meta-scriptWhat's Next For K-Pop? A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future | GRAMMY.com
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(Back) Simon Jakops, Dom Rodriguez, Adrian McKinnon, Marion Van der wees (Front) Stray Kids, Twice

All images courtesy of Artist except Stray Kids (Jun Sato/WireImage via GettyImages) and Twice (JYP Entertainment).

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

K-pop evolves each year, but what makes it so enticing? And what awaits in the future? GRAMMY.com invited industry leaders, and members of TWICE and Stray Kids, to discuss K-pop's current state, biggest misconceptions, and celebrate its magic.

GRAMMYs/Jul 11, 2023 - 05:18 pm

K-pop recently entered its third decade since pioneers Seo Taiji and Boys upheaved South Korea with 1992’s nonconforming "Nan Arayo" — considered by many the inception of the industry. Propelled by the Hallyu (or Korean Wave, the phenomenon driving international growth and popularity to the country’s cultural exports), K-pop has evolved from a niche genre to a global scene whose influence is felt in music, fashion, business, tech, and many other fields.

Characterized by a strong visual focus, musical innovation that can include anything from reggae to EDM influences in a single song, knife-sharp choreographies, and devoted fandoms, K-pop’s reach outside of South Korea is nothing short of outstanding — if not expected. While mostly known for multi-member boy and girl groups (some with upwards to 10 singers), there are also plenty of soloists, duos, trios, and a few co-ed ensembles, ensuring that even the pickiest music listener can find something to enjoy.

Its idols — as K-pop artists are called — are inspirational, often skilled in singing, dancing, rapping, songwriting, and producing after years of arduous training. Many are fashion ambassadors to high fashion brands (such as BTSJimin for Dior), and several have ventured into acting, modeling, and designing their own collections. Idols remain in touch with global fans through tours, fan meetings, virtual fancalls and social media, including  K-pop-specific paid apps, like HYBE’s Weverse and DearU’s Bubble, where they can send direct messages to fans detailing their routines and heartfelt thoughts.

All those factors contribute to the worldwide growth of K-pop. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, eight of the top 10 global album sales in 2022 were by K-pop acts, including BTS, Stray Kids, and ENHYPEN. For the first quarter of 2023, Billboard reported that stocks from K-pop's largest companies — HYBE, SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment — have risen an average of 75.1 percent year to date, surpassing both Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, which each presented a decline. 

Ten years after PSY’s 2012 mania "Gangnam Style," K-pop has risen to the upper echelons of the music industry. A BTS music video nominated for A GRAMMY Award (last year’s "Yet to Come"); Fifty Fifty’s viral hit "Cupid" can be heard on the radio; BLACKPINK headlined Coachella and TWICE sold out Los Angeles' SoFI Stadium.  Each a feat that seemed impossible not too long ago.

Moving at breakneck speed, K-pop continues to present a new evolution of itself within each year. But what makes it so enticing? And what awaits in the future? GRAMMY.com invited several leaders and luminaries of the industry to discuss its current state, demystify some of its biggest misconceptions, and celebrate its magic.

Quotes from these interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

What do you think are the key elements to make a K-pop hit? Have these elements changed throughout the years?

Vince (singer/songwriter/producer under THEBLACKLABEL, an associate company to YG Entertainment): Being a Korean American living in Korea gave me cultural influences that are unique and diverse. With so many creatives from different backgrounds just like mine, I think we’ve been able to make songs that blend all those influences and resonate with not only the Korean audience, but the global audience too. Also, our emphasis on making the right visuals to provide a wholesome experience was a major key to success. I think this approach hasn’t changed and we will continue to do that moving forward.

Marion Van der wees (manager/A&R consultant at VDW Music Group, who placed songs for BTS, TXT, and more): Honestly, nowadays, nobody knows what a hit is. Lots of songs have gone viral in the most surprising ways. Fifty Fifty, who recently debuted, is now topping the global charts with their song "Cupid." However, the ideal recipe for a great K-pop song would be a catchy hook/chorus — which is usually in English so more people can sing it — and a danceable song that can bring on a choreography that is infectious enough so people want to learn them and make TikToks.

Nayeon (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): First, I think we were lucky enough to have amazing songs. "Luck" plays an important role when making a hit. Also, there has to be a concept, choreography, and additional content to support it. I don’t think these factors change with time drastically, but rather our attitudes and minds tend to change.

Adrian McKinnon (songwriter, producer): I think it's important to love what you're working on, period. In any career, there comes a point when a person can just phone in an idea, a letter, a proposal, etc. You may be able to get away with that once or twice, but if you get used to operating in that manner, don't be surprised if you get fewer and fewer calls over time. When you love what you do, you grow. When you float along half-assing your work, you're stagnant.

Wonderkid (songwriter/producer under BELIFT LAB, a label founded by CJ ENM and HYBE responsible for boy group ENHYPEN): It is difficult to make a public appeal solely through the power that a track holds. When the concept and plan go hand in hand with the track, it creates a synergistic effect.

There are definitely certain trends during certain periods, but it’s mostly a façade. At the core of high quality music (or art) in any era lies in the essence of "beauty." I think artists should always be humble when it comes to the beauty of art, which is the only definite signpost that connects the past, present, and future.

Changbin (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): I think that keeping our style consistent while venturing into diverse sounds is part of what allows people to listen to our music. At first it was difficult because our color is very strong, but now we have a solid idea as to what direction we have to go in. [Editor's note: "Colors" are often used in reference to a group's charms, musical identity and appeal.]

HAN (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): Trends change very quickly these days, so while I do believe that there are certain sounds that are trending, I don’t necessarily believe that trends are what make a good song. The fact that Stray Kids’ music is always consistent is the reason why listeners are interested in us. A successful song should contain something familiar yet fresh.

Felix (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): I don’t believe we’ve found the key elements to make a K-pop hit yet, but we do have our own way of making our own music. We understand and can express our colors well.

Although K-pop reached unimaginable heights since its origins, it's still an industry that is often misunderstood. Why do you think it's so hard for people to appreciate the true value of K-pop?

Vince: I think idols get misunderstood because they have to present themselves in the media in a lot more diverse ways than a conventional artist would. Most of them are people that have been training to do music for years and are just like any other artist who go through the process of making music. A lot of times, for me, it was a cooperative effort in the studio with artists —  just like with any other writer and producer.

Shin Cho (Head of K-pop at Warner Music Asia): I simply see it as stereotypes, misunderstandings, and preferences from people who come from a different background. This occurs in many industries, not just music. 

One might think a self-producing singer/songwriter is a better artist than a K-pop group. Although the scene is continuously evolving, K-pop idols are more closely monitored and coached by talented and experienced professionals, compared to other genres. It’s an approach that has created its own successes, but I see why it’s a method that not many can agree on. 

