Interesting K-Pop Recommendations For People Who Don’t Know Anything About K-Pop From An Older K-Pop Fan

With the recent spotlight shining on K-Pop, the popular music coming from South Korea, many people are wondering if there’s something there for them. I’m here as a K-Pop stan of over a decade to tell you that yes, there is something there for you. And there’s so much more than the well-known groups — now is a great time to get into K-Pop! Let’s just jump right into my favorites, some specialized recommendations, some silly recommendations, and lastly, some great songs from the more popular groups.

Quick note, these are just my opinions, and all K-Pop fandoms are wonderful. These are just a few recommendations, but you can’t go wrong by Googling K-Pop and exploring the subject. Also, I wanted to keep to current groups, even if the groups have been on hiatus for a while. There has to be a possibility for a comeback — and groups that have been disbanded won’t have a comeback. Maybe I’ll do another list just about disbanded groups, we’ll see.

Now, without further ado.

“What do you like?”

Thank you for asking. The easiest way for me to recommend is to talk about the groups that I love. You can’t be a K-Pop stan without having a few groups whom you actively follow. Some stans only follow a specific group. This is more common in South Korea. In America, it’s common and acceptable to follow multiple groups and we’re sometimes called “Multis.”

I’ll introduce the group, who they’re for, and finally, a few music videos to get you started, and let’s start with the first group I ever stanned.

SHINee

Shinee is the group I credit with getting me into K-Pop. I was watching a KDrama (a Drama program from South Korea) called Boys Over Flowers (sometimes called Boys Before Flowers — depends on the translation) and this song kept playing in the background. It was SHINee.

SHINee is a five-member group that just celebrated its 12th anniversary. Their sound ranges across many pop genres, including bubblegum pop, new jack swing, and even rock. They have an extensive catalog of songs and they are a good option for anyone willing to give a listen to a solid pop group with an international fanbase.

A good starter song for the group is “View” — which is one of their most popular songs.

One of their latest songs is “I Want You.” It’s a fun, poppy song with a music video that has a goofy, retro feel.

And lastly, my favorite SHINee song is “Married to the Music.” I like the pop horror aesthetic and it’s a catchy song.

Dreamcatcher

I have never loved a group so quickly.

Dreamcatcher is a seven-member girl group. Their sound is especially rooted in rock and even a little metal. Dreamcatcher is the closest K-Pop group to my other musical interests. This group has the rock sound and the horror aesthetics that I love paired with amazing vocals and poetic lyrics. They are for people who like their music harder, but can still appreciate tight dancing.

“Good Night” is a song to start with. It has a solid rock edge and lyrics consistent with Dreamcatcher’s nighttime/dream motif.

The latest song is called “Scream” and this song is about a witch, keeping true to their theme of darkness and the night.

My favorite Dreamcatcher song has to be “Piri.” It mixes rock sounds with traditional Korean instruments. This song was an instant favorite.

Pentagon

If you want a group that changes with each album, look no further than Pentagon. They do everything from goofy songs about being young and eating chicken to serious songs about heartbreak. They have a range and there’s something there for everyone, but they’re especially for people who like to see their groups evolve and surprise them with each album.

“Shine” is one of their best songs and never fails to make me smile.

Their latest song is a dark story about an ended relationship.

My favorite Pentagon song has to be “Like This.” It’s one of their slower songs, but it’s a beautiful song that deserves more attention.

VIXX

VIXX is a group for any former or current theater kids. They are the K-Pop concept kings — which means they are dramatic and extra. They dance with extra flair. Their music videos are stories with elaborate set pieces and costumes. Their lyrics go over the top. If you love drama, VIXX is for you.

Their music video for “Eternity” is an exercise in large set design.

Their latest release is “Scentist,” which is a deliberate, sexy song about perfume. That’s VIXX for you.

My favorite song from VIXX is “G.R.8.U.” and it’s the song that still has their flair for the dramatic but wrapped in a poppy image. It’s not like many of their songs, but it’s still a bop.

Sunmi

Lastly, we have Sunmi, a previous member of the now-disbanded Wonder Girls. She’s had a successful solo career. She’s the self-proclaimed “Queen of the Gays of South Korea” and she’s an outspoken supporter of gay rights. And she’s an amazing dancer and singer. She’s a good person and a great artist.

