With the evolution of the general sound of K-Pop, K-Pop artists have grown in multiple directions. Being in quality of production or just an overall more refined experience, K-Pop groups have come a long way. Their measure of success has also broken quite a few records, establishing K-Pop on a global stage of quality. Let us compare how these groups have changed from their debut songs to their latest comeback!
BTS debuted with the song ‘No More Dream,’ which had a clear hip-hop influence and fresh new energy that had not been seen in K-Pop for a very long time. Even though hip-hop and American influences in K-Pop were common, BTS went off the beaten path and focused on a shared Korean sentiment, integrating it into their music. However, in doing so, they also resonated with a common human experience that the whole world could eventually relate with. The rookie energy was strong and BTS carried their hopes, dreams, and anxieties on their back. Fast forward to their latest comeback, ‘Dynamite,’ all the members have realized their full potential and have come to terms with who they truly are and it reflects in the music they’re making. Most importantly, they’re now the vessels of the dreams and hopes of millions. “Use me,” says RM, “use us, to love yourself.” If there’s any group with a growth curve that’s mirrored in their own personal growth, it’s BTS. ‘Dynamite’ is not just an optimistic ray of sunshine in a dark world but also a culmination of 7 years of BTS.
Super Junior is one of the forerunners of the Hallyu wave, which was responsible for bringing K-Pop to the world for the first time ever. Despite being an experimental group, especially the first of its kind, Super Junior could establish a characteristic sound right from the start. The fact that they would achieve a global fanbase was obvious. Their debut single was ‘Twins (Knock Out),’ which saw these fresh new faces try a new concept. Quite a bit of attention was given to music video production and visuals were key. Super Junior went from boys to men but still retained the charm of novelty. Their latest pre-release single ‘The Melody’ in celebration of their 15th anniversary proves this the best. Super Junior is inimitable and has created a league of its own that is simply untouchable. Focus has shifted from youthful rap to mature vocals and it has been a welcome transition. However, Super Junior continues to make hearts flutter with just as much of a rush as when they debuted.
GOT7 had one of the most successful debuts with ‘Girls Girls Girls’, which instantly shot them to fame and for good reason too. For the first time, a group was adopting martial arts into their already refined choreography. Their music appealed to a very specific targeted audience, establishing a dedicated fandom before branching out into varied genres and musical styles. Their latest comeback with the lead single, ‘Not by the Moon,’ is diametrically opposite to their debut song, with a distinct focus on all the members and their personal strengths while also presenting coherence unlike any other. The production quality in music and video is brilliant, and most importantly, the song reflects the members' personalities instead of hiding them behind a predetermined concept. There is no sense of urgency but instead a slow and sweet burn through honey-like vocals.
MAMAMOO marked a brand new beginning for girl groups and the concepts that girl groups could take on. Their debut with the single, “Mr. Ambiguous,” was hailed as one of the most successful K-pop debuts of 2014. Even then, their debut doesn’t hold a candle to the incredible success that MAMAMOO has achieved now. The members have deliberately moved away from traditional girl group music to making empowering music while also respecting the individual members' personal tastes and preferences, allowing them to shine in their strengths. MAMAMOO are the queens of feminist anthems and nobody does it better. Their latest comeback with ‘AYA’ truly shows how far they’ve come. The aesthetic value and production of music videos have improved manifold and the members are bright stars with self-affirming confidence radiating with every step they take. Not only are they challenging gender norms and beauty standards, but they are also becoming role models for millions of young children worldwide.
Red Velvet debuted with the cheery single ‘Happiness,’ which was the very definition of a K-Pop girl group music. As a matter of fact, it set the standard for girl group music for the 3rd generation of K-Pop. Following Yeri’s addition to the line-up, the group could realize its full potential as Korea’s representative girl group. Music videos have always been a key highlight for Red Velvet with strange and often psychedelic concepts brought to life. Even now, in 2020, Red Velvet has retained its uniqueness while the quality of their vocals has skyrocketed. Red Velvet does not shy away from darker concepts but rather embraces it, giving it the characteristic “Red Velvet” flavor, all puns intended. This is evident in their latest comeback with ‘Psycho’ where they represent a cold distance with a similar kind of vocal power in opposition to their warm, summery debut.