McKinnon: I want to preface this answer with my belief that K-pop idols are some of the hardest-working people in show business. I've spoken to some of my idol friends about their daily routines. Let's just say they are very, very busy people.

I think it's multi-layered. People know that idols work within a system of creators, stylists, choreographers, taste-makers, and directors who, more often than not, put together all the ideas for them. I've heard of people challenging their authenticity because of this. I don't think this is fair, because systems like this exist outside of K-pop as well. It's also important to mention that there are many K-pop idols who have more hands-on with their projects.

Simon Jakops (CEO/Executive Producer at XGALX, responsible for girl group XG; former member of boy group DMTN): Being involved in the K-pop scene for over 10 years, I believe that idols are true artists. For the K-pop system, there is an element that is considered as important as talent, and it is "spirit." A true artist won’t lose the grit to walk their own path.

I have been in charge of producing and directing XG, a girl group with all-Japanese members currently active in Korea, for the past six years. It took five years for them to debut. Out of 1,300 applicants, only seven made their final debut. I believe K-pop stars' challenging spirit and dedication [to the process] are one of the most basic virtues an artist should have. And I hope that these qualities will be evaluated more properly.

Dom Rodriguez (SVP/Head of SM Entertainment USA): I often find myself comparing K-pop idols to professional athletes: people who work and strive for years and years to take raw talent and develop it to the highest level. When people take a moment to understand the dedication, commitment, and passion that goes into becoming a K-pop artist, they quickly learn how to appreciate that and any of those other thoughts they might have are put to rest.

Many media outlets spread harmful narratives about K-pop. Claims of it being a "factory system" or that it hides a "dark side" worse than any other field only flatten and dehumanize the very real humans behind it. What would you like to say about these misconceptions?

Vince: We have so many people trying to be "in the system" to become artists, but it’s really a select few that get to come and go through the training program. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t witnessed any dehumanizing process with the "system" at all.

Cho: Incubating and developing a K-pop artist is a massive investment. It’s a business that cannot be operated without real humans’ dedication and commitment. There were cases where "factory system" and "dark side" happened, but at least in this new K-pop era, no labels that carried over some of those bad practices have survived.

Wonderkid: To understand the misconceptions about the K-pop industry, you need to understand the situation in South Korea, both past and present. The word "factory system" brings an image of a cold factory full of machines churning out products without any passion. [If it were,] the public would see right through it and turn away immediately. If "factory system" pertains to "well-organized systems in place to do multiple tasks simultaneously," then I would agree with this specific concept.

Earlier this year, HYBE's Chairman Bang Si-hyuk said in an interview for CNN that "K-pop is not as hot in the market as you might perceive," and was concerned about its slowdown in growth. Is this something you are also experiencing in your work?

Van der wees: On the song side it’s the opposite. More than ever, competition is at its peak, in my opinion. A lot of people reach out to me to work in K-pop, and it feels like it's fast growing.

Wonderkid: As a producer, I may not be fully aware of the business side of the K-pop industry like Chairman Bang does, but I respect his insights and do not take his concerns lightly. I am constantly studying and playing with different musical genres and trends to keep K-pop up to the latest trend. Quality content will yield results and putting all of my effort into creating quality content is the most I can do.

Jakops: Rather paradoxically, Chairman Bang's quote proves the huge influence K-pop has in the current global music market. The most fearful moment could be when you are receiving the greatest love. As a producer myself, I always focus on "novelty." Whatever the element, I would like to propose an idea that has not been seen in the existing K-pop scene. Fans are also waiting for that kind of music. New sounds, new members, new visuals, whatever.

With the advent of AI, the music industry will likely experience changes. In what ways do you think AI will impact your work?

Vince: I am very fascinated by AI technology, and it will definitely impact the music industry and my work. Now that AI-generated voices can sing anything, I do think it is very dangerous, because I don’t think there are set laws regarding the ownership of voices and the ownership of rights to AI-generated intellectual properties. How we set the rules on these matters will shape how AI will impact the industry.

Van der wees: If AI starts writing songs and labels want to go that route, we will be in trouble. But we are humans and we connect deeper on a human level, a.k.a imperfection. Collaborations between writers, producers, and artists are such a fun process that will hopefully never go away.

Cho: I think AI could enhance and open up new opportunities in different areas of the music industry. On my marketing team, for example, we have started to encourage utilizing ChatGPT in administrative works, translations, and supporting creative problems. I believe that AI technology can potentially become a new day-to-day ritual, like using the Internet and social media.

Wonderkid: AI can be a good tool for first-level reference, where you don't need to go through complicated, emotional steps, and I look forward to seeing how it develops to be a creative tool. However, as someone who works in the industry, I don't think it's had a significant impact yet. 

I think creators and the public alike read and love "subconscious messages" embedded in art, but there is no "subconsciousness" in an AI's work. It looks good on the surface, but we recognize what is missing in half a second. I think of it as falling in love with a robot: it may someday be possible, but it would take a very, very long time.

Jakops: The rise of AI represents a paradigm shift in the music industry. AI can not only create melodies, write lyrics, or compose entire works, but it can also spot trends and influence creative direction through data analysis. You can see that they are already trying to introduce it into some fields, such as writing lyrics. It will also help redefine the way artists connect with their fans and deliver personalized experiences across multiple channels. 

I think AI will serve as an opportunity for human nature, originality, and creativity to stand out more. The challenge will be striking the right balance between harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence and maintaining the human element in music.

Although not every group can be an unprecedented phenomenon on a global scale, more and more K-pop acts have seen steady success promoting overseas, like TWICE becoming the first girl group from any country to sell out L.A.'s SoFi Stadium this year. Do you think it's essential for a group to chase global appeal?

Van der wees: I'm a big world advocate. It's more entertaining to chase global appeal, but not everybody has the budget for it. If labels see the potential for global success and have the financial support, they should definitely do it. There are a few groups, like ATEEZ, who actually have a bigger fan base outside of South Korea.

McKinnon: I think it's important for business, sure. With Bang Si-hyuk's notion that "K-pop is not as hot in the market as you might perceive," and from my experience of hearing some fans not liking the idea of their favorite idols globalizing, there may be a bit of a tug-of-war. In my opinion, K-pop groups going global will benefit the whole music industry.

Jakops: It is true that XG started their activities in the K-pop scene, where idol artists are most active, but in reality, the music that XG develops is called "XPOP." It contains the desire to develop music and activities that can be shared with people around the world, not limited to groups that express the musical characteristics of a single country.

