Recommended K-Artists

Recommended K-Artists (Kpop)
By: Aunnie & Firnlambe
Much like my Recommended Kdrama list; here is where I will compile a list of personal favorite Kpop Artists and songs so that people new to Kpop (and actually follow this blog) can have a starting point if they're interested in the Kpop World. I'm always open to new groups and songs so please, feel free to leave comments with groups/bands that haven't made the list and I'll check them out!

Enjoy!!

Super Junior
Honestly, a great place to start is Super Junior...let's just consider them to be...Kpop Ambassadors, for lack of a better description. There are some people who don't actually like them or feel they are over-played and that's totally ok! SuJu isn't for everyone, but seeing as for the first two months after I first learned of Kpop, SuJu was basically all I listened to so forgive me for putting them first. (Also, my ultimate bias belong to this group--I'll explain the meaning of 'bias' in a blog later). Their music is the very meaning of Pop; it's upbeat, flashy and extremely catchy. To give a brief background on SuJu, they originally started as a 12 member group before adding Kyuhyun which completed the 13 member group as you see it today but with making of the sub-group (Super Junior M which appeals to the Chinese ("M" meaning Mandarin) audience) two more people were 'added' and the subsequent loss of 2 members (Hangeng & more-or-less Kibum), there can be anywhere between 11 to 13 people in this group...sounds complicated but it really isn't.

This video gives a detailed listing of Super Junior so if you are curious enough, go ahead and watch it. As you'll see from this video, even if people don't necessarily like SuJu, no one can deny that they are one of the most popular Kpop group in Korea! One of the things that keep Super Junior on top is the fact that they are the Variety Show Kings--Heechul is actually called the Variety Show King--so they are constantly in the spot light. Other than singing, most of the members are involved in something else; Siwon and Donghae are actors, Leeteuk and Ryewook (along with Shindong) host radio shows and Kyuhyun and Shindong actually host on two different variety shows themselves.

This group is by far the busiest group which is especially a benefit now because Super Junior is going through a type of overhaul--their military schedule has begun so every year starting with 2011 and finally ending in 2018 some members will go into the military and some members will be released from the military with Kyuhyun being the last. 'Tis very sad for any Super Junior fan but at least they are not out of the limelight entirely. Super Junior actually has their own official fan club which is called E.L.F. (Ever.Lasting.Friend).

So if you see something like "ELF loves you" don't be confused--you now know what it means. The more and more you get to know the members of this group, the more endearing they become as you learn their individual talents and personalities. Definitely give them a chance before you shoot them down. :D

SHINee 
Although this group is from the same company (SM Entertainment) as Super Junior, they are very different--It won't seem like it right away but after you've gotten to know the two groups, their differences start to become more noticeable. SHINee follows the same guidelines of pop music but it's softer, not so..."in your face" poppy. However, being only a 5 member group is a huge benefit because their vocals are more consistent and individual talents can shine through more brightly...no pun intended. Personally, SHINee is my 'go-to' group for carefree listening. Recently (at least it's recent at the time I'm writing this) SHINee had the opportunity to take a 3-day trip to any place of their choice and already knowing who they are, I found it quite enjoyable to watch. But from an outsider point of view, I think it would be a good way to get to know the individual people in this group. Those links can be found here under "SHINee One Fine Day".

The other benefit of it being a 5 member group is there is less memorization involved when trying to learn who they are. One of the things that have impressed me the most about this group in particular is their stout professionalism. For some odd reason, because every member in Super Junior is older than me, I expect them to be mature and professional but every member in SHINee is younger than me so I would expect them to be a little more playful. This is not the case! Well..it is-they are playful, but when they're on stage it's just wow...their presence is commanding which can be seen here. I've seen SHINee do some pretty impressive things on stage that would have me going "Wait, what?" and looking like a deer caught in headlights.

Another difference that makes this group vastly different from Super Junior is the fact that each and every one of their voices is spot-on perfect. This isn't a negative to Super Junior but some of their resident rappers (i.e. Eunhyuk, Shindong) never actually get solo singing parts because they are a little shaking but not in SHINee. SHINee's Minho, who is SHINee's resident rapper (and actor), has a great singing voice but sadly rarely gets to shine--no pun intended--and it's very unfortunate.

