Hey guys! I know it’s been a while, but I’m finally back with another post. This time, I’m posting about K-Pop, my other obsession along with books. Originally, I was going to tell you all about my favorite groups and songs, but I decided it’d be better to explain what exactly K-Pop is first, so that’s what I’m doing in this post.
If you’re new to my blog, be sure to check out my other posts linked here. Most of them are about books as of right now, but there will be more variety in the future. You can also go to my Home page to subscribe to my mailing list to be notified when I make a new post!
Enough of that, now. Let’s learn about my obsession with K-Pop!
What is K-Pop?
K-Pop is South Korean music. It’s not just pop music like the name implies, but any kind of Korean music, including rap, indie, rock, etc. I’ve never really tried to explain what K-Pop is in-depth before, but I’ll try my best.
You might be wondering how Korean music is different from Western music other than the language. Well, K-Pop is different from other music types in a lot of ways. First of all, K-Pop is not just a music genre, it is a lifestyle for Korean artists. In order to become a K-Pop idol and create music in South Korea, you need to first audition for a company.
Now, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of companies in South Korea that train artists, but there are four that are known the best. There is HYBE Labels, which consists of many companies all owned by the same people. HYBE includes the following subsidiaries:
Big Hit Entertainment: home to the most famous K-Pop group BTS, their younger brother group TXT, and new girl group LE SSERAFIM
Source Music: home to the girl group GFriend, now disbanded
Pledis Entertainment: home to Seventeen and fromis_9
Belift Lab: home to the boy group ENHYPEN
KOZ Entertainment: home to soloist Zico
Now, don’t quote me on all of these groups and their companies, as I do not personally stan any of them. I found this information on a K-Pop Wiki site.
There are also the following labels, which are part of the top three entertainment labels in S. Korea, known as “The Big Three”:
JYP Entertainment: home to famous groups such as Stray Kids, Twice, Itzy, NMIXX, Day6, 2PM, and many more, as well as former home to groups Got7, Miss A, Wonder Girls, 2AM, 15&, and soloists Sunmi, Baek A Yeon, and Jeon Somi
YG Entertainment: home to famous groups Blackpink and Big Bang, as well as groups Winner, Ikon, Treasure, AKMU, and SECHKIES
SM Entertainment: home to groups like Red Velvet, TVXQ, SHINee, EXO, SuperM, Girls On Top, NCT, aespa, and Super Junior, as well as former home to legendary girl group Girls’ Generation, also known as SNSD, and soloist BoA
What Are Generations in K-Pop?
In K-Pop, different eras of groups are known as generations. For example, the first era of K-Pop is known as the First Generation. First Gen. (90’s & early 00’s) K-Pop groups and soloists incude:
Shinhwa (boy group)
S.E.S. (girl group)
SECHKIES (boy group)
H.O.T. (boy group)
Lee Hyori (soloist)
The second generation of K-Pop groups contain groups and soloists that debuted anywhere from 2005 to 2011. Third Gen. K-Pop artists debuted between 2012 and 2017, and Fourth Gen. artists debuted from 2018 on.
Second Gen. Artists:
Girls’ Generation/SNSD (girl group)
SHINee (boy group)
BIGBANG (boy group)
Super Junior (boy group)
Wonder Girls (girl group)
2NE1 (girl group)
f(x) (girl group)
After School (girl group)
MissA (girl group)
Sistar (girl group)
T-ara (girl group)
BEAST/Highlight (boy group)
Third Gen. Artists:
BTS (boy group)
EXO (boy group)
Winner (boy group)
iKon (boy group)
Seventeen (boy group)
Monsta X (boy group)
NCT (boy group)
Wanna One (boy group)
GOT7 (boy group)
Day6 (boy group)
MAMAMOO (girl group)
Lovelyz (girl group)
Twice (girl group)
Red Velvet (girl group)
Blackpink (girl group)
Oh My Girl (girl group)
I.O.I. (girl group)
EXID (girl group)
Fourth Gen. Artists:
Stray Kids (boy group)
IZ*ONE (girl group)
aespa (girl group)
ITZY (girl group)
NMIXX (girl group)
EVERGLOW (girl group)
(G)I-DLE (girl group)
TXT (boy group)
ENHYPEN (boy group)
ATEEZ (boy group)
TRI.BE (girl group)
PURPLE KISS (girl group)
Jeon Somi (soloist)
Now, obviously this is not every K-Pop artist out there. These are simply the ones that are the most well-known, or that I have personally heard of. Feel free to list more in the comments if I missed some of your favorites!
