One of the best parts about learning a language like Korean is being able to tap into an entirely new culture that you previously did not have full access to. Sure, Korean music and television can be fun for everyone — even for people who cannot speak the language. However, as you begin to understand different words and phrases as you continue on your journey to learn to speak Korean, songs, movies, and TV shows take on a whole new level of meaning and become infinitely more enjoyable.
One of the most popular forms of Korean entertainment is KPop, or Korean pop music. KPop is a phenomenon that has taken the world by storm, and below we’ve compiled a list of the top Kpop groups you don’t want to miss so you can keep up and stay current. Read on, and don’t be afraid to dance a little while you check out these sensational bands!
EXO is not your average boy band! The band has twelve members, but they use a unique approach to maximize their cross-cultural appeal – half of the band is in a subgroup called ‘EXO-K,’ while the other half is in a group called ‘EXO-M.’ Having two subgroups allows the band to perform in two different languages: EXO-K performs EXO’s music in Korean, and EXO-M performs in Mandarin.
Performing in two languages means that speakers of Mandarin can join in and be part of the growing KPop sensation. If you want a taste of EXO’s danceable style, check out their 2013 single “Growl” released by S.M. entertainment. This is definitely a band to watch out for – they were the highest ranking boy band on the Billboard 200 in 2014, and they’re still as popular as ever!
Sistar is an all-girl quartet taking Korea by storm with rhythmic songs like “Sweet & Sour.” Recording since 2010, the ladies of Sistar are known for their fun dynamic during stage performances and their dramatic, well-coordinated outfits.
They’re also known for their dedication to their fans – in 2010, a video of the group went viral when one of the members, Bora, fell during a performance. The concert was stopped for several minutes as the other girls helped her off the stage. Despite a broken thumb that would require extensive treatment, fans were ecstatic when Bora returned to the stage and the band completed the performance. The show must go on, right? Check out their 2014 hit “I Swear” and get a feel for what fans are raving about!
3. Miss A
Miss A (short for Miss Asia) is a multi-cultural phenomenon. The band is a four-member girl-group representing both Korean and Chinese culture with their catchy brand of electropop. Miss A had an interesting start – originally five members chosen by JYP Entertainment in 2010, the group toured and performed for Chinese audiences without a band name (they were known as “JYP Sisters” initially). Their audiences reacted very enthusiastically to their fun songs and dynamic dance routines, so the band became known as “miss A” after several members left and another joined.
The band performed for South Korean audiences the same year, showcasing the single from their album Bad but Good. The ladies of Miss A are multi-talented – most of the members have appeared in recent Korean films and dramas, and the entire group has been featured in a multitude of variety shows over the last five years. Check out one of their more recent singles, “Colors” – I recommend watching the music video as well, as the group is perhaps best known for their performance antics. Be prepared to move – it’s hard not to dance around while listening to these ladies!
2NE1 is an all-female quartet whose name plays on a combination of phrases – it can be pronounced either to anyone or twenty one depending on who you ask, and is a play on words using the phrases “new evolution” and “21st century.” 2NE1 is backed by YG Entertainment, and they first made a splash in an advertising campaign for LG.
Although the group has only been performing since 2009, the girls have already won two “Song of the Year Awards” and have received significant critical acclaim. 2NE1 is an example of a top Kpop group that has successfully made the crossover to Western audiences – in 2012, their performance in the USA (New Jersey, specifically) was described as one of the best performances in all of 2012 by The New York Times.
The group has also worked to appeal to Japanese audiences, released several EPs and full-length albums in Japan. 2NE1 has something for everyone – I recommend listening to their singles “I Am the Best” and “I Don’t Care,” as they are the two songs that won awards and made people really start paying attention!
5. Red Velvet
Red Velvet is relatively new compared to the other groups on this list. They got together in 2014 with S.M. Entertainment and gained popularity very quickly after the release of their upbeat single “Happiness.” The group consists of three girls who had previously worked together on another S.M. Entertainment project as well as two additional members.
Red Velvet originally debuted with four members, but a new member, Yeri, joined their ranks this year. There was a slight controversy surrounding the group after the digital release of their first music video – Japanese news sources accused the artistic director of using images with a negative political connotation, but S.M. Entertainment quickly released a new version of the music video so Red Velvet’s positive, empowering music was not eclipsed by negative images.
Red Velvet is the first all-girl group backed by S.M. Entertainment since 2010 – they’ve been incredibly positively received thus far, so it doesn’t seem like they’re going anywhere soon! Watch the video for “Happiness” and get a feel for what this feel-good girl-power group is all about.
Do you have a favorite KPop group that isn’t on this list? Let us know what you love about them in the comments below!