Rodriguez: At this point, the genre is global. There are so many fans all over the world who love K-pop, and our acts have truly reached that global level. Because that appetite is there, as an artist, you would want to try to reach as many fans as possible. With all of the platforms available, you can reach millions of people at once with the push of a button and, if and when you can, show up to meet your fans in person across the globe.

K-pop is an extremely prolific market. How do you make sure your work stands out and maintains high levels of quality?

Van der wees: My writers love challenging melodies, lyrics, production, and strive for better each time. We deliver as great of demos as possible, and then it's in the label's hand to decide what they prefer and finalize the song with their in-house team. We sometimes won't even know a song will be released until a few days before the release date.

Momo (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): I'd like to know the answer to that as well. In my case, I try my best to pull off the concept of each song. Also, our members work hard to synchronize our choreography in a short amount of time.

Dahyun (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): We try to maintain TWICE’s identity, but also change it up a little bit to show different sides of us.

McKinnon: Be great. Take time to do it right. Be great. Utilize your network wisely. Be great. Maintain a positive attitude but be true to yourself. Be great. Don't be selfish. Be great.

Jakops: In the fierce market competition, the basis for establishing XG's unique identity is the character of each member who has been with me for more than five years. Music is an industry where people are more important than systems. I have been concentrating on the idea that discovering each member's character and bringing them to life can be our most important weapon. 

I emphasize teamwork; our team gathers ideas every day on how to make the next project bigger and better than the previous one. It requires a lot of time and effort, but it's no exaggeration to say that it's our everything. The only way to get better at something is to practice consistently.

Bang Chan (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): A lot of thought goes into the process, for sure. It’s pressuring to know that there are a lot of people out there expecting something big from us. However, enjoying that process and producing something new that people haven’t seen yet makes everything more fun and reduces the burden on our shoulders.

Lee Know (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): We continuously seek inspiration from everyday life. We also workout all the time to increase our stamina, which is something that really helps us pull through.

Some K-pop labels apply a "try everything and see what sticks" method for their artists. Do you think that having a solid identity is crucial for success?

Van der wees: There is a strategy behind everything. I think concepts are what make K-pop, K-pop. Some bands might have specific identities but it doesn’t stop them from having variety in their releases. Labels even create sub-groups nowadays to expand their sound and outreach. Each group has its specificity and there is a bit of everything for everybody. 

Cho: There are two ways to look at this. A negative way of looking is that there is no strategy and plan. A more positive way is that there is a flexibility in trying different things, even if they are outside of one’s comfort zone. Enhancing the mindset of the latter, and finding better solutions on the former, I feel like the K-pop industry can find a good balance to reach success.

Sana (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): In my opinion, regardless of a solid concept or sound identity, making music that the artist wants and enjoys is the most important. The fact that the artists themselves enjoy their music will be the biggest charm to people.

Chaeyoung (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): When you're a rookie group you can try different concepts and music, and naturally you’ll find your own team color. The longer I have been in TWICE, I have realized that. I wish people will be able to listen to a song and say, "That sounds like TWICE!"

Jakops: I firmly believe that only when all the direction of training, the selection of music, the crafting process, the visual works, and marketing activities are carried out with a solid, definite concept, the results that the public will love can come out.

Hyunjin (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): I think that once you find your own style, the identity of the group as a whole becomes much clearer, making it easier to win the hearts of fans. Diverse concepts and styles within this boundary will make everything less repetitive, adding to the uniqueness of the group.

I.N (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): I wouldn’t say this is the only way to success. I believe the most important thing is consistently working on improving your abilities. Without personal improvement, it will be difficult to succeed on larger scales.

Rodriguez: Every new project begins with the music. Music drives creativity. The instrumentation, the tempo, the lyrics, the concept of the song, this is what drives the vision. So, for us, it’s not "throwing something at the wall," but rather a creative process that brings a vision to life, which is then executed musically and visually and brought to the masses.

Why do you think there is such a focus in finding "the next generation" of K-pop, even though many artists thrive through multiple of them?

Mina (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): Each generation has their own trends and characteristics, so I think people divide them because they want to remember and cherish each specific generation by their own color. For "the next generation" people will want to do the same.

Jihyo (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): We would love to see everyone enjoying our music without too much focus on which generation it is.

Rodriguez: One view of looking at the generations of music is looking at an artist from their debut through various points of their career. From a company perspective, we are always looking at artists’ development, which is something that U.S. labels often don’t do anymore. We invest in talent, we invest in people, and we give them an opportunity to become the best they can be and achieve their dreams in the hopes that they will become leaders of that next generation.

Where do you think K-pop is headed in the next few years?

Jeongyeon (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): Nowadays, all K-pop acts are beautiful and talented, so I think it would be great if we could see more music and concepts that suit their age.

Tzuyu (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): I'd like to see more collaborations between artists, because I think it's a very unexpected, fun element.

Vince: We don’t call pop music from America "American pop", we just call it "pop." I think music is going to lose its regional borders and music from anywhere will eventually be able to be called just "pop" as long as it’s a hit record. The lines will be blurred and, eventually, names like K-pop, Latin Pop, Afropop will just become "pop."

Cho: K-pop is at a crucial time for the next evolution. It’s hard to predict what’s next, but what I suspect to see is "k-Pop," where "K" is less emphasized than "pop." There will be more hybrid formats of music coming out, and I hope that the K-pop industry can be a leader in this field.

Wonderkid: K-pop will maintain its appeal because it’s on a solid foundation that has been built up over a long period of time. K-pop has been developed in Korea, but will be adopted in multiple countries. It is already happening, young listeners around the world will aspire to be K-pop artists as they grow up. Not all of them will be able to audition and train in Korea, and each country will develop their own versions of K-pop. That will give birth to new music and culture, just as hip hop and rock have influenced the music industry across the globe.

Seungmin (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): I do hope that we, Stray Kids, will be at the forefront, leading the way. It’s difficult to imagine what it would be like as the world is changing at a very fast rate, but I’m looking forward to seeing a more futuristic side of K-pop.

Rodriguez: As excited as I am about the many successes that we have had within SM, and the many successes the genre has been able to celebrate in recent years, I firmly believe that we are just getting started. We are at a place where everybody knows that K-pop is here to stay as an important part of pop culture. I know we will continue to see more and more artists from this genre influencing the culture of music globally.

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TWICE's Nayeon On Embracing Authenticity For 'NA'
Nayeon

Courtesy of JYP Entertainment

interview

The ABCDs Of Nayeon: How The TWICE Member Embraced Her Authenticity On ‘NA’

With her second solo release, K-pop idol Im Nayeon is unapologetically confident and boldly experimental. Out June 14, 'NA' contains English and Korean language tracks alongside collaborations with prominent Korean artists.

