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The 8 K-pop boy groups you need to know

No, we’re not just obsessed with BTS.

BTS is probably the first name that comes to mind for someone new to K-pop. But, though it may be the most famous among South Korean boy bands, it is just one of the many outstanding all-boy K-pop groups there are to listen to. There is the charismatic EXO, the experimental Monsta X and the ‘Kings’ known as Super Junior among many others.

K-pop, the Korean musical genre that has followers in millions and includes all age groups, has been witnessing a rapid rise in fans as well as groups consisting of both boys and girls. Fans are hooked to the catchy lyrics, groovy music, perfect choreography and extremely fashionable performers who underline the genre. And though the artists, popularly referred to as idols, are members of groups, their individual popularity can easily rival that of a Hollywood star.

These are the 8 K-pop boy groups we’re listening to:

It is perhaps the only music genre originating in Asia which has most effectively transcended the language barrier to conquer the West. Part of its success is a result of ‘Hallyu’, or the Korean wave, which made everything South Korean a staple in Asian countries and eventually the rest of the world.

And while the girl groups in the K-pop industry such as BLACKPINK, Red Velvet and Girls’ Generation have reached legendary status, the all-boy K-pop groups are equally loved by all.

BTS

Undoubtedly the biggest K-pop acts in history, BTS debuted in 2013. Climbing the charts of success since then, the seven-member group is today globally recognised for its exploration of musical genres and focus on youth issues.

The septet, led by RM, includes Jungkook, J-Hope, Jimin, Jin, Suga and V. Their fans, numbering millions around the world, are popularly known as ARMY.

Their impression on fashion and culture is equally tremendous, with some of the world’s biggest brands — like Bottega Veneta, Kris van Assche’s Berluti, Clare Waight Keller’s Givenchy, Prada and Alexander McQueen — associating themselves with the group.

BTS, whose full name is Bangtan Sonyeondan (Bulletproof Boy Scouts) in Korean or Beyond The Scene in English markets, has numerous ‘firsts’ and world records to their credit.

For their album Love Yourself: Tear, BTS became the first K-pop act and the first act in any language other than English to reach No.1 on Billboard Artist 100. The album itself was the first K-pop record to reach No.1 on Billboard 200.

BTS was named the best-selling artist of 2020 following the success of their two chart-topping albums in Map of the Soul: 7 and BE.

In 2021, the South Korean boy group was inducted into the Guinness World Records Hall of Fame. BTS has set 23 Guinness records so far, including the most followed music group on Instagram and the most streamed group on Spotify.

The group’s official Twitter account has broken its own record of most Twitter engagements for a music group four times.

Their first English language song was “Dynamite” from the album BE. A peppy and uplifting track, it debuted at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart — the first for any K-pop group.

In 2018, BTS became the first K-pop group to speak at the United Nations. They have since delivered two more addresses — virtually in 2020 and in-person in 2021. Besides being the face of major brands such as Samsung, Fila and Hyundai, BTS members have also been Seoul Tourism ambassadors since 2017.

Listen to their music here.

EXO

This nine-member group has been active since 2012 and is hailed as one of the best all-boy K-pop groups of all-time. The band’s first album, XOXO, sold over a million copies upon release in 2013 — a first in Korea in 12 years.

It was a runaway success and led EXO into the Billboard World Albums chart. Since then, the band continued scripting history at home and, consequently, on the US charts with successive albums including Overdose (2014), Exodus (2015) and Obsession (2019).

EXO also has a unique appeal among fans because its members are from both South Korea and China. Because of this reason, their music explores both Korean and Mandarin language markets.

The band initially performed in two groups — EXO-K and EXO-M. While the former primarily performed in Korea, the latter wowed Chinese fans.

The division ended in 2014 with the departure of three members, though EXO has since spawned two other subgroups.

In 2018, the group made their Japanese debut with the album Countdown. The same year they also performed at the closing ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in their home country.

Though originally consisting of 12 members, EXO has been a group of nine since 2014. They are Xiumin, Sehun, Lay, D.O., Suho, Chen, Chanyeol, Baekhyun, and Kai.

One of the most celebrated K-pop boy groups, the band is universally praised for their catchy music videos and experimenting with their image, which ranges from what has been dubbed cute to bad-boys.

Listen to their music here.

GOT7

GOT7 is one of the most insanely famous South Korean all-boy K-pop groups in the world. Their fans are eager to see the hip-hop group’s mix of street dancing and martial arts tricking, especially during live performances.

