Since I know most of you are sitting at home, rather bored, now is the perfect time to jump down the Kpop rabbit hole! I know, I push kpop on you guys every day, but seriously, how many of you have actually taken 3 minutes to watch an actual performance or music video? Today’s quarantine challenge is to pick at least ONE song from this list (or more if you’re so inclined) and let me know what you thought! *Also, it’s my birthday. I’m spending it in quarantine. GO LISTEN TO A SONG lol*
Disclaimer: I’m putting these groups into categories, but most fit into the “SINGING-DANCING-VISUAL MACHINES” group, meaning they’re all good at everything. I’m generally going to categorize them by what they might be most well known for, at least in my experience. If your favorite group isn’t here, that doesn’t mean I don’t like them, it probably just means I haven’t gotten around to listening to them yet. Let me know in the comments who I’ve left out!
International Heavy Hitters
I thought we’d get this one out of the way first. Kpop is going through an incredible international boom right now (well, not physically since they too are quarantined at home or in their dorms, which is a rabbit hole in and of itself, since they’re posting lots of videos still), but these two groups are probably the ones you’ve heard of if you know NOTHING about kpop.
I like BTS. I have a lot of their songs. I’m very partial to Not Today, and I Need U. I’m Fine is one of my favorite songs right now. Would I go see them in concert? Absolutely. Do I think there’s an obvious reason talent-wise why they are so much more popular than any other group?……….no. This isn’t a slight against BTS. They’re great. They work super hard. And thanks to BTS’ success, other groups have been able to expand their reach internationally.
I’m gonna be real honest here…..I don’t get Blackpink. Like…I don’t really understand why they’re SO popular. Maybe because they are sort of unusual in the genre, in the sense that they’re going with the….trashy?….sexy?….confident?….concept instead of the cutesy one like many girl groups right now. They have some catchy songs, and they’re not untalented, I just don’t really get it. I like “As If It’s Your Last” though. Very catchy. If you’re a Blink, let me know what you love about the girls in the comments!
The All- Around MVP’s
These groups have it all: incredible vocals, amazing dancers, great visuals, and iconic songs. These are some of my favorite groups!
If I had to choose one group from this list as like…the MOST talented all around group, I’d probably choose EXO. They have the best vocals in Kpop (CHEN-BAEKHYUN-DO is a trio made in heaven). Their choreography is iconic. If you’re looking for the best singing kpop has to offer, just search EXO on youtube and jump down the rabbit hole there. You won’t regret it.
Got7 has a wide variety of music and concepts. JB and Youngjae’s vocals are heavenly, while Yugyeom and Jinyoung stun with their dancing. Jackson and Mark throw in tumbling every now and then. And Bam Bam is the Thai prince….or something. Not to mention that these boys are hysterically savage when it comes to variety shows.
I love Red Velvet’s quirkiness. That’s going a way a little bit as they compete with Blackpink, but I still generally love their style. Wendy’s voice is incredible, and Seulgi is one of the best female dancers in kpop. “Bad Boy” is one of my favorite of their songs, although you can’t go wrong with “Russian Roulette”, “Dumb Dumb” or “Red Flavor”.
Sadly, Wanna One’s contract expired last year, and they are no longer together. They were formed through a project show, and each member was voted into the group by viewers. In their very short time together, they released some real bops, and I, like many, are sad they won’t ever release an album together again.
2nd Generation Icons that walked so 3rd Gen could Run
Is that how the saying goes? Or is it crawl so they could run? So they could fly? Anyway, in everything, there were those that came before. Kpop in it’s current form started probably around 2005, give or take a few years. We call these groups the second generation, and all the groups that have debuted since like, 2013ish are third gen (don’t @ me, I didn’t look this up, this just off the top of my head). And let’s not pretend that the groups that came before were not AMAZING in their art. Was it a little different than it is today? Maybe. The dancing wasn’t (usually) as insane as it is now. A lot of the music from those years was more dance music, sort of retro boy band sound, I guess? I’m obviously very knowledgeable. That’s not to say they aren’t excellent dancers, or the music isn’t AWESOME. These groups pioneered the art form and really made it what it is today.
There’s a lot here, so lets get started, shall we?
MY MAIN BOYS. Shinee was my first Kpop concert, and I fell in love immediately. Many people will say Shinee is really responsible for the art form being what it is today. They were some of the first to have really difficult, really synchronized choreography, while still having stellar vocals. If you want to see classic kpop at it’s BEST, check out this dance practice video of their iconic song Lucifer. It doesn’t get much better than that, folks.
TVXQ’s song “Mirotic” looks like it could have been a song from this year. That’s how ahead of the game SM Entertainment was with this group. This song is so iconic. The dance is fantastic, and of course, you can’t get into SM without having killer vocals. I can’t even imagine being in a building where TVXQ was rehearsing “Mirotic” in one practice room, down the hall was Shinee working on “Ring Ding Dong” and Girls Generation in another studio practing “Gee”, all at the same time. LIKE WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE.
I’m just going to come out and say what everyone knows but rarely says out loud: a lot of times girl groups are focused more on visuals than talent. Yeah, I said it. That being said, Girls Gen has both. Their main vocalists are powerhouses, they actually do legit choreography, and their songs are varied and iconic. I said earlier I don’t understand the hype around Blackpink, but I totally 100% get Girls Generation. They rock.
