Keeping up with K-Pop is not easy at the best of times, and if you’ve only just tuned in, it can all get a bit overwhelming. So if you’ve found yourself thinking “ooh I quite liked those BTS boys”, and you’re wondering what else is out there, here’s a guide to everything going on (there’s a lot), including who’s about to break, who’s already on top, and some lingo that might be helpful.
Fan name: Stays
Stream: 'God’s Menu', 'Easy', 'Miroh'
Who? JYP’s wonder kids who’ve been hitting it big with their ENORMOUS bangers, tongue-twister raps, and storylined mini-album series. Since their debut, Stray Kids have released seven EPs, featuring major tunes ‘Miroh’, ‘Double Knot’ and ‘My Pace’, as well as showing off their deeper side (‘I am You’, ‘Levanter’), all leading up to their debut album this year. ‘GO LIVE’ is their biggest and best project yet, and it’s almost entirely self-produced. They cooked up a storm with ‘God’s Menu’, and if it wasn’t for the ‘rona, they’d be smashing up Wembley Arena now.
Fan name: Midzy
Stream: 'WANNABE', 'Not Shy', 'TING TING TING'
Who? The highest-awarded rookie group of all time who exploded onto the scene early last year with bombastic self-love anthem ‘DALLA DALLA’. Their girl power pop bops have kept ITZY firmly on every stan’s radar since they debuted, already snatching some iconic moments with ‘WANNABE’ (look up ‘Ryujin shoulder move’) and subsequent album of club bangers, ‘It’z Me’. Their most recent comeback ‘Not Shy’ sees them hit the wild wild west – they may be small but they are absolutely mighty.
Fan name: MOA
Stream: ‘CROWN’, ‘Fairy of Shampoo’, ‘New Rules’
Who? Definitely not BTS’ little brother group (they’re from the same company) but definitely have the potential to go massive. Parked right behind ITZY as grand slam rookies, TXT debuted with the bright and playful (and dare we say, perfect?) ‘CROWN’ last year. They’ve since delved into darker and more dramatic territory with the Harry Potter inspired ‘9 and Three Quarters (Run Away)’ and more recently, coming-of-age tune ‘Can’t You See Me?’. Keep your eye on these, because with a comeback announced for October, seeing where they go from here will definitely be interesting.
Fan name: Orbits
Stream: 'Love4eva', 'Girl Front', 'So What'
Who? Members of LOONA were revealed month by month starting way back in 2016, with them releasing their first track (‘favOriTe’) together in 2018. Each girl displayed her own talents in a solo track, but they’re at their strongest together, with a discography spanning bad girl bangers (‘So What’), soft and dreamy slow jams (‘Butterfly’), and giddy crush anthems (‘Hi High’) TO NAME A FEW, there’s little LOONA can’t do. Dig into one of the many theories surrounding the Loonaverse so far, or join us where the story continues with upcoming mini-album ‘[12:00]’.
Fan name: The B
Stream: 'Reveal', 'Salty', 'No Air'
Who? Riding high off the release of their debut album in February, The Boyz really proved their chops when they competed on Road To Kingdom (think battle of the boybands), eventually taking the crown. After spending a couple of years doing fun and bouncy tunes, they went super sexy and sultry in 2020 with ‘Reveal’ and haven’t looked back. Find them stealing hearts on latest EP ‘CHASE’, their boldest move yet that shows off just how far they’ve come. Insert boyz to men joke.
Fan name: Neverland
Stream: 'Oh My God', 'LION', 'LATATA'
Who? High-concept girl group making waves with just a few singles and EPs under their belt. They’ve done saints and sinners realness (‘Oh My God’), 90s hip-hop bangers (‘Uh Oh’), and a ‘Senorita’ song better than Shawn and Camila’s, AND referenced them all in ‘I’m The Trend’. They’ve just released ridiculously catchy summer bop ‘Dumdi Dumdi’, another self-produced smash. Welcome to Neverland!
Fan name: Atiny
Stream: 'THANXX', 'WONDERLAND', 'Utopia'
Who? Unstoppable boy group from humble beginnings (they were the first group to debut from their company!) taking over the world. Bringing perky, cheeky rap verses and high notes to die for, pirates and soldiers have never looked cooler than in ATEEZ’s ‘TREASURE’ series – a set of four EPs and an album that spawned dark and moody club hits like ‘HALA HALA’, and big summer tunes like ‘Wave’. Dive in now as they kick off their ‘ZERO’ series and take us on another journey.
