The K-pop music scene is dominated by groups - both male and female! There is much fanfare around groups because they have a line-up of members with various talents, styles, and personalities. Here are my top 9 boy groups in K-pop. I included an introduction with background information, my favorite members, and some recommended songs!
Debut: Congratulations (2015)
Day6 is a K-pop rock band under JYP Entertainment. Like any rock band, Day6 incorporates guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard into their performances instead of choreography. The group was named Day6 presumably because the original line-up consisted of six members, but one member left the band due to personal reasons. Recently, Day6 has been more present in the music scene through their EveryDay6 project in which they dropped two songs (a title track and b-side) a month for every month in 2017.
- The members' names are: Wonpil, Sungjin, Dowoon, Jae, Young K
- The group's fandom name is My Day, after the title of one their songs.
- Day6 admire Maroon 5, U2, Coldplay, and One Republic.
Debut: Empty (2014)
Winner debuted with two simultaneously released singles, "Empty" being the lead single off of "2014 S/S". "Empty" was written by B.I. (IKON), Bobby (IKON) and Mino (Winner) and co-composed by B.I. The song describes feelings of emptiness and loneliness after a break-up. It is alternative pop with hip-hop elements and has a mellow, subdued sound. "Empty" really highlights the different vocal colors of the members: Jinu and (former member) Nam Taehyun have light, sweet vocal tones while Yoon has a husky voice. Mino is a low tone rapper, while Hoony is higher.
Winner was formed through YG Entertainment's 2013 show WIN: Who is Next? and they competed against other trainees to debut. They won the competition, earning the name "Winner" and debuted as a five-membered group a year later. At first, listen, I could tell that Winner was like no other idol group. From the start, they played with different genres that strayed away from the K-pop trends. Their first album "2014 S/S" includes acoustic ballads and alternative rock, while their following single album includes a "blues-infused" song. One of the members, Nam Taehyun, left the group in 2016, and thereafter Winner redefined themselves as more mainstream. Whether on or off-trend, Winner continues to produce quality music.
- The members' names are: Hoony (Seunghoon), Mino, Jinu (Jinwoo), Yoon (Seungyoon)
- The group's fandom name is Inner Circle and their official fan color is Nebula Blue.
- Winner was the first YG boy group to debut in 8 years since Bigbang.
Seventeen is appreciated for being a "self-producing" idol group and having creative control over their music. They are a rather large group, with thirteen members. Interestingly, they are divided into three units according to their special talents. There is the performance unit (which focuses on dance), the hip-hop unit (which focuses on rap) and the vocal unit. Seventeen normally promotes as an entire group but occasionally, these units have their own separate projects. I find this unit concept significant because in large groups it's easy for some members to be overshadowed. Moreover, the unit system allows Seventeen to be more versatile and attract listeners with different tastes. Listeners who like rap may enjoy the hip-hop unit's songs "Trauma" or "Check In". Whereas those who enjoy ballads may prefer the vocal unit's "Pinwheel".
Seventeen reveal a more serious and subtle side of themselves through this emotional EDM track. In "Don't Wanna Cry" a heavy American influence can be heard: there is a Chainsmokers-esque beat and the instrumental follows the recent Western trend of Tropical house. I particularly like how the intro is soft and restrained. Then, the song becomes more dramatic and slowly builds up to a satisfying beat drop.
- The members' names are: Jun, Dino, Hoshi, The8, Mingyu, Vernon, Woozi, Wonwoo, Seunkwan, Joshua, Jeonghan, S.Coups, DK
- The group's fandom name is Carat and the official fan colors are Rose quartz (pastel pink) and Serenity (pastel blue).
- Seventeen's name comes from the fact that there were supposed to be 17 members, but 4 never debuted. The group name was given a new meaning by the concept: 13 members + 3 units + 1 group = Seventeen.
6. Monsta X
Monsta X is from Starship Entertainment and the members were selected during the 2015 trainee survival program No.Mercy. They debuted with a hip-hop concept and are known for their signature powerful sound. Monsta X has proved to be very well-rounded because they are equally talented in dance and vocals. Additionally, their rap lineup is balanced between the high-pitched, energetic rapper Joohoen and the low, more monotone rapper I.M.
- The members' names are: Shownu, Minhyuk, Wonho, I.M., Kihyun, Jooheon, Hyungwon
- The group's fandom name is Mon Bebe and their official fan colors are Pantone 2221 c (Light Blue), Pantone dark blue c, Pantone 2405 c (purple).
- In their debut year, Monsta X received the "Next Generation Asian Artist Award" at the Mnet Asian Music Awards and the "1theK Performance Award" at the Melon Music Awards.
Debut: MAMA (2012)
EXO is comprised of two sub-groups: EXO-K (who records music in Korean) and EXO-M (who records the same songs in Mandarin). By this method, EXO simultaneously targets audiences in both South Korea and China. They debuted in 2012 with twelve members after releasing two pre-debut singles "What is Love?" and "History". Since then, three members left the group but EXO has achieved great commercial success nonetheless. Each year, SM Entertainment promotes EXO in a systematic pattern: album releases in Spring/Summer, album repackages a few months afterwards, and a Winter Special Album in December. Because of this, EXO releases quite a bit of content each year and continues to grow in popularity.
