K-pop idols have dominated music charts and the hearts of millions of fans worldwide. Behind every success story are South Korea’s powerhouse entertainment companies, such as SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, who mastermind the careers of every group. In the future, their reach looks set to expand as as more groups try to replicate the global phenomenon of BTS.
As news emerged this month that BLACKPINK are putting the finishing touches to their new album (their first release since 2020), let’s take a look at the new talent on the block. Here are five acts rivalling to take their crown as the biggest K-pop girl group on the planet. (The Spotify playlist is at the end of the article.)
aespa (a combination of the English words ‘avatar’ and ‘experience’) are made up of Ningning, 19; Winter; 21; Giselle, 21; and Karina, 22. They debuted in 2020 with the single Black Mamba and are the first girl group from SM Entertainment since Red Velvet in 2014. They are part of the newly launched SM Culture Universe, where their virtual counterparts in the metaverse are kick-ass superheroes fighting villains. Already well on their way to world domination, they spoke at a UN conference and performed at Coachella this year. Their latest single Girls from the mini-album of the same name cuts through the gloss with hard-edged techno and rock. Next Level is their strongest hit to date, brimming with sass and zeal.
IVE (an abbreviation of ‘I Have’ are a 6-member girl group aged 15 to 19 years old formed by Starship Entertainment. Despite having only released four songs since their debut in December 2021, they are already a formidable force on the global pop scene. Their first single Eleven broke records and they became only the third girl group ever to surpass 100,000 first-week sales. In April, IVE released explosive follow up Love Dive. The song went viral as fans recreated the dance as part of the #lovedivechallenge, racking up 350M views on TikTok to date.
The Japanese-Korean group Le Sserafim (an anagram of ‘Fearless’) were propelled into the spotlight following the success of their debut 5-track EP FEARLESS in May. The title track is airtight and funky pop perfection, while The World Is My Oyster takes a darker route via deep house and thudding techno that wouldn’t be out of place in a Berlin club. The group has recently been surrounded by controversy as the sixth member Kim Ga-ram has been dropped in light of bullying accusations. Source Music and Hybe Corporation, the group’s label/management organisations, have confirmed Le Sserafim will carry on as a five piece.
Kep1er was formed through TV series Girls Planet 999, where nearly 100 contestants competed for a spot in the k-pop girl group. In the final lineup, members of the nine piece, aged 16 to 25, hail from Korea, China and Japan. They made their debut in January this year with the release of FIRST IMPACT EP. Kep1er’s hyperpop tunes and slick music videos of picture perfect aesthetics and dance routines of mathematical precision just waiting to be spliced up for viral challenge, pack a blast of energy. I personally felt out of breath from just watching the WA DA DA music video.
Joining TWICE on JYP Entertainment’s roster, k-pop girl group ITZY arrived on the scene in 2019. Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, and Yuna trained for years in the company before being put together as JYP’s first idol group since Stray Kids in 2017. Their fresh high-energy pop songs, particularly the insanely catchy Loco and Wannabe, promote individuality and female self-empowerment. Branching out to the international scene, they collaborated with Oliver Heldens on TING TING TING on their 2020 EP IT’z ME and Bebe Rexha has announced a remix for Break My Heart Myself will feature the girl group too. They released their fifth EP Checkmate in July and are set to embark on a world tour later this year.