meta-scriptK-Pop Group IVE Are Unabashedly Themselves On New EP, 'I've Mine' | GRAMMY.com
K-Pop Group IVE Are Unabashedly Themselves On New EP, 'I've Mine'
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K-Pop Group IVE Are Unabashedly Themselves On New EP, 'I've Mine'

Out Oct. 13, 'I've Mine' shares multiple sides of the girl group IVE. The new EP features powerful messages about self-acceptance and resilience.

GRAMMYs/Oct 12, 2023 - 01:25 pm

For just three letters, the moniker IVE possesses a deceptively elegant ethos. Those three letters, absent an apostrophe, signify that the six-member K-pop act won't be defined by convention. 

A contraction of "I Have," IVE declare — in moniker and spirit — that they will show everything they have to give. Members Yujin, Wonyoung, Gaeul, Liz, Rei and Leeseo are readying the release of I've Mine. Out Oct. 13, this six-song EP features three title tracks — a rarity in an industry where most EPs showcase just one or two.

It’s a bold move, but IVE have been shaping the landscape since their December 2021 debut. Just a week later, their single "Eleven" won on MBC’s "Show Champion," setting a record for the fastest music show win by a girl group. The song also reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Trending Songs Chart and held a spot on the Global 200 chart for 14 consecutive weeks.

Subsequent singles illustrate how their charm is threaded through paradoxical pillars. The darkly alluring "Love Dive" is balanced with the discoing whirlwind "After Like," which samples Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." Those songs continued IVE's winning streak, netting Song Of The Year and Rookie Of The Year honors at multiple Korean award ceremonies.

Early singles unfurled this duality even further. "Kitsch" captures high school life, playfully chronicling their custom-fitted OOTD and sassy dismissal of unread DMs. Contrasting those cheeky cadences are tracks like the aspirational "Blue Blood," which cleverly riffs on the Korean tradition of using blood types to determine personality traits.

Ahead of their new EP, GRAMMY.com caught up with IVE via Zoom in Seoul. The atmosphere was charged with anticipation as the first title track, "Either Way," dropped just hours before.

"We do feel the pressure of representing our new album, but it's a very positive pressure for us. It's not a negative feeling or anything," says Wonyoung, who is seated in the center of the group. "We just pushed each other and thought about our DIVEs [fans]."

However, embracing a myriad of concepts on three title tracks was no small task. "We really wanted to express different concepts of each one," Yujin notes. 

"Either Way" is a prime example of this wider artistic intent. In the accompanying music video, IVE’s typical lush and luxurious aesthetics are traded in for poignant black and white close-ups of the girls shedding tears. It is their most melancholic and cinematic project to date, evoking the emotional heartache seen in a top tier K-drama.

Vocals and lyrics get the brightest spotlight in such a stripped-back confession. Liz, sharing her favorite line on the EP says, "There is a part in 'Either Way' where the lyrics are about misunderstandings and how it creates countless images of me." Afterwards, the chorus "Either way, I'm good," underscores a powerful message about self-acceptance and resilience in the face of diverse perceptions.

A touching opening salvo, "Either Way" is part of an overarching theme: "All of the title tracks are about the idea of ‘Me,’" Gaeul explains. "'Either Way' explores how others perceive ‘Me,’ 'Off the Record' delves into how we view each other, and 'Baddie' is about discovering a new version of ‘Me.’ We hope that fans will unpack that all versions are us." 

The second single, "Off the Record," is Leeseo's favorite. "It’s cutesy and fits my vibe."

As with previous IVE entries, at least one member contributed to the creation process. Wonyoung earned her third writing credit for the group with the B-side "OTT."   

"I wanted to say I fall in love in an over-the-top way, like more than normal," she says, "It can be about DIVEs and saying 'I’m really into you guys.' To DIVEs it can be about [anyone they] really love. I really wanted to express a very exaggerated love through this song. I think the word OTT is kind of cute too."

DIVEs' love for IVE propelled the group to new heights. In September, IVE made their U.S. debut, captivating both coasts with dazzling performances at KCON L.A. and the Krazy K-pop Super Concert in New York. 

"We were a bit nervous, but the local fans in L.A. and New York had a lot of passion and energy," Rei reminisces about the experience fondly. "They knew the chants to our songs, so we had a really fun time performing in front of them." 

IVE led the coveted Dream Stage during night one of KCON. It is a special KCON tradition where fans are chosen for their exceptional dance skills and given the opportunity to perform alongside a K-pop act.