Music Shows, Promotions, and More
Now, another way K-Pop is different from Western music is that they have weekly music shows. When a K-Pop artist releases new music, if they are popular enough or from a well-known company, they will promote their new music by performing it on these music shows. Some common Korean music shows are SBS Inkigayo, Music Bank K-Chart, M Countdown, and Show! Music Core.
Not only do artists promote their music on these broadcast shows when they release it, but they also post various videos to their YouTube channels. For example, a group may post a Fanchant guide on their channel for their new title track. A fanchant is what the crowd shouts during a concert. K-Pop artists also have their own shows on their YouTube channels. Some of them aren’t quite reality shows, but a sort of mix between that and a variety show. For example, the group Stray Kids has 2 Kids Room, SKZ Song Camp, All-Night SKZ, SKZ ASMR, and many others. Soloist Jeon Somi also has her own show on her YouTube channel called I Am Somi.
These are just a few of the things Korean artists do to promote their music and provide content for their fans. There are often a lot more things that groups and soloists do, like interviews and variety show appearances, but I don’t want to completely bore you all.
Trainee to Debut
There are a lot of things one must do in order to become a K-Pop idol. For example, you would first need to audition for a company. Assuming you made it into the company, you would then become a trainee. After training for a certain period of time, you might have the chance to debut. It all depends on your company, your skillset, and your time spent training.
I will say, though, that it is very uncommon for a non-Asian person to become a K-Pop idol. There are a few true global “K-Pop” groups, but honestly, I wouldn’t consider them real K-Pop groups. I am not in any way saying they aren’t talented enough or anything like that, it’s just that the Korean entertainment industry is so different from any other, so in order to become a K-Pop idol, you must go to Korea, live there, and properly debut through a company. That’s a discussion for another day, though.
There are people though who aren’t Korean that are able to debut as a K-Pop idol. Usually these people are Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Taiwanese, or even half-Korean. For example, Rosé from Blackpink was born in Australia to Korean parents, and Lisa from Blackpink is Thai. The soloist Jeon Somi is also half-Korean, half-Dutch/Canadian. She was born in Canada to a Dutch/Canadian father and a Korean mother.
What is a Trainee?
This is honestly pretty self-explanatory. A trainee in K-Pop is a person who has successfully been accepted into a company and is training to become an idol. Trainees take all kinds of lessons, including dance and vocal lessons. If a trainee is not originally from Korea and doesn’t speak Korean well, they will also have Korean lessons. Trainees usually have a very strict set of rules they have to follow. For example, most trainees aren’t allowed to date, have social media, or drink, and many companies require them to maintain a certain weight in order to be allowed to debut.
There are a lot of toxic things in the K-Pop industry that I won’t get into, like overworking, strict diets, intense weight loss, and lack of sleep. Many idols don’t speak about struggles they might have experienced as a trainee, either because they aren’t comfortable or because their company doesn’t allow them to. There are very few idols that I know of that have talked about struggles like dieting, weight loss, mistreatment, etc.
What Does It Mean to Debut?
When a trainee is deemed ready to become an idol by their company, they will be put in a debut lineup. Sometimes this is a group of other trainees who are potential members for a new group, and sometimes this is simply one or two trainees who will debut solo or as a duo. Once a trainee is put into a debut lineup, it is not always guaranteed they will stay there. They may be removed from the lineup by their company, decide not to debut yet, or the group may not even get to debut at all.
Once a debut schedule is set and the members of the group are official, the trainees begin working on their music they will release. Usually this is a mini-album, an EP, or simply one or two songs. Once the group has perfected the song and dance, recorded the song, filmed a music video, and filmed any other debut promotions, they will finally debut. Debuting means the group or artist finally gets to release and perform their music. Once this happens, whether the group survives or not is dependent on whether they become popular or not.
