As someone who recently splashed into the K-Pop arena, it’s been quite the wild ride ever since I listened to my first song. K-Pop’s fast-paced and sugary sweet sound might feel familiar to the American music market – but things like language, the “fandom” surrounding certain groups, and the overall aesthetic of the scene could not be more different. For the uninitiated, the “K” in K-Pop stands for Korean.
Slowly but surely, the K-Pop scene has been creeping onto American soil. To give you a little primer on the K-Pop wave, here are my top five favorite girl groups:
What can I say? It was love at first listen. I remember distinctly listening to Catch Me If You Can, watching the music video, and automatically becoming hooked into the K-Pop world. Often called the “Beatles of K-Pop,” GG is the biggest girl group in all Asia with huge potential to cross oceans. It’s kind of ridiculous – eight (formerly nine, RIP Jessica) girls, singing and dancing – but GG is great to get your feet wet into the genre with their catchy, happy tunes and high-production music videos that are not too far off the American market.
Song Picks: Fire Alarm, Soul, Party, Mr.Mr.
Music Video Picks: Catch Me If You Can, Lion Heart, The Boys
Further Listening (Solo Offshoots by girls in the group): Why by Taeyeon, What Do I Do by Tiffany
If GG was the Beatles, I think we can safely consider AOA the Pussycat Dolls equivalent in the K-Pop world. They’re fundamentally the formula as GG (seven members, formerly eight), but with the sex appeal cranked up about 10 notches. Their music videos showcase rather daring choreography, and their songs are a touch edgier than what you find on GG’s albums – without sacrificing catchiness.
Song Picks: 10 Seconds, Good Luck, Heart Attack
Music Video Picks: Good Luck, Heart Attack
Red Velvet’s songs are the very definition of “saccharine K-Pop.” High-pitched and fast-paced, their songs are certainly not for everyone. When I first listened to them, I thought they were annoying as hell, but I decided to give them another go and got really accustomed to their sound. Their music videos are unique and experimental as well; a total departure from the stuff seen with GG and AOA.
Song Picks: Ice Cream Cake, Light Me Up
Music Video Picks: Dumb Dumb, Happiness
If “saccharine” is not your style, f(x) might be a good place to look – especially if you like a little “electropop” and more modern influences in your music. They’ve even made their way onto American soil, being the first K-Pop group to perform at SXSW in 2015. They are still very much a K-Pop girl group (as seen in some of their music videos), but their experimental sound is a fresh twist to the typical.
Song Picks: Déjà Vu, 4 Walls, Snapshot
Music Video Picks: Red Light, Rum Pum Pum Pum
Again, if you want/need an alternative to the saccharine scene, 2NE1 is great. Their sound is edgier, calmer, and they’re often called the “Rolling Stones” to GG’s “Beatles.” They stand out due to the fact that: They don’t (often) prance around in their videos, and there’s only 4 of them – so their voice and sound are paramount. Their music videos are kind of like a high fashion magazine editorial, complete with little-to-no eye contact or smiling.
Song Picks: Missing You, Lonely
Music Video Picks: Come Back Home, Missing You, You & I