With two U.S. appearances under their fashionable belts, IVE are primed for a global scope. Wonyoung teases her giddiness to meet more DIVEs during their forthcoming world tour, Show What I Have, kicking off in Seoul next month. 

"The main message we want to tell our audience is to love ourselves and to not mind other people’s words," she says. "To love ourselves and be ourselves is the most important part of life." 

Listening to "Either Way" makes Wonyoung’s message ring true. As idols, they have many facets and identities: "I’ve Mine" shows the groupat their most mature and vulnerable. 

It is a refreshing step forward and serves as a reminder that their greatest strength lies in their authenticity. IVE has found harmony in their identities and may just discover that they really can have it all someday.

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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."

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

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.

2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined K-Pop

2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined K-Pop
(from left) NewJeans, Jung Kook, xikers, Jimin, VCHA

Photos: ADOR; Jason Mendez/Getty Images; Santiago Felipe/Getty Images; The Chosunilbo/JNSImazins via Getty Images; JYP Entertainment

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2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined K-Pop

K-pop aims to appease the biggest crowds possible, but it’s also unafraid of trying new ways of making music and building fan communities. Read on for five trends in K-pop that marked the industry in 2023, from globally-based acts to new sounds.

GRAMMYs/Dec 15, 2023 - 04:00 pm

K-pop is a living, breathing organism. It’s way beyond just pop music from South Korea — more like a whole microcosm that includes culture, tech, fashion, other music genres, and even other countries. Its boundaries are increasingly blurry: there are K-pop groups releasing albums entirely in English and American groups being created under the K-pop business model. Where does it end, and where does it begin?

No one knows exactly. What we do know, though, is that the industry and all its adjacent productions remain one of the most experimental and innovative. K-pop aims to appease the biggest crowds possible, but it’s also unafraid to leap into new ways of making music and building fan communities.

These are some of the traits that make it so exciting — whether it’s a 24-member, NFT-based group like tripleS or a song about baggy jeans, you never know what awaits around the corner. As K-pop continues to expand and surprise, here are five trends that marked the industry in 2023.

Boy Groups To The Front

If 2022 was the year of girl groups in K-pop, 2023 saw a wave of boy groups rising up to the challenge. While female acts continue to thrive — with exciting names like Loossemble, Kiss of Life and tripleS joining the industry — it was this year’s male debuts that attested the beginning of a new era.

Monster rookies ZEROBASEONE broke all-time records by selling over 1 million copies of their first EP, July’s Youth In The Shade, on the first day of release. The nine-member group was formed through survival TV show "Boys Planet," and was marketed as the initiator of K-pop’s fifth generation. That statement is not as simple as it looks (many factors contribute to a change of generations in K-pop, not just debuts), but it pointed to a definite handing of the torch.

There were also fresh teams coming from some of the most well-established K-pop agencies this year. Xikers, the younger peers of ATEEZ at KQ Entertainment, debuted in March. In May, BoyNextDoor came forth from KOZ Entertainment, a subsidiary of HYBE (BTS, TXT, and more) founded by the singer, producer and leader of Block B. In September, RIIZE met the world as SM Entertainment’s first non-NCT-related boy group since 2016.

Other promising newcomers include Xodiac, 8Turn, Evnne, TOZ, and Ampers&One — many of whom are former contestants of "Boys Planet" — and it becomes clear that 2023 set the bar for a new generation of boy bands to come.

Living In The Age Of TikTok

"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," manager and A&R consultant Marion Van der wees told GRAMMY.com earlier this year. 

Van der wees’ statement rings true. While TikTok and Instagram Reels have been popular in K-pop for a few years, they became the norm in 2023. From rookies like Lun8 to industry veterans like Red Velvet, every release now comes with an obligatory video "challenge" for those platforms, intended to be replicated ad infinitum by the artist, their peers, and their fans.

As K-pop becomes increasingly fandom-focused, these challenges also serve as one of the main forms of interaction between artists of different labels, styles, and levels of experience who wouldn’t normally engage with each other. It’s less a question of going viral, and more of cross-promoting, exposing themselves to new audiences, and gifting fans with unique content.

Besides all that, newer groups like RIIZE are tapping into Gen Z’s online habits and reveling in their spontaneity: they gained buzz for replying to fans’ comments and for posting relatable (if a little unhinged) videos, just like any teenager would.

AI Dreams (Or Nightmares?)

