K-pop is not just K-pop. There are many different styles, all of which are theoretically part of the current pop music culture in South Korea, but they differ in many ways. There are upbeat dance songs with impressive choreographies that should not be missing at any party. There are calm songs with moody tones that are perfect for relaxing. The K-pop world has never been as diverse as it is today.
Here we introduce you to 5 K-pop styles with suitable artists which we can’t live without. If you're new to K-pop, these examples are perfect to get started and you might even find your favorite genre and artist among them.
1. Mainstream Hallyu
Hallyu (한류) stands for the “Korean wave”. A movement that has gradually carried elements of the Korean culture, including K-pop and K-beauty, to all regions of the world. The current pioneers of this wave are undisputedly BTS. The now 7-year-old K-pop boy band has fans all over the world and is releasing one hit after another. Their latest songs include “Dynamite” and “Life Goes On”. For us, the Mainstream Hallyu music genre includes trendy K-pop boy bands and girl bands. In their songs you will typically find elements of Hip-hop, RnB and Pop. Other popular groups are Twice and ITZY, who are known for their cheerful, uplifting songs. Everglow, aespa and (G) I-DLE are three other girl bands that are known for darker, cooler music styles. NCT U, SEVENTEEN and PENTAGON are among our favorite boy bands alongside BTS.
2. Retro Style
While you will find the younger generation of K-pop artists under the Mainstream Hallyu category, Retro Style is about stars of the older generation. We mean K-pop singers who have been in the business since the late 90s or early 2000s. Some of them are still active and their current songs have a 90s retro flair to them. A perfect example of this is the singer Sunmi, who was part of the iconic girl band Wonder Girls until 2017, but is now a successful solo artist. “Pporappippam” and “When We Disco” are two of her latest hits. Rain is another K-pop legend. He made his debut in 1998 and made a comeback with the group SSAK3 last year. Their song “Play The Summer” is a tribute to the K-pop style of the 90s. Rain recently released a new song called "Switch To Me" which is also a prime example of this Retro Style category.
3. Moody Soloists
Moody Soloists are all about solo artists who are known for their moody songs. Some of them are more in the RnB direction, while others specialize in ballads or acoustics. They have one thing in common: they are among the best singers in Korea. Taeyeon is at the top of our list of Moody Soloists. She belongs to the famous group Girls‘ Generation, but is currently more active as a solo artist. “What Do I Call You” is her latest song, while “If” and “Fine” are among her biggest hits. IU and Heize are two other female solo artists with very characteristic voices. When it comes to male solo artists, Crush, Zico and Dean are our favorites. Zico’s song "Any Song" went viral in 2020 and is still a hit for us with its chill vibes.
4. Power Females
You can find a different type of solo artist in this category that we call Power Females. These artists have strong voices and an equally strong attitude. Their songs are typically influenced by Hip-hop, Rap and RnB elements and have an American touch to them. Chungha, Hwasa, Hyolyn and Jessi are perfect examples of Power Females. Jessi's songs "Nunu Nana" and "Who Dat B" are an absolute must-listen for us! The list here would not be complete without mentioning BoA. She recently celebrated her 20th anniversary and is also known as the "Queen Of K-Pop". "Better" and "Woman" are among her latest hits.
5. K-Indie Acoustics
K-Indie is another genre of Korean music that has grown in popularity in recent years. Here you will find artists who are less well known. They rarely appear at major music shows and tend to give smaller concerts or appearances on the radio. Our favorites are AKMU, Standing Egg and Urban Zakapa. Their music is characterized by quieter guitar melodies combined with emotional singing. Perfect for chill weekends!
Of course there is so much more to discover in the K-pop world. However, the examples mentioned are among our absolute favorites and therefore we definitely recommend you to listen to them. Want to try out all 5 music styles at one go? Then listen to our glimyu K-Pop Essentials Playlist on Spotify and follow it right away. We regularly update this playlist with newly released songs.