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9 Thrilling Moments From KCON 2023 L.A.: Stray Kids, RIIZE, Taemin & More
KCON 2023 L.A.

Photo: CJ ENM

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9 Thrilling Moments From KCON 2023 L.A.: Stray Kids, RIIZE, Taemin & More

KCON’s lineup featured over 20 acts over three nights, drawing legions of dedicated fans who experienced some of K-pop's biggest acts for the first time in the States.

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2023 - 07:24 pm

For over a decade, KCON has regularly touched down in Los Angeles to create a weekend festival dedicated to all things Korean pop culture. 

With a convention floor highlighting everything from K-dramas to K-beauty, the real stars of the show were, of course, K-pop idols. Along with meet-and-greets and special performances throughout the weekend, three nights of concerts brought some of the most popular K-pop stars to the U.S., including headliners Taemin, ATEEZ, and Stray Kids.

Performances at KCON festival were a display of old and new, with rising stars and more senior talent performing alongside one another. Covers of the hits of a decade ago and a variety of "name that song" games in-between sets drew the K-pop generations together, creating an environment that both older and newer fans of Korean popular music could revel in.

Headlining performances were livestreamed from the Crypto.com Arena, and by South Korean TV channel Mnet (operated by the same company, CJ ENM, as KCON). 

KCON’s lineup featured over 20 acts, including Cravity, IVE, NMIXX, Taemin, Taeyong, Ateez, INI, Verivery, Kep1er, Xikers, Zerobaseone, and JO1. From groups to solo acts, read on for 10 of the most exciting moments from KCON 2023. 

All photos by CJ ENM.

IVE Show Off Their "It Girl" Energy 

IVE kcon 2023

Known for their fashionable, charming demeanor and rousing dance-pop songs that often feel better suited for stadiums than headphones, IVE’s dynamism and energetic, vocal freewheeling throughout each of their performances made it very clear why they are one of the leader’s of this generation’s K-pop "It" girls. 

The six-member IVE took to the stage twice on Friday night, first to perform the nostalgia-fueled "Kitsch'' and the exuberant "Love Dive." They then came back later to perform the unique "Dream Stage," a KCON highlight where concert attendees get the chance to perform on-stage with their favorite K-pop stars. Following a competition held during the KCON convention, tens of amateur dancers joined the members of IVE in a rousing rendition of their most recent single, "I Am." 

Bringing the songs off of the streaming apps and into a 20,000-arena capacity made them, and IVE’s success, feel like the sort of pop grandeur that doesn’t happen everyday.  

Taemin Moved The Crowd With His Legendary Aura

taemin kcon 2023

Taemin and his group SHINee have rarely appeared in the U.S. and never toured as solo artists, making his appearance at KCON a rarity. 

But it wasn’t just diehard fans — known as Shawol (short for "SHINee World") — there to see Taemin. Younger performers were seen coming from backstage to witness the three-song set by the now 30-year-old icon who debuted in SHINee when he was just 14 years old.

Taemin’s distinct brand of seductive alt R&B and darker contemporary dance numbers was front-and-center as he performed "Advice," "Criminal," and "Move." Known for his genderfluid performances that push the boundaries of what male pop idols and boy band members are typified by, Taemin’s powerful set confidently and skillfully showed the thousands of fans at KCON why he is known as one of the best.  

WayV & Taeyong Showcased NCT'S Sonic Diversity  

taeyoung kcon 2023

Taeyong

Boy band Wayv performed in the U.S. for the first time at KCON 2023 L.A., opening the weekend’s concerts with the official KCON theme song "Poppia." Later, the sextet performed sensual fan favorite, "Love Talk," followed by their most recent single, December’s dramatic, pulsating  "Phantom." 

Though the act’s leader Kun was MIA, the remaining members’ first appearance in the U.S. was eagerly anticipated by their fans, known as Wayzennies, who came out in droves, passionately cheering and waving along their glowing green, leek-shaped lightsticks. 

As the Chinese contingent of the larger SM Entertainment boy band brand NCT, WayV’s Ten was joined by fellow NCT member Taeyong. The pair performed their alluring 2018 duet "Baby Don’t Stop," which captivated fans with its hypnotic beats and come-hither verses. The duo are also part of cross-label boy band SuperM, and their reunion was one of the highlights of KCON’s day one concert. 

The penultimate act of the night was NCT 127’s charismatic leader, with Taeyong’s two-song set giving him his chance to shine. his recent single, the groovy, funky hip-hop swagger of "Shalala" and the breezy, summertime "Gwando," a b-side on the Shalala album. 

ATEEZ’s Warrior Theatrics Struck A Chord 

ateez kcon 2023

One of the biggest draws of the weekend was boy band ATEEZ, who have become one most dedicatedly theatrical world-building teams since their debut in 2018. With lyrics and related content positioning them as some sort of Peter Pan-esque Lost Boys but also pirates (it’s complicated!), the eight-member act are fittingly bombastic, bringing their riotous tunes to stage in the most theatrical of ways, with weapons raised and flags hoisted to herald the grandeur of ATEEZ’s reign.

Declaring their presence with a wide array of songs from throughout their discography, including their debut single "Pirate King" as part of a special "Hi My First" segment, ATEEZ brought the KCON crowd into their "Wonderland" before spicing things up with "Bouncy (K-Hot Chilli Peppers)" before ending things with "From" and "Guerrilla."

Zerobaseone Excite As The "New Kidz on the Block"

zerobase1 kcon2023

Fans camped out for days to be front row for Zerobaseone's first stateside performance, creating one of the biggest draws at KCON. Also known as ZB1, were formed during this year’s competition show "Boys Planet 999" and released their first album, Youth In the Shade in July. Security had to turn people away after two members made a last-minute appearance during KCON’s convention portion. 

During the show itself, ZB1 showcased their bright, rookie energy on the ebullient "In Bloom'' and "New Kidz on the block." The group later performed a "Dream Stage" version of "Here I Am," the theme song for "Boys Planet 999." In a bit of a nod to the competitive nature of ZB1’s formation, the group were joined by fan dancers who competed over their weekend for the spot on the KCON stage along with fellow performers from the competition TV show. 

XG Prove That They’re Truly "Xtraordinary Girls"

xg kcon2023

Since March of last year, the girl group XG have been impressing with their fierce hip-pop anthems and sleek dance numbers. A Japanese girl group made with K-pop know-how and a rising star at music festivals, XG performed several times throughout the weekend. The group won over the convention floor on Sunday, as a sizable crowd watched XG talk to the audience and play some games. 

While the majority of their formal concert set was spent putting the spotlight on their song "TGIF" and "Girl GVNG" off of September’s upcoming New DNA EP, XG performed the popular songs "Shooting Stars" and "Left Right." However, a surprise performance of 2NE1’s 2011 hit "I am the Best" remixed with elements of "TGIF" exemplified their star power. 

Covers and nostalgia in general are a popular element of KCON. 2000s R&B-pop icon RAIN performed, and Kep1er — the female counterparts of ZB1 who were produced during 2021’s "Girl Planet 999" — thrilled with their own set and a cover of Girls’ Generation’s 2014 hit "Mr. Mr." JO1, a Japanese boy band produced in collaboration with CJ ENM, covered Seventeen’s hit "Super" from this year. 

RIIZE Preview Their Rising Power

RIIZE kcon 2023

ON the third day of KCON, all eyes were on SM Entertainment’s forthcoming new boy band, RIIZE. Set to drop their first single album Get a Guitar on Sept. 4, the seven-member team performed singles from the album twice — first on the convention stage and then later during the final concert’s pre-show. 

