If you haven't heard about Korean Pop (heretofore referred to as "KPop"), you're a) missing out and b) in for a real treat. KPop is the music sensation that's sweeping the nation - and not only the US, but Canada, Japan, Brazil, and all over the world. KPop is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and it gets bigger and better with each passing year.
Maybe you've heard of a few Korean performers before. If you remember 2012 at all, you remember PSY's "Gangnam Style", which pretty much broke the internet with its popularity. And while it was a catchy song, it didn't 100% show the rest of the world why KPop fans are in love with the genre. Sure, that song made us tap our toes, but it was missing one really critical part - eye candy.
You see, when it comes to KPop, the music is just part of it. It's a huge part of it, because holy crap are some of these songs absolutely amazing, but it's also a visual experience. And we're not just talking about the music videos, because they're also truly works of art (some music videos have upwards of 10+ costume changes), but also the musicians. The girl groups are angelic, beautiful women who sing in perfect harmony with each other and make us all envious of their hair, while the boy groups, well...let's just say the thirst is REAL. Like seriously, how are those guys so gorgeous?
Since we're just super thirsty, we've made a list of some of the most insanely popular KPop groups of all time. We couldn't fit them all on here, but we got a lot of the greats. How many of these have you heard of? Who's your bias?
BTS is a relative newcomer to the KPop popularity contest. They've taken the world by storm with their great songs and fantastic chemistry. BTS was actually first known as Bangtan Boys, but then decided to go by the name "BTS". In both Korean and Japanese, their name translates to "Bulletproof Boy Scouts". Their debut album "2 Cool 4 Skool" won many awards for their catchy songs - specifically " No More Dream". Their album "The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Part 2" also charted at number one on the Billboard World Albums Chart and remained there for multiple weeks, making BTS the first K-pop act to achieve that feat. Not bad for these dreamy guys!
First dubbed as the "Girl Big Bang", 2NE1 took the world by storm with their avant-garde, colorful fashions, funky hairstyles, and flawless coordination. Girl groups in KPop had always been pigeon-holed as very girly-girl with practiced poses that demonstrated how cute and adorable each member was. Instead of copying the norm, 2NE1 took the bad girl approach to KPop and blew everyone away with their in-your-face attitude and style. Unfortunately, the band broke up in 2016; Minzy (vocalist and rapper) left the group in April, and the rest disbanded in November. The impact they left on KPop will remain, as many girl groups are now accepting of more "bad girl" styles.
13 Big Bang
If you didn't like KPop before reading this article, read no further, as you're destined to find love with Big Bang. After an incredibly successful ten years, they've now been dubbed the Kings of KPop. Each member brings something unique to the group, from T.O.P.'s impossibly sexy voice to G-Dragon's fearless fashion and attitude. Big Bang is credited with bringing KPop to the mainstream, mixing hip hop with pop for a flawless blend of musical ecstasy. Even their solo projects are smash hits, and every new song they release always tops the charts for weeks. Fun fact - when Big Bang band or solo member concert tickets go on sale, they're always sold out within five minutes. Of all the groups on this list, Big Bang is probably the most well-known and most influential. Kings, indeed!
If you're a fan of Family Guy, you've probably seen these lovely ladies before. In an episode all about Korea, Peter Griffin saw SISTAR's "Touch My Body" and appropriately commented "What is this, and how can I make my entire life about it". Yep, that's KPop alright, and SISTAR makes for a great ambassador! The new-ish group debuted back in 2010 and has enjoyed success after success after success with bright visuals, catchy vocals, and dance moves that tickle the doorstep of sexy without being too overly provocative. They have become almost synonymous with summer, as Touch My Body was the smash hit of 2016's summer season. We love it!
11 Super Junior
No, that's not your screen playing tricks on you - this boy band has an enormous amount of members in it - 11 to be exact! Then there's also their subgroups which add even more members, which means more thirst to be had for these gorgeous guys! Many of the members have gone on to act in films, dramas, and other television shows, and they have even gone off to pursue solo projects. That hasn't stopped them from experiencing incredible success as a band, and they have continued to sell out concerts for over ten years now!
10 Wonder Girls
Does this group of girls look familiar? They might - they struck gold with their Dream Girls-like song "Nobody But You" and caught the eye of the Jonas Brothers. They were invited to tour with the boy band and opened for them to adoring fans everywhere. Eventually, they produced their own Nickelodeon feature "The Wonder Girls" where they received further exposure to American audiences in 2012. Thanks to their tireless efforts on the international front, KPop was able to spread to more people and become more well-known to those in other countries. All this from a very talented girl group? That's just crazy!