Once you hear and get to know these five members, I hope you'll be as impressed as I am with their talents. Much like Super Junior, SHINee too has their own official fan club name, it's Shawol which basically stands for SHINee World. Seems a little weird doesn't it? Well, lemme break it down for you because it confused the hell outta me at first: the romanization of the SHINee hangul (Korean writing) spells SHINee as "Syaini" which is pronounced as "Sha-ee-nee" so taking the first syllable "Sha" and adding it to the shortened version of World which...apparently is "Wol"...I guess *shrugs* the fan name becomes "Shawol"...hey! I didn't come up with it ok...

FT Island

I am particularly fond of this group...more than I actually thought I would be but they are surprisingly refreshing because although it's still termed "Kpop" its actually more like "K-rock". The lead singer's (Lee Hong Ki) voice is distinctive and paired with the guitar's (& bass) and drums, makes them stand out. After I bought the first album, I was so impressed with Lee Hong Ki's vocal range that I immediately bought a second album and before I knew it, I had most of their released albums...and a very unhappy husband. If you are looking for something other than the flashy, pop that Super Junior and SHINee are known for, you might want to consider FT Island. I also term them "real" music in the sense that they actually make the music with their hands, not a lot of technical sound with this group and it makes for good listening.

I found a video that discusses the history behind FT Island but between the broken English and lack of details--it's honestly not very good. But if you're curious...it's there for you. :) FT Island also has an official fan club name, it's Primadonna after a song on their 2nd album...I also didn't pick this one...and probably will never shout "I'm a Primadonna" in any large crowds...unless I was at an FT Island concert....ok, moving on...

EXO
I've been a fan of this group since they debuted...well a few months after actually because they debuted April 2012 and I didn't become a Kpop fan until August of 2012...but what's 4 months, really...Anyway, I've been a big EXO supporter since the (almost) beginning and they continuously impress me. EXO actually consists of 12 members (Update: after 2014--it's only 11 members now. Kris left the group due to civil rights violation) but mostly they're split into two groups, Exo-M & Exo-K, one for Korean audiences & one for Mandarin audiences.

Their debuting concept painted them as aliens that were banished to earth by their mother in order to learn compassion and empathy after allowing the "Tree of Life", which was their responsibility, to be tainted by evil. Or at least that was my interpretation--it's a little hazy on the details.They released their debut song "Mama", also the title of the debut album which was an EP (short album) & it was great! The music video was even more so because it illustrated how different this group would be when compared to Super Junior and SHINee, since they are all from the same company--SM Entertainment. Each member even had their own super power--you know, being aliens at all. Silly sounding or not, it was very clear from the get-go that this group would be completely unique and they haven't let us down yet. Even with only six songs on the EP, EXO established their own sound which I describe as technical pop. They have a very...techno-feel to it and their resident rappers, Chanyeol/Tao/Kris/Sehun, put a nice spin on it.

Unfortunately, the immediate fans of EXO, myself included, had to wait until June of  2013 before they released their 2nd album but this time, it was a full album. And the crowd goes wild! The wait was excruciating, believe me but in June, EXO released XOXO and had a completely different concept entirely. Now they were werewolves! With the lead song 'Wolf' and subsequently the digital single 'Growl', they showed us their possessive manly side and both were smash hits. Usually they are seen promoting separately but with the release of XOXO, they've been together (12/11 members) and they are a very cool, close-knit unit.

Side Note: EXO has exceptional dancers...like the whole group can dance which is rare with any singular group. It can be seen here (Korean) / here (Mandarin). Between Super Junior, SHINee and EXO you can see the different sounds and personalities that come out of SM Entertainment.

BAP
I'm going to pass this portion off to my friend, Firnlambe, because she's more of a fan than I am (not to say I'm not a fan, but I know that if I write it...she'll pull Eonni-rank and tell me I didn't do it good enough)

Damn straight I will . . .
oh my dear sweet Best Absolute Perfect, otherwise known as B.A.P, they are (out of all 82 [that's right I said 82] Rookies from 2012 list here) probably the group that takes the cake when it comes to the rapid growth in their popularity. While B.A.P may have deep roots in the Hip-Hop genre, with the release of their latest album it becomes very clear, very quickly, that they can tackle almost any genre and can make it work in their favor. Not many people can take Jazz, Club/techno, and Hip-Hop genres . . .  place them all in the same damn CD and make them their own.