While a rare hurricane delaying the final night’s concert, the propulsive "Siren" and the synth-pop "Memories" gave a taste of the skill this septet have to offer, whetting appetites for SM Entertainment’s first non-NCT-associated boy band since 2016. 

EVERGLOW Return To "Slay" 

everglow kcon 2023

Not heard from since 2021’s Pirate, Everglow’s latest song "Slay" arrived on the first day of KCON. Known for their energetic, EDM-flavored songs, the girl group’s anthemic, girl power dance tracks engendered diehard fans. Anticipation was high to see what they’d perform at KCON. 

While the new song "Slay" and longtime favorite "Dun Dun" thrilled, it was their finale of 2020’s hit "La Di Da" that felt truly like it heralded the return of the group; the entire arena was sing-cheering along to the rousing "Everglow, forever let’s go" chant. 

Stray Kids Are Clearly At The Top Of The Class 

stray kids kcon 2023

Stray Kids debuted in 2018 with their first single "District 9" after a series of preview releases, and quickly earned a reputation for being rambunctious, self-produced and unafraid to hype themselves. Within five years, Stray Kids became one of the biggest acts in the game, selling out stadiums regularly. As the finale closers at KCON 2023, they revisited their roots, most recent hits, and long term faves to give their fans (known as "Stays") a night to remember.

Kicking things off with their recent single "S-Class" and its braggadocios declarations and creative choreography, Stray Kids then brought it back to "District 9" as part of the "Hi My First" KCON segment, pairing their recent successes with their earliest days. 

The remainder of their set was full of the unrestrained renditions of "Super Bowl," "God’s Menu" and "Topline," more recent songs that roused the crowd - and the members of Stray Kids themselves — ending KCON 2023 Los Angeles on a major high, filling Crypto.com arena roaring with cheer and dancing in approval to the S-class superstars that are Stray Kids. 

What's Next For K-Pop? A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future

9 Essential K-Pop/Western Collabs: From BTS And Megan Thee Stallion, To IVE And Saweetie
Megan Thee Stallion (Center) and (from L to R:) J-Hope, Jin, Jungkook, V, RM, Suga, and Jimin of BTS attend the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 03, 2022.

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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9 Essential K-Pop/Western Collabs: From BTS And Megan Thee Stallion, To IVE And Saweetie

From Jungkook and Usher's tribute to their shared musical idol, to BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez' sugary sweet collab, K-pop and Western artists of all genres are joining forces to create killer hits.

GRAMMYs/Feb 27, 2024 - 02:12 pm

It’s impossible to ignore the growing global popularity of K-pop. Although Korean pop has been around for decades, the genre's meteoric worldwide success over the past 10 years is reminiscent of Beatlemania and the early 2000s American boy band craze. With a steady increase year-over-year in album sales and K-pop groups touring the U.S. and Europe, interest in K-pop shows no signs of slowing down.

Initially launched in South Korea as a music subgenre with Western pop, R&B and hip-hop influences in the '90s, the K-pop industry is valued at around $10 billion.

Given the worldwide appetite for K-pop, several Western musicians are keen to partner with K-pop acts crossing over into more international markets, often with songs sung partially or entirely in English. While K-pop artists do not need Western artists to be successful — BTS sold out London’s Wembley stadium in under 90 minutes back in 2019, and BLACKPINK made Coachella history twice with performances in 2019 and 2023 — K-pop's massive fanbase and multi-genre influence make it an ideal collaboration for everyone from rappers and singers to electronic DJs.

But don’t take our word for it. Here are nine of the most iconic K-Pop/Western collaborations (not in any order; they are all great songs!).

Usher and Jungkook - "Standing Next to You (Usher Remix)" (2024)

The maknae (the youngest member of the group) of global K-pop superstars BTS and the King of R&B are both having banner years: Jungkook released his debut solo album, and Usher just performed at the Super Bowl

The Bangtan Boys have cited Usher as a significant influence (even singing a callback to his 2001 hit "U Got It Bad" in their No. 1 song, "Butter"), so BTS fans were delighted when the Jungkook tapped Usher for a remix of "Standing Next to You." The song marks the fourth single from his Billboard 200 chart-topping debut album, Golden

Both singers count Michael Jackson as a major influence. In their collaboration video, Usher and Jungkook pay tribute to the King of Pop as they slide, pop, and lock across the slick floor of an abandoned warehouse. 

John Legend and Wendy of Red Velvet - "Written in the Stars" (2018)

R&B singer/pianist John Legend was the perfect choice for an R&B ballad with Wendy, the main vocalist of K-pop quintet Red Velvet. The final song on the five-track SM Station x 0, a digital music project, "Written in the Stars," is a beautiful, mid-tempo love song. A bit of a departure from K-pop’s typical upbeat sound, Wendy and Legend are in perfect harmony over a warm yet melancholic rhythm.

As Red Velvet’s main vocalist, Wendy was the ideal voice for this collaboration. Additionally, she split her childhood between Canada and the U.S., and has been comfortable singing in English since Red Velvet debuted in 2014. This wasn't her first collab with a Western artist: In 2017, she released an English-language version of the pop ballad "Vente Pa’Ca" with Ricky Martin

BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez - "Ice Cream" (2020)

A powerhouse debut single, BLACKPINK collaborated with pop royalty Selena Gomez on the massive 2020 hit "Ice Cream."

An electropop-bubblegum fusion filled with dairy double entendres, "Ice Cream" was an enormous success for both Gomez and the BLACKPINK girls. The track peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has racked up nearly 900 million YouTube views to date. 

Written by a consortium of hitmakers, including Ariana Grande and BLACKPINK’s longtime songwriter and producer Teddy Park (a former K-pop idol himself), "Ice Cream" shows that YG Entertainment’s golden foursome and Gomez were the correct partnership for this track. The pop-trap bop marked the first time a K-pop girl group broke the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and immediately solidified BLACKPINK as global superstars. 

Snoop Dogg and Monsta X - "How We Do" (2022)

West Coast rap godfather Snoop Dogg has quietly become one of the go-to Western acts for K-pop collabs, working with Psy, BTS, Girls’ Generation and 2NE1. K-pop is the Dogg Father's "guilty pleasure," and he performed at the Mnet Asian Music Awards with Dr. Dre in 2011. Without Snoop's love of K-pop, the world might not have gotten this fun and energetic collaboration with Snoop and Monsta X, a five-member boy group under Starship Entertainment.

The song appears in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge On The Run in a dance segment where Snoop, decked out in a pink and purple Western suit, is accompanied by zombie dancers. Though we do not see the members of Monsta X, their harmonious crooning is the perfect accent to Snoop Dogg’s trademark casual West Coast flow.

BTS and Steven Aoki - "MIC Drop (Steve Aoki remix)" (2017)

No K-pop list is complete with a nod to the magnificent seven, and "MIC Drop" is one of their catchiest Western collabs to date. 

"Mic Drop" is quintessential BTS: a nod to hip-hop with a heavy bass line and fun choreography. While the original version of "MIC Drop" is excellent, the remix with EDM superstar DJ Steve Aoki and rapper Desiigner cracked the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 — the first of many hits for the Bulletproof Boy Scouts. 

Released at a time when BTS were just starting their ascent to chart-topping Western dominance, the track's boastful lyrics and tension-building electro-trap production offered an excellent introduction to the group that would soon become international superstars. 

JYJ, Kanye West and Malik Yusef - "Ayyy Girl" (2010)

A truly deep K-pop cut, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who know that Kanye West collaborated with a first-generation K-pop group over 13 years ago. Released as the lead single on JYJ’s English-language album The Beginning, West’s signature bravado and wordplay are on full display over a track that sounds like the Neptunes produced it.