The seven-member band is composed of Jackson, Mark, Jinyoung, JB, BamBam, Yugyeom, and Youngjae, who come from South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand and the US.

The group made its debut with the song “Girls Girls Girls” in 2014. Its debut extended play (EP), Got it?, which was released the same year, climbed to the top of Billboard World Albums Chart. The EP was followed by their first album — Identity.

Unlike other bands of its time, GOT7 rapidly moved beyond the South Korean market and debuted in Japan in 2014 with the song “Around The World”. They have effectively been a dominant force among K-pop groups in the Japanese market and also cut a Japanese album Moriagatteyo in 2016.

The K-pop group was managed by JYP Entertainment for seven years since its formation. In January 2021, months after the release of their fourth album, Breath of Love: Last Piece, the group parted ways with the management agency.

Though the members were reportedly looking at different management agencies individually, GOT7 hasn’t officially disbanded.

In a tweet following the end of their JYP Entertainment association, Mark wrote: “The past 7 years have been the best years of my life. Nothing is coming to an end, just the beginning. The seven of us are going to continue to bring you guys the best version of us till the end. #GOT7FOREVER.”

The message was similarly shared by other members of the band.

Listen to their music here.

Monsta X

For the ‘Monbebe’, the term used for die-hard Monsta X fans, they are the original “bad boys” of K-pop. The hip-hop South Korean boy band is especially loved for the incredible vocals by its members, which are backed by equally strong rapping skills.

There are six members in the band, namely Shownu, Kihyun, I.M., Joohoney, Minhyuk, and Hyungwon.Wonho, the seventh member, left in 2019.

All of the members were picked by the band’s management agency Starship Entertainment from South Korean reality survival program No.Mercy. They debuted in 2015 with their first EP Trespass, which became a rage across the country.

Following the successes of their other releases, Monsta X broke into the Billboard World Albums chart in 2016 with two EPs — The Clan, Pt. 1: Lost and The Clan, Pt. 2: Guilty. The third instalment, Clan, Pt. 2.5: The Final Chapter, hit the top spot at the Billboard World Albums chart the following year.

After a string of successes in Korean and Japanese markets, Monsta X released their first English language track “Who Do U Love?” with rapper French Montana in 2019. The next year, they launched All About Luv — their first all-English album, which debuted at No.5 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The band has been extremely active ever since its debut. Through 2021, they released One of a Kind — their ninth EP — and multiple singles, including “Kiss or Death” and “One Day”.

Monsta X’s fame made them the torchbearers for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018. The same year, their Japanese single “Spotlight” was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of Japan.

Listen to their music here.

Super Junior

Hailed universally as the “King of Hallyu Wave”, Super Junior debuted in 2005 and is therefore one of the oldest active K-pop groups. All of its current nine active members have been with the band from the beginning.

One of the greatest among all-boy K-pop groups, they are best known for their 2009 single “Sorry, Sorry”, the lead track of their critically appreciated album of the same name. To date, Super Junior have cut 11 Korean and two Japanese albums.

An inspiration for nearly all K-pop artists who debuted after them, Super Junior not only established themselves as a dominant player in the Asian music scene but also made inroads into the Latin American market with songs such as “Mamacita,” “Lo Siento,” and “Otra Vez”.

In March 2021, following a delay of a few months, they released their 10th Korean language studio album, The Renaissance, to positive critical reception.

Formed and managed by SM Entertainment, they are also credited with numerous firsts for a K-pop group including the first to introduce the concept of sub-groups and the first to have a song (“Lo Siento”) on Billboard’s Latin Songs chart.

Their fandom is called E.L.F., which stands for “Ever Lasting Friends”. So influential is E.L.F. that the fandom won Super Junior Billboard’s Fan Army Face-Off both in 2018 and 2020, which was a consecutive win because the contest was not held in 2019.

Among their notable appearances other than regular events was the group’s performance at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.

The band’s members include Leeteuk, Yesung, Heechul, Eunhyuk, Sungmin, Shindong, Kyuhyun, Siwon, Ryeowook, and Donghae. All of the members were born between 1983 and 1988.

Listen to their music here.

SEVENTEEN

With 13 members, SEVENTEEN is one of the largest active K-pop groups and is thus equated to a ‘supergroup’.

They are uniquely divided among themselves in sub-units based on their speciality in any of three areas: vocal, hip-hop and performance.