The group consists of 6 members, as seen in the picture to our right. And they are (in order from left to right) Himchan (vocals/visual), Bang Yongguk (leader/rap), Zelo (maknae/rap/dance), Youngjae(main vocal), Daehyun (main vocal), and Jongup (vocal/dance).  With a mere 3 EPs, and 3 CDs released in only 2 years, and TWO successful world tours (which included 4 stops to the States each time ^-^) under their belts, B.A.P is a force to be reckoned with. This is, in part, all thanks to their raw talent, and the overwhelming support from their fangroup "Baby" or "Babyz", if you need to pluralized it.

I recommend listening to their track "Warrior" for a taste of what they are heavily known for, rap. It also has a strong presence throughout the whole track, something you don't typically hear in a debut track. This is also an excellent song to showcase member Zelo's LTE rap style (you can't miss it, it's the extremely fast part). I also suggest their newest single "Where are You" for a taste of something more along the lines of a normal "pop" ballad. It's a soft, light hearted song focused mainly on vocals with smooth raps transitioned nicely throughout. Bear in mind that these two songs are POLAR opposites of each other, but it gives you an idea of this groups artistic range.

Sadly, even I have to admit that B.A.P. takes the lead when it comes to rookies that came out of 2012--I blame SM Entertainment for not endorsing EXO more...they really were poorly advertised.

U-Kiss

Honestly, I think Aunnie, wants me to spend more time on her blog than my own . . . 

You may be led to believe that this is a rookie group, well you'd be wrong. U-kiss actually has been floating around in the Hallyu wave since 2008, but with only 3 of their original members still with the group (Soohyun, Eli and Kevin) I can see why you may believe its a whole new group. While extremely popular with their Japanese and international fans, this group has been severely underestimated in the Korean market. Not once have they won a music show, and it really is quite a shame. 

I really do recommend you giving this group a real good listen before you pass your final judgement on them. Each member brings a very strong presence to the group that cannot be replaced. Their newest member, Jun, as got his work cut of for him. He is the replacement member for Dongho (first member on the top left) who ended up deciding to leave the group due to personal reasons in 2013. If you tend to be more of a ballad fan, I recommend the song "One Love" of their newest album Mono Scandal. If slower songs are really not quite your cup of tea, I recommend the song "Tic Tack" of their debut Japanese studio album A Shared Dream.


Yoo Seung Woo


I was hesitant to add his name to this list because he's so new but honestly, out of all my artists, I want to promote him the most because 1) He's only sixteen and needs all the promotion he can get and; 2) I truly want him to be successful because he's amazing. He was first seen on Superstar K4 (Korea's version of American Idol) as the youngest competitor and was unfortunately eliminated rather early (Top 6 out of 12) but he left such an impression that less than a year later, Yoo Seung Woo signed with CJ E&M and released an EP titled "The First Picnic". Given the fact that he composed, wrote and sang the entirety of his first mini-album, it's no wonder how he earned the title "Musical Child Genius".

Yoo Seung Woo's musical style is distinctive because it's really not K-"pop", much like the title of his EP, it's the kind of music that sounds like a relaxing day in the sun. I think of summer when I hear his songs; Soft guitar notes, easy lyrics, and a voice that stands out because it's very...fluid. All his words just kind of slide together which can sometimes be difficult with Korean. Already, he's also added to his repertoire by singing a song for the KDrama "Two Weeks" and being asked to give a live performance for the 2013 American Kcon here in LA along side EXO, Teen Top & G-Dragon (all very well known and established Kartists).  I will definitely be looking for more from this kiddo and I hope he becomes as successful as I think he should be.

(Hero) Kim Jae Joong
I first saw him as an actor actually and was completely taken by his ridiculously pretty (but in a manly way) looks, plus he's a pretty good actor. It wasn't until later that I found out he was originally a singer first.

He first debuted as part of DBSK along with four others but due to controversy with the company, SM Entertainment, which resulted in the eventual break up of the group, Jae Joong, along with Park YooChun and XIA Junsu, moved to another company and debuted as JYJ (a clever play on their respective initials). He has since released several singles but 2013 seems to be the year for him; in January, Jae Joong released his first EP "Mine" and in October "WWW" was released. Not only does he look like an angel but he also has the voice of one--is this making me sound crazy, stalker-ish? Well I'm really not, he's just that amazing.

When he's with JYJ, he is usually the crooner of the group but solo, he takes his considerable crooning skills and mixes it with a rock vibe and the result is an unbelievably strong voice that evokes passion and heart. His "Just Another Girl" song not only was an exceptionally beautiful song that illustrated his very unique singing ability but had a great music video as well. Known as the man who "Walked off the pages of a Manga" he has proven himself to be as talented as he is pretty--which is very--and I'm looking forward to hearing more from this amazing singer and definitely earned his spot on this "Recommended K-Artist" page.

