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Posted by Yeom-My Thursday, November 4, 2021

The Dark Era: The Girl Groups between the First & Second Generations


Last week, we took a look at the roots of girl group culture in K-pop. We were able to look at the "zeroth" generation of girl groups, and then we were able to dive in at the unofficial first generation of girl groups. We always thought that girl groups had such a significant influence in the Korean music industry, but there was a time where girl groups were underrepresented. Often called the dark ages of not only girl groups but idol culture in general, the gap generation between the first and second generation is unofficially called the 1.5th generation, or the dark era of girl groups.

Nevertheless, the groups that were produced and the music that was released during this era were still amazing. It's pretty upsetting actually because some of the tunes here are highly underrepresented. We can approximately say that the 1.5 generation began in 2003. Let's take a look at which girl groups made their hot debut and appearance during these dark times.

Big Mama

Unlike the typical girl groups we were seeing in the first generation, we saw a massive genre twist -- soul vocal group Big Mama made their hot debut. They weren't your typical girl group as they claimed that they would only succeed with their vocal skills. Commonly known as "faceless singer," even their music video portrayed idol-esque ladies lip-syncing the song while the four ladies of Big Mama were fearlessly singing their song. 

Bubble Sisters

A similar group that also made their hot debut was the Bubble Sisters. 

CSJH (The Grace)

SM's highly anticipated group made its debut in 2005, also showcasing the highly talented four ladies. If we were to compare to a group today, Mamamoo would well resemble CSJH The Grace. 


i-13 also made their appearance as the first 13-member girl group in South Korea. Now, it's common to see girl groups (maybe not 13..), but it was difficult to see a group with more than five members at this point. They're also considered Super Junior's sunbaes, so that's that! 

Gavy NJ

Gavy NJ's debut was plain shocking as their vocals were literally out of this world. We still remember listening to Jang Hee Young's crazy vocals and getting goosebumps. 


This group received a lot of attention for having pre-debuted actresses and celebrities come together and form a group. We can all remember Bae Seul Gi's bokgo dance on reality shows like "Love Letter" and "X-Man!" Yes, she was in THIS group! Unfortunately, because their primary occupation was actresses, they were criticized for being quite unprofessional and did not last long in the music industry. (TMI: Did you know Yoon Mirae produced this group?!)

Brown Eyed Girls

In 2006, things start brightening up for the girl groups as a legend debuts. Most commonly known for their hit song "Abracadabra," Brown Eyed Girls was initially a vocalist group and had a "faceless singer" concept just like Big Mama. The company soon figured out that they do, in fact, have potential and shifted gears to a more "easy-to-listen" concept while still showcasing amazing talent. 


Nicknamed the female SG Wannabe, these three ladies were at the center of attention even before their debut. Their debut album hit it big, and Nam Gyuri's visuals were just out of this world. They recently received the spotlight again after reuniting on "Sugarman." 


They were a project unit group with Cool's Yuri & Chae Ri Na, showcasing their veteran styles. 

Towards the end of the article, we can see that it looks like things started picking up again for girl groups. It does -- next week, we will dive in at the second generation of girl groups, including superstars that have paved K-pop for what it is today. Most people were introduced to K-pop in the second generation, and it's exciting to see how girl groups and K-pop itself have changed from then. Make sure to tune in next week! 

  1. Big Mama
  2. Brown Eyed Girls
  3. CSJH The Grace
  4. Gavy NJ
  5. SeeYa
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BlueCupcake273,413 pts Thursday, November 4, 2021 7
Thursday, November 4, 2021

I always thought BEG were second generation.

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SendFoodPics51 pts Thursday, November 4, 2021 2
Thursday, November 4, 2021

Big Mama I think were never kpop so I wouldn't consider them as "gg" but an RnB group but I suppose if Seeya is on here (they were a ballad group) then Big Mama can be included. Their counterpart was Brown Eyed Soul. All the ladies debuted at 30+ and all went to college for music in vocals, 3 of them are professors and teach today. For me, a kpop gg (see BEG) that breeched the gap would engage in more traditional gg models like photoshoots, less rigious classical training, and would try a more gg esque concept than straight RnB which would be reserved for the RnB genre.

Seeya had a big problem where two members were sidelined and only one member was promoted throughout Seeya's time, Nam Gyuri. This caused a lot of discord, but their main vocal, Kim Yeonji came back to sing, and has done very well on shows. I believe the last member is now selling scams on Twitch :(. But Seeya were very popular and iconic.

CSJH were seriously underrated, their best selling album was only 12k albums. I think honestly as the biggest CSJH stan, Aespa would be more like CSJH. They have similar vocal styles and the only SM ggs with strong concepts off debut. In fact, they had the same line distribution gap, and were SM's most vocally balanced girl groups. Ningning (Lina) -- Winter (Dana) -- Karina (Stephanie) -- Giselle (Sunday)

CSJH all actually had some members that debuted already. Lina had debuted in a duo -- Isak N Jiyeon with half-Korean half-white Isak but the duo flopped and BoA hit big so she redebuted and Isak left SM.

Dana had also gone solo but had mediocre success. CSJH just debuted at the wrong time for girl groups because they were actually the 3rd most popular gg back then (basically the Red Velvet) but most ggs were flopping.

Fun Fact: Lina is the strongest female SM vocalist to this day and the best kpop gg vocalist ever.

She's still in musicals today!

Mamamoo and CSJH did cater to an older audience with mature concepts though. I do think early Mamamoo was meant to follow Big Mama's RnB route but branched out to more gg with Um Oh Ah Yeah and hit big. Their predebut singles followed a more nonconventional genre for a girl group in kpop, and many nontraditional fans were hooked with Don't Wanna Cry and Peppermint Chocolate.

For Knowing Brother fans, Chakra would be a 1.5 generation group when BEG are a 2nd gen group, early 2nd gen but 2nd gen. Jewelry are another 1.5 generation group with a lot of lineup changes, they were good at variety.

Fly to The Sky was SM's attempt at a vocal focused male group, the duo wasn't super successful but were considered legendary vocalists.

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