently finished their In Your Area tour, which saw them perform in front of about 205,000 of their fans. There are also rumors that the band is collaborating with Lady Gaga for her new album, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
Another wildly popular K-pop group with accolades to boot, EXO has scored four No. 1 spots on the Billboard World Albums chart. Formed in 2012, the group performed at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and their music is a brilliant and dynamic mix of rap, hip-hop, R&B and rock.
7. DRUNKEN TIGER
Recognized as one of the pioneers of Korean hip-hop, Drunken Tiger formed in 1999 and has won several music awards for their many albums. Their first album, Year of the Tiger, was controversial at the time because of its explicit lyrics and deviation from pop culture norms.
8. FLY TO THE SKY
In 1999, Fly to the Sky is an R&B duo composed of Brian Joo and Hwanhee.
9. MISS A
Active between 2010 and 2017, Miss A was composed of singers Fei, Jia, Min, and Suzy. Their first track, Bad Girl Good Girl, reached number one on the Gaon Digital Chart, making them the very first group to have a number one debut song on the chart. This song went on to become the top charting song of 2010.
10. SUPER JUNIOR
Super Junior or SJ exploded in 2009 with the release of their hit single Sorry, Sorry from their album of the same name. Their popularity earned them the nickname "King of Hallyu Wave".
11. NCT 127
This 10 members group is from Seoul (hence 127, the longitudinal coordinate of the city) and released their latest album, "Neo Zone," last month. They are one of the most popular current K-pop groups, with 7.1 million Instagram followers and over 2.4 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Despite what the group's name suggests, Seventeen is made up of 13 members who are each assigned to a specific sub-unit: "Hip-Hop Unit," "Vocal Unit" and "Performance Unit." Seventeen released their sixth EP You Made My Dawn in January 2019, with the song Home being considered one of their best tracks. Their latest track, Fallin' Flower, was released on April 1, 2020 and is the group's second Japanese single.
Pronounced "tiara," this girl group was active between 2009 and 2017. Their second mini album John Travolta Wannabe (2011) had the first single Roly-Poly which became the most popular and downloaded song of 2011 in South Korea.
14. MONSTA X
This group debuted in 2015 with their debut EP, Trespass, and made waves with English-language tracks like Someone's Someone and Who Do U Love? Last year, singer-songwriter Wonho announced he was leaving the group, with Monsta X continuing as a seven-member band. An online petition to keep Wonho in the group garnered over 480,000 signatures.
15. WONDER GIRLS
Wonder Girls performed for 10 years between 2007 and 2017 and are known as "South Korea's Retro Queens" because of their 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s inspired songs. Their most famous song is probably the single Nobody, released in 2008, which brought them international recognition.
We hope that this top 15 best K-pop groups has made you discover a little more about this growing musical style.
If you dream of dressing up like your favorite K-pop stars, check out all our Japanese t-shirts and caps, with a style inspired by the greatest K-pop idols.
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