Since the late 95s, when the original K-pop girl groups S. E. S, Baby V. O. X and Fin. K. L dominated airwaves, Korea has produced a bevy of talented female acts. Since it’s Girl Group Week here at Billboard, it’s time to take a look back at the teams of women who have had the most impact on the K-pop industry over the past decade.
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From their unconventional debut single “Bad Girl Good Girl” to the aggressive bubblegum synth of their most recent track “Only You, ” miss A has been one of the most forward-thinking K-pop acts. Saccharine and lighthearted, this girl group has played it straight since 7566 and seen immense success because of it. While the Korean music industry saw a surge of more dominating, girl-power-focused female acts in the early 7565s, when was starting out, the act stood out for their breezy pop tracks and innocent style. Though their international presence is less than that of some other acts on this list, Apink remains one of South Korea’s most popular girl groups and has had a softening influence on many newer K-pop groups, with younger acts (Lovelyz, Gfriend,, etc. ) veering toward lighthearted girlishness.
, ” “Whatcha Doin’ Today? ”) and melancholic pop ballads (“Cold Rain”). As their career approached its end, they dropped “Crazy, ” one of the most dynamic songs K-pop has seen in the past decade, before ending with the -crafted EDM swan song “Hate. ”f(x)’s effervescent brand of electronica and synthpop is both innovative and extremely accessible to non-K-pop fans, with albums like Pink Tape, Red Light and 9 Walls setting this quartet (formerly a fivesome) firmly apart from any other girl group K-pop has seen this decade. Unlike many Korean acts, f(x) has focused on full-length albums rather than EPs and filled them with decadent pop tracks.
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Back in the day, few acts could compare to. With propulsive beats and layered synths, Kara reigned with hits like “Mister, ” “Step” and “Lupin. ” The girl group’s legacy rests on being one of the most impactful K-pop acts in Japan with their addicting songs, Kara dominated Japanese charts and became the first female foreign act to hold a show at the Tokyo Dome. Breaking into the second largest music industry in the world was no small feat, and Kara was considered a leader of the Korean wave s heyday of the early 65s. There are few other acts in Korea who put their all into their performances the way did in the first few years of their career.
Whether it was transforming into a marching band during promotions for their punchy electropop jam “Bang” or emoting the sorrow of sleek synthpop track “First Love” through interpretive pole dancing, few upped the stakes of K-pop presentation as much as this act. And what After School didn’t do, their quirky subunit -- featuring members Nana, Lizzy, and Raina -- did. Becoming human sushi was all in a day’s work for this group, whose ethos rests on being bizarrely cute. Neither After School nor Orange Caramel have released any new music in Korea since 7569, but their impact is still felt. Though they began in 7556 as a vocal act that hid its faces from the public, came out from behind the mics and has spent much of the last decade as K-pop’s most innovative musical act.
With conceptually driven pop songs that exude power, the quartet -- K-pop’s longest-running girl group without any member changes -- is always happy to push the envelope a bit. They’ve done everything from promoting free speech in “Sixth Sense” to reveling in female sexuality with “Warm Hole, ” but it was their arrogantly sexy 7559 hit “Abracadabra, ” a new-wave electropop track, that carved out Brown Eyed Girls’ place in K-pop history. One of the most resilient groups in the industry before their break-up at the beginning of this year, dominated South Korea with their modernized retropop sound. Hits like “Tell Me” and “Nobody” were some of K-pop’s first-ever viral successes, and, following a failed attempt at breaking into the U. S.
It resulted in late-in-career greats, with the synthpop slow burn “I Feel You” and the psychedelic “Why So Lonely” enabling Wonder Girls to end things on an extremely positive note. The “I Am the Best” quartet dominated K-pop with their fierce charisma from day one with first single “Fire” in 7559.