K-pop is all the rage these days but when most people think about Korean pop music, they think about boybands. BTS, EXO, and NCT, the list goes on and on. But boybands aren’t all the colourful and hip musical genre has to offer. K-pop has some of the best women in music and it’s about time we put some respect on their names! Not only are these women super talented, they also have been slaying for years, both in Korea and around the world.
We’ve compiled a list of five K-pop girl groups whose music we are obsessed with and we think you should listen to.
How could we make a list of Korean girl groups and not include the OGs — Girls’ Generation?
Girls’ Generation, just like their name, has influenced almost every subsequent generation of K-pop. Debuting in 2007, the girl group was one of the few women-led musical groups standing on top in the midst of popular boy groups and solo artists.
The originally nine-member girl group, also referred to as SNSD, was among the pioneers of K-pop in Asia and globally. The group currently has eight members — Taeyeon, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona, and Seohyun. Jessica departed from the group in 2014.
The girls began their journey with ‘Into the New World’ but they really blew up with ‘Gee’ in 2009.
Their music predominantly comprises bubblegum pop and electropop, however, in their 15-year-long career, their sound has diversified to include techno, hip-hop and R&B influences. In fact, ‘I GOT A BOY’ is one of the earliest examples of successful experimental songs in K-pop, and frankly, when we first heard it, every verse sounded like a new song. That’s the impact of SNSD — they make weird combinations of genres work.
“National phenomenon in Korea”, “National singers” and “Nation’s girl group”, are just a few of the titles they have been given over their career. In 2013, they beat the likes of Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga at the first YouTube Music Awards. This was BEFORE the massive K-pop explosion that happened during the last decade. CNN called them the “Asian version of the Spice Girls”.
Girls’ Generation walked so the newer groups, and yes, that includes boy groups, could run.
‘I GOT A BOY’
15 years and counting!
Known as the “Nation’s Girl Group”, TWICE made its debut in 2015 with hit single ‘Like OOH-AHH’. The group is composed of nine members — Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung, and Tzuyu.
It took their second single, ‘Cheer up,’ to make them a household name in South Korea. From soldiers to kindergarteners, everyone was singing and dancing to ‘Cheer up’ and it was all because of a simple phrase — “shy shy shy”.
The phrase went viral on social media and almost every celebrity, including Hollywood stars, imitated the iconic choreography while promoting their films in South Korea. In the 2017 South Korean presidential election, both candidates from the Democratic party and the Bareun party used ‘Cheer up’ with altered lyrics as their election campaign jingles.
The accompanying music video showed each of the nine girls embodying different popular film and TV characters. Their unique style of music videos quickly made them fan favourites for their colourful and engaging visuals.
This is not the only music video where TWICE utilises effective storytelling to reinforce members’ individual personalities and colours. More iconic videos include ‘Like OOH-AHH’, ‘TT’, ‘Signal’ (where each member has a unique superpower), and ‘What is Love?’
Their music is described as colour-pop, a blend of happy music with feel-good vibes. The genres range from bubblegum pop to house music. Their most recent comeback single, ‘Set Me Free,’ was termed “a disco-fied anthem” by Rolling Stone.
We’d advise you to listen to their entire discography because it’s — chef’s kiss — that good. Our personal favourite TWICE single is the groovy and techni-coloured ‘Fancy’.
However, our other top picks would be:
‘Cry For Me’
Give them a listen!
If there is one girl group that has taken the world by storm, it’s BLACKPINK. Formed in 2016, the girl group popularised the girl-crush concept, following in their predecessor 2NE1’s footsteps. Comprised of four members — Jennie, Lisa, Jisoo and Rosé — the group has soared to popularity.
They debuted with double singles ‘Boombayah’ and ‘Whistle’. Following their debut, they have released consecutive hit singles every year like ‘As if it’s your last’, ‘DDU-DU DDU-DU’, ‘Kill This Love’ and ‘Pink Venom’.
Their releases might not be very frequent but when they do make a comeback, their songs are an instant hit. Having crazy budgets and production values for their music videos, the group dominates YouTube with billions of views!
Collaborating with renowned western pop stars like Selena Gomez in ‘Ice-cream’, Dua Lipa in ‘Kiss and Make Up’ and Lady Gaga in ‘Sour Candy’ made BLACKPINK hugely popular around the globe. The girls each also have a massive following on social media with Lisa being the most followed K-pop idol on Instagram with 90.5 million followers. Jennie has 76.1 million, Jisoo has 70.4 million and Rosé has 68.9 million.
Although most of their songs are total bops, our favourites include:
‘Playing with Fire’
In our opinion, their’s was one of the best debut songs ever.
During the height of Covid-19 in 2020 came the artificial intelligence-inspired girl group aespa. With one of the most extensive and complex cyberpunk sci-fi concepts for any K-pop group, aespa consists of four human members — Karina, Winter, Giselle and Ningning — and their virtual counterparts that exist in another dimension known as the FLAT — æ-Karina, æ-Winter, æ-Giselle, and æ-NingNing. These counterparts are called “æs” (pronounced like eyes).
These avatars are basically created based on the girls’ data online. Their lore is further explained in a series called SM Universe on aespa’s YouTube channel. To put it simply, the group’s songs revolve around this concept where they, along with their æs, fight digital supervillains that aim to corrupt the virtual avatars.
This “allegory about our offline versus online selves,” as described by Teen Vogue, is a consistent theme in their music videos and song lyrics. Their concept makes constant commentary on our virtual addiction and footprint. In their debut song, they fight a digital virus called “Black Mamba”.
In their most recent single, ‘Girls’, they finally defeat Black Mamba with the help of another virtual being called Naevis. Naevis will also make her musical debut this year hopefully, and we cannot wait to further delve into the world of Kwangya (that’s a place in aespa cinematic universe).
Their backstory is not the only reason why you should definitely check out their group. The hyper-pop sound mixed with EDM and trap as well as their powerful vocals makes their relatively small discography stand out.
We suggest you check out all of their main singles (they just have four so far), so get the full aespa experience:
This one is a B-side but can give tough competition to most other singles.
The youngest group on the list but one of the most popular names in K-pop right now is NewJeans. Debuting in 2022, their singles ‘Attention’ and ‘Hype Boy’ successfully grabbed everyone’s attention (pun intended).
The group consists of five members — Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin and Hyein. The name of the group is a double-entendre. Jeans are a classic piece of clothing and similarly, the group aims to become a classic with an ever-lasting impact. NewJeans also sounds like ‘new genes,’ symbolising the birth of a new generation in K-pop.
Unlike other groups that typically tease and promote their upcoming music weeks, and sometimes months, in advance, NewJeans released ‘Attention’ even before their official debut, without any kind of hype or promotion. About this unique move, Billboard wrote, “NewJeans as five fresh faces dropping their music onto YouTube with no announcement was a risky-but-ultimately invigorating industry moment.” New genes AND new marketing methods!
Their catchy dance tunes blended with influences of moombahton, electro-pop, hip-hop and R&B make their music easy to listen to anywhere, anytime.
The fact that almost every single they have released is here shows how good their music is so far! They were “looking for attention” in their introductory song and they have everyone’s now.
Do you have a favourite girl group?