While AI music and virtual artists have been on exponential rise since the COVID-19 pandemic, 2023 was the year where K-pop truly embraced them. Virtual girl group MAVE: amassed over 26 million views on their debut single, January’s "Pandora," and virtual boy group PLAVE, who also debuted this year, became the first of their kind to perform at KCON LA in August.

In May, entertainment giant HYBE launched Midnatt, the alter ego of singer-songwriter Lee Hyun. Although Hyun is a real person, his first single "Masquerade" was released in six languages (English, Korean, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese) through the utilization of Supertone, an AI audio company that HYBE acquired in January. Supertone modulated Hyun’s tone, pronunciation, delivery, and even shifted his voice from male to female.

AI is also shaping how fans interact with artists — you can even talk to the digital twin of GOT7 member Mark Tuan now. Created by New Zealand company Soul Machines, Digital Mark Tuan is available 24/7 via OpenAI’s GPT3, and aims to "connect with fans, share stories about the real Mark Tuan, and cement his presence in the metaverse," according to Soul Machine's website.

These projects have growing audiences, but there’s still plenty of discussion on whether K-pop and AI’s mix has yielded positive results. As best summarized by songwriter/producer Wonderkid on Grammy.com’s roundtable, K-pop’s relationship with AI "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."

Softer Sounds And Chill Vibes Proliferate 

K-pop has always been known for shaping different musical genres into something of its own. This diversity — spanning from reggae to classic orchestra, sometimes all in one song — is part of K-pop’s DNA. Superstars like Stray Kids and NCT 127 often have their styles described as "noise music," and girl groups like BLACKPINK and ITZY rose to the top with hard-hitting beats, spawning a trend that is still followed by several rookies.

This bold, in-your-face style of K-pop will likely always exist, but a new trend has begun to emerge. Songs from rookie groups like NewJeans, IVE, and even Fifty Fifty (see their viral "Cupid") are softer and have the calming effect of putting on earphones in a busy office.

NewJeans’ December 2022 single "Ditto" was inspired by Baltimore club but also manages a more chill vibe. The year-round hit achieved the coveted PAK — Perfect All-Kill, meaning it  charted at No. 1 on real-time, daily and weekly charts on all major South Korean music streaming platforms. IVE’s disco-infused "I Am" was another PAK winner, and so was the duo AKMU’s bouncy ballad "Love Lee."

The trend toward more mellow sounds is also present in three of BTS’ solo projects this year: Jimin came forward with the synth-pop of "Like Crazy," V approached soul and jazz on his "Slow Dancing," and Jung Kook channeled Michael Jackson with the funky "Standing Next to You." Even the debuting boy groups of this year have chosen more laid back sounds. Zerobaseone sampled A-ha’s "Take on Me" for "In Bloom," and RIIZE’s synth-laden "Get a Guitar" is filled with nostalgia. As industry trendsetters veer towards pleasing melodies and chill vibes with retro inspirations, these sounds are certain to become even more widespread in the following years.

K-Pop Beyond The K

"For K-pop to truly become mainstream worldwide, the ‘K’ in K-pop needs to be removed, and it should just be ‘pop’ in itself," HYBE chairman Bang Si-hyuk said in a press release about the label’s latest endeavor: a trainee survival show called "The Debut: Dream Academy," which premiered on Sept. 1. In partnership with Geffen Records, HYBE embarked on "a worldwide search for the next global girl group," receiving over 120,000 applications from Argentina to Japan. The resulting six-member group, KATSEYE, will likely debut next year, followed by a Netflix docuseries.

A few months prior, JYP Entertainment (home to groups like TWICE and Stray Kids) also announced the reality competition show "A2K (America2Korea)", in partnership with Republic Records. Their goal was to create a U.S.-based girl group with members of diverse backgrounds, but who would be trained under the K-pop system. The resulting sextet, VCHA, released their first single album, "SeVit (New Light)," in September.

Add to that SM Entertainment, who helms groups like EXO and NCT, teaming up with UK production company Moon&Back in order to launch a boy band in early 2024, and you have nearly all of K-pop’s biggest players placing bets on Western-based projects. As K-pop has always been an export-driven industry, these moves are no surprise — but 2023 marked a year where companies were finally successful in applying the K-pop model to form artists in markets outside of Asia.

Whether VCHA, KATSEYE, and other groups will be successful remains a mystery, but their existence points to a shift. As THEBLACKLABEL singer and producer Vince mentioned in Grammy.com’s roundtable, "we don’t call pop music from America ‘American pop’, we just call it ‘pop.’" K-pop might be headed in the same direction.

2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Hip-Hop

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. 

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