The song garnered attention in the U.S., but after a string of bad luck (including a severely delayed U.S. visa process and issues with their management company, SM Entertainment), JYJ could not capitalize on their American success. The group continued to see success in Korea and Japan in the early 2010s but never made a splash in the Western market again.

IVE and Saweetie - "All Night" (2024)

A reimagining of Icona Pop’s 2013 song of the same name, "All Night," sees fourth-generation K-pop girl group IVE partner with rap’s resident glamor girl Saweetie for a funky, electronic-infused pop song that’s perfect for dancing from dusk till dawn. 

"All Night" is the first English song for the Starship Entertainment-backed group. Interestingly, none of the members of IVE have individual lines in the song, choosing instead to sing the lyrics in a six-part harmony. This choice is exciting but fun, giving listeners the feeling that they are more than welcome to sing along. 

The girl group embarked on their first 24-date world tour in January 2024, with stops in the U.S., Asia, Europe and South America. Given their quest for global dominance, there’s a good chance "All Night" won’t be IVE's last English-language release.

BTS and Megan Thee Stallion - "Butter (Remix)" (2021)

BTS’ "Butter" had already spent three weeks atop the Billboard charts and was declared the "song of the summer" when the group’s label announced Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion as the guest star for the song’s remix in late August 2021. The GRAMMY-nominated septet is no stranger to collaborating with Western musicians, having worked with Halsey, Jason Derulo, and Coldplay

Though only slightly altered from the original (Megan’s verse was added in place of the song’s second original verse, along with several ad-libs), the remix was praised by both fans and critics alike, catapulting the song’s return back to the No. 1. Although the collaborators did not release a new music video featuring the group and the self-proclaimed "Hot Girl Coach," three members of BTS’ "dance line" (members J-Hope, Jungkook and Jimin) released a specially choreographed dance video. Additionally, Megan was a surprise guest during BTS’ record-breaking Permission to Dance LA concert in November of the same year.

LE SSERAFIM and Niles Rodgers - "Unforgiven" (2023)

GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Nile Rodgers' first foray into K-pop was a partnership with LE SSERAFIM, a fourth-gen girl group from the same parent company behind BTS. "Unforgiven" was released earlier this year as the lead single from the group’s debut album of the same name. 

A darker take on the familiar K-pop formula with A Western feel and look (the young quintuplet dons cowboy hats, boots and bolo ties in the song’s accompanying music video), "Unforgiven" is about rebellion and being a fierce, strong and independent risk taker. That riskiness drew Rodgers' ear. 

"It seems like a lot of the K-pop that I'm hearing lately, the…chord changes are a lot more interesting than what's been happening [in other music fields] over the last few years," he told GRAMMY.com in 2023. "I come from a jazz background, so to hear chord changes like that is really cool. They’re not afraid, which is great to me."

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(From top) K-pop groups Kiss of Life, RIIZE and NiziU

Photos: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images; The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images; Christopher Jue/Getty Images

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11 Rookie K-Pop Acts To Know In 2024: NCT Wish, RIIZE, Kiss Of Life & More

A new class of K-pop talent is set to take the stage in 2024, including acts designed to reach international audiences and fans. From SM Entertainment's final NCT subunit to the fully immersive TripleS universe, here are the K-pop acts to watch this year.

GRAMMYs/Jan 26, 2024 - 02:19 pm

Each year brings new artists to any scene, and 2023 was no exception. After a busy year, 2024 has a new crew of rising teams that bring a sense of freshness to the wide-ranging world of K-pop.

Last year, several new acts arrived with major buzz, produced by industry stalwarts. Others arrived seemingly from nowhere, impressing with their ability to stand up to the giants. This new class steadily offered up releases — some of which were simply a single teasing a vibrant 2024, while others shared albums. All made their names as burgeoning stars, and readied themselves to stand out in the crowd this year. 

A few of these newcomers are aiming to bring K-pop energy into different regions. Non-Korea-oriented teams are especially a big trend in 2024, as last year saw many Seoul-based South Korean companies launching K-pop-inspired groups for the U.S. and Japan. 

While they still have a lot to show, GRAMMMY.COM spotlighted 11 K-pop acts to keep an eye on in 2024. 

BABYMONSTER

The first girl group to follow under BLACKPINK’s label since the iconic act debuted in 2016, BABYMONSTER premiered their single "Batter Up" in November after a nearly year-long lead-up. After the group's name was revealed in January 2023 came a competition show, Last Evaluation, where the group's lineup was finalized from among YG Entertainment trainees. 

Following in the brash, girl crush lineage of BLACKPINK and their fierce forebears 2NE1, "Batter Up" introduced six members of BabyMonster with a trap-inflected, hip-pop confection heralding the act’s arrival to the K-pop scene. (A seventh member, Ahyeon, did not appear for their debut.) They’re reported to release their second song, "Stuck in the Middle," on Feb. 1, and drop their first album in early April.  

BOYNEXTDOOR

BOYNEXTDOOR are the first boy band produced by rapper-producer Zico under his own label K’Oz Entertainment, a subsidiary of Hybe, the company best known as home to BTS. 

The group arrived in May with a three-track album, Who! and quickly followed up with their second album, Why..., in September. Across both albums, the group’s lyrics evoke a laid back, peppy feeling reflecting the experience of youth. Musically, they exude quirky-indie-band-energy as they profess their love with rollicking tracks that blend effusive verses and playful raps. As the name suggests, there’s an affable, relatable sense to the six member team, feeling all at once invigorating and familiar, as if they could live in the next house over.

I’ll It

Although they have yet to share any original music with the world, I’ll It is set to be another impressive girl group joining the growing Hybe roster with members from across their subsidiaries. Managed by BELIFT Lab (known best for boy band Enhypen) I’ll It stands for "I Will Be It.” 

The five member team is set up to join NewJeans and Le Sserafim as another of Hybe’s female powerhouses. The act gained a sizable following after coming together during the reality show R U Next, which began airing in June.  They’re currently preparing for their first release.

Kiss of Life

Kiss of Life, a quartet with a sense of femme fatality, is doing things a bit differently. Their self-titled debut album in July featured not only songs from the group, fronted by single “Shhh,” but also solo tracks from each of the four members. Natty’s smooth solo, "Sugarcoat," a Y2K R&B throwback, ended up being one of the biggest surprise hits in South Korea in 2023. 

It emphasizes part of what makes KIOF so intriguing: several members already had sizable experience in the industry, either as soloists, producers, or high-profile trainees. The individual members can stand on their own just as easily as they come together harmonically. Their dramatic Born to Be XX album in November, released with a series of music videos for singles "Bad News" and "Nobody Knows," cinematically relayed their fiery joie de vivre.  

KATSEYE

Targeting global audiences, Hybe is producing KATSEYE in collaboration with Geffen Records as a K-pop-inspired act. The girl group formed via the Dream Academy talent competition with six members that hail from the United States, Korea, Switzerland, and the Philippines and will be U.S. based, focusing on the American market. They represent a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds and are set to be featured in an upcoming Netflix docuseries highlighting their formation. They're expected to release a studio album in 2024. 

NiziU

While NiziU isn't exactly a new group, (they were formed in 2020 as a Japan-oriented girl group under JYP Entertainment) it wasn't until 2023 that they released their first official K-pop song. 

Since their debut in Japan, NiziU has been a major act there, one of the biggest girl groups in the market in recent years. Transitioning from the J-pop scene to integrate into the K-pop world, the digipop, Korean "Heartris" was a huge hit for the group, and showed their potential to continue to grow even as far as they’ve already come. 

RIIZE

Another busy major in the K-pop scene this year is SM Entertainment, with RIIZE, fittingly, rising.  Proving success with several chart hits in South Korea, including the wintery "Love 119," they made headlines last year for being the first boy band from the K-pop behemoth that isn’t part of its NCT multi team project since 2016. 

