By Clarimar Sierra, SingularDTV Office Manager and K-Pop fanatic
When I first discovered K-Pop, my interest quickly went from casual to obsessive. The beat of the music was catchy, the music videos were entertaining, and I got lost in the culture of it for hours and hours. That I didn’t speak the language was not an issue for me, I was never one to deny good music simply because I couldn’t tell what the singers were saying. I could Google the lyrics later! It didn’t take long for me to start watching Korean dramas and movies. I was captivated with the music, the people, and the whole country. I wanted to know all about it.
To me, K-Pop isn’t just another genre of music. It’s a movement. K-Pop artists connect deeply with their fans, and the music, videos, and live shows are extravagant productions that draw people from around the world. With SingularDTV growing the decentralized entertainment economy to Korea along with a number of Asian entertainment capitals, let’s celebrate some of the best that K-Pop has to offer with this list of my favorite K-Pop boy bands…
Also known as Bangtan Sonyeondan (방탄소년단), BTS is the hottest name in the K-Pop industry after recent international recognition at the Billboard Music Awards, winning the Top Social Artist of the Year. That victory broke Justin Bieber’s 4 years of consecutive wins. In doing so, BTS became the first K-Pop group to be nominated in the BMAs, and made history for Korean music.
A 7-member ensemble led by RM (Kim Nam Joon), BTS debuted as a group on June 13, 2013, and since then they’ve won 47 awards with 75 nominations, making them one of the most successful boy bands in K-Pop history. They’re known for their socially conscious songs and active social media engagement. Further, in an industry that is known for disenfranchising artists, BTS are outspoken on underlying issues of the K-Pop music industry, making them more than just a boy band. That is why they’re my number one.
EXO (엑소) debuted in 2012 and is composed of South Korean and Chinese members under S.M. Entertainment. The group originally had 12 members, but were separated into 2 sub-groups, EXO-K and EXO-M. Today, the group has 9 members, which gives some insight into the unique way that the Korean music industry functions.
Exo’s extravagant fame has made them the best-selling Korean artist in the history of Korean music. Led by Suho (real name: Kim Jun Myun), EXO is known for eye-popping visuals and a high-octane live show. Their music videos are full of special effects and intricate dance moves.
Even though EXO’s songs are very catchy and attract any type of audience, their production standards in music videos and live are among the highest of any group in the industry. EXO bedazzle with enhanced visuals like flashy wardrobe changes, make-up and hair. But one of the reasons they’re at the top of my list is because they are immensely talented. EXO boast some of the best vocals in the industry, and there is no denying that they are amazing singers.
BIGBANG (빅뱅), an internationally-known K-Pop group since 2006, is undoubtedly one of the most successful acts in Korean music industry. Formed under YG Entertainment, the group has five members that the world knows for their outstanding contribution to K-Pop history and for inspiring several younger K-Pop artists. Labeled as the “Kings of K-Pop” and the “Nation’s Boy Band,” The Washington Post has described them as “the biggest band in Asia” and The Hollywood Reporter as “the biggest boy band in the world.”
Led by the well-known crossover star G-Dragon, BIGBANG is known for their experimental and diverse use of music genres and their personal involvement in producing their own records. Their stage performances have been admired by music critics, and serve as influence on numerous K-Pop and international artists. This group introduced me to the world of K-Pop, thus they will always have a space in my playlists.
SHINee (샤이니) is a more mature K-Pop group that debuted in 2008 under S.M. Entertainment. Even before their debut, the label company introduced them as an upcoming contemporary R&B boy group with its goal to be “trendsetters in all areas of music, fashion and dance.” Through their nine years in the industry, SHINee never fail with their performances.
SHINee is known for their fashion style, and for enlivening new trends in the industry. Part of their popularity is due to their boyish charm and their songs, but they are acknowledged for their innovative approach to music and peerless choreography. They’re widely respected as one of the best live vocalists and dance groups in K-Pop. I think they’re simply amazing performers.
Fittingly, they were awarded the Best Dance Performance Award at the Mnet Asian Music Awards three times in a row for their dance performances to “Sherlock,” “Dream Girl,” and “View.” Their hit song “Ring Ding Dong” charted on top of several Korean music charts and gained popularity all over Asia. Tragically, last December, member Kim Jong Hyun was announced dead. Since then the group has revealed that they will continue as a 4-member group.
Super Junior (슈퍼주니어) is a South Korean boy group formed in 2005 under S.M. Entertainment. Super Junior originally debuted with twelve members, who have all gone on to branch out into hosting, presenting and acting. Their successes and popularity as all-round entertainers have led other Korean entertainment managements to begin training their music groups in other aspects of the entertainment industry.
Super Junior launched into international recognition following the release of their best-selling single “Sorry, Sorry” in 2009, the title track of their most critically successful album, Sorry, Sorry. The group has been the best-selling K-Pop artist in the industry, earning thirteen music awards from the Mnet Asian Music Awards and sixteen from the Golden Disc Awards in the process. In 2012, Super Junior was nominated for “Best Asian Act” at the MTV Europe Music Awards, and in 2015, they won the “International Artist” and “Best Fans” in the Teen Choice Awards.
There’s my list! It’s important to know that K-Pop isn’t just about the boys. There are tons of talented girl-groups and solo artists that make up the scene, but what can I say? I have my preferences! Acts like BTS and BIGBANG are a great gateway into the world of K-Pop, and is a reminder that in a decentralized world, we can find our inspiration and joy in art and music from anywhere on the globe…