I still remember that fateful day like it was yesterday.
I first came into contact with K-pop when a couple of friends showed a video of Big Bang’s ‘Haru Haru’ (Day by Day). Up until then, I had no interest in anything apart from anime and J-pop. Then eventually while searching for this presumably J-pop band, I came to discover it was actually Korean.
Then I remembered Big Bang’s video and decided to watch it again. After jamming to Big Bang day by day, I suddenly noticed the Youtube recommendations of more K-pop MVs off to the side. Slowly, I was being consumed by K-pop… and enjoying every minute of it.
At first, I was only into Big Bang and refused to appreciate other bands. In fact, to me, the answer to any K-pop related question was this group.
Who was the best boy band? Big Bang! Who was the hottest group of dudes? Big Bang! Which group will end global pollution, lower taxes, and usher world peace in the year 2020? Big Bang, of course!
Fortunately, I snapped out of my Big Bang obsession and branched out. Soon, I discovered K-dramas and the world of the drama original sound tracks (OSTs). Then I thought, “Hmm, what’s so bad about other bands?” As I sampled more and more K-pop, before I knew it, 90% of my playlists became songs from different K-pop groups. Some were mainstream, some were more unknown, and others were off the indie path. Yet, they all had something I appreciated.
So as a K-pop convert, let me show you what songs I discovered during my K-pop journey. Here’s a list of songs, in no particular order, that a K-pop fan should at least check out at least once. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them!
The Breakdown on IU:
Known as “the nation’s little sister”, IU is one of Korea’s most popular solo singers today. Due to her cute, bubbly personality and looks, her fan base is one of the largest in Korea.
Label: LOEN Entertainment
First album: Lost and Found (2008)
Fan name: U-ana
A young girl with big dreams. No one would have known she would later become one of the more iconic and influential singers in the Korean music industry.
IU, short for “I and You”, is one of the youngest and most successful solo Korean singers. Debuting at a young age, she was already known for her powerful vocals but gained popularity through the release of her album “Growing Up” and has become the youngest Korean star to debut and perform at Tokyo’s Bunkamura.
Her soft and soothing, yet strong range of vocals is unique as it doesn’t fit into any general genre, but a more personal tone. Her songs are sure to touch you emotionally, in a happy or sad way. The lyrics in her songs tend to connect with you as you can feel her youth shining through with her words.
Each of her songs is about something that each and every person can relate to in their own way. This makes her charm and youthful personality shines through as she adapts her vocals to match the song in a way that makes you connect with her. The songs she’s been given have been set to match her “character” as a singer but she sings with such pure honesty that you can’t help feel that they were just made for her.
However, IU’s popularity not only stems from her voice, but her as a person. Her natural beauty, along her with her innocent and clumsy behaviour of a normal girl, despite her popularity, makes her the perfect role model not just as a singer, but for people of all ages. It’s no wonder she’s known as “Korea’s Little Sister”.
Every singer has their own charm, and I think IU’s charm is just her down to earth behaviour that doesn’t differ much from any average person. Along with her obvious vocal skills, it makes me respect her more as an artist.
One of my personal favourites, “Peach” is a sweet song about a girl in love, something more or less every girl can relate with.
2. Sunny Hill
The Breakdown on Sunny Hill:
This co-ed group originally debuted with only three in 2008 (one guy, two girls). They started off slow and only started getting momentum when they switched labels to LOEN Entertainment in 2011. They added two more girls since then. Currently, Jang-hyun is serving his military service, as the other four girls would tour without him.
Label: LOEN Entertainment
First album: 2008 My Summer (2008)
Fan name: Hiller
Ever sat down and watched a very strange and eerie music video? But somehow, it becomes memorable because of the song and you find yourself enjoying the video too?
If that’s the case, then you should really check out Sunny Hill. Debuting on 2007, the band originally consisted of three members. They were later on joined by a fourth and fifth member during their rise in 2010.
The interesting thing I enjoy about this band is the line up, as it consists of four girls and one guy. This brings on a bit of a unique take on a band, as they do not focused on a specific gender based theme as opposed to many of the other popular bands.
Their songs range in different genres, from fast paced pop songs, to slower and emotional songs. But one thing I thoroughly enjoy about the band is the way they interpret their songs in their music videos.
One in particular that I liked was “Pray”. The lyrics of the song suggest a sense of desperation and needing for a lost love, and bring on a cloak of sadness and loneliness within its ambiance. The video that accompanied this song portrayed a heavily deformed man being taken into a secluded medical facility to be tested.
This relates with the song on a different level, as its portrayal shows the inevitable result of loving someone who can’t or won’t reciprocate your feelings and in the end you’ll just be another name. This is what I found interesting with the group, as they are able to express their songs on a more unique way.
Another song that I like is “The Grasshopper Song” again producing a story on a more musical scale. Adapting the typical story about ‘The Grasshopper and the Ant’ into a more creative sense makes the song commendable and all that more memorable.
So if I had to take my pick of the two, I’ll say listen to “The Grasshopper Song” and decide for yourself, does it make sense?
The Breakdown on U-KISS:
This seven-person boy band first debuted in 2008. As a multilingual group, the band can speak five different languages. In 2011, there was a big shakeup, with members Alex and Kibum being cut from the group. Currently, the group has bounced back and have expanded into Japan.
Label: NH Media
First album: New Generation (2008)
U-Kiss, short for Ubiquitous Korean International idol Super Star.
