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Girl bands have been around for years dominating much of the music scene. The Supremes achieved fame during the ’60s and then The Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child, and TLC took over in the ’90s; other bands such as Pussycat Dolls, Sugababes, and Girls Aloud came and went, leaving us with Little Mix, Fifth Harmony, and many others. But what about girl bands from South Korea? K-Pop has fascinated the world and even more so now by captivating international fans. Each band has a story to tell in their very own talented ways – from the ladies who paved the way to those now stealing the spotlight. So, whether you’re searching for a nostalgic music trip or if you’re a music lover in need of a K-Pop kick-start, here are 10 K-Pop girl bands you need to know about.
Named after the member’s first initials – Sea, Eugene and Shoo – S.E.S. is a well-known girl band throughout the K-Pop music culture. Rising to fame in the late ’90s and continuing their success through to the early 2000s, they are well respected and known as the first K-Pop girl band to become famous. At the time of their fame, they were viewed as the female version of H.O.T., a South Korean boy band who rose to fame around the same time as S.E.S. The trio debuted in 1997 with their first hit single ‘I’m Your Girl’, which took over the then male-dominated industry, allowing other female bands to join the K-Pop culture. S.E.S. were mainly known for their catchy beats and easy-to-follow lyrics, and even though they went through many image changes, this mighty trio introduced the still famous schoolgirl image. The band released six albums in Korea and five albums in Japan, demonstrating their bilingual talent. Although the trio parted in 2002, their legacy still continues today and will forever be labeled as K-Pop’s best bubble gum novelty.
Also known as SNSD, this eight (formerly nine) member girl band represents a sweet, softer and effervescent side of K-Pop. Girls’ Generation officially debuted in August 2007 with their hit single ‘Into the New World.’ However, real fame came in 2009 with their single ‘Gee’. Its music video was the first ever by a girl group to gain more than 100 million views on YouTube. Other memorable hits include ‘Tell Me Your Wish (Genie)’, ‘Oh!’ and ‘Run Devil Run‘. Easily identifiable by their girly, fun and slightest of sex appeal, Girls’ Generation not only gained an impressive global fan base but also were awarded with Video of the Year at the YouTube Music Awards as well as appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman and Live! With Kelly. Girls’ Generation are still pursuing their talent as a group and are constantly growing, so don’t miss out on what’s next to come of this K-Pop girl band.
This quartet debuted in 1998 and go by the name of Fin.K.L, which stands for Fin Killing Liberty. The name represents what the group supported: being against the oppression of all freedom. It was suggested, however, that the record company had more to do with the decision rather than the girls themselves. Fin.K.L was one of the most popular K-Pop girl groups, selling over 2.2 million albums as well as receiving numerous music awards. They captured their fans through their diverse use of music genres, from R’n’B ballad ‘Blue Rain’ to sweet dance tune ‘Eternal Love‘ to hit ‘Now.’ Even though this quartet was highly successful and became popular amongst the public, the members of the band stated on numerous accounts that they had been put together to rival powerhouse S.E.S.; ironically enough, they became each other’s biggest competition as well as biggest alliances, as both bands helped lead the K-Pop culture. Even though Fin.K.L unofficially ended in 2002, all of the members have pursued solo careers in different sectors of the entertainment industry. Leader of the group Lee Hyori, who is currently taking a two-year break from the entertainment industry, has become one of the most successful and influential solo artists in K-Pop history.
This South Korean girl band most likely served as an international introduction to K-Pop, as they were one of the few K-Pop bands that scored a hit on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 76 with their hit ‘Nobody.’ Wonder Girls’ label, therefore, had them leave Korea to focus on learning U.S. culture to further advance their global success. This did them well because they were to become the opening act for the Jonas Brothers World Tour, released a TeenNick movie and even sang a duet with Stevie Wonder. Shortly after, Wonder Girls entered the Chinese market with their album Wonder Girls, which included Chinese language versions of their hit singles. As well as gaining popularity in China, Wonder Girls signed with DefStar Records, a Japanese recording company, who gave them their debut in Japan. You can easily identify Wonder Girls through their use of musical elements from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, which can be heard in their hit singles ‘So Hot’, ‘Nobody’ and ‘I Feel You’. You’ll notice that when listening to the single ‘Nobody’, it is a close replica of The Supremes’ all-round style. Since February 2013, Wonder Girls have not produced anymore albums; however, the record label insists they have not split up. Are you a fan of The Supremes, or enjoy old-time style? Then have a listen to the Wonder Girls’ hit ‘Nobody’ below.
