Photo Courtesy of KQ Entertainment
5 Rising Korean Artists To Know Now: STAYC, ENHYPEN, ITZY, TOMORROW X TOGETHER & ATEEZ
Thanks to the passion of their fandoms, their social media dominance, their addictive hooks and melodies, and their eye-catching visuals, K-pop groups are inescapable these days, and South Korea, the motherland of these global pop acts, has since become a key pop culture epicenter. Korean groups like BTS have gone on to break records previously held by icons like the Beatles and earned a history-making nomination at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show, while groups like BLACKPINK have collaborated with huge stars like Selena Gomez and Cardi B while breaking YouTube streaming records along the way.
The latest wave of K-pop idols, usually referred to as the fourth generation, is native to the digital age, with an audience more open to international talent, in part due to the success of their predecessors.
To celebrate AAPI Heritage Month 2021, GRAMMY.com is spotlighting five fast-emerging Korean groups that have the potential to dominate the global pop space. Get to know STAYC, ENHYPEN , ITZY, TOMORROW X TOGETHER, and ATEEZ.
STAYC, an acronym for Star To A Young Culture, is a new six member girl group with enormous potential. Debuting in November 2020 under High Up Entertainment, STAYC are leading newly launched girl groups in album sales despite having limited projects so far and being represented by a smaller company. The group's success is due in part to the release of YouTube videos pre-debut, when the members were known as the High Up Girls and recorded dance and vocal covers from artists like BTS, BLACKPINK and TWICE.
Their debut song, "So Bad," garnered more than 2.6 million views in the first 24 hours. With their second single album Staydom, released in April, they became the first 2020 rookie girl group to sell over 50,000 copies from a single album. Under the helm of producing duo Black Eyed Pilseung, who worked on numerous hits like TWICE's "Fancy" and "TT," it's no surprise the girls' feel good music is making its mark on the industry. The Teen Fresh concept (youthful and cute) they're promoting is perfect for the upcoming summer and sure to bring more bops and fans galore.
Arguably one of the most exciting groups to enter the K-pop scene in recent years, ENHYPEN are a force to be reckoned with in pop music today. The fresh faced boys dominated 2020 rookie group sales records after forming on a competition show called "I-Land." Some members were once trainees under HYBE, but their parent company is Belift Lab, a joint venture between HYBE and CJ ENM.
The group is now making their own mark with complex storytelling, strong vocals, and eye-catching choreography, while the members' ages range from just 15-19 and their home countries are as diverse as Australia and Japan. Their latest release, BORDER: CARNIVAL, continues their introspective world-building that's bound to grow more complex and interesting as time goes on. Notoriously dubbed "monster rookies," the septet shows no signs of slowing down.
Something about ITZY is truly magnetic and exactly what the K-pop industry needs. The JYP Entertainment girl group is a five member powerhouse of sass, confidence and fun that arrived on the scene in 2019. With a captivating teen crush sound with themes of self-love and independence, they're also Maybelline's first K-pop Global Spokesmodels.
Their latest release, with leading single "In the Morning," became their fastest video to reach 100 million views. They also recently joined BLACKPINK as the only Korean girl groups to reach the Canadian Hot 100 more than once. With so many feats accomplished within their first two years, there's no telling where the vibrant act's headed next. Whether they go viral for an impressive shoulder shimmy or an iconic fashion look, the group's addictive discography and charismatic personas allude to global pop stardom.
TOMORROW X TOGETHER
Often touted as the leaders of the fourth generation of K-pop, TXT are the second group to debut under HYBE after industry heavyweights BTS. Since their first release in 2019, the group of five have dipped in countless genres and now participate in producing and songwriting for their music. Their last EP, minisode: Blue Hour, was an emotional collection of songs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic from a young person's lens, and debuted at No. 25 on the US Billboard 200.
Their entire discography is poetic and relatable for Gen-Z, earning them spots on magazine covers like Elite Daily and Teen Vogue. With their second studio album due at the end of May, they're bound to invite attention as they enter a new era of their musical careers. The group's rare ability to tackle topics both relevant and enticing for a diverse audience make their rise to international success well deserved.
Though they debuted in late 2018 under KQ Entertainment, ATEEZ have consistently grown their fanbase with every release. They're currently competing on "Kingdom: Legendary War," a Korean competition show for trending K-pop boy groups. The group was the fifth most tweeted about musicians in 2020, and are known for their dramatic and captivating dance performances and rap-heavy songs. Capturing international attention since their inception, the eight-member group are a fresh breakout that serves up new experimental sounds at each turn.
Their last release, Zero: Fever Part 2, dropped in March, hit No. 8 on Billboard's World Albums chart. Another group outside of the historic Big 3 K-pop companies, ATEEZ boasts an underdog story with a fresh and singular musical direction that fans appreciate. With the inspiring motto, "8 makes 1 team", the group have battled injuries, mental health issues, and other challenges without shying away from their dedicated fanbase. With loyalty like that, they're definitely in the game for the long run.