K-pop’s Diverse Music Landscape.

Top K Music Artists

Through highly competitive auditions, music studios induct talented children as idols. After years of intensive training, they debut in a group, establishing a skeleton for a career.

LE SSERAFIM’s “Fearless” refreshes old cultural touchstones like fan dancing, pairing future bass with traditional Korean instrumentals and aesthetics. It’s a prime example of K-pop’s maximalist aesthetic.

1. Lisa

The first generation of K-pop idols paved the way for diversity in the industry with sincere love odes constructed to appeal to the widest possible audience. Psy’s sardonic “Gangnam Style” and its easily imitated horse-riding dance move was an outlier, but the quintet (G)I-DLE) proved girls can curse and sneer convention with the ferocious pop-punk hit “Tomboy.”

Taemin opened doors for androgynous expression in K-pop with 2017’s “Move,” a track that combined Eighties New Wave synths with sensual R&B melodies. The pulsating track’s genderless choreography showcasing elegant gestures and subtle gazes resonated with fans.

Originally named Pranpriya Manoban, Lisa became the maknae – or youngest – member of Blackpink in 2016. She’s multilingual, speaking fluent Thai, Korean, and Japanese, and she loves western food and culture. In addition to her musical talents, Lisa is also a model and brand ambassador for French luxury brand Celine. She is a role model for young women, and she is adored by her millions of fans.

2. Suga

Min Yoon-gi, also known as Suga and Agust D, is a rapper, songwriter and record producer under Big Hit Entertainment. He debuted as a member of the boy band BTS in 2013 and is best known for his rapping skills and charismatic stage presence.

Suga also performs under his solo alias Agust D and has released two mixtapes. He also has a number of collaborations with artists such as Halsey, Psy, Lee So-ra, MAX and Juice WRLD.

Suga has donated a considerable amount of money to help patients with COVID-19 and is an avid supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. He has also been generous in his efforts to aid local residents in times of disaster. As an Enneagram Five, Suga is innovative and reflective and often mulls over his thoughts on a deeper level. This trait can be seen in the lyrics of his songs. He is also very curious and loves learning about new things.

3. Hyukoh

Hyukoh was founded in Hongdae, Seoul and rose quickly through the underground scene. With a fresh sound that even talks about youth and it’s problems the band found quick success, especially after their appearance on the variety show Infinite Challenge. Their debut EP 20 made them a name to be reckoned with and they even topped music charts like Melon, Genie and Naver.

The group consists of four members; leader Oh Hyuk who was born in Korea but lived almost his whole life in cities across China because of his parents job, guitarist Lim Hyunjae, bassist Im Dongeon and drummer Lee Inwoo. They are now signed with Highgrnd, a sub-label of YG Entertainment and have become hugely popular in Asia, where one of their songs, Citizen Kane, was used on the Apple iPhone X’s Animoji commercial.

With their piercings, tattoos and don’t give a fuck attitude, the quartet is unlike anything else in a K-pop landscape filled with cookie-cutter idol bands. Despite their rebellious aesthetic, they are very well behaved on and off the stage.

4. Kathy Yaeji Lee

With a career as illustrious as her enviable hair, Kathy Yaeji Lee is the definition of an idol. She’s a powerhouse singer with a lissome voice that can’t help but soar on the groovy, squelching centrepiece of “Done (Let’s Get It),” an anthem that refreshes old cultural touchstones like fan dancing in new ways.

R&B artist Yoonmirae is the embodiment of a new generation of Korean music, one that embraces its own multiracial identity. Her eponymous debut single is an ode to her biracial heritage over dreamy Rhodes piano and swelling strings, while “Black Happiness” embodies her honeyed croon and steel-eyed raps.

Psy’s virality with his easily mimicked horse-riding dance move might have grabbed the spotlight, but he’s merely one among many to redefine K-pop. The first wave of ’90s co-ed groups paved the way for today’s all-female rosters, and the genre’s maximalist aesthetic often pulls from experimental sounds around the globe. –R.K.