GRAMMYs/Jun 13, 2024 - 05:20 pm

K-pop idol Im Nayeon is a pioneer with many firsts attached to her name: She was the first to become a member of TWICE, the first from the group to go solo, and was the first-ever K-pop soloist to enter the Billboard Top 10. Now, Nayeon is the first member of TWICE to release a second solo album. 

Nearly two years after her solo debut, Nayeon arrives with a new mini-album, NA —  the title a play on her name and the Korean word for "me." The seven-track record highlights the singer’s unapologetic nature, exploring themes of self-confidence, romance, and tenacity. Nayeon has certainly had to be tenacious in her road to the new EP.

"I don’t know if you can tell, but I really can’t believe that this moment is [finally] happening," Nayeon tells GRAMMY.com. "I really wanted to showcase myself as a confident woman this time around."

NA contains a mix of English and Korean language tracks alongside collaborations with prominent Korean artists. Throughout, the singer tackles pop, R&B, dance and electro-pop with ease. Lead single "ABCD" takes inspiration from 2000s era pop divas, adding hints of hip-hop as Nayeon teaches the A-Zs of love with witty lyrics and a magnetizing rhythm. While Nayeon has previously sung about love with flirtatious undertones, "ABCD" shows the singer's straightforward intentions. 

It seems becoming a superstar was fated for the Seoul native. When she was young, Nayeon caught the attention of agents at JYP Entertainment from a modeling contest — however, given her age, her mother refused to let her sign with an entertainment agency. At 14, Nayeon defied her mom's decision and snuck out of her home to attend JYPE’s 2010 open casting, where she passed the audition and ranked in second place. With her strong ambition to pursue an idol career, Nayeon decided to join JYPE as a trainee that same year.

After three years of training, she was slated to debut as a member of a girl group 6MIX. However, the debut was scrapped afterJYPE was unable to find replacements for members that exited the project. In 2015, Nayeon was chosen from a pool of trainees to enter JYPE’s survival program "Sixteen," and became the first member chosen for nine-piece girl group TWICE. Nayeon is the group's face, as well as its eldest member, lead vocalist, and dancer. 

Nayeon has since become one of the most recognizable members of TWICE, best known for her impressive vocal range and warm essence. Her public image became the epitome of an animated K-pop idol, always exhibiting her youthful personality and sunny disposition to everyone she encounters. Over the course of nine years together in TWICE and hundreds of releases later, Nayeon has proved herself to be the spine of the global girl group. 

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Nayeon introduced herself to the world as a soloist in June 2022 with her debut album IM NAYEON, a high-spirited and feel-good summer EP that showcased her perky identity. The album hit No.1 on Billboard's Top Album Sales chart — the highest-selling album in the week of its release — and debuted No .7 on the Billboard 200. Lead single "POP!" has since turned into a fan-favorite, and remains a singalong anthem at TWICE’s concerts two years later. 

While IM NAYEON built off her easy going nature, NA will leave fans enamored by Nayeon’s artistic awakening and newly matured chapter in her solo career. The album’s trailer and concept photos unveiled Nayeon’s assured, hip and hot appeal — a side she has yet to show as a soloist. 

GRAMMY.com caught up with Nayeon via Zoom to learn more about the creation of NA, and how the past two years have impacted her as a soloist and individual. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Is there anything that feels different in terms of releasing NA nearly two years after your solo debut album?

Because my first solo album was the first solo work ever done by a member of TWICE, the pressure was pretty high. There was fear in me, as well, to try something completely new. But since [NA] is my second album as a soloist, I did [my best] to enjoy the ride more this time around. 

I can't say that I'm completely comfortable right now being a solo artist. But compared to [IM NAYEON], I'm much more at ease about it. 

Is there anything new you wanted to showcase this time around in NA?

The performance for the title song "ABCD" is quite different from what I have typically been showing [as TWICE]. So [in that essence], this is what’s new and challenging for [NA].

The performance itself is very powerful, and I wanted to express a bold and cool side of me. Of course, I have shown that side of me [before] during TWICE concerts or performances, but with "ABCD," I want it to be different from [IM NAYEON] specifically, which was just a totally different vibe [in comparison]. 

Does it feel easier to showcase this bolder side of yourself now that you've been a soloist for a few years?

Since I have been working as one of the members of TWICE for so long, I think it feels more meaningful if I show a different side of me through my solo work. So [while] it's new and fun, I can't say that it's easier.

I think it'll be fun for our fans. They receive it really well when we show off a different side of [ourselves]. [Our fans] encourage us a lot so I think it's a great change of pace.

You collaborated with a variety of artists on NA, including American singer/songwriter Sam Kim and K-pop artists Lee Chan-hyuk (AKMU) and Julie (KISS OF LIFE). How was that experience for you?

When I work as [TWICE], there are so many of us that it's really hard to collaborate with other artists. We don't really get that opportunity that often. But when it comes to solo work, it's a really fun and rewarding experience to work with many different artists. 

I haven't really gotten the chance to meet and talk with the artists featured on my album, but it was me who initiated the collaboration process. I specifically asked Lee Chanhyuk, Julie, and Sam Kim to collaborate with me. [That] was a really new experience for me and it just felt great.

I’ve been a huge fan of Lee Chanhyuk for a very long time, so that’s why I specifically asked for him to [help produce] in ["HalliGalli"]. For the song "Magic," we were looking for a female rapper and I had my eye on Julie from KISS OF LIFE. After seeing her perform, I loved [her]! So I very strongly suggested my opinion to have her feature with me on this track. 

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It seems like you’re revealing more of yourself with NA. Would you say that this new album is an extension to IM NAYEON?

Oh, of course! The concept and overall theme is much different from [IM NAYEON]. But since both [albums] focus on me as an artist, I think you can say that some parts are an extension while other parts reveal a different side of me.

Were there any expectations or challenges you faced during the album-making process?

Although "POP!" also featured intense choreography, "ABCD" demands a different kind of expression — prompting me to focus more on the performance aspect. 

Additionally, as this is a solo album, I must exert more energy compared to performing with a group. I have to command the entire stage alone for one song. Consequently, I am somewhat concerned that people may perceive me as exhausted, though I will do my best to prevent that! 

Since the release of IM NAYEON, how have you evolved as a person and an artist?

Many people saw that [IM NAYEON] really suited me and my public image. In [NA], I’m revealing a more confident and new side of me. The performance and concept challenged me to evolve [as an artist] in that aspect. 

I have grown a lot as an individual. I released my first solo debut album, and in TWICE, we just completed a huge scale world tour. Next year marks the 10th anniversary for [TWICE] as well. These past few years have been a period of self reflection with the opportunity for [more] growth. 

