Six Korean Artists to Listen to If You Are Not Into K-pop

In