For example, the group ANS, a former group under ANS Entertainment, debuted in September 2019 with their song Boom Boom. The group had one comeback (a period where they released and promoted new music) and a pre-debut release, titled Say My Name and Wonderland respectively, before they disbanded in December of 2020. The main reason they disbanded was because of financial issues due to the Covid-19 pandemic because they weren’t making enough profit from their music. However, one member from ANS, Bian, ended up debuting in a new group, Majors, in March of 2021.
What Happens if a Trainee Doesn’t Get to Debut?
There are a couple things that can happen if a trainee doesn’t get to debut for a long period of time. That trainee can decide to stay in their current company and wait for an opportunity to debut, as many do. They can also decide to switch companies if another company has made them an offer. Many times, if a trainee switched companies, they end up debuting sooner than they would’ve if they had stayed in their original company. Lastly, the trainee can decide that they no longer want to pursue a career as a K-Pop idol, and they can leave the company and go back to their normal life.
Albums, Title Tracks, Choreographies, and More
Like I mentioned before, one of the things that makes K-Pop different from other music is that the groups and soloists almost always have choreographies, or dances, to go with their songs. When they promote their songs and perform them, they also perform the dance. This is part of what makes K-Pop so iconic, in my opinion.
A title track is the main song from an album or EP that the group or artist chooses to promote. For example, the title track of (G)I-dle’s new full-length album, I Never Die, is called Tomboy. This is they song they’ve been promoting on music shows and posting videos about on their YouTube channel. While they have six more songs on the album, this is the main song of the album they have chosen to promote.
Why K-Pop Albums Are Different from Western Artists’ Albums
Not only that, but K-Pop albums are also different. Not so much the digital versions, but the physical copies. A K-Pop album doesn’t just come with a CD and a paper with the credits on it. It comes with a photobook, a photocard or two, the CD, lyric sheets, and oftentimes a poster. K-Pop albums can also come with stickers, little cardboard stands, special photocards, messages from the artists, and a lot more.
For example, I recently got a new K-Pop album for my birthday. I got the album I Burn by (G)I-dle. The album came with a large poster of the group, a photobook with pictures of each individual member as well as the members together, a lyric booklet, hand-drawn stickers by one of the members, two photocards, a special photocard (it was a bit bigger than a normal one), and a smaller poster of one of the members. On the back of one of the photocards, one of Soojin (a member of (G)I-dle who, unfortunatley, left the group recently), was a hand-written note from Soojin. The stickers were drawn by Miyeon, and the smaller poster and special photocard I got were also of Miyeon.
K-Pop dances are often very different. They can be very easy or very difficult, depending on the group. Boy groups typically have harder choreographies because their dances have more footwork, whereas girl group songs focus more on hand and arm movements and hip movements. K-Pop dances can also have different concepts that can affect the difficulty. Normally, cutesy concepts have easier dances, while boy/girl crush and sexy concepts have more difficult choreographies.
A few months after I got into K-Pop, I decided to try to learn some of the dances. I think the first dance I learned was Solo by Jennie from Blackpink. Many people who stan K-Pop try to teach themselves the dances. The reason I decided to learn some of them was because I was a dancer for 10 years. From the time I was three-years-old until just before my 8th grade year started, I danced at a local dance school. I mainly did ballet, tap, and jazz, but I also took modern classes and did pointe along with the ballet. The only reason I quit taking classes was because it got too stressful. Dance began as something that was supposed to be fun, but it quickly became a chore with the way my dance school was structured.
My love of dance never faded, though. There was a gap of about a year where I didn’t dance at all, but just before my 9th grade year was when I discovered K-Pop. Not long after that was when I started learning the dances, so I was once again able to participate in something I’m passionate about. It’s been a while since I taught myself a new dance, though. I think the last one I learned was Next Level by aespa a couple of months after it was released. I started learning You Can’t Sit With Us by Sunmi this apst September/October, but I never finished it.
Why I Personally Like K-Pop
I could go on and on about why I love K-Pop, but for your guys’ sakes, I’ll try to keep the reasons short and sweet.
- K-Pop is so dynamic, and it keeps me interested. Not only are there thousands of groups and artists, but they’re constantly releasing new music, too. There are different genres within K-Pop, and there are even different concepts within those genres.