Ubiquitous, meaning everywhere at the same time.
Debuting in 2008 as a cutesy teen group with their debut single “Not Young”, U-Kiss never got the recognition they deserved until the following year with their song , “Man Man Ha Ni” where they lost the innocent boy image and became more of a man band.
But they were still quite unknown to many, gradually building up their reputation by having their First Kiss Tour in Manila, releasing one of their first concert tour DVDs there. It didn’t stop there, as they also made their first debut in Japan in 2011. It was announced by Oricon that as of 2012, they had achieved one of the highest albums sales alongside other bands like SNSD.
They have performed in a lot of countries such as Taiwan, The Philippines, Thailand, and France and are also one of the first K-pop artists to hold a charity organisation in Cambodia.
Over the years, U-Kiss has shown nothing but improvement as a group.
What makes U-Kiss stand out for me?
I had only heard of them last year but when I came across my first and favourite song, “Tick Tack”. It consisted of nothing but quality for vocals, dance and class. Each member shows a great amount of effort and etiquette in their music videos. None of them overshadow each other and each of their attributes is what makes U-Kiss a powerful band of which you like for the band itself, not for a single member or song.
Their songs are catchy, their dance and synchronisation is impeccable, and they definitely deserve much more praise then they get in the music industry.
As I said, they have class and quality and, U-Kiss’ newest MV “Stop Girl” doesn’t fail to exhibit that.
The Breakdown on Boyfriend:
As a newer group, Boyfriend is already making strides as a group with staying power. Some of their members had prior training, such as Jo Youngmin and Jo Kwangmin, as they trained under JYP Entertainment before joining the group. With a sizable teenage fan base in Korea, as well as selling out concerts in Japan during Christmas 2012, their blend of pop and catchy beats are liked by many.
Label: Starship Entertainment
First album: Boyfriend (2011)
Almost every girl wants a boyfriend. A cute, innocent and sweet boy who will tend to their every need. A boyfriend who tells them how much they love and cherish her.
Is there an imagery popping up? Well compare that to BOYFRIEND and there will be a pretty close similarity.
Debuting in 2011, Boyfriend already had a wide recognition with the release of their first singly “Boyfriend”. The fluffy,happy atmosphere with sweet, cute, and clean-cut already gave Boyfriend the definition of ‘boy’ band. That doesn’t mean they can’t act cool and slick such as their “Janus” MV with their serious expressions and hot movements as oppose to their charismatic smiles and bubbly moves.
Despite just debuting in Japan in 2012, as of December they had sold out all five of their Christmas Live concerts at the Tokyo Dome – an achievement extraordinary for a band who had only debuted in Japan eight months prior.
Their songs can be considered “fan service” as their songs are generally love songs, meant to swoon their fans into “falling in love with them”. Their style of clothing and the general colour scheme of their wardrobe match well with the songs they do, whether it be happy or sad.
Though that is the exact reason why I like them. Having the typical, cutesy image is what I find unique about them as most K-pop bands go for the hard, edgy, stylish look, with the occasional sweet song. Whereas for Boyfriend, the sweetness is their main image; it definitely appeals to the ladies!
The name of their large fan group is “Best Friends”. Only shows there’s so much love a band can give to their fans.
First question to come to mind when I saw “Don’t Touch My Girl” was: “Who is this incredibly cute K-pop band, with charismatic smiles and such a strange, yet unique name…and why have I not heard of them yet?!”
5. Lee Seung Gi
The Breakdown on Lee Seung Gi:
Known for being both a singer and actor, Lee Seung-gi is one of Korea’s premier singers. Concentrating on many original sound tracks (OSTs) for dramas, he received national recognition with his 2010 song “Smile Boy”. Sung as a duet with Kim Yu-na, this song soon became Korea’s Olympic song.
Label: Hook Entertainment
First album: The Dream Of A Moth (2004)
Ever watched that drama My Girlfriend is a Gumiho? If you have, then you should remember this guy as the self-centred jerk, Dae-woong, who was always mean to the cute little Gumiho (If you haven’t then you should totally watch it).
Lee Seung Gi is an influential and well known personality in South Korea. He first rose to fame in 2004 as a singer debuting at the age of 17. His strong voice displays passion and emotion; factors that garnered him fame through his popular balads. His debut song “Because You’re My Girl” was so popular, in Korea a phase was created describing the preference of older women. This song also earned him Best Newcomer in various music awards in his first year alone.
Personally, a favourite of mine would be “Words That Are Hard To Say”. The lyrics and the music video just bring in the ambiance of melancholy and the deep hurting for losing an important love. It also shows sacrifice in the hopes that the person would gain happiness from someone else.
This idea itself just makes you sympathise with him and feel the song as opposed to just listening to it; an attribute he displays in all of his songs, making him an amazing ballad singer.
He then began his acting career in 2006 but his first leading role was in Brilliant Legacy. displaying his excellence and ability in performing within different areas in the media. An extra achievement which furthered his career was hosting the talk show Strong Hearts in 2009. He has also been known to take on roles of rich and proud playboys in his many dramas, something I found very surprising as I initially knew him as the snobby Dae-woong.
This is what made Lee Seung Gi stand out to me. When I listened and watch his MVs, it’s a different feeling to his acting. In contrast, his charisma and quirky behaviour is just what fans like about him.
As previously mentioned, this is my favourite song and MV by him as I find it really touching and emotional and best of all, it makes a perfect fit with the lyrics, as if it’s an OST to a TV drama.