2016 has been one heck of a year. But while it’s been a bit of a rocky road, 2016 has also been a pivotal year in the K-pop sphere. There were many sad endings, but also bright new beginnings, so let’s have a look back and re-visit the top moments that defined K-pop last year.
2016 seemed like a year of farewells. Unfortunately, some of those farewells were said to some of our most beloved K-pop groups.
4Minute’s disbandment, and later KARA’s and 2NE1’s breakups, along with members leaving in groups like Day6, BEAST, miss A, and Secret, signaled the end of an era in K-pop. These groups were part of the global K-pop boom, taking Korean music and culture farther than it’s ever been before. These older groups also helped pave the way for new styles of music in K-pop (like the moombahton style in 4Minute’s “Crazy”), slowly shifting the style from generic pops to more varied genres.
But alas, even these legends could not last.
I FEEL YOU SUNGJAE.
With new groups popping out at the speed of light, the era of the second and third generation K-pop idols is drawing to an end, making way for the rise of a new era: the fourth generation.
But oddly enough, there also seems to be a revival of the first generation idols as well.
So far, we’ve had a SECHSKIES reunion.
Se7en made a comeback.
Rain’s announced his comeback for 2017,
and Shinhwa just had their comeback a few months ago (and released their 13th album on January 2, 2017).
Not to mention that quite a few albums, like MAMAMOO’s “Melting” and SHINee’s “1 of 1,” were pretty retro/’90s inspired. To top it off, there was the “Gayo Top 10” throwback with their funky subtitles for “Music Bank,” and the throwback homage performances at the 2016 KBS Song Festival. With all that’s going on right now, the ’90s seem like a sweet thing to bring back.
Will this ’90s throwback trend continue into the later parts of 2017? Hopefully!
BTS’s meteoric rise may signal yet another beginning of a new era in K-pop. It’s very difficult for groups from smaller companies to make it on the scale that BTS has, from two Daesangs (Grand Prizes) to charting on the Billboard Chart, mainly because idol groups cost a lot of money.
These boys aren’t afraid to take risks when it comes to music. They use their members’ hip hop backgrounds to full advantage and take that extra step, experimenting with different concepts and addressing issues outside of safe topics like love or dating, and this really resonates with the younger generations.
BTS knows that love isn’t everything: BTS’s “Most Beautiful Moment in Life” series was a dedication to youth, while BTS’s “Whalien 52” from “Most Beautiful Moment in Life Part 2” was inspired by the 52-hertz whale, the “loneliest whale on Earth.”
BTS was not the first group to go against the bind. Groups like Seo Taiji and Boys, TVXQ, H.O.T, and even f(x) have broken the traditional K-pop go-to mold as well. (Seo Taiji was the original, but his band is so legendary, it can’t be considered just K-pop.) Some of TVXQ’s biggest hits were about social commentary on the world and human nature, and this group, in its heyday, was humongous.
Then we have TWICE.
These girls, like BTS, also shot to fame in 2016. Their catchy bops and adorable dances took the music charts by storm — and it doesn’t look like that’s abating any time soon.
Not going to lie: they are really catchy.
TWICE fever is reminiscent of when the Wonder Girls first began to rise to popularity, especially with the recent “Shy shy shy” and “Omona” parallel. To be fair, that can be said for the other newer girl groups as well: BLACKPINK has a similar style to 2NE1, and Red Velvet is a bit like f(x). They are from the same companies, after all. With TWICE though, while their style of music is different, the way they’re rising to the top with catchy bop after bop, much like the Wonder Girls did with “Tell Me,” “So Hot,” and “Nobody,” was seriously deja vu.
This includes not just hip-hop, but also R&B, soul, and more. I think probably anything that’s not indie or K-pop would belong in this category. The hip-hop scene has always been there in K-pop, especially with BIGBANG, Block B, and with the use of rap in most songs. But with the increasing popularity of shows like “Unpretty Rapstar” and “Show Me the Money,” the upward climb of the hip-hop scene also helped give rise to the other genres in the Korean underground scene as well, especially abroad.
Samuel Seo, another R&B artist.
In 2016, R&B artists like Dean and Crush made a huge mark on the K-pop sphere in both Korea and internationally. Dean, Zico, and Crush’s track “Bermuda Triangle” debuted on Billboard’s World Digital Songs at No. 3.
This also raises an interesting question. Has the rise of the underground scene influenced these more varied styles of music in K-pop, or was it just inevitable that K-pop was going to become more varied?
I’m sure you all knew this was coming. This comeback was huge for a few reasons. First of all, it’s probably the last comeback BIGBANG will have as a five-member group for a while.
They are one of the last groups remaining from their time that has stayed active with major promotions. TVXQ, 2PM, Super Junior, SS501, and all the other big groups from their generation haven’t been able to maintain anywhere near the same level of public interest, what with members leaving, going to the military, etc. Given all that, it’s really amazing that BIGBANG has lasted this long. And we’re so glad they have.
Never forget the “Secret Garden” parody.
“Produce 101,” and its resulting girl group I.O.I, was everywhere this year.
Using reality shows to make K-pop groups are nothing new to the K-pop sphere. VIXX, 2PM, and a few other groups were started this way. But it was never a popular way to form idol groups until a few years ago, with YG’s reality survival show that brought us WINNER.
After that, it was all the rage, with TWICE being another well-known group formed this way. It seems “Produce 101” was the Ultimate K-pop Reality Show to End All Other K-pop Survival Reality Shows. So what made it so addicting?
Waiting for that next episode like.
It gave its audience not only a peek into the behind-the-scenes process of forming an idol group, but let them have a hand in it as well. It’s the same idea behind similar shows that hit it big like “American Idol.” And like any show, once you start falling for a certain character (and there were a lot of different girls to root for), it’s hard to not get swept up in the excitement.
K-pop is more accessible than ever, not only in that there is more content, but there is more varied, better content.
It was a year for collaborations. Of course, there are collaborations going on all the time, but last year, SM STATION actively chased them, and brought us countless cross-agency duets, like Vibe x Chen x Heize, BoA and Beenzino, Yoo Jae Suk and EXO, Joy and Seulong, and more.
Jellybox is also a digital channel created by Jellyfish Entertainment, which released several singles in the course of the year, including songs by Park Yoon Ha and Yoo Seung Woo, VIXX’s Ravi, Kim Sejeong, and a vocally beautiful Christmas treat from Seo In Guk, VIXX, gugudan, and more.
V Live has had a huge presence ever since its launch late 2015, becoming the go-to platform for Korean celebrities for everything from comeback promotions to simple real-time fan interaction. It’s used by K-pop stars, K-drama stars, and movie stars, and thanks to it, we know more about our favorite celebrities than ever before.
What did you think were the defining moments of K-pop in 2016? Tell us in the comments below!
Here’s to wishing for a happy new year!
mayme22’s favorite Bible verse at the moment is Romans 12:12