- K-Pop encompasses three things I’m very passionate about: singing, dancing, and music in general. I like learning the words to the songs so I can sing along with them, and I like learning the dances, too.
- Most of the groups I listen to have a storyline/concept for their music, and I really enjoy stories told through music. For example, the girl group itzy has a concept of learning to be yourself, love yourself, and not caring what everyone else thinks. I love that they’re so empowering.
- Some of the songs talk about things people are afraid to. The group Stray Kids often talks about mental health in their songs and their own struggles with it. Stray Kids’ production group, Chan, Jisung, and Changbin, write the majority, if not all, of their songs. Chan struggles with insomnia, Changbin struggles with depression and anxiety, and all of Stray Kids have dealt with immense pressure, stereotypes, and high standards. They talk about all of this in their music, and it only makes me love them, and K-Pop, even more.
- They’re genuine people. They don’t pretend they’re better because they’re idols, and they constantly do and say things that remind us (their fans) that they’re only human. They’re just like us. The fact that K-Pop idols appear on different Korean shows and post their own videos of behind-the-scenes stuff on their channels means we get to see them for who they are. I’m aware that many people would argue that everything is probably scripted and that they’re different off-camera, etc. While this could be true, I don’t think they would be too different off-camera. K-Pop idols hold fan-signs and meet-and-greets where they get to meet their fans. They livestream and just sit and talk with their fans while listening to music. They respond to fans’ social media posts and comments, and they pay attention to us. It’s hard to explain, but if you’re a fan of K-Pop, you’ll know what I’m trying to say.
How My Obsession Began
I had a friend in late middle school and early high school who liked K-Pop. She was my best friend for a long time, and we were really close. Because of that, we often hung out every chance we got. She ended up showing me K-Pop. She started by showing me some crack compilation videos (essentially funny/chaotic moments) of BTS, and I fell in love with their personalities. Then, I started listening to BTS and watching their videos. This was in 2018.
A month or two after I got into BTS, I started discovering other groups. My friend showed me Ddu-Du Ddu-Du by Blackpink, and I started to listen to them. I found (G)I-dle through their cover of BTS’s Fake Love, and my friend showed me the music video to Stray Kids’ Hellevator. Not only did I listen to their music, but I also watched their YouTube videos, variety show appearances, performances, etc. I fell in love with them. After those two groups, I kept finding more groups and artists I liked, and so began my obsession.
That, kids, is the story of how I fell down the rabbit hole that is K-Pop. I still haven’t found the bottom of it yet, so stay tuned as I continue to document my journey.
“Why Do You Listen to K-Pop if You Can’t Understand It?”
This is a question I get a lot in real life. It’s honestly one of the few questions that can instantly irritate me. Just so I don’t get this question a hundred times in the comments, though, I’ll try my best to answer it here.
First of all, I am, and always have been, a music-lover. I have music in my blood. My mom has always been a singer, whether that be in the church choir, singing my sister and I to sleep, or singing for fun. She also played piano when she was younger. My father, played piano and saxophone when he was younger, and now he can play the drums, bass, and guitar. He has always had such a deep connection with music, just like me. My mom has, too, but I think my dad’s is more like mine is. My dad and I both listen to music for comfort and for the stories.
Because of my connection to music, I don’t need to understand everything word-for word. The music itself, the beats, the drums, guitars, background vocals; all of it is something that brings me joy. While I don’t understand exactly what K-Pop songs are saying, I do look up the translations for the songs when they come out, and I watch videos of the artists talking about the songs and explaining what they’re about. K-Pop also often has English words and phrases scattered through the songs, too, so that helps. I also know how to read Korean, though I don’t know what every words says.
My point is: language is no barrier when it comes to music. When someone pours their heart, soul, time, and effort into something, you don’t need to understand the words that are coming out of their mouth to appreciate and enjoy it. All you need to do is be able to feel the emotions that are conveyed through the music and the effort the person put into making it. That is why I listen to K-Pop even if I don’t understand what they’re saying verbatim.
