I recently discovered that we are in the fourth generation of K-pop, and since I don’t know which groups are the leaders and what characterizes them, I decided to find out more about each one. So, if you are also curious to know them a little better, keep reading the article and find out with me everything there is to know about the different generations of K-pop.
Play your favorite playlist while you enjoy the article!
It started in the 1990s and lasted until the 2000s when Korean music was influenced by western music, and as a result of the fusion of both genres, K-pop was born. At the same time, the concepts of albums, music promotions, choreographies, the impeccable appearance of the artists, and the term “idol” began to emerge. The groups that influenced this generation the most were Seo Taiji and Boys and H.O.T.
Seo Taiji and Boys were the ones who introduced the concept of “K-pop” as they mixed korean and western music and included english words in the lyrics of their songs and hip-hop choreographies. For this reason, they are recognized as the first K-pop group. For their part, H.O.T. is the first K-pop group that received training and was formed exclusively to be a music group that included all the characteristics that Seo Taiji and Boys had introduced to the Korean public. Other first-generation bands you may be familiar with are Sechs Kies, S.E.S., and Fin.K.L.
It began in the early 2000s and ended in 2011. This generation is known as the golden age of K-pop. During these years iconic kpop groups debuted and dominated the music charts. At the time, K-pop became a global hit, and this helped the expansion of the hallyu (korean wave). It was here that Korea built its way to the world; idols started appearing everywhere, being part of reality shows and doramas, and having a lot of interaction with the public. This generation is characterized by multifaceted idols, international touring, and catchy and experimental songs in a unique style of pop and hip-hop. Their music was risky and very different from conventional pop, as well as their MVs, which were characterized by synchronized concepts and choreographies, full of energy, power, and great production.
The most representative artists are TVXQ, Super Junior, Big Bang, T-ara, 2EN1, Girls’Generation, SHINee, and PSY, among others. The artists of this generation are known for paving the way, as they polished the characteristics of the previous generation, broke stereotypes, and strongly established the must-be of K-pop groups. Something that is still used today when integrating and debuting a group. Also, the second generation was in charge of opening the way for K-pop globally, getting international fans, and making the genre the phenomenon that it is today. They were the ones who brought their sound, color, image, and energy to K-pop.
The third generation arrived in 2012 and finishedin 2018, being the generation that has had the most internationalization. If the previous generations opened the way and paved it, this generation exploded the genre and broke the music barriers in the west, becoming the first generation to dominate the music group market worldwide. The third generation lived up not only to their superiors in the medium but also to western groups such as NSYNC, Spice Girls, One Direction, and Little Mix. The result of their efforts was a generation full of groups with an international reputation. Moreover, it was also the generation that used and mastered social media like no other in the history of music globally. Showing creative and expressive K-pop, mixing many more genres of music, and touching on many themes within their music. The songs became even catchier and were also recognized for their quality in production, lyrics, and sound. This is the generation where more idols started producing their music.
This generation had a big push from mainstream platforms and social networks, and they are also the generation that has the most produced MVs, merchandise, and promotional content. Not to mention, their fandoms are the biggest in the world. Representative groups in this generation are BTS, Blackpink, Twice, Mamamoo, Monsta X, Seventeen, Got7, and EXO, among others.
Our current generation started in 2018 and continues to this day in 2023. It is a well-rounded and highly competitive generation, as it has had to faced to previous generations and their high standards. In addition, due to the pandemic of 2020, it has had to innovate to have the closeness that its previous generation had with the fans. This generation is the first to enjoy the great strengths of K-pop and is characterized by its mastery and use of the Internet and social networks. Their groups are multi-ethnic and handle a wide variety of genres and styles. Also, the groups are more advanced and have better performance, in addition to using modern techniques to make music and generate trends.
The groups of the fourth generation are Stray Kids, TXT, LOONA, ATEEZ, Aespa, Treasure, ITZY, (G) I-DLE, and EVERGLOW, among others. This generation is still going on, but it is rumored that it is arround to end, this being its last year.
It’s on its way, and it won’t be long before we meet its groups. This will happen because the four major entertainment companies have plans to debut new groups, and it is expected that several audition programs will be released and more groups, specifically boy groups, will debut them. Experts say this is going to happen because this year is the year in which several representative groups of the fourth generation will enter their fifth year since their debut and also because the most active boy groups worldwide will begin to take a break due to military service; therefore, it is logical that more groups will debut.
It is not yet known which groups will be the leaders, but it is expected that the first group of the fifth generation to debut will be the one formed through the Boys Planet program.
Without a doubt, each of the generations so far has had a big impact on what we know as K-pop. Each one has brought the genre to be what it is now: an electrifying and brilliant genre, full of energy and impactful concepts, something that we love and takes our breath away. I am a super fan of the second and third generations because I grew up with them, but I’m starting to love the fourth generation. Now tell me about you, which generation did you come into the fandom?
Written by: Marisol Montiel
Review by: Luisa Quintero
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