I have really come to realize why I chose this profession. That realization became a drive as an artist to keep moving forward and improve [upon] myself. 

Read more: Inside SoFi Stadium At TWICE’s Record-Breaking L.A. Show

Over the course of your career, are there important lessons or insights you’ve learned?

I think one of the biggest insights I’ve noticed in the past few years is how valuable the members of TWICE are [to me]. There are things that I cannot do alone but am able to do because TWICE are right beside me. I realized that my fears go away when I’m with the TWICE members. I have come to appreciate them even more over the last few years. I realized even more now how important their existence is to me while working as a solo artist. 

It seems as if TWICE are your encouragement and driving force.

Yes, they really are! 

TWICE's Jihyo Takes Steps Into Her 'Zone' On Debut EP

Members Of J-Pop Group JO1
JO1

Photo: LAPONE Entertainment

interview

JO1's Big Year: Follow The J-Pop Group's Rise, From Their First U.S. Appearance To One Of Japan's Biggest Venues

With a new album, 'HITCHHIKER' out in the world, JO1 are on a road to success. The 11-member J-pop act spoke with GRAMMY.com about their impressive past year, and their hopes for the future.

GRAMMYs/May 29, 2024 - 01:13 pm

Immersed in a sea of lights and basking in the clamor of tens of thousands of fans at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, one of Japan's largest venues, JO1 felt a profound fulfillment. The 11-member J-pop group brimmed with gratitude at the realization that the road to their shared dream had stretched wide open.
Over a video call from Tokyo,
vocal leader Junki Kono reminisces about the power of JO1's two November shows at the dome — his former employer. "I was impressed by the fact that I was seeing the same view but from completely different sides – from the perspective of a security guard to the one of an artist," he tells GRAMMY.com. "In the next dome concert, I want our fans to be more excited about our performance, and I want to show them something even better."

This sense of conviction has been ingrained in JO1's DNA since the outset. In 2019, each member bet on faith and auditioned for the inaugural season of "Produce 101 Japan," a television contest aimed at creating a boy group chosen by the public. After 12 nerve-wracking episodes, Takumi Kawanishi, Issei Mamehara, Sho Yonashiro, Ren Kawashiri, Junki Kono, Shosei Ohira, Ruki Shiroiwa, Shion Tsurubo, Sukai Kinjo, Syoya Kimata, and Keigo Sato were crowned JO1

However, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the newly debuted group to build from scratch while their fans watched them grow from afar. Their tenacity prevailed and, today, JO1 is at a zenith where collective harmony coalesces with individual projects. 

The past 12 months have been a whirlwind journey. JO1 traveled to California for their first performance stateside at KCON LA 2023 and embarked on their second arena tour, which later expanded to Jakarta, Bangkok, Taipei, and Shanghai — their first concerts outside their home country. The tour drew a total of 200,000 attendees and led to a pair of encore shows at the Kyocera Dome. Moreover, aside from new music, their solo artistry was enhanced with acting roles and other creative pursuits.

And the group has no plans to slow down. "I know that many people have a final destination in mind when planning a trip, but for me and the rest of JO1, I'm not quite sure what that final destination is," says Shion Tsurubo. "I believe what's important is that we can enjoy the process and the journey itself."

The next horizon is their eighth extended play, HITCHHIKER. Confident and lively, the six-track production pulsates with versatility, and its funky title track, "Love seeker," is a sonic adventure where to be enamored is the ultimate goal. Or, as JO1's leader Sho Yonashiro puts it, "love for everything. For our songs, our fans, and our members."

As JO1 prepares to continue running "with top speed," they pull the break for a bit and unravel the most important year of their trajectory so far. Fasten your seatbelt.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Developing Their Artistry From The Stage To The Silver Screen

Ruki Shiroiwa: Seiji, my character [from the film You Made My Dawn], is very free-spirited, but he's also very realistic and believes that there's only life, so he does what he wants and clearly expresses what he thinks. I must say his perspective is very similar to how I live.

JO1's activities are also this way, and each performance is treated as if it's the last one. In a way, I was replicating the strength he has, which somehow also made me feel supported in all the work I did with JO1 [last year]. Seiji felt like a source of power.


Takumi Kawanishi: When [reflecting] on the current music market, it seems like there is a higher demand to create viral or trendy songs. But within that, there is always music and sounds you want to play and things you want to say. [Playing Kiyosumi in Buzzy Noise] made me realize that it's important for me to try my best to showcase the [message] that I want to convey [with my music] as much as possible.

[For my song "Heaven,"] I wrote what Kiyosumi would feel and think, and then tried to capture what I felt as Takumi Kawanishi. I had a slightly strange feeling of being both Kiyosumi and Takumi when I was writing the song, but I think that sentiment aligns with the emotional nature of the film.

Performing Stateside For The First Time At KCON LA 2023

Sukai Kinjo: We couldn't attend KCON LA when we were first invited in 2022 due to [some of us contracting] COVID-19, so when we heard that we could go the following year, we [asked] every member and the surrounding staff to stay indoors and not go outside at all. Going to KCON is a big step, so we asked our managers if we could take a break before the event to rest and [prioritize] our health.

Ren Kawashiri: We performed three songs, with the third one being a cover of "Super" by SEVENTEEN-san, and we felt the crowd's excitement increasing with each performance. Many people might not have known who JO1 was at first, but I think we were able to enjoy ourselves with the audience and have fun on stage that night. We all felt very welcomed.

Shion Tsurubo: There was a moment in the cover of "Super" where we had to lift Syoya as part of the choreography. My first thought was that I couldn't let him fall.

Syoya Kimata: I was very nervous! I could just imagine it would be so bad if I failed on stage [during my first time] in Los Angeles. I took extra care, so I was very happy when I landed [after they threw me into the air], and I continued dancing throughout the performance without worrying or thinking about it.

Junki Kono: I was proud of my members, and we were all satisfied after our performance ended. We loved Los Angeles and we actually did some filming and photoshoots around the city. We met many local people, and it was fantastic. I want to return sometime soon. I miss In-N-Out. [Laughs.]

Expanding Their Musicality On Their Third Album, EQUINOX

Takumi Kawanishi: The "colors" of JO1 have been changing little by little. During the EQUINOX era, we were allowed to produce music with a nostalgic feel, but it also had a "power-up" element. I believe everyone in our group was looking to convey this as well.

Shosei Ohira: This album has a wide range of styles. For instance, "Venus" has elegance in its melody, and "RadioVision" is a pop song with an old-fashioned, retro charm. We also had our unit songs – "Itty Bitty" and "Mad In Love." This is something that we didn't do in our previous releases, so we were able to show a new [artistic] side of JO1.