Groups I Listen To (and what it means to stan a group)
Okay, so in K-Pop, there are a lot of terms that might sound weird to people who aren’t a fangirl/boy of something else. To stan, for example, means to actively follow a group and their music. When someone is a stan of a group, they listen to every new song they release, watch videos of them, whether that be interviews, crack videos (I’ll explain this later), or videos posted to the group’s official channel. Most stans in K-Pop are hardcore stans, meaning they become borderline obsessed with the group they stan. They’ll learn the group members’ names, birthdays, weird quirks, favorite thing, and anything else they can find about them.
Personally, I am a hardcore stan of only a few groups, but I casually stan others. Whenever I want to learn something about a group or am curious about a new group, I go to the website K Profiles. This website has a list of every single boy group, girl group, co-ed group, pre-debut group, solosit, and any other artists in the K-Pop industry. Not only that, but it has a compilation of details and facts about each member from each group gathered from interviews, statements by the artists, and social medias. It’s very convenient and handy when you want to learn about a group or artist.
Below, I’ll list the groups I listen to in categories. Not only that, but I’ll put the group/artists’ fandom names and a number (one through five, one being not very much, five being ultimate) next to the group name to indicate how much I stan that group. If that group doesn’t have a fandom name yet, I’ll just leave it blank. I’ll also add the years that group or artist has been active, including any pre-debut activity, in parenthesis.
- aespa (2020-Present) – MY – 3
- Billlie (2021-Present) – Belllie’ve – 3
- BLACKPINK (2016-Present) – BLINK – 3
- BVNDIT (2019-Present) – Bvnditbul – 4
- Cherry Bullet (2019-Present) – Lullet – 4
- CLASS:y (2022-Present) – CLIKE:y -3
- Dreamcatcher (2017-Present) – InSomnia – 4
- EVERGLOW (2019-Present) – For Ever – 4
- Girls On Top (2022-Present) – 2
- I-DLE, formerly (G)I-DLE (2018-Present) – Neverland – 5
- ITZY (2019-Present) – Midzy – 5
- IVE (2021-Present) – DIVE – 3
- Kep1er (2022-Present) – Kep1ian – 3
- LE SSERAFIM (2022-Present) – 3
- LIGHTSUM (2021-Present) – SUMIT – 3
- MAJORS (2021-Present) – MVP – 3
- MAMAMOO (2014-Present) – MooMoo – 2
- NMIXX (2022-Present) – NSWER – 4
- OH MY GIRL (2015-Present) – Miracle – 2
- PIXY (2021-Present) – WINXY – 4
- PURPLE KISS (2020-Present) – PLORY – 4
- Red Velvet (2014-Present) – ReVeluv – 3
- Secret Number (2020-Present) – LOCKEY – 4
- StayC (2020-Present) – SWITH – 4
- TRI.BE (2021-Present) – True – 4
- TWICE (2015-Present) – Once – 4
- WEEEKLY (2020-Present) – Daileee – 3
- ATEEZ (2018-Present) – ATINY – 2
- NCT (2016-Present) – NCTzen – 2
- Stray Kids (2017-Present) – Stay – 5
- TXT (2019-Present) – MOA – 4
- K.A.R.D. (2016-Present) – Hidden Kard – 3
- ANS (2019-2021) – ANSER – 4
- Checkmate (2020-2021) – 2
- CLC (2015-2022) – Cheshire – 2
- EXID, unofficially (2012-2020) – LEGGO – 4
- Hinapia (2019-2020) – UBY – 2
- IZ*ONE (2018-2021) – Wiz*one – 5
- AleXa (2019-Present) – A.I. Trooper – 5
- Anda (2012-Present) – 2
- BIBI (2019-Present) – BIBI Bullet and BIBITANS – 2
- Chungha (2017-Present) – Byulharang – 4
- Eunbi (2021-Present) – RUBI – 4
- Hwasa (2019-Present) – 3
- HYO (2016-Present) – 3
- HyunA (2010-Present) – A-ing – 3
- Jennie (2018-Present) – 4
- Jo Yuri (2021-Present) – GLASSY – 4
- Lisa (2021-Present) – 4
- Miyeon (2022-Present) – 3
- Moonbyul (2018-Present) – 2
- Natty (2020-Present) – TwinNy – 4
- Nayeon (2022-Present) – 4
- Rosè (2021-Present) – 4
- Siyeon (2020-Present) – 3
- Solar (2020-Present) – 3
- Somi (2019-Present) – Sommungchi – 5
- Soyeon (2017-Present) – 4
- Sunmi (2014-Present) – Miya-ne – 5
- Wendy (2021-Present) – 3
- Wheein (2018-Present) – 2
- YENA (2022-Present) – Jigumi – 4
- Yuqi (2021-Present) – 4
- Baby Stan- a new or recent stan of a group
- Bias- favorite in a group; can have more than one
- Bias Wrecker- second favorite in a group; can have more than one
- B-Side- a song on an album that is not the title track
- Choreo- short for “choreography” or dance