- The members' names are: D.O., Chen, Baekyun, Chanyeol, Suho, Kai, Lay, Xiumin, Sehun
- The group's fandom name is EXO-L and their official fan color is Cosmic Latte (Gray)
- Exo's sophomore album XOXO was the best selling album of 2013 in South Korea.
Debut: Rhythm Ta! (2015)
IKON tried a mix of rap and punk rock for the seventh single of their debut album. This is a style that has been tried before by other YG Artists (it was heard in 2NE1's "Ugly", Big Bang's "Sober", and G-Dragon's "Crooked") and I'm glad IKON gave it a try as well. "What's Wrong?" is about a guy being frustrated with his girlfriend because she is controlling and starts pointless arguments with him.
Prior to their debut, IKON (often stylized as iKON) was a 6-membered group of trainees called Team B. They competed against Team A (WINNER) on YG Entertainment's 2013 trainee survival show WIN: Who Is Next? but lost. Then the trainees were given a second chance on MIX & MATCH and were formed as an official group with the addition of one member. These shows showcased the individual talents in IKON some of which include the dance skills of Jay and the sweet vocal tone of DK. The group finally debuted in 2015 with Rhythm Ta. IKON's leader B.I. has written all and composed most of the group's music which is primarily hip-hop and dance-pop.
- The members' names are: June (Junhoe), Song (Yunhyung), Bobby, Jay (Jinhwan), B.I., DK (Donghyuk) and Chan (Chanwoo).
- The group's fandom name is iKONIC and their official fan color is Orange-red.
- IKON is the fastest K-pop group to have a Tokyo Dome Tour after debuting.
Debut: NCT U - Without U, Seventh Sense (2016)
NCT 127 debuted as a seven-membered group in 2016 but returned in early 2017 with two additional members. "Limitless" was the group's first comeback and first release with main vocalist Doyoung and lead rapper Johnny. It is "urban hip-hop" and is accompanied by two different music videos - the performance version (shown above) and the rough version which is meant to look like homemade video clips edited together. Notably, "Limitless" highlight's NCT's dance and vocal skills because of the complicated choreography and intricate vocal harmonies.
NCT is an acronym for Neo Culture Technology and the name refers to a collective group with unlimited members and unlimited sub-units. As of now, there are three units, which all debuted in 2016 and an upcoming project called NCT 2018. First is NCT U, which has 6 members. They debuted with two singles of contrasting styles: "Seventh Sense" which is a trippy trap hip-hop song and "Without U" - a vocal-centered rock song. Next is NCT 127 which was revealed to be the "Seoul-based unit", as "127" is the longitudinal coordinate of Seoul. Finally, is NCT Dream, a unit of the youngest members who take on fun, juvenile concepts. The NCT project has a lot of uncertainty as compared to the typical boy group - there is no pattern to which the units comeback and there's no telling exactly when a new unit may debut. Because of this, fans are kept on the edge of their seats as to what's in store for the group.
- The members' names are: Johnny, Yuta, Taeil, Win Win, Taeyong, Jaehyun, Doyoung, Mark, Haechan, Jeno, Jaemin, Renjun, Jisung, Chele, Ten, Jungwoo, Kun, Lucas
- The group's fandom name is NCTzen.
- NCT is a multinational group that includes members from South Korea, Japan, China, Canada, Thailand, and the United States.
Debut: No More Dream (2013)
BTS stands for Bangtan Sonyeodan which translates from Korean to Bulletproof boy scouts. It also stands for "Beyond The Scene". The group debuted with a hip-hop concept in 2013 and immediately boosted the ambitions of youth through their lyrics. Since then, BTS has attempted more genres and lyrically addressed different social issues. For example, "Am I Wrong" is a jazz-pop/blues song that calls out people's lack of empathy towards problems in society. Meanwhile, "Baepsae" which is primarily rap, criticizes the divide between the privileged and the underprivileged. Such topics make the young men of BTS very relatable to all kinds of listeners, especially since the members themselves take part in writing and composing.
- The members' names are: Jin, Suga, Jimin, Jungkook, V, J-Hope, RM
- The group's fandom is A.R.M.Y. and their official fan color is Silver-Gray
- In 2017, BTS became the first Korean group to win a BBMA (Billboard Music Award) and the first to perform at the AMAs (American Music Awards).
1. Big Bang
Debut: We Belong Together (2006)
Big Bang, sometimes referred to as the "Kings of K-pop", are known for their talent, individuality, and versatility. The five-membered group is made up of three vocalists and two rappers (who occasionally sing as well). Big Bang has written and composed most of the music in their over a decade-long career. This is in part why they have gained so much respect and admiration from not only their fans but from the public as well. Despite the sky-high international and domestic success, Big Bang has remained humble artists, as apparent by their single "Loser". According to the leader G-Dragon, "Loser" aims to remind everyone that celebrities are human too and are not above having negative emotions or difficult circumstances. Their discography also has some upbeat party songs (Bang Bang Bang and Tonight) and some soft, sentimental numbers "Let's Not Fall In Love" and "If You".
- The members' names are: T.O.P., G-Dragon, Taeyang, Seungri, Daesung
- The group's fandom name is V.I.P.
- With 150 million+ records sold, Big Bang is the best-selling boy band in history, outselling huge names like the Backstreet Boys and the Jackson Five.