A beginner’s guide to the world of K-pop

Image via BTS
Words my Tess Macallan

8 groups you need to know.

The first K-pop video I ever saw was for Girls’ Generation’s 2014 hit ‘Oh!’. At first, I was disorientated by their carefully-coordinated dance moves and sprightly colour scheme. Hours later, I couldn’t get the song out of my head.

Now, K-pop continues to ease its way onto our playlists. While the genre originates from South Korea, you’ll find dedicated K-pop fans everywhere.

If you want to venture into the world of K-pop but you’re unsure where to start, here are eight groups you should definitely give a listen to.

BTS (Bangtan Boys)

These guys are arguably the biggest K-pop group at the moment (and possibly the cutest). You’ve probably heard their song ‘Boy with Luv’ featuring Halsey, or have noticed fans fawning over them on Twitter. The group recently became the first band since The Beatles to have three Billboard No. 1 albums in a single year. Since arriving on the K-pop scene in 2013, BTS has managed to snag a total of 47 awards and 75 nominations. They’re currently touring the US, and we’re hoping they’ll return to Aus very soon.

Suggested listening: ‘Boy with Luv’ ft. Halsey


Four-member girl group BLACKPINK surfaced in 2016 with their debut album Square One and have been smashing records ever since. Their song ‘Boombayah’ was has become the most-viewed debut music video by a Korean act. When ‘Ddu-Du Ddu-Du’ was released last year, it became the most viewed Korean music video in the first 24 hours on YouTube. For those heading to the group’s In Your Area tour this month, you’ll be able to experience BLACKPINK’s K-pop magic for yourselves. This Aus tour may be extra special for a particular member of the group, Rosé, who was raised here in Melbourne.

Suggested listening: ‘Ddu-Du Ddu-Du’


Got7 is a seven-member multinational boy group, with talent hailing from Korea, America, Hong Kong, and Thailand. These guys have four No. 1s on the World Albums chart, one of the most for a K-pop group. Renowned for their live performances, Got7 is skilled in martial arts tricking and incorporates gymnastics and break dancing into their live shows. You can see them for yourself this August as part of their Keep Spinning world tour.

Suggested listening: ‘I Won’t Let You Go’


There’s a lot of talk about K-pop being a ‘machine’, and that it’s the big companies behind the groups that pull all the strings. Seventeen is one of the few up-and-coming K-pop groups trying to dispel this idea. This thirteen-member boy group is known for their involvement in the composition of their music and dance moves. Seventeen is made up of three subunits, each with a different focus area: Hip-Hop, Vocals and Performance. In 2018, their single ‘Thanks’ reached first place on iTunes charts in 29 countries.

Suggested listening: ‘Thanks’


With nine members, EXO boasts a mix of South Korean and Chinese talent. Their first studio album, XOXO, sold over one million copies, making them one of the best selling artists in Korea of all time. These guys are known to experiment with different genres including electronic dance music and reggae.

Suggested listening: ‘Monster’

Red Velvet

This quintet is considered of the most popular K-pop groups in the world. The ‘red’ in Red Velvet symbolises their bold, pop energy style, while ‘velvet’ represents their softer, R&B sound. The group has defined themselves by this signature concept of duality, and it has lead them to plenty of success. In 2017, Red Velvet was awarded the Mnet Asian Music Award for Best Female Group.

Suggested listening: ‘Bad Boy’

Stray Kids

Like Seventeen, the members of Stray Kids are also credited for writing their own songs. Considering the group’s members are aged between 18 and 22, it’s a pretty impressive feat. Members Bang Chan, Changbin, and Han all form a songwriting trio and create hits for the group, though all nine members have writing credits.

Suggested listening: ‘MIROH’

Monsta X

This seven-member boy group was formed through the survival show ‘No Mercy’ in 2015 and quickly rose to fame. Monsta X is notorious for their unique sound that combines pop, hip-hop and EDM. While they’re perceived as a bit edgy, their fandom has adopted the adorable name ‘Monbebe’. You can catch the group when they perform in Australia this month.

Suggest listening: ‘Play it cool’


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