- Co-Ed- a group with both male and female members
- Comeback- when a group or artist releases new music
- Debut- when a new group or artist releases music and promotes officially for the first time
- Disband- when a group officially ceases making music and promoting for good
- Dongsaeng- the romanization of the Korean word for “younger sibling”; can have the prefix “nam-” or “yeo-” to indicate whether it is a younger brother or sister respectively; groups members may use this word to indicate a younger group member when speaking of them
- Eonnie- the romanization of the Korean word for “older sister” that is used by females; also written “unnie”; girl groups may use this word when speaking of an older group member
- Fanchant- what the fans shout during a concert
- Hiatus- an official or unofficial break from releasing music and promoting
- Hyung- the romanization of the Korean word for “older brother” that is used by males; boy groups may use this word when referring to an older member
- Maknae- the romanization of the Korean word for “youngest”; used in groups to refer to the youngest member of the group
- MV- short for “music video”
- Noona- the romanization of the Korean word for “older sister” that is used by males; boy group or co-ed group members may use this word when referring to an older female or member
- Oppa- the romanization of the Korean word for “older brother” used by females; girl group or co-ed group members may use this word when referring to an older male or member
- Pre-debut- refers to the period before a trainee debuts in a group or as a soloist
- Promotion- refers to the various activities a group or artist may do to promote themselves or their music
- Sasaeng- the romanization of the Korean word used in K-Pop to indicate “fans” of a group that take things too far (i.e. stalking, leaking personal information, obsessive behaviors, etc.)
- Stan- can be a verb or noun; as a verb, it means to follow a group’s activities and listen to their music; as a noun, it refers to a person who follows and listens to a group
- Teaser- a photo or video a group or artist releases ahead of a comeback
- Title Track- the main song a group or artist promotes after the release of a new album
- Ult- short for “ultimate”; refers to a person’s all-time favorite group/artist or member of a group
- Underrated- used to describe talented groups that do not get enough recognition
- Unstan- to stop stanning (following and listening to the music of) a group or artist for whatever reason
The End of My Excessively Long Informative Post
We have finally reached the end of my first K-Pop blog post. I’m very sorry for the length of this post, but there is a lot more to K-Pop than most people think or realize. The main point of this post was to educate those of you who follow my blog that may not know what K-Pop is or anything about it. Because I plan on posting about more than just books now, I felt the need to explain a bit what one of my main topics on this blog will be in the future.
I know there was a lot of information in this post. I do plan on doing more informational posts about certain groups, albums, or artists in K-Pop in the future, but for now, I figured this was enough. If anyone has any questions about K-Pop, feel free to leave a comment on this post or send me an email.
I know it’s taken me quite a long time to publish this post, but I was busy finishing high school. I am now officially a college student, and my classes start in late August. Over the summer, I’ll try to post more often, but I don’t know that I’ll be able to stick to a set schedule. I’ll still try to post once I start college, too, but I don’ know how frequently I’ll be able to.
If any of you already listen to K-Pop, leave a comment letting me know what groups/artists you listen to and what your current favorite K-Pop song is!
You can check out my Spotify for K-Pop recommendations and to find out what my current favorite songs are. Not only do I make monthly favorites playlists for K-Pop, but I also have a K-Pop favorites master-list and playlists for specific concepts in K-Pop.
Check Out My Other Posts Here
Ray, Blog Owner
Upcoming College Student
Book-Lover, Writer, Music-Lover, K-Pop-Stan