Featuring two former NCT members plus an otherwise all-new crew, they’ve leaned into old school sounds in their songs, with their first two singles. "Get a Guitar" and "Talk Saxy" thematically orient themselves with titular instruments while "Love 119" draws inspiration from a 2005 song, "Emergency Room." The act is expected to keep releasing new music this year, with at least one album likely forthcoming. A Japanese version of "Love 119" will be released on January 24.

NCT Wish

The latest and final NCT team from the supergroup is the Japanese subunit NCT Wish. The group is a collaboration between South Korea's SM and Japan's Avex Trax with six members introduced last year through a competition show called NCT Universe: LASTART. After the show aired in summer 2023, the group became known as NCT New Team temporarily. But in January it was announced that they’d officially be known as NCT Wish, joining NCT 127, NCT Dream, WayV, and NCT U as NCT’s official team brands.

While their formal debut as NCT Wish is impending, this new crew released "Hands Up" and "We Go" in October, giving a taste of their dynamic and bright energy to the world at the end of 2023.

TripleS

TripleS has something for everyone — a K-pop experience that is perhaps reminiscent of a pick your own adventure book. The collective boasts twenty current members and a series of different teams releasing albums under different names, chosen in part by fans who can fund a unique cryptocurrency to support their favorite members. With another four members forthcoming for an even two dozen members,  TripleS is more than a K-pop group, it's a fully immersive journey for fans.

Triple S is the brainchild of Jaden Jeong, who played an integral role in LOONA's early days. There have been several distinct subunits, all with a unique style, under the umbrella of the TripleS brand. One of these sub-groups, AAA (or Acid Angel from Asia,) released the first single, "Rising," in October 2022. Last year, five different TripleS teams released music: +(KR)ystal Eyes, Acid Eyes, LOVElution, EVOLution, and NXT. In early 2024, TripleS’s Aria kicked things off with their song "Door.” 

TWS

While they’re still newbies, TWS is one of this year’s most anticipated new K-pop groups, racking up millions of views with each music video . They are the first boy band from Pledis Entertainment, a Hybe subsidiary, since the company’s headlining act Seventeen arrived on the scene in 2015.

The six member TWS team rolled out their pre-album teaser, "Oh Mymy:7s,' during the first days of the new year, and followed up with their first album, Sparkling Blue, on Jan. 22. It leads with the perky "Plot Twist," which lives up to the title with topsy-turvy synthpop productions and effervescent vocals. Its Korean title is also a tongue-in-cheek reference to showing up on a new scene: "First Encounters are Always so Hard," TWS sings, charming upon their arrival. 

VCHA

An all-American girl group, VCHA, was put together by JYP Entertainment and Republic Records on last year’s competition series, A2K. Featuring members from the United States and Canada representing a variety of different backgrounds and lived experiences, the six member team’s name is a reference to the Korean word for shining light, mirroring their aim to brighten up the world.

In September, following their formation during A2K's finale that same month, the group released their first album, SeVit (New Light), featuring versions of competitor's original songs that were performed during the show. They're set to release their first VCHA original, "Girls of the Year," on Jan. 26, and will open for TWICE's upcoming concerts in Las Vegas, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo in February and March. 

What's Next For K-Pop? A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future

25 Artists To Watch In 2024: Chappell Roan, VCHA, Teezo Touchdown & More
(Clockwise from left) Gabito Ballesteros, RIIZE, Chappel Roan, James Smith of Yard Act, Natalie Jane, Emilia, Dylan Marlowe, Teezo Touchdown

Photos: Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images; Han Myung-Gu/WireImage; Burak Cingi/Redferns; Matthew Baker/Getty Images; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures; Jaime Nogales/Medios y Media/Getty Images; Keith Griner/Getty Images; Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Live Nation

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25 Artists To Watch In 2024: Chappell Roan, VCHA, Teezo Touchdown & More

Performing everything from gritty rap to aching indie-pop and soul, artists from around the globe are gearing up to become household names in 2024. Read on for 25 artists to add to your playlist, from RIIZE and Royel Otis, to Xavi and Dylan Marlowe.

GRAMMYs/Jan 3, 2024 - 04:05 pm

There’s arguably never been a better time for artists on the ascent. With micro-fandoms finding kinship on the internet, songs blowing up on TikTok before going mainstream, and all-out fervor for live experiences in a post-lockdown world, a host of exciting new names are capturing the zeitgeist. 

Each of the 25 rising artists featured here has their own leveling-up story. Some have spent the past year touring with huge names, winning over new fans city by city. Some are set to release highly-anticipated debut albums that deliver on the promise of their early singles. And others are finally breaking through after years of steady grind.

It’s a sonically eclectic group, spanning gritty rap to aching indie-pop to throwback soul, with artists hailing from the U.S., UK, Australia, Mexico and South Korea. If there’s a common thread these rising stars share, it’s a sure sense of their purpose and a hopeful eye to the future. Whatever your musical preference, you’ll find a new favorite to cheer on in 2024. 

Writers Taila Lee, D. Mariah, Lucas Villa and Lior Phillips contributed to this list.

RIIZE

What To Watch For: A new single (Jan. 5)

SM Entertainment’s newest boy group has a simple mission: rise and realize together. That’s why their name, RIIZE, is a portmanteau of the phrase.

Already, the septet has solidified themselves as one of K-pop’s fifth-generation leaders. Their mini-album, Get a Guitar, sold over 1 million copies in less than a week and quickly landed them at the top of Korea’s music charts. And 2024 is on course to be an even bigger year for them. RIIZE will kick off the year at the Seoul Music Awards, where they received nominations for Rookie Of The Year, Popularity Award and more. Three days later, they’ll share their third release. — D. Mariah

Nailah Hunter

What To Watch For: Lovegaze (Jan. 12)

Nailah Hunter’s music is the soundtrack of a dream.

Inspired by everything from her dad’s church band to Hayao Miyazaki films, Hunter creates a divine ambience by blending a diverse array of sounds. Intricate folk, alternative indie and new age all factor into the L.A.-based multi-instrumentalist and composer's music, but one instrument has truly shifted her sonic trajectory: a baby harp received on her 19th birthday.  

Now a harpist, the musician employs this beloved instrument to craft an exquisite, atmospheric sound that’s like a gateway to another world. Her 2021 harp-driven reimagination of Radiohead’s "Talk Show Host" boosted her following, but she’s released music since 2019.

Hunter’s debut album Lovegaze drops on Jan. 12, and if anything like her latest releases, fans can expect a quietly glamorous, and perhaps mystifying, sonic dreamscape. — Taila Lee

TSHA 

What To Watch For: U.S. tour (Jan. 12)

With a deep love of house, R&B, hip-hop and pop running through her veins, TSHA's sound is all her own. The British DJ and producer born Teisha Matthews first cemented herself as one-to-watch with 2020's accomplished Flowers EP on pioneering electronic label Ninja Tune. Two years later, her debut album, Capricorn Sun, deftly showcased the full breadth of her skills, from the achingly emotive house of "Sister" to the driving breakbeats of "Dancing In The Shadows." 

In 2023, TSHA leveled up again with a standalone single, "Somebody," featuring the vocal heft of [Gregory Porter](https://www.grammy.com/artists/gregory-porter/5803) and [Ellie Goulding](https://www.grammy.com/artists/ellie-goulding/19043) (who slid into TSHA's DMs). "Somebody" showcases the producer's potential outside club music — a point she's driven home by debuting a full band live show. To start 2024 right, she's spending January on tour around the U.S., including a special edition of her Jackfruit club night in New York. Expect sets with plenty of bump, groove and deep feeling. — Jack Tregoning 

Brittney Spencer 

What To Watch For: My Stupid Life (Jan. 19), dates supporting Grace Potter and multiple festival appearances

Though her debut album is titled My Stupid Life, Brittney Spencer’s music is anything but thoughtless.