Sukai Kinjo: I believe that every time we release a new album, my vocal ability has improved a lot compared to the previous one. I will work even harder and try my best to bring my "miracle voice" to the world.

Seeing Asia On The BEYOND THE DARK Tour

Issei Mamehara: It was our first overseas tour, so I was very happy! The experience made me recognize that I love and enjoy performing with our fans, JAM, at a close distance. Jakarta was especially memorable because it was the first show, and even though there were some sound problems, JO1's performance covered it up.

Ruki Shiroiwa: We had some technical issues [in Jakarta] while performing "Venus" that caused the song to stop playing. However, we usually practice during rehearsals in case something like this happens. It became a real situation, so when the sound stopped, we all knew we had to continue dancing. Everyone who gathered in the concert venue also joined us by singing and livened things up, so it feels like a success that we were able to avoid some trouble.

Keigo Sato: The size of the venues was smaller compared to those in Japan, but we could feel the high pressure from the audience, and it was amazing.

Watching Their Dreams Become Reality At The Kyocera Dome

Shosei Ohira: It was our first time stepping onto the Kyocera Dome [as headliners], which was a stage that all the JO1 members admired. The moment I stood on [that stage], I felt my dream come true, and it was an unbelievable time. I experienced many things [in the past], and many people supported me before I got here, so I was really thankful.

Junki Kono: When I was working at the Kyocera Dome, the stage seemed to be shining, and the artists who filled the venue also looked radiant. I remember being impressed by the sound of the concerts — it shook my heart. I don’t know why, but I remember feeling like I could stand on that stage in the future, and I was telling everyone around me, including my colleagues, that I would make it happen.

[Performing at Kyocera Dome with JO1] was the moment when my efforts and words were rewarded. But I also understood that standing at the Kyocera Dome is not a goal but a passing point on the road to my dream. I found a new challenge from this experience — a dome tour.

Sho Yonashiro: When the stage doors opened, I felt like a hero. But at the same time, there was a feeling of nervousness because we were the protagonists [that day]. If we had made a mistake, Ren, our performance leader, would have been angry. [Laughs.]

Ruki Shiroiwa: The concert is now available on Amazon Prime Video in Japan, and I've already watched it. While on stage, I felt that everything went smoothly, and I was really happy. However, looking back, I noticed that there are also areas where we need to improve. In the future, if we perform at the Kyocera Dome [again] or the Tokyo Dome, we would like to increase the quality of the performance. 

Winning The Excellent Work Award At The 65th Japan Record Awards 

Issei Mamehara: During a period when we were looking to make exciting songs, we had the opportunity to do "Trigger," and it received the Excellent Work Award at the Japan Record Awards. We were really honored. I wouldn't go as far as calling it our representative song, but we would like many people to truly listen to it.

Keigo Sato: I'm still skeptical about why "Trigger" wasn't a title track. I knew it was going to go viral. [Laughs.]

Returning To "Kōhaku Uta Gassen," Japan's Biggest End-Of-The-Year Television Special

Sho Yonashiro: "Kōhaku" is a [major] television show in Japan, and we had the opportunity to be invited [to perform] for a second time. There are a lot of K-pop artists coming in [as guests], and we know there are some comparisons between us and them.

All I can think of is that we need to demonstrate we can be competitive and shouldn't be satisfied with our position. After being there for two years, we need to continue expanding our [performance] skills and be more charismatic on stage.

Ren Kawashiri: It would not be an exaggeration to say that our role as top batters [for the White Team] somewhat determined the show's momentum. Back in 2022, we didn't know what we were doing, so we just tried our best, but the second time around, we had more room to think about how to create a good ambience.

Heading Down A New Road With HITCHHIKER 

Keigo Sato: My favorite song [from HITCHHIKER] is "Lied to you" because up until this point, we didn't have a track with this kind of Western-style [flow]. The lyrics talk about heartbreak and the inability to express your feelings, and the singing is really great. It's very similar to an Olivia Rodrigo song.

Junki Kono: The bittersweet atmosphere of [our B-side] "Lemon Candy" illustrates the emotion of "I can do anything for you." These may be extreme words, but I put the message in the lyrics that I feel [about] you that strongly.

When I heard the song, I instantly knew that it was composed by Yonghwa-san [from CNBLUE] because it really conveyed his vibe. He taught me many things during the recording session, such as how to sing with more of my own personality, which made me a little nervous. 

Syoya Kimata: Our title track is called "Love seeker," and I believe our trajectory is like hitchhiking as we search for the love of the audience in Japan and people who don't know about JO1 yet. I hope we can continue spreading our music and gain more recognition, so we will keep working hard to achieve that.

Ren Kawashiri: I feel we have a common understanding that has developed over the past five years. We are taking advantage of the fact that we have 11 members, which, in some cases, may be considered too many people, but we believe that each one of us injects strength into the group.

Steering Towards A Bright Future

Sho Yonashiro: We still feel that we must become more famous – even though we have achieved a lot as a boy group [in Japan]. It's been almost five years since our [formation], and we have gained experience and grown significantly compared to our beginnings. However, when we look outside Japan, many don't know who JO1 is, and I think this is a challenge worth taking over and over again. 

Sukai Kinjo: JO1 is very strong and unique on stage, and that’s where we can show how powerful we are as a group. I think our artistic [essence] resonated well with people in Los Angeles, and we do have the potential to reach more international fans. I believe it will be a matter of time before we go viral around the world. [Laughs.]

Ren Kawashiri: We will be superstars!

10 Neo J-Pop Artists Breaking The Mold In 2024: Fujii Kaze, Kenshi Yonezu & Others

RM of BTS in 2023
RM attends W Korea‘s ‘Love Your W' breast cancer awareness event in Seoul, South Korea in November 2023.

Photo: The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images

news

Stream RM's New Album 'Right Place, Wrong Person': See The Tracklist, "LOST!" Video & Special Guests

The second solo album from BTS' RM further displays his knack for genre-bending experimentation, while also delving deeper into his vulnerable side. Listen to the new album here, and get to know the project's featured artists, tracklist and more.

GRAMMYs/May 24, 2024 - 04:08 pm

As the world patiently awaits the return of BTS in full force, each member continues to deliver solo projects to show off their individual talents. And 18 months after his last album, RM is back.

With a discography that hops between pop, R&B, and hip-hop, RM returns to the spotlight with his second solo album, Right Place, Wrong Person. The project tells the relatable story of an individual who is a creature of habit, but slowly comes to find solace in foreign spaces.

Below, listen to RM's latest album, and discover more about how he's revealing a new side of his artistry with Right Place, Wrong Person.

The Tracklist

After RM's debut solo album, 2022's Indigo, had 10 tracks (including features from the likes of Erykah Badu, Anderson .Paak), he ups the tally with an 11-song tracklist this time around.