Fan name: For Ever
Stream: 'Bon Bon Chocolat', 'Adios', 'LA DI DA'
Who? If you’re a fan of big, no-bullshit, blow-your-ears-off bangers, Everglow have quite the discography. They ‘arrived’ early last year, bags of attitude and a smash hit in tow, a girl power wrecking ball that hasn’t stopped swinging yet. Changing up the pace with some retro-futuristic vibes for latest release ‘LA DI DA’, they’re on top of their game. Obvs they’ve got a softer side too (listen to ‘Hush’), but it’s the NANANA refrains of their singles that make the biggest impact.
Fan name: Fix
Stream: 'Movie Star', 'Numb', 'Imagine'
Who? These dramatic and sexy boy groups are everywhere, but few do it as flawlessly as CIX. They introduced themselves to the world last summer with a glossy, could-be-high-fashion-ad music video and the words “I wanna play with you, you wanna play with me?” (HOT IN HERE INNIT), and who could say no? Two pretty damn good EPs of slinky retro-tinged tunes later and they’re about to put out their third.
Thirteen-member boy group who just celebrated their fifth anniversary, and there’s SO much to celebrate. They’re pretty self-made, boasting one of the finest discographies in K-Pop (mostly produced and written themselves) and some of the most complex choreographies out there. Their most recent comeback ‘Left & Right’ is immense fun, but if you fancy something darker, try last year’s ‘Fear’.
Arguably the biggest girl group in Korea, Twice recently celebrated their 100th(!!!) win with latest comeback ‘More & More’, and there’s no wonder – these nine girls have nothing short of an ICONIC catalogue that’s made them one of the biggest selling groups of all time in just five years. Charming, catchy, cheeky, it’s impossible not to fall for Twice. Look up last year’s ‘FANCY’ or earlier hits ‘What is Love’ and ‘Yes or Yes’ to see for yourself.
Where to begin with NCT… This boy group recently expanded to 23 members(!!) who are split into three different units: NCT 127, the ‘main’ unit who have a couple of albums and a world tour in their arsenal, NCT Dream, the members under 20 (this doesn’t apply anymore though, so it’s currently just another group), and WayV, the Chinese-based unit. There’s also a rotational unit, NCT U, who release songs whenever they like with different members each time. All sounds a bit intense right? It kind of is, but the more really is the merrier with NCT. While the NCT 2020 project release is imminent, get acquainted with their 2018 album ‘Empathy’ for a taste of it all so far.
This super cool quintet can pull off anything – that’s thanks to Red Velvet’s group concept, where their ‘red’ (pop and electronic) side and ‘velvet’ (R&B and ballads) side collide. They aren’t afraid to go super experimental (‘Zimzalabim’), super sultry (‘Psycho’), or just bonkers fun (‘Umpah Umpah’), and that’s just last year’s singles. Whatever’s going on, we want a slice.
Unsurprisingly, this boy group has got seven members, however they’ve also got shit loads of tunes. While their recent releases veer on the sexy side (hello ‘You Calling My Name’), they’ve got a rich history of dramatic ballads and big club bangers. In between their group schedules, GOT7’s members keep themselves busy as solo artists, producers, actors, radio DJs – multi talented kings!
In your areaaaaaaa – they absolutely are. You can’t get away from Blackpink as these four girls dominate the industry globally. Smashing streaming records at every turn, it’s unbelievable that they don’t have a full album out yet. That’ll all change in October, but for now stream teaser single ‘How You Like That’ or 2019’s ‘Kill This Love’ to have your socks knocked off.
This six piece might be a member down this year (after losing now solo Wonho), but they haven’t stopped working hard. Known for their clattering electro tunes, powerful vocals and snarling rap verses, Monsta X have pushed out two albums this year – one Korean (‘Fantasia X’) and one entirely in English (‘All About Love’) – and when ‘all of this’ is over, they’ll be kicking off a world tour.
Comeback – when an act returns with a new single/album (not like ‘over here’ where comeback means a pop star is redeeming themselves)
Concept – the theme and styling of the comeback
Debut – an act’s first release, usually comes accompanied with a stage show and is very hyped before it happens
Idol – K-Pop word for a pop star
Mini album – just an EP, really
Rookie idol/group – Idol or group in their first year
Trainee – person hired by an entertainment company where they’ll become a fully fledged star ready to debut
Unit – smaller group of members releasing music within a group
Taken from the October issue of Dork, out now - order your copy
Featuring Alfie Templeman, IDLES, LANY, Griff and loads more.