This six-piece band is often known as AFTERSCHOOL or as A.S. They are the only K-Pop band to have an admission and graduation concept: a system where members are added or withdrawn in a ‘natural’ manner. Officially debuting in January 2009, they released their first single ‘Because of You’, which ranked at number one on multiple music charts. In 2011, they debuted in Japan remaking their Korean hits ‘Bang!’, ‘Diva’, ‘Shampoo’ and ‘Because of You’ and entered the Oricon Weekly Chart at number seven. This girl band stands out as entertainers who give incomparable live performances. Pulling out all the stops from tap dances to drum lines to cane dances for TV broadcasts, they also trained for six months for an athletic pole dancing routine that would be part of their new single ‘First Love’.
2NE1 is a K-Pop girl band made up of four South Korean women who replaced the typical bubble gum pop with three other music genres: heavy hip-hop, EDM and reggae. Not only do their music style make them stand out from other girl bands, but their fierce attitudes and bold fashion choices has created a different side to K-Pop. Due to their obscene and very expressive style, 2NE1 attracted the attention from other well-known artists as well as designers, more specifically Will.i.am who featured them on his #willpower LP and designer Jeremy Scott who fell in love with the ladies’ taste in fashion. The quartet also became the first female act to play solo U.S. arena shows, which helped them penetrate the international world of fame, resulting in their album Crush to hit No. 61 on the Billboard 200 – the highest-charting record for all K-Pop acts to date. The band originally formed in 2009, with their single ‘Fire’. Since then, they have released two eponymous extended plays and two studio albums. The band also debuted in Japan in 2011 with their play Noiza and have since released one studio album, Collection.
Even though they are officially no longer a group, this five-member dance group is still well known and are representative of K-Pop. Between 1997 when the group formed up until 2006 when they parted ways, the band released a total of seven albums. Unfortunately, not all of the seven albums were a success, and according to some sources, that was the main reason for their split. Their third album Come Come Come Baby in 1999 was their biggest and most successful, which saw the quintet change their image from the typical baby doll/school girl look to a cutting-edge style with dark stage ensembles and crazy hairdos. The girl band broke into Chinese music charts as well, and this breakthrough helped them spread across the rest of Asia. Baby V.O.X will always be known as one of the prominent K-Pop girl groups of the ’90s and 2000s, as well as pioneers of the so-called Hallyu Wave.
Often abbreviated as B.E.G, BG or 브아걸, Brown Eyed Girls is a four-piece South Korean pop girl group. The quartet debuted in 2006 as an R&B/ballad vocal group with their hit single ‘Come Closer’ and tried something different. By not revealing their faces, they hoped their vocals would inspire and attract the public. Although this wasn’t too successful, they eventually hit it hard in 2009 with their single ‘Abracadabra’, which led to the now-famous dance that PSY incorporated into his video ‘Gentleman’. They are mostly known for redefining the music styles and genres, more specifically, the K-Pop culture. These changes have influenced modern girl bands who are joining the Korean entertainment wave to think outside of the box. One thing that makes Brown Eyed Girls unique and different from the other girl groups is that they are the only girl band who found each other through friends rather than through auditioning.
Jewelry is known as the longest running girl group in K-Pop culture history until their disbandment in 2015. Since forming back in 2001, there have been lineup changes and some unfortunate setbacks, but this did not stop the trio (formerly quartet) to success. Their hit single, ‘Superstar’, made an impressive mark, but their single ‘One More Time’ blew fans away. It reached number one on all major K-Pop digital music charts as well as becoming the anthem of 2008. Unfortunately, when members Seo In Young and Park Jung Ah left the group to pursue individual careers and the band recruited new members, they did not reach the same level as before.
Known as today’s biggest digital-selling girl group in Korea, Sistar is one of the most consistent groups in the K-Pop culture, as they successfully create hit after hit. Their popularity and fame have not only made it great for the group themselves but unrealistically difficult and challenging for other girl groups to reach the charts, let alone ranking number one. They broke into the music industry with their first album So Cool, which was released in 2011. It included some of the groups biggest hits: the single ‘So Cool’ hit number one on Billboard Korea K-Pop Hot 100. Not only has Sistar had an obscene amount of hit singles, they are also known to have the most number-one hits of any group in the K-Pop culture. Interestingly enough, two members of the group have their own individual solo number-one singles: leader Hyorin has three and Soyou has two. The group offers other talents such as rapping, which is done by group member Bora.