While BigBang is definitely not one of my favorites, you honestly can’t talk about Kpop as a whole without mentioning them. They were BTS during second gen. Very popular internationally, huge chart topping hits, international tours, etc. I think G-Dragon is a musical genius. I love many of BigBang’s ballads (Last Dance is one of the best ballads in Kpop). Not a huge fan of their other stuff, but even I have to admit that Bang Bang Bang is a boppin’ party anthem.
Infinite has always felt more like a 3rd generation group to me, and I’m always surprised to remember that they, in fact, are firmly in second gen. They have some great songs, with some very iconic choreo, and they were really one of the most synchronized groups of their time. A lot of their choreography is very powerful and memorable. Plus, they have the biggest underdog story ever, and who doesn’t love an underdog?
Don’t hate me for this, but I don’t LOVE Super Junior. I mean, I appreciate them, and who doesn’t love “Sorry Sorry”? Like, literally every group ever has covered it. Anyway. They definitely paved the way for groups like Shinee and Infinite to progress the genre even more.
Believe it or not, not all kpop dances are created equally. These groups have some of the hardest, most clever, or most interesting dances. While they also have great vocalists, I would say they are well known for their dancing.
Seventeen, my other main boys! Seventeen could have easily been on the all-around-mvp’s list, but their real strength is their inhumanly synchronized, completely insane choreography. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else in kpop. And they’re self-produced, meaning they write and choreograph their own songs! They struck gold when they cast Woozi, who writes all of their music. A literal musical genius. Not to mention that they do all these ridiculous and hilarious vlogs where they entertain us endlessly by being adorable goobers. Stan talent. Stan Seventeen.
Astro has an unusual dancing style for kpop. There’s a lot more classical influence in their choreography, which gives them room to really stand out. This song specifically has always been one of my favorite dances, because it’s SO DANG CLEVER. We’re not going to beat around the bush here: Rocky is hands down the best dancer in Kpop. Now, I don’t mean performer (we all know that honor goes to Shinee’s Taemin), although he’s excellent. But his technique and ability is far beyond most, since he’s classically trained.
NCT is another group that could have easily been on the all around list, but I wanted to mention them as dancers because this dance is INSANE. I love that the last minute or so kind of becomes a modern across the floor combo. So unusual in kpop.
Kpop has incredible vocals. Truly. Some of these will be lead singers from groups already mentioned that have solo albums or songs. And yes, they really are that good. No it’s not auto-tune. I promise.
EXO’s Baekhyun, Chen, and D.O.
Seventeen’s Vocal Unit
Pentagon’s Jinho and Hui
I’m With the Band
Kpop’s not only about dancing! Surprise! There are some excellent bands in Kpop as well! Lets dive right in.
DAY6 is by far my favorite band in kpop. They are incapable of writing a bad song. Seriously. Every time they release an album, I think “surely there’s going to be a ‘meh’ song on here” and I’m always wrong. I love the variety of vocals here, and their songs are full of difficult and musically interesting intervals, which are not easy to sing. I adore these boys.
Say hello to the most impressive voice in Kpop/K-rock. Lee Hong Ki has one of those incredibly unique voices that you really have to be born with. FTISLAND has tons of loud, angsty, gorgeous songs that allow Hong Ki to really show off. The rest of the band is not to be forgotten though, as they are all extremely talented.
CNBLUE was the first kpop band I listened to. They definitely do more with the instrumental sections than DAY6 does, and they’re a bit more pop-centric than FTISLAND. They have some great bops.
I don’t know much about N. Flying, but the past few songs they’ve released have been certified BOPS. I could listen to them on repeat for a long time. Although I don’t understand how the band works with a drummer and one guitarist? Did they lose people or something? Sounds like I have some homework to do.
Disclaimer: When I say “indie stars” here, I don’t mean independent label, I mean the style of music is that indie sound. The groups mentioned here are with major labels and are hugely popular.
ALL HAIL THE QUEEN. When IU releases a song, it’s unbeatable on the charts. I read an article where she jokingly said the only person she hasn’t been able to beat is herself. She’s adorable, has a lovely, pleasant voice, and her style over the past few years has been delightful.
Akdong Musician (AKMU)
This brother sister duo took Korea by storm when they won Kpop Star (similar to a show like American Idol). They are quirky, their music is bright and sunny and even when it’s mellow and melancholy, its gorgeous. AKMU is on my instant buy list for a good reason.
Groups I didn’t have a good category for, but are excellent
If you’re still here, I hope you listened to at least one group and enjoyed something new today! This last category is full of groups that I love or enjoy, but didn’t really know where to put them on this list. Plus, I figured most people wouldn’t still be reading by this point.
Gosh, that’s a lot of groups. And amazingly, there are soooooooo many other great groups I didn’t mention. Apink, BToB, The Boyz, Stray Kids, ATEEZ, miss A, f(x), Monsta X, Dreamcatcher, Up10tion, 2ne1, iKon, Golden Child, Weki Meki, Everglow, Victon, A.C.E…..honestly the list goes on and on. If you really want to go down the rabbit hole, check out some of those groups too!
Did you take a minute to watch any of these? Which ones did you like? Let me know in the comments!