Vixx

Vixx started out in an unorthodox way--each member was part of a variety show called "Mydol" and it was through a serious of viewer votes that each member got picked. So basically,Vixx (kind of like Super Junior) were especially picked by fans to become a musical group. Vixx stands for Voice, Visual, Value in Excelsis (whatever the heck that means) and they debuted May 24, 2013 with Super Hero and have been a big hit since. Much like BAP, Vixx is rising in popularity very quickly and has released a couple of albums in 2013 which have all gained immense attention.

Vixx is a six man group that knows no bounds; they aren't inhibited by their style in music because they've established themselves as a well-rounded group. They're capable of singing sweet, slow songs (Love Letter/Only U), fast paced pop songs (G.R.8.U./Super Hero), and dark, twisted songs (Hyde/Voodoo Doll) that leaves their fans curious as to what they'll come out with next! They also have their own webseries (web-tv show) called VixxTv which can be found under their Youtube channel and they're all pretty entertaining. Not only are they all incredibly talented but they all have great personalities (except maybe Leo but I'm still hoping he's just a late bloomer).

Anyway, Vixx is an incredible group and should definitely be given a chance, I think they'll surprise people in the years to come! I also wrote a blog about them so head on over to check out what more I have to say about them!

Infinite
Despite Infinite being a well established group that debuted in 2010, I was a little hesitant to jump on the bandwagon and I can't really explain why. The member L happened to be in a Kdrama I was watching (Shut Up Flower Boy Band) and that's what first drew my attention to this group. At first, Infinite's music style kind of threw me for a loop as most of their music reminds me a lot of the music that came out of the 80's--it's retro and old-school hipster and that is what originally what made me pass over Infinite.

However, I kept seeing their name and was constantly hearing about them being on music variety shows and their names kept appearing on the music charts so eventually, I bit the bullet and gave them a second chance. I mean they had to be pretty good to be gaining this much popularity, right? It wasn't until later I'd unknowingly added two of their songs (Dasi Dorawa & Before the Dawn) into my iPod as songs I enjoyed. I bought their EP "New Challenge" and was pleasantly surprised that it synced with my musical tastes almost immediately. The more and more and more I listened to the album the more fascinated I became with their music and before I knew it, I owned almost all their albums.

I'm happy to know that I can be wrong and that I now have them as part of my music collection. I'll be looking forward to what comes out of this retro group in the future and I hope you will too.

CNBlue
What drew my attention to this band--after having them suggested to me repeatedly--was actually Kang Min Hyuk & Jung Yong Hwa's appearance in Heartstrings. In that particular Kdrama both of them are in a band and they each sing a song in the OST. Not only were the performances of each song very touching but JYH's stage presence was incredible! So...I went on a CNBlue binge and bought four albums the next day.

CNBlue, much like FTIsland, is a band so they're not necessarily "Kpop", actually these two bands come from the same company, FNC. They debuted in 2009 in Japan but are just as well received in Korea. The CN in their name stands for "Code Name" while "Blue" stands for each of the four band members: "Burning" Lee Jong Hyun, "Lovely" Kang Min Hyuk (totally fitting, btw), "Untouchable" Lee Jung Shin and "Emotional" Jung Yong Hwa. CNBlue actually debuted with another artist but when he dropped out, Lee Jung Shin took his place. While JYH is the lead vocal, he shares a good portion of the lyrics with his fellow band mates which gives them a different vocal flare for a band.

Other than JYH's soft-twangy voice, what most impresses me with this band is the fact that a good portion of their songs are in English. Now it's not uncommon for a Kpop band to have English lyrics but their song "Let's Go Crazy" (my personal favorite) is entirely in English. They are just as capable of soft, sweet songs such as "Sarang Bit" as they are in hip-hoppy rock songs such as "I'm Sorry". Like most Kpop groups, they also have an Official Fan Club name: Boice (combo of Blue & voice).

BTS

Winner

Taemin

SPEED




I am no where near finished with discussing all of my KArtists and I will continue to promote artists as time goes on...until then, take a look at these groups and enjoy! Always check back to see if I've added any new ones. Also, please leave comments in the comment section below and let me know of your favorites and I'll check them out! 

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