Their name comes from a combination of their numbers and the three sub-units coming together as one team, which is described by them as 13+3+1.

The 13 members are S.Coups, Hoshi, Joshua, Woozi, Jeonghan, Jun, Wonwoo, Dino, Mingyu, DK, Seungkwan, Vernon, and The8. Of the 13 members, two — Joshua and Vernon — are from the USA and two — Jun and The8 — are from China.

The members are also known for actively participating in the creative process of their songs, including songwriting and choreography. This particular aspect has earned them a distinct reputation among all-boy K-pop groups.

SEVENTEEN debuted on a high note in 2015 with two EPs — the first titled 17 Carat and the second Boys Be. Both topped the Billboard World Albums chart, and SEVENTEEN have not looked back since. Over the years, they released three studio albums — Love & Letter in 2016, Teen, Age in 2017 and An Ode in 2019.

In 2020, the group’s EPs, Heng:garæ and ; [Semicolon], were received positively in the USA. In October 2021, the group released its ninth EP titled Attacca. Its lead single “Rock with You” was inspired by 1990s rock music while another titled “2 MINUS 1” is SEVENTEEN’s first completely English song.

SEVENTEEN is managed by Pledis Entertainment. In 2020, Big Hit Entertainment (now known as Hybe) — the agency that manages BTS — became the largest shareholder in Pledis Entertainment. A good reason for CARATS, as the fans of SEVENTEEN are known, to be excited about the future of their favourite group.

Listen to their music here.

SHINee

If Super Junior is the “King of Hallyu Wave”, SHINee members are called the “Princes of K-pop”. And, interestingly, SHINee is a member of the house of SM Entertainment as well.

The group was formed 13 years ago in 2008 as a quintet. But since the death of vocalist Jonghyun in 2017, SHINee has continued with four members only.

The group debuted with their EP Replay and won every rookie award despite not promoting the cut. There is no dearth of their hit tracks: “Sherlock”, “View”, “Ring Ding Dong”, “Dream Girl”, “Why So Serious” and “Lucifer” are just to name a few. Each is an evidence to the group’s versatility showcasing styles including dubstep, electro-funk and even hard rock.

When SHINee performed at a solo concert for the people in London in 2011, they became the first K-pop band to do so.

And it is not their music alone that has been a resounding success; SHINee idols are considered trend-setters in fashion. Their influence is such that the type of street style highlighted by flashy outfits is known as “Shinee trend” in South Korea.

SHINee, one of the longest-continuing K-pop boy bands, have released 12 studio albums in Korean and Japanese. Their latest is Korean studio album Don’t Call Me, which marks the comeback of the group following the end of mandatory military service of three of its members. The album touched No.1 on iTunes in 46 countries and was a chart topper in Korea.

The four members — Onew, Key, Minho, and Taemin — also have very successful solo careers.

Taemin is also a member of the supergroup known as SuperM. Both Onew and Key have successful acting credits in acclaimed K-dramas such as Descendants of the Sun (2016) and The Guardians (2017), respectively.

And besides music, Minho has made a name for himself as an accomplished actor with films and serials such as To The Beautiful You (2012), Canola (2016), Derailed (2017), Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth (2016-17), Illang: The Wolf Brigade (2018), and The Battle of Jangsari (2019).

Listen to their music here.

Enhypen

Enhypen is among the newcomers among all-boy K-pop groups. It was formed in 2020 as an R&B, dance-pop group with seven members: Jungwon, Heeseung, Jay, Jake, Sunghoon, Sunoo, and Ni-ki, from South Korea, the USA, Australia and Japan.

Enhypen is the first K-pop group launched by Belift Lab — a joint venture between Hybe and CJ E&M, both of which are two of the giants in the Korean entertainment scene.

The members were selected through the reality-survival show I-Land (2020). According to Belift Lab, the idea behind naming the group Enhypen is to symbolise “the ‘hyphen(-)’ that connects one word to another” and highlight “their ambitious plan to connect people and the world through their music”.

They debuted with the EP, Border: Day One in 2020 and followed it up with the Japanese and Billboard’s World Albums chart topper Border: Carnival in 2021.

Their first studio album, Dimension: Dilemma, was released in October 2021 with “Tamed-Dashed” as its title track.

Listen to their music here.

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(Header image courtesy of ENHYPEN OFFICIAL/@ENHYPEN/Twitter; featured image courtesy of @bts.bighitofficial)

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