“Gashina” has over a hundred million views on YouTube and won her countless rewards. Her storytelling and dancing abilities are always impressive, but they’re on full display in the music video for one of her biggest hits.

Her latest is “Lalalay” — a girl-power anthem about shrugging off your haters.

It was difficult to choose my favorite song for Sunmi — it was between “Heroine” and the following song. “24 Hours” was her solo debut and I still remember when I saw it for the first time on Inkigayo. (Inkigayo is a popular weekly show wherein K-Pop stars perform their new songs. This and a few other weekly music shows are the primary ways I find new K-Pop.)

Honorable Mentions

ATEEZ

Do you like hip-hop, specifically trap? Then you’ll love ATEEZ. They are a distinct group that features dynamic songs with forceful lyrics.

“Illusion” is full of carefree joy and traveling — two things we can’t have right now during the pandemic.

Mamamoo

If you want soulful singing from four women who really know how to showcase their talent, then Mamamoo is for you.

“Starry Night” is one of the most beautiful songs in K-Pop.

TOMORROW X TOGETHER

Casually known as TXT, this boy group made a huge impression in K-Pop, and this jaded stan who was growing tired of the boring debuts. Their songs are catchy while still having a bit of an edge.

Every once in a while, I become obsessed with a particular song. (I’ve mentioned a few of my previous obsessions.) Right now, I can’t stop listening to TXT’s new song “Can’t You See Me?”

“I like my bands to play instruments.”

The Rose

Unfortunately, there aren’t many rock bands in K-Pop, and I wish it were different, but there are a few. The Rose has a lead singer with a distinct voice and they have some great songs.

Honorable Mention: Day6

Day6 is a little poppier than The Rose, but they’re still a great rock band.

“I want to follow one person — not a band.”

Chungha

Since the disbandment of a popular K-Pop band called I.O.I, some of their members have gone solo. Chungha proved her strong ability to command the stage by herself in her song “Gotta Go.”

Honorable Mention: Somi

Another I.O.I alumni, Somi’s catchy song “Birthday” will be stuck in your head for a long time.

“Is there someone who is exclusively a rapper?”

G-Dragon

A member of the popular K-Pop group Big Bang, G-Dragon had a successful solo career and his song “Crooked” is a song about an unstable person masked as a party anthem.

Honorable Mention: Jessi

If you like your rappers hard, Jessi is a good option. She does not hold back and that has gotten her in some trouble, but it just adds credibility to her lyrics.

“Are there any mixed groups?”

KARD

KARD is a very fun group with a variety of songs including straight dance songs to more romantic songs. “Don’t Recall” is somewhere between the two extremes.

“I’m interested in choreography.”

Seventeen

In my opinion, the group with the best choreography is Seventeen. “Don’t Wanna Cry” has some of my favorite moments that reflect the sadness of the song.

“I want songs wherein some very cool women tell men to leave them alone.”

CLC

You want CLC’s “Devil.”

“I want to hear an impossibly high note.”

LOONA

Listen for the lyrics “fly like a butterfly” during the chorus. If you can’t hear them, your dog will.

“Is there a group that hasn’t put out any music in years but the company insists they are not disbanded.”

ZE:A

The company hasn’t officially disbanded the group, but they haven’t had a new song in years and many of the members are in the military or have careers in acting. However, I’m still hopeful they’ll have a comeback someday.

“I want to follow one group, but I want it to be like I’m following many groups.”

NCT

NCT (or Neo Culture Technology) has 21 members and they’re all in sub-units. Don’t like NCT Dream? Then you have NCT 127. One of my favorite songs comes from NCT U.

“Just tell me the popular stuff.”

There are the groups that almost everyone can name. So, without commentary, my favorite songs from the world-conquering K-Pop groups.

BTS

Twice

EXO

Monsta X

Blackpink

And that’s all folks! This is already a long list, but there are so many more great K-Pop groups out there that I didn’t mention (Stray Kids, (G)I-DLE, and Everglow — just a few that I love but didn’t cover). There are also many groups that have been disbanded that I have loved (BEAST, 2NE1, and Wonder Girls). Maybe that will be my next list. Below is the link to the YouTube playlist, which also features the songs I linked but didn’t embed. Thanks and remember: the world of K-Pop can be overwhelming, but liking a single song or watching a single music video is all you need to do to make your world just a little bit bigger.

I am a weirdo who occasionally writes about books from my childhood.