Looking for the best K-pop happening right now? We’ve got the list of bands to have on heavy rotation.
K-pop or Korean pop is arguably the largest component of the Korean wave to hit Western shores. And it’s definitely bigger than just PSY and Gangnam Style—it’s an entire genre in and of itself. So, we’re highlighting some of the biggest K-pop groups that you should definitely know.
Debut Year: 2006
Members: G-Dragon, T.O.P., Taeyang, Daesung, Seungri
Fandom Name: VIPs
Big Bang is a five member boy group under YG Entertainment. Because they are considered to be one of the most influential K-pop groups ever, they have been dubbed the “Kings of K-pop” by South Korean media. Big Bang has played a huge role in spreading Hallyu culture, using experimental music genres and dance and fashion styles, as well as producing their own records and stage performances.
The group has 18 number-one songs and maintained a first place spot for a collective 51 weeks on the Korean charts, more than any other boy group. They have sold over 150 million records and are the biggest selling boy group in the world, above Backstreet Boys and the Jackson Five. They have been named on Forbes Korea’s most powerful celebrities five times and were the first Korean artists to enter Forbes’s Celebrity 100 and 30 under 30.
Debut Year: 2007
Members: Taeyeon, Tiffany, Sunny, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona, Seohyun
Fandom Name: SONE
Girls Generation or SNSD (소녀시대) is an eight member girl group formed under S.M. Entertainment. The group rose to fame in 2009 with their single “Gee” which took first place on KBS Music Bank for 9 weeks straight and was named the most popular K-pop song of the 2000’s by Melon. The group reached worldwide recognition with “I Got a Boy” which beat out Justin Bieber and Psy for Video of the Year at the YouTube Music Awards in 2013. SNSD celebrated their ten year anniversary in 2017 with Holiday Night.
Debut Year: 2008
Members: Onew, Jonghyun, Key, Minho, Taemin
Fandom Name: Shawol
SHINee originally debuted as a contemporary R&B boy group under S.M. entertainment with the goal of being trendsetters in music, dance, fashion, etc. They first gained attention with “Shinee Trend,” a fashion trend amongst teens that began after the release of their first EP, Replay. SHINee took the international spotlight with their follow up singles “Lucifer” and “Ring Ding Dong.”
The group has been included on Forbes list of Korea Power Celebrities multiple times, and has been recognized by world leaders like former U.S. president Barack Obama. Because of their massive and unyielding popularity, they’ve been titled “Princes of K-pop.” Lead vocalist Jonghyun unfortunately passed in late December 2017, but has been deemed a “member for eternity,” as the group continues to promote as one.
Debut Year: 2012
Members: Suho, Xiumin, Lay, Baekhyun, Chen, Chanyeol, D.O., Kai, Sehun
Fandom Name: EXO-L
EXO (엑소) is a nine member South Korean-Chinese boy group formed under S.M. Entertainment. The group is split into EXO-K and EXO-M releasing music in both Korean and Mandarin, respectively. EXO has won over 100 music program awards. They are the second artist do so after their labelmates, Girls Generation. They have received 23 Daesang, or grand prize awards, and are in the 2018 Guiness Book of World Records for ‘Most ‘daesang’ awards won at the Mnet Asian Music Awards,” with 6 wins.
Their most recent album, The War, was released in 2017 and was the fastest selling South Korean album of all time, topping their own record. EXO was, most recently, one of two K-pop acts (along with CL) to be asked to represent South Korea at the PyeongChang Olympics closing ceremony.
Debut Year: 2013
Members: RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, Jungkook
Fandom Name: ARMY
BTS or Bangtan Boys (방탄소년단) is a seven member boy group formed under Big Hit Entertainment. BTS gained commercial success in 2015 with their single “Dope,” which would eventually reach number three on Billboard’s World Digital Songs Chart. BTS made worldwide fame in 2017 when they won Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards, the first K-pop group to do so. BTS is also the first K-pop group to perform at the American Music Awards.
Debut Year: 2014
Members: JB, Mark, Jackson, Jinyoung, Youngjae, BamBam, Yugyeom
Fandom Name: I GOT7
GOT7 is a multinational seven member boy group formed under JYP Entertainment. Their first album reached number one on the Billboard World Albums Chart. They are known for their elaborate stage performances and martial arts. The international acclaim of GOT7 is partly attributed to its multinational members from the United States, China, and Thailand. In 2016, the group took home Best Worldwide Act from the MTV Europe Music Awards.
Debut Year: 2014
Members: Yoon, Jinu, Hoony, Mino
Fandom Name: Inner Circle
WINNER is a four member boy group from YG Entertainment. The group was originally formed through reality survival program WIN: Who is Next where they competed as “Team A” against other YG trainees, and now labelmates, iKON, for a chance to debut as the first YG boy group following Big Bang.
WINNER was named as such for their wide public appeal, winning all three rounds of public voting, during WIN. They took home their first music show win with their debut stage on M! Countdown, making them the fastest male group to win on a music show. Their first single “Empty” received an “all-kill” on the Korea charts and their first album charted at number one on the Billboard World Albums Chart. As of December 2017, Winner are the first ever boy group to pass 100 million streams while maintaining chart-in status, with their single “Really, Really.”
Debut Year: 2015
Members: Jihyo, Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung, Tzuyu
Fandom Name: Once
TWICE is a nine member girl group formed under JYP Entertainment. The group was initially formed through the reality show Sixteen. Twice is widely considered to be the “Nation’s Girl Group,” because of their massive success amongst the general public, despite such large success generally being dedicated to boy groups. They are particularly known for their point or highlight choreographies, and their dances have been imitated by a number of celebrities. TWICE topped Korea’s most popular music video chart for two consecutive years and their songs were used widely in the 2017 South Korean presidential election.
Debut Year: 2016
Members: Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, Lisa
Fandom Name: Blink
BLACKPINK is a four member girl group formed under YG Entertainment. Their first EP contained two hit singles, “Whistle,” and “Boombayah,” which hit number one on the Billboard World Digital Songs chart and became the most-viewed debut music video by any Korean music act. At the end of their first year, they were named New Artist of the Year at both the Golden Disc Awards and Seoul Music Awards. BLACKPINK is the top-charting female K-pop act on the Billboard Social 50 and the first female K-pop act to have three number one hits on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales chart.
K-pop is a genre that’s growing and evolving and taking inspiration from everywhere. It’s also a genre that’s at the forefront of music, fashion, and dance. These are just some of the groups that we think you should know, but there are a ton more. Check out our Best of Korea K-pop Playlist below to listen to some more of our favorite K-pop artists!