Here is the complete tracklist for Right Place, Wrong Person:

1. Right People, Wrong Place
2. Nuts
3. out of love
4. Domodachi (feat. Little Simz)
5. ? (Interlude)
6. Groin
7. Heaven
8. LOST!
9. Around the world in a day (feat. Moses Sumney)
10. ㅠㅠ (Credit Roll)
11. Come back to me

The Creative Visuals

Two weeks before the album dropped, he unveiled the music video for "Come Back to Me," the lead single from Right Place, Wrong Person. Directed by the critically acclaimed actor Lee Sung Jin, the music video narrates the tale of feeling like an outsider and yearning for a sense of belonging in unfamiliar surroundings.

Then, on the day Right Place, Wrong Person arrived, RM added to release-day excitement with another intriguing visual, this time for "LOST!" The five-minute clip sees RM as the star of "The Lost! Show," where he and a group endure an eerie whirlwind of scenarios they can't seem to get out of. It's equal parts dramatic and slapstick, and another clever display of RM's creative versatility.

Noteworthy Guests

The featured artists on Right Place, Wrong Person — British rapper Little Simz on "Domodachi" and art-pop artist Moses Sumney on "Around the world in a day" — underscore RM's ability to interlace his own musical style with artists from various genres.

The album also has some notable behind-the-scenes collaborators as well. Production credits include Kim Han-joo, keyboardist and vocalist from the South Korean rock band Silica Gel, on "LOST!" and GRAMMY-nominated jazz duo DOMi & JD Beck on "? (Interlude)."

On "Come back to me" — which RM initially debuted last August during a surprise performance at BTS bandmate Suga's encore concert in Seoul — he delves into the album's central theme of wanting to venture into unknown areas, but feeling the intense urge to stay with what's already known. The track was composed and arranged by OHHYUK from the South Korean indie-rock band Hyukoh, but also features credits from artists Kuo, JNKYRD, and San Yawn.

But no matter who RM is working with, his own talent and prowess as a creator always shines. Right Place, Wrong Person presents a diverse array of tracks marked by sheer vulnerability, honesty, and sensitivity — a masterful continuation of a remarkable solo journey.

K-Pop Summer 2024 Guide: ATEEZ, IU, TXT & More Live In Concert & On Tour

ATEEZ perform at Coachella Weekend 1

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella

list

K-Pop Summer 2024 Guide: ATEEZ, IU, TXT & More Live In Concert & On Tour

Whether you want to have your Head in the Clouds, go over the moon at KCON or head Towards the Light, plan out your summer with these K-pop events and tours featuring TWICE, LE SSERAFIM, Stray Kids and more.

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2024 - 12:31 pm

2024 has had a handful of memorable K-pop moments in North America so far. From boy group ONEUS's La Dolce Vita tour to TWICE's one-night-only show at Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium in March, the industry has kept a steady flow of entertainment for lovers of Korean music and culture. Last month, ATEEZ, LE SSERAFIM, and indie band The Rose also left their mark at Coachella Festival in California, proving that K-pop acts at major festivals are a rising trend.

With summer right around the corner, even more tours, festivals, and conventions are set to pop up across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. From mid-May to September, whether on weekdays or weekends, there will always be something to do or someone to see. Among the most-awaited events are singer IU's first world tour and ATEEZ's massive trek in July, as well as Stray Kids, IVE, and VCHA's performances at Chicago's Lollapalooza Festival.

To help you enjoy the most out of this busy season, GRAMMY.com assembled a list of all the K-pop concerts and events happening in the next few months below.

May

CIX: 0 or 1 in North America

May 10-26

Boy group CIX will be back in North America for their third tour this May. Named after single album 0 or 1, the stint will cover eight cities across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, starting in Chicago, IL and wrapping it up in Los Angeles, CA. The quintet will likely perform hits like "Cinema" and "Movie Star," as well as their latest single, "Lovers or Enemies," and celebrate their upcoming fifth anniversary.

Head in the Clouds Festival

Forest Hills, New York

May 11-12

Following the success of last year's edition in Queens, New York, Head in the Clouds Festival returns to the big apple in 2024. In their mission to spread Asian diaspora talent, the lineup for this year enlists (G)I-DLE to headline on Saturday and singer BIBI on Sunday, along other names like ATARASHII GAKKO! and Joji. Korean acts Balming Tiger, Wave to Earth, and newcomer girl group Young Posse will also join them. HITC Festival is usually based in Los Angeles, but this year's L.A. edition has yet to be announced.

BM (KARD): After the After Party Tour

May 14-25

Hailing from co-ed group KARD, Korean-American singer BM will kick off his first U.S. solo tour in mid-May. After the After Party Tour was inspired by the track "ATAP (After the After Party)," off his December single album, Lowkey. BM will perform in six cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. He also teased an EP soon, and stated that he will be "taking new music on this tour."

P1Harmony: P1ustage H : UTOP1A Tour

May 14 - Jun. 16

Boy band P1Harmony is also returning to North America with their third tour, P1ustage H: UTOP1A. Beginning in Houston, TX, on May 14, it will follow with shows in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and more — including a prestigious performance on June 8 at New York City's Governors Ball Music Festival 2024. The sextet released their first studio album, Killin' It, in February of this year.

Tomorrow X Together (TXT): ACT : PROMISE World Tour

May 14 - Jun. 8

A TXT tour in the U.S. has become an annual event: following 2022's ACT : LOVESICK and 2023's ACT : SWEET MIRAGE, 2024 welcomes ACT : PROMISE. Featuring 11 shows across the country, the boy group will play in Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and more. They will also perform two nights at New York's legendary Madison Square Garden before heading to the Japanese leg of the tour in July.

Wheein (MAMAMOO): Whee In The Mood [Beyond] World Tour

May 17 - Jun. 4

Powerhouse vocalists MAMAMOO hit stateside last year with their MY CON World Tour, a first for the group. Now, it's member Wheein's turn to celebrate her solo career with Whee In The Mood [Beyond] World Tour, inspired by her first LP, 2023's In The Mood. After a slew of shows in Asia and Europe, the singer will head to San Francisco, CA, for the first out of eight concerts in the U.S. Other cities include Dallas, Orlando, Los Angeles, and New York.

RIIZE: RIIZING Day Fan-Con World Tour

Los Angeles, California

May 20

SM Entertainment's freshest rookies RIIZE announced their first fan-con, RIIZING Day, to take place from May to August in various cities across the globe. After playing in Seoul, Tokyo, and Mexico City, the boyband will come to Los Angeles for a single performance at the Peacock Theater on May 20. RIIZE are expected to play their compact yet dynamic discography, including singles "Get A Guitar," "Talk Saxy," and "Impossible."