Rather, the album's title speaks to Spencer distancing herself from the need to feel perfect, and it’s this vulnerability that makes the Baltimore-raised singer/songwriter so relatable. Touching souls with her country EP Compassion and singles like "Sober & Skinny," Spencer has been steadily making a name for herself ever since her cover of the Highwomen’s "Crowded Table" went viral. 

She’s toured as a backing vocalist for Carrie Underwood and performed at the CMA Awards, but Spencer’s biggest year just might be 2024. Not only will she be spending the first few months opening for Grace Potter’s Mother Road Tour, but she’ll also be hitting a few major festivals, including the sold-out 2024 Stagecoach Festival in April and Kentucky’s Railbird Festival in June. — TL

October London

What To Watch For: The Birth Of Marvin Tour (Jan. 25)

With such a charming stage name, it’s almost too on-the-nose that October London  makes delightfully bewitching R&B perfect for an autumn afternoon. Hailing from Indiana, the singer/songwriter has an enthralling old-soul, silky smooth delivery that nets comparisons to the legendary vocals of Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke.  

London first made waves back in 2016 when he scored a feature on Snoop Dogg’s Coolaid. Since, he’s released a handful of EPs and albums — including 2023's The Rebirth Of Marvin and Technicolor EP — that have collectively garnered millions of streams. 

In 2023, he hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Airplay chart and performed at the 2023 Soul Train Awards — and that’s all before his North American tour launches in Seattle in January 2024. — TL

Sammy Virji

What To Watch For: North American tour (Jan. 26)

One of the first things that new fans notice about Sammy Virji is his boundless, ever-smiling energy. The Oxford-born DJ and producer is part of a new generation championing UK garage (UKG), a distinctly British genre experiencing a resurgence two decades on from its heyday. Virji's DJ sets — which blend UKG classics alongside bass-driven house and his own grin-inducing edits — have landed him on lineups alongside scene veterans like DJ EZ and DJ Q and new school revivalists Conducta and salute. 

Virji also excelled as a producer in 2023, dropping the raucous "Shella Verse" with grime MC Flowdan, the pumping house single "If U Need It," and "Hot In Here" alongside bassline master Champion. Meanwhile, his whirlwind set from DJ Mag HQ in August has hit a million views on YouTube, as fans clamor for his unreleased edits and remixes. 

From late January, Virji heads out on his debut North American tour, with a string of shows already sold out. For stateside fans, it's a rare chance to catch one of Britain's best in sweaty, jump-up club mode. — JT

VCHA

What To Watch For: New single "Girls of the Year" (Jan. 26)

In July 2022, JYP Entertainment founder J.Y. Park and Republic Records CEO Monte Lipman made history by announcing the development of the first American girl group trained under a K-pop system. The duo spent the next year recording "America2Korea," a nationwide talent search and survival competition series that would later birth VCHA.

Between months of training in Seoul and Los Angeles, the show’s six winners — Camila, Lexi, Kendall, Savanna, KG and Kaylee — previewed what’s to come with a teaser EP, SeVit (New Light), featuring the three original tracks they performed on the finale of "A2K." On Jan. 26, the dream will become even more of reality with their official debut single. — D. Mariah

Dylan Marlowe

What To Watch For: Headlining tour (Feb. 1)

Dylan Marlowe is preparing for a busy 2024.

Based in Nashville, the Georgia-born country singer was always surrounded by music, either listening to his drummer father’s Christian metal-rock band or following his mom’s passion for traditional country. Around his senior year of high school, Marlowe picked up a guitar, and it’s been history ever since.

From cheering to friendship in "Boys Back Home" to remembering a heart wrenching goodbye in "Record High," it’s clear Marlowe knows how to pen a hit. He’s already scored his first No. 1 on the country radio charts, through his songwriter credit on Jon Pardi’s single "Last Night Lonely."

The 26-year-old is already headlining his own tour early next year, along with opening dates for country rocker Brantley Gilbert. And with all these upcoming tour dates, it’s no wonder he was just named a promising new artist in Country Music Television’s Listen Up campaign. — TL

The Last Dinner Party

What To Watch For: Prelude to Ecstasy (Feb. 2)

There's an out-of-time quality to The Last Dinner Party, and it's not just their envy-inducing ruffled wardrobe. At times they sound like Kate Bush fronting Sparks — which is to say premium drama and lush, even baroque indie rock brilliance. 

The quintet of Georgia Davies, Lizzie Mayland, Abigail Morris, Aurora Nishevci, and Emily Roberts sprung from seeming total obscurity into one of the buzziest acts from the UK. While many artists with this kind of attention had seeded mixtapes and singles in social media and streaming, word started to spread internationally on The Last Dinner Party when they had released only one officially recorded song. 

Of course it helped that the track in question was the immaculately dramatic "Nothing Matters." They're now up to four singles, not to mention high-profile spots at festivals like Glastonbury, TV performances, and even opening slots for Florence + the Machine and the Rolling Stones. By the time their debut record, Prelude to Ecstasy, hits in February, The Last Dinner Party will be more than ready to take the leap to superstardom — if they haven't already reached it before then. — Lior Phillips

Destin Conrad

What To Watch For: Submissive tour (Feb. 4)

Destin Conrad has come a long way since his days on Vine. Little did he know that amongst his million followers was Kehlani, who would later invite him to the songwriting camp for her 2020 record, It Was Good Until It Wasn't: "That experience pushed me because I never did that. I felt the pressure to prove myself," he said in his biography.

Three years later, the fine-tuning of skills has led to his most mature project, SUBMISSIVE, which he released in October. "So much has changed in my life that has forced me to submit," he explained. "I didn't realize at the time that it gave me the power to be dominant, to be an adult, to grow."

Next year, Conrad will spend February to April promoting the album on the 36-stop Submissive Tour through the United States. — DM

Royel Otis

What To Watch For: Pratts & Pains (Feb. 9)

After a few years of honing their honey-and-silk guitar pop, the duo of Royel Maddell and Otis Pavlovic broke through in their native Australia with the punnily titled Sofa Kings EP in 2023.  

The Sydney group specialize in a blend of propulsive rhythms and laid-back cool, and early indications suggest their upcoming LP Pratts & Pains could cement their case for slacker rock royalty. Freshly released single "Heading for the Door" builds to just the right level of guitar crunch to keep the falsetto flow from getting too sweet.

Fans of Broken Bells' shimmer and Metronomy's synthy clarity will find plenty to latch onto, but the college rock twist adds a fresh layer of intrigue. And while the February release date sets Royel Otis' debut album up as the perfect summertime sway for Aussie heat, Maddell and Pavlovic's nostalgia-triggering indie rock has the sort of magic to savor through the cold winter months in the Northern hemisphere, too. — LP

Bratty

What To Watch For: Tres Tour (Feb. 12)

Bratty, the brainchild of Mexican singer/songwriter Jennifer Abigail Juárez Vázquez, is refreshing Latin pop by infusing it with an alternative and angst-driven edge. The project gets its name from Best Coast indie rock duo’s song "Bratty." 

In April, Bratty made a mark as one of the few Latin acts to perform at Coachella. November saw the release of her third and breakthrough album Tres, which skillfully blends sunny surf rock with dark tones of grunge, while translating these style into Spanish on songs like "Radio" and "Ya No Es Lo Mismo." Come February, Bratty will embark on her inaugural U.S. headlining tour, the Tres Tour. — Lucas Villa

Chappell Roan

What To Watch For: Tour dates supporting Olivia Rodrigo (Feb. 23)

As her debut album suggests, Chappell Roan has experienced the rise and fall of a Midwest princess. 