Some of the newest faces to hit the KPop scene, these guys know how to make smash hits! If Big Bang is the King of KPop, EXO is like the KPop prince charmings...and boy, are they charming! EXO is unique because it's one of the first bands to include non-Korean members in their lineup, which is extremely uncommon for the main group to do (sometimes sub-groups, like Super Junior M, will include non-Korean members but the main group having them is rare). This progressive move was not lost on fans, and they love all the members and their talents very much!
4Minute was the extremely successful and beloved girl group of the first part of the 2010s. Due to contract negotiations falling apart, the group recently disbanded in 2016, leaving a massive void in the KPop scene. Of note - Hyuna, one of the members, was the girl that accompanied PSY in his mega-hit, "Gangnam Style". 4Minute was known for always pushing the envelope of what was considered "acceptable" when it came to provocative imagery in KPop music videos and took plenty of chances where other groups played it safe. They experimented with many different sounds, vibes, and styles, as exemplified in their songs (some sound wildly different from others, but pretty much all are good). This unique and talented band will be very missed!
7 Highlight (B2ST - Beast)
Highlight, the band formerly known as B2ST (Beast) has made a come-back! Last month, Highlight officially released their new album, bringing back the B2ST that we were afraid we had lost. It is sad that Jang Hyunseung is no longer with the band, but we have to carry on. Highlight is a really adorable band, and all the members are very close with each other. If one member can't sleep, none of them can sleep, so they stay up all night talking to each other. Awww...!
If there's one band that has a unique sound, it's T-ARA. This girl group draws influence from older genres, such as techno and trot, and brings them to life again with fresh lyrics and upbeat tunes. The band has had a lot of struggles, as five members have come and gone in the eight years they've been together, but that hasn't stopped them from enjoying an overwhelming amount of success. They're just as big in Japan as they are in Korea, and they even receive love from their many fans in China and Taiwan as well (and all over the world!).
5 TVXQ/DBSK (Tong Vfang Xien Qi/Dong Bang Shin Ki - Tohoshinki)
We can't talk about TVXQ without addressing two things - one, is their name. They started out as DBSK (Dong Bang Shin Ki) but have become so popular all over the world that they took on a Chinese name for their Chinese fans (TVXQ) and a Japanese name for Japanese fans (Tohoshinki). All names are used interchangeably, although TVXQ is arguably the most popular one. Another thing is the membership - TVXQ was pretty much the most popular boy band of the 2000s, but in 2010, three members left the group due to contractual issues and formed their own band, JYJ. Today, TVXQ consists of only two members, but they are nevertheless just as talented (and just as sexy) as they were before the split. Their split is still a painful thing to talk about in the KPop community, but fans still show support for both groups.
4 Girl's Generation (SNSD)
SNSD, otherwise known as Girl's Generation, is an insanely successful group both in terms of group success and individual success. All members have gone on to do personal projects, such as solo albums or acting, and every one of them have had smash hits and award-winning performances. One interesting thing about this fantastic band is that their song, Run Devil Run, was originally written for them, but then they gave it to Ke$ha to sing on one of her albums. They later thought it would be nice to include it one of their future albums, and Ke$ha allowed them to essentially "take their song back", making it an international hit!
The Goddesses of KPop are back! S.E.S. is credited as being pretty much the first successful KPop girl group. They influenced a lot of other girl groups, such as Fin.K.L. (which was headed by none other than the Princess Lee Hyori) and basically jumpstarted the notion that girl groups could be just as successful as boy groups. Since their debut was in the 90s, a lot of their music has a dated vibe complete with dance moves you haven't thought of since the macarena, but their comeback album is as relevant as anything that these kids are putting out these days. They also look like they haven't aged a bit - what's their secret? Maybe they really are immortal goddesses after all!
Before there was EXO. Before there was BTS. Before there was Big Bang. Even before there was TVXQ. There was H.O.T. The princes are BTS and EXO. The Kings are Big Bang. But the Gods? The Gods are H.O.T. Their name stands for "high-five of teenager", and it was Korea's attempt at bringing pop to the mainstream scene with the hopes for something greater. These guys were pioneers in the genre and molded a lot of their songs from many different influences at the time, be it techno, bubble gum pop, classical, or hard rock. They are true legends!
It is literally impossible to not love SHINee. They have such diverse songs and have always worked very hard at what they do. They have great chemistry between the band members without compromising their individual personalities. They're also big in other countries - SHINee is the first Korean artist in Japan to have 200,000 attendees in their first Japan arena tour, which is crazy because they'd been preceded by other mega-stars like Big Bang and Rain. They will be celebrating their ten year anniversary next year as a band, but as solo projects they've all worked on so many throughout the years that it's hard to keep count!
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