June

Purple Kiss: 2024 BXX Tour

June 2 - July 2

It's not even been a year since Purple Kiss toured the U.S. with their The Festa Tour in fall 2023, but they're already gearing to come back. Starting June 2 in Oceanside, CA, the 2024 BXX Tour will take the girl group to seven cities in the U.S. and nine cities in Canada, closing it off in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on July 2. This is a big chance for fans who missed their performances last year, or simply to those who want to see singles like "Zombie" and "Sweet Juice" live again.

ITZY: Born to Be World Tour

June 6-28

Girl group ITZY has spent the majority of 2024 bringing their second world tour, Born to Be, across Oceania, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. In June, they will finally step in North America for a 10-stop stint, including cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, Newark, Fairfax, Toronto, and more. Despite featuring only four out of five members while vocalist Lia is currently on hiatus due to health reasons, they promise to set the stages on fire with their high-energy discography.

VERIVERY: Go On Fan-meeting Tour

Jun. 14-23

Starting June 14, boyband VERIVERY will kick off their Go On Fan-meeting Tour in New York at Brooklyn Steel. Then, they will head to Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Fort Worth, and finally Los Angeles for a last performance at Vermont Hollywood. The seven-member group is currently a quartet, as member Dongheon is currently enlisted in the military, and members Minchan and Hoyoung are on hiatus due to health concerns. VERIVERY's latest release was 2023's EP, Liminality.

A.C.E: 2024 REWIND_US U.S. Tour

Jun. 19 - July 18

February marked the much-anticipated comeback of boy group A.C.E with the EP My Girl: My Choice. It was their first release in three years, and to rejoice further, the quintet announced an extensive 14-date tour throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Starting June 19 in Madison, WI and closing off on July 18 in San Juan, PR, A.C.E will also perform in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, and more.

HYO: Milwaukee Summerfest

Milwaukee, WI

Jun. 28

HYO, also known as Hyoyeon from Girls' Generation, will be showcasing her DJ chops on June 28 at Milwaukee Summerfest. The performance will happen just months after HYO held her 2024 Spring U.S. Tour, Cherry Blossom, which spanned seven cities across the country. In the setlist, fans can expect hits like "Dessert" and "Deep," but also some innovative remixes of other artists' songs, like GALA's "Freed From Desire" and Girls' Generation's "Gee."

July

AB6IX: Find You Fan Concert Tour

Jul. 3-21

Another boy group to embark on a North American tour this year, AB6IX will bring their Find You Fan Concert across nine stops in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Starting off in the cities of Toronto and Montreal, they will then head to New York, Mexico City, Miami, Denver, and more, before wrapping it up in Los Angeles. The tour title was inspired by their latest release, January's EP The Future is Ours: Found.

ATEEZ: Towards the Light: Will to Power 2024 World Tour

Jul. 14 - Aug. 11

Performance kings ATEEZ never stop. After the release of their EP, Golden Hour: Part. 1 on May 31, the eight-member group will head to North America for their Towards the Light: Will to Power 2024 World Tour. Kicking off on July 14 in Tacoma, Washington, the boyband will also play in the cities of Los Angeles, Arlington, Washington, D.C., Toronto, New York, and more. The tour supports ATEEZ's December 2023 LP, The World EP.Fin: Will, but hopefully the setlist will include surprises as new music comes out.

IU: HEREH World Tour

Jul. 15 - Aug. 2

One of the most important artists to come from South Korea, IU (born Lee Ji-eun) has been shaping the country's music industry since 2008 with her unique voice, sensitive songwriting, and sharp mind. Given her journey, it's almost absurd that her first world tour is only happening in 2024 — but better late than never. After stops in Asia and Europe, IU will head to the U.S. for six sold-out concerts, beginning on July 15 at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, and concluding on August 2 at Kia Forum in Los Angeles, CA.

The Boyz: Zeneration II World Tour

Jul. 19-28

Following their 2023 Zeneration Tour, which featured 24 stops across Asia, 11-member group The Boyz are now bringing its sequel worldwide. After a 3-day July stint in Seoul, South Korea, the Zeneration II tour will head to the U.S. for five shows in New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Jose. Throughout August, The Boyz will segue onto the Asian leg of the tour, wrapping it up with a few European dates in September.

KCON Los Angeles 2024

Jul. 26-28

Known as the largest Korean culture and music festival in North America, KCON has a decade-long legacy of serving as a bridge for "all things Hallyu." Held at the Los Angeles Convention Center and Crypto.com Arena, the festival includes a two-night concert, fan signings, food and merch stalls, panels with professionals in the industry, and many other attractions. KCON hasn't announced its official lineup yet, but attendees can expect it to maintain the same excellence of past years.

Secret Number: The 1st U.S. Tour 2024 Unlock

Jul. 26 - Aug. 10

Girl group Secret Number debuted amidst the chaos of 2020's COVID-19 pandemic, therefore falling short of live experiences with their fans. As they enter their fourth year together, they will finally meet North American fans with their 2024 Unlock tour this summer. Kicking off on July 26 in Chicago, the sextet will then head to Minneapolis, Charlotte, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, and Los Angeles for a final show on August 10.

August

Stray Kids, IVE, VCHA: Lollapalooza Chicago 2024

Aug. 1-4

K-pop's presence on Lollapalooza continues to expand. This year, Stray Kids is set to headline on Friday, Aug. 2, alongside singer SZA. It's the boyband's second appearance at the festival, following their 2023 show at Lollapalooza Paris. On that same day, U.S.-based, K-pop-trained girl group VCHA, formed by JYP Entertainment in partnership with Republic Records, will also make their first performance at the festival. To close it off, Saturday will feature the captivating girl group IVE.

I.M (Monsta X): Off The Beat 2024 World Tour

Aug. 8-31

Monsta X's maknae (youngest member) I.M has been building a prolific solo career while his teammates are enlisted in the military. Accompanying his third EP, Off The Beat, the singer announced an eponymous world tour, featuring 19 stops in Asia, North America, and Europe. He will play seven dates In the U.S. and two in Canada, including New York, Boston, Toronto, and more.

ARTMS: 2024 Moonshot World Tour

Aug. 16 - Sept. 10

Formed by five LOONA members (Kim Lip, Choerry, JinSoul, HaSeul, and HeeJin), girl group ARTMS was one of 2023's most-awaited debuts. Their first studio album, Devine All Love & Live, is set to drop on May 31, and the quintet will celebrate with a string of concerts across South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. Starting August 16 in New York, the tour will cross Atlanta, Orlando, Los Angeles, and more cities before wrapping up on September 10 in Chicago.

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