Before she was 20, the Missouri native signed a coveted deal with Atlantic Records. After three years of making music she didn’t love, they dropped her. Then, she ended her relationship with her longtime boyfriend and moved back home with her parents. 

But that slump wasn’t the end of Roan’s story. She returned to Los Angeles in a last-ditch effort, created her first LP and began performing under a drag persona to much success. "I always dreamed of being able to feel this feeling, and I just happened to be able to sing it and it came out in music,"  Roan told Variety

Midwest Princess is only the first step into this new era of liberation — in February, she’ll perform on the highly anticipated, sold-out Guts World Tour in support of Olivia Rodrigo, who she met through their mutual collaborator, Dan Nigro. — DM

Flyana Boss

What To Watch For: The Bosstanical Garden Tour (Feb. 24) 

Flyana Boss knows how to run it up — after all, the hip-hop duo’s most viral TikTok is of them running and rapping.

Spotlighting their catchy rap hit "You Wish," the video racked up millions of views and consequently translated into millions of streams. Given the pair’s hard-hitting flow and unshakeable confidence, it’s no surprise Flyana Boss’ career has skyrocketed this year.

Folayan and Bobbi LaNea first met at Los Angeles’ Musicians Institute, but they didn’t become Flyana Boss (which, yes, rhymes with Diana Ross) until they reunited a while later. The rap duo dropped three EPs this year — Boffum, Vitamin FB and Make It A Double — signaling more of the exuberance and excellence to come.

With creativity and a sick beat or two, the lovable hip hop duo is taking the world by storm. Since going viral, the pair have collaborated with Missy Elliott, opened for Janelle Monáe on tour, and even have their own headlining 2024 tour. Trying to get on Flyana Boss’ level? You wish. — TL

Natalie Jane

What To Watch For: An international tour (Feb. 26)

With more than 9 million followers on TikTok, you have probably seen at least one of Natalie Jane’s buzzing videos. Maybe it was the one where she belted Gnarls Barkley’s "Crazy" in a parking garage, that time she harmonized "Part of Your World" on a kitchen countertop, or one of the many other snippets that made her one of the app’s most viewed artists of 2023. 

Now, she’s ready to carve a path of her own beyond the phone screen.

Jane premiered her EP, Where Am I?, on Nov. 17. The EP leads with alt-pop break up anthems "Seven" and "AVA" — two songs that are a trademark of her signature sound of powerhouse vocals, acrobatic riffs and blunt lyrics ("Who the f— is Ava?" she sneers in the latter). Next February, she will embark on her first headlining international tour, beginning in Santa Ana, California, and concluding May 16 in Dublin, Ireland. — DM

Yard Act

What To Watch For: Where's My Utopia? (March 1)

From Idles to Fontaines DC, the latest wave of British post-punk has made for some fascinating thrills. But where so many others (both in this current spate of bands and throughout the genre's history) either shout or offer a stoic cool, Yard Act put on their glasses and dance. 

For their 2022 debut, the quartet of James Smith, Ryan Needham, Sam Shipstone, Jay Russell found a way to puree bits of Sleaford Mods, the Fall, and Devo into a danceable fusion of rapid speak-singing, smirky social commentary, and nerdy rhythmic twitching. After earning raves in the UK and even a collaboration with Sir Elton John, they're set to release Where's My Utopia? Early singles like the groovy "Dream Job" show their satirical teeth. Co-producer and Gorillaz member Remi Kabaka Jr. daubs the gloss in a clever push-and-pull with Smith's rakish vocals, the result a neon black wonderland that will keep your feet and brain moving. — LP

Games We Play

What To Watch For: Life’s Going Great (release date TBD) & Northern American tour (March 15)

Games We Play embodies the charm of ‘00s pop-punk: raw lyricism, candid production and, most importantly, a disposition to live carefree. It’s these exact characteristics that herald the band as one of Head of Fueled by Ramen Johnny Minardi’s future faces of the genre, as he recently revealed in a roundtable discussion with GRAMMY.com.

Their upcoming album might be their most vulnerable yet. Ironically titled Life’s Going Great, frontman Emmyn Calleiro narrates his insecurities about his body and upbringing ("Pretty Boy") and becoming a divorcé at 23 ("too young"). The project is slated to release in early 2024. In the meantime, secure your tickets for their North American tour, commencing this March. — DM

Logic1000

What To Watch For: Mother (March 22)

Over the past five years, Logic1000 has emerged as one of dance music's most distinctive talents, with a sound that's rooted in classic house and inflected by UK bass and pop. Born in Sydney, Australia, and now based in Berlin, the producer and DJ born Samantha Poulter has released a string of standout EPs, including her 2018 breakout LOGIC1000 (featuring the R&B-sampling banger "DJ Logic Please Forgive Me") and 2021's You've Got the Whole Night to Go on her own Therapy label, which deepened and refined her sound with a strong thread of '90s nostalgia. 

In March, Poulter is set to release her debut album as Logic1000, *Mother*, which channels the rush of "love and inspiration" she felt as a new mother. Poulter describes the album — which she produced alongside her husband and longtime collaborator Thom McAlister (a.k.a. Big Ever) — as "a love letter to house music." That description fits the warm, enveloping atmosphere of singles "Grown On Me" and "Self To Blame," which both evoke the sun rising after a long night dancing. With the release of her most personal and complete statement yet, 2024 is the year of Logic1000. — JT

Emilia

What To Watch For: .MP3 Tour (April)

Emilia is putting Latin pop from Argentina on the map. The Nogoyá native debuted her first album Tú Crees En Mí? last year in which she explored reggaeton influences. In November, Emilia eschewed that sound for Y2K-inspired pop with her latest release, .MP3 LP. One house-infused banger, "GTA.mp3," channels Kylie Minogue's hit "Can't Get You Out of My Head." 

Emilia also ventured into new territory, blending Brazilian funk with EDM in "No_Se_Ve.mp3" alongside Ludmilla. In April, she will embark on the .MP3 Tour in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Last year, made history by selling out 10 concerts at Bueno Aires' Movistar Arena in under 10 hours. — LV

Teezo Touchdown

What To Watch For: Spend The Night Tour (April)

There's no one in the hip-hop world quite like Teezo Touchdown. Aaron Lashane Thomas not only refuses to fit into any traditional genre or style lines, his penchant for weaving nails into his hair and painting black Ts on his face show his approach before he even opens his mouth. 

That said, listeners have already become familiar with his unique flair — whether on tour with Tyler, the Creator, Vince Staples, and Kali Uchis, or in features with Drake and Travis Scott. The 31-year-old Texan's ability to leapfrog between styles and vibes reflects the wide musical spectrum of his youth, which included Marvin Gaye, Judas Priest, and Kraftwerk. The late-2023 release of his debut album How Do You Sleep At Night? highlighted that perfectly, Teezo nimbly bounding from rapping over thunderous Weezer guitars to delivering soulful Autotuned lines with Janelle Monáe

Now raking in millions of Spotify listens and set to take off on his own headlining tour, Teezo is more than ready to move into the spotlight, a fascinating character and artist. "I know that I'ma make it, baby, no if, ands, or buts/ I know that I'm a superstar but no one's looking up," he drops on album highlight "Familiarity." By the time 2024 rolls in, people won't be able to stop looking. LP

ScarLip

What To Watch For: Scars & Stripes (Release date TBD)

An endorsement from Cardi B would mean a lot to any rapper, but for ScarLip (a.k.a. Sierra Lucas) that cosign resonated at another level. Both women share Bronx roots ("Don't come to Bronx with that s— 'cause we ain't f—in' with that s—," Scar spits on her smash single "This Is New York"), but their unflagging intensity and unique approaches to rap are perhaps deeper commonalities. And Cardi's not the only one taking notice; in addition to millions of streams, Snoop Dogg jumped onto a remix of "This Is New York" called "This Is Cali" and legendary producer Swizz Beats is set to produce Scar's debut EP.

ScarLip at times reaches into a DMX bark, capturing the grimier corners of New York rap. Her ability to burn the drill beats with a growly snarl and then float above the rhythm feels like the embodiment of New York tough — and gets the blood pumping. LP

La Cruz

What To Watch For: A new album (Release TBD)

La Cruz is breaking ground in reggaeton as the genre’s first openly gay artist singing to other men in his lyrics. The Venezuelan singer is charting a similar path as other LGBTQIA+ artists like Young Miko and Villano Antillano that have become some of reggaeton's biggest stars. 

In November last year, La Cruz released his debut album Hawaira, which brought themes of gay love and lust into the reggaeton arena. During Pride Month, he went viral on social media with the sexy reggaeton romp "Quítate La Ropa," which caught the attention of Colombian superstar Karol G. Ahead of his next album in 2024, La Cruz turned up the heat with his freaky follow-up single "Easy Boy." — LV

Gabito Ballesteros

What To Watch For: A new album (Release TBD)

Gabito Ballesteros is rapidly emerging as a bright new talent in the música Mexicana scene. This past year, the Mexican singer became a sought-after collaborator and co-writer, working with artists like Peso Pluma, Becky G, Piso 21, and Conexión Divina. His notable collaboration with Peso Pluma and corridos tumbados trailblazer Natanael Cano on "AMG" reached No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

After signing with Cano's record label, Ballesteros and his fellow artists from Los CT joined Interscope Records in October. As he prepares for his first album release with Interscope in 2024, Ballesteros released his fiery cover of the classic "A Puro Dolor" by Son By Four. — LV

Latin Mafia

What To Watch For: Debut album (Release TBD) and multiple festival performances in Latin America

Latin Mafia, a versatile Mexican pop group, defies genre boundaries. The group includes producer Mike de la Rosa and his twin brothers Milton and Emilio. Their music, which blends R&B, reggaeton, trap, and house, is infused with heart and soul. 

In the emotional "No Digas Nada," Milton and Emilio confront machismo and toxic masculinity prevalent in Latinx culture, opening up about their struggles with anxiety and mental health. Latin Mafia gets the party started with the explosive reggaeton banger "Julietota," which ends on a contemplative R&B note. Next year, the group will hit the festival circuit with performances at Lollapalooza Argentina, Lollapalooza Chile, Colombia's Estéreo Picnic, and Mexico's Tecate Pa'l Norte. Latin Mafia's debut album will follow in 2024. — LV

Xavi

What To Watch For: An album of original material (unconfirmed)

Xavi is on track to becoming música Mexicana's biggest breakthrough star in 2024. The Mexican American singer released his breakthrough single "La Víctima" through Interscope Records in August. Since then, the haunting breakup anthem has gone viral on TikTok with over 53,000 video creations. 

At 19-years-old, Xavi sings with a soulfulness that's beyond his age. In December, he scored his first Top 10 hit on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart with "La Víctima." As the sole wordsmith behind the song, Xavi also sits at No. 1 on the Latin Songwriters chart. Xavi is continuing to tease his hotly-anticipated debut project with his latest single, the fiery "La Diabla." — LV

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15 K-Pop Songs That Took 2023 By Storm: From Seventeen’s “Super (손오공)” to NewJeans' "Super Shy"
NewJeans perform on stage during Lollapalooza in Chicago in 2023.

Photo: Josh Brasted/ FilmMagic / Getty Images

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15 K-Pop Songs That Took 2023 By Storm: From Seventeen’s “Super (손오공)” to NewJeans' "Super Shy"

From global tours to viral TikTok hits, explore how acts like Seventeen, Fifty Fifty, and newcomers like NCT DOJAEJUNG shaped the evolution of K-pop with new song releases in 2023.

GRAMMYs/Dec 21, 2023 - 02:16 pm

2023 was a busy year for K-pop. As the South Korean industry moves at lightning speed, new albums were released almost every day, and dozens of artists made their debuts. K-pop tours crossed the globe, and acts like TWICE and BLACKPINK filled out stadiums. Songs like Jung Kook’s "Seven" featuring Latto, or Fifty Fifty’s "Cupid," were playing everywhere, from TikTok to Target stores.

Amidst so much content, what singles best defined this year? There’s mighty chart-toppers, such as NewJeans’s "Super Shy" and AKMU’s "Love Lee," and sales monsters like Seventeen’s "Super" and Jisoo’s "Flower." Of equal importance, there are also songs that entered our collective unconscious — whether for their flawless melodies, such as NCT DOJAEJUNG’s "Perfume", or for their sassy irreverence, like (G)I-dle’s "Queencard".

In terms of musical trends, retro sounds dominated the scene, taking inspiration from synth-pop, to disco, to Jersey club. There’s a few blustering tracks, too, proving K-pop’s versatility and reinvention powers in a style that has been often overused.

Years from now, when we look back to the sounds that shaped 2023, the 15 songs below — listed by order of release — will definitely be remembered:

Fifty Fifty - "Cupid"

Rookie girl group Fifty Fifty turned heads with their sublime debut EP, The Fifty, at the end of 2022. This year, they made their first comeback in February with the sweet "Cupid" and reached even further. The single went massively viral on TikTok, peaked at number 17 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and reached no. 8 on the UK Singles Chart.

Fifty Fifty were poised to be 2023’s big breakouts — an impressive feat for a group coming from a small company like ATTRAKT. However, at the end of June, the quartet found themselves embroiled in a complex legal battle against the label. In October, ATTRAKT terminated the contracts of members Aran, Sio, and Saena, leaving Keena as the only active member of the group. For all those reasons, "Cupid" is a bittersweet listen. Its sugary synths and bubbly harmonies are still delightful, but its background story and the feeling of lost potential tinge every chord with sadness.

Jimin - "Like Crazy"

BTS’s Jimin had long proved his prowess as a soloist (seen in "Lie," his 2016 solo released under the group), but it wasn’t until this year that he put forward a proper solo debut album. Out in March, Face presented Jimin at his truest: he co-wrote five out of six songs, and helped conceptualize the record and the music video for title track "Like Crazy."

Inspired by the 2011 movie of the same name, "Like Crazy" is a dark synth-pop journey through desperation. In the lyrics, Jimin tries to hold together whatever is left of a crumbling relationship. "I'd rather be / Lost in the lights, lost in the lights / I'm outta my mind / Can you help me numb the pain?" he pleads. Delivered with stirring mastery, the song resonated with audiences across the globe, leading Jimin to become the first South Korean to top Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Jisoo - "Flower"

After Jennie’s "Solo," Rosé’s R and Lisa’s Lalisa, BLACKPINK fans couldn’t be more eager for the quartet’s final member, Jisoo, to make her solo debut. Luckily, her single album Me came out in March, featuring lead single "Flower" and b-side "All Eyes on Me." At the time of release, Jisoo became the first K-pop female solo artist to become a million-seller, with Me exceeding 1.31 million pre-orders.

"Flower" is elegant and delicate, with pop synths that swirl around trap beats and lots of space. Traditional Korean music elements enhance its royal feel, while Jisoo’s husky vocals lament the loss of a relationship. Here, Jisoo proves her potential as a soloist, and opens the doors for BLACKPINK to begin a new era.

IVE - "I Am"

Another promising girl group to emerge in 2022, IVE are hitmakers with an empowering edge. From the meaning of their name ("I have") to their self-penned lyrics, the sextet aims to give the public as much confidence as they display on stage.

"I Am" spearheaded their first full album release in April, I’ve IVE, and quickly topped music charts in South Korea. With a disco flair reminiscent of ABBA, the single is a momentous celebration that reminds us to live life to the fullest. As they sing in the chorus: "That's my life, it’s a beautiful galaxy / Be a writer, the genre is fantasy / A big, big stage will open for me tomorrow / So that is who I am."

NCT DOJAEJUNG - "Perfume"

SM Entertainment’s decision to unite three of the smoothest vocalists under NCT into a subunit was one of 2023’s best decisions. Formed by Doyoung, Jaehyun and Jungwoo — or DOJAEJUNG — the trio released the unexpected but impeccable EP Perfume in April.

The eponymous title track encapsulates their vocal talents in a sultry R&B jam, overflowing with ‘90s nostalgia and heavenly harmonies. "I'll fill your day with heavenly scents / To remind you of my name at every step," they sing. Like the best perfumes, its notes spread and linger, creating a mesmerizing effect. Few songs flow so effortlessly.

Seventeen - "Super (손오공)"

Since their debut in 2015, one of K-pop’s most beloved acts, Seventeen, shows no signs of slowing down. The 13-member group continues to grow their fanbase and break records every year — 2023’s proof being their tenth EP released in April, FML. According to their agency, Pledis Entertainment, the EP sold 6.2 million copies — the highest sales ever in K-pop — and recently won Album of the Year at the 2023 MAMA Awards.

FML came with two lead singles, "F*ck My Life" and "Super," but it’s the latter’s grandiosity that stood out the most. Inspired by Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King of classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, the boisterous track blends Jersey club and bass drums into a larger-than-life celebration. "I love my team, I love my crew / We already made it this far," they sing, acknowledging what brought them to where they are.

Le Sserafim - "Unforgiven"

When the legendary Nile Rodgers chooses your song to be his first foray into K-pop, you must be doing something right. That is the case of Le Sserafim, the fearless girl group under Source Music (a sub-label of HYBE), and their May single "Unforgiven."

Off their debut studio album, also named Unforgiven, the track samples Ennio Morricone’s theme song from the 1966 film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, with Rodgers’ funky chords adding even more flair to a pop-country, hip-hop feast. "Never asked for forgiveness or anything / Gonna target taboos, watch me now," the quintet professes. Above all, "Unforgiven" is about freedom, and extends that concept to music creation as well.

aespa - "Spicy"

"Tell me what you see / When you look at me / ‘Cause I am a 10 out of 10, honestly," raps Giselle in the ultra-confident "Spicy." Off aespa’s third EP released in May, MY World, this gripping single provides the best of cheeky ‘90s pop mixed with rubbery synths and a revving pulse.

The SM Entertainment quartet gained attention upon their 2020 debut for incorporating avatars of themselves (æ-aespa) and an AI-inspired lore in their music. As their discography has grown, their concept and sound evolved to encompass new styles that reflect a bulletproof self-esteem. With "Spicy," aespa have proven to be more than just a hyper-tech fad, and entered main character territory.

(G)I-dle - "Queencard"

During a press conference for the release of their sixth EP in May, I Feel, the leader and producer of (G)I-dle, Soyeon, said that "the core message of 'Queencard' is that you can be a beautiful person if you adore yourself."   

If you aren’t there yet, "Queencard" might just be the antidote. Here, (G)I-dle employ their megawatt charisma to deliver an irreverent, unabashedly pop track with hints of rock and roll. Part satire, part girl power anthem, "Queencard, I’m hot / My boob and booty is hot," is one of the most iconic lines of 2023, and if that doesn’t boost your self-esteem just a little, you might be taking yourself too seriously.

ATEEZ - "Bouncy (K-Hot Chilli Peppers)"

ATEEZ are one of the most commanding boy groups in K-pop. Since debuting in 2018, they captivate the stage: their facial expressions, knife-sharp choreographies, and hard-hitting sounds make it impossible to do otherwise.

Cut to 2023, when they made everyone "slow it down" and "make it bouncy," as goes the chorus of their June single "Bouncy (K-Hot Chilli Peppers)." Aside from the name reference, this has nothing to do with the Red Hot Chili Peppers — ATEEZ just wanted to show the world "A different kind of spicy, Cheongyang chili pepper vibe." It works. "Bouncy" is a tour de force in their discography, making a wild spectacle out of distorted, dystopian chaos.

NewJeans - "Super Shy"

2023’s definite hit of the summer came by the hands of NewJeans — the trailblazing girl group from HYBE’s sub-label ADOR. Their 2022 debut EP, New Jeans, took K-pop by storm, but this year proved they’re global stars to watch: the quintet was nominated Time's Next Generation Leaders, landed high fashion ambassadorships with brands like Gucci and YSL, performed at Lollapalooza in August, and released their sophomore EP in July, Get Up.

"Super Shy" is the album’s effervescent first single. "I'm super shy, super shy / But wait a minute while I / Make you mine, make you mine," they sing in flirtatious lilts, underpinned by UK garage and Jersey club beats. The result is a shot of pure pop serotonin.

NCT Dream - "ISTJ"

July’s "ISTJ" brings soaring harmonies and a propulsive melody to shape one of this year’s most enthusiastic hits. Off NCT Dream’s third studio album of the same name, it was inspired by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test, which is widely popular in South Korea. Individuals with the ISTJ personality type are said to be quiet and practical — nothing to do with the high-energy hip hop that NCT Dream portray in their song.

However, that’s because "ISTJ" is written from the point of view of their opposite type: ENFPs, who are usually the life of the party. Such a creative concept reinforces why NCT Dream keep on rising — from the teen sub-group made up of the youngest members from the collective NCT, they have now matured into charismatic leaders of their own.

AKMU - "Love Lee"

The first release in two years from sibling duo AKMU — formed by Lee Su-hyun and Lee Chan-hyuk — "Love Lee" is as lovely as it sounds. Out in August along b-side "Fry’s Dream," the track swept Korean charts since day one, and stayed atop the Circle Digital Chart (one of the biggest music charts in the country) for six non-consecutive weeks.

Initially unassuming, this jaunty ballad reveals its charms slowly, like honey dripping from a spoon. Su-hyun’s crystalline voice would be enough to steal the show, but here it is paired with sweet production quirks from Chan-hyuk, making the track a simple, yet memorable highlight of 2023.

RIIZE - "Get a Guitar"

For the past seven years, all male trainees under SM Entertainment eventually debuted in NCT — a larger group which holds several units like NCT 127 and NCT Dream. 2023 marked a change in that dynamic: in September, fresh-faced RIIZE launched their first single album, Get a Guitar.

The groovy title track is anchored by guitar plucks and retro synths, providing a feel-good introduction to their charms and a bright, light vibe to follow. Preceded by the wistful "Memories," Get a Guitar was a commercial success, receiving over 1 million pre-order sales — a new record for debut albums under SM. In 2024, these young men are sure to rise even higher, starting with an upcoming comeback on January 5.

Jung Kook - "Standing Next to You"

BTS’s youngest member Jung Kook took his time to officially launch a solo career. Since the band announced a break in group activities last year, he carefully directed his efforts to the Western market, releasing a series of collaborative singles like "Left and Right" with Charlie Puth, 2022 FIFA World Cup’s "Dreamers,"  "Seven" with rapper Latto and "3D" featuring Jack Harlow.

While all these songs are hits on their own, it turns out Jung Kook was saving the best for last. In November, he finally dropped his debut solo album, Golden, and title track "Standing Next to You." Inspired by the best of Michael Jackson, he moves through the song with conviction and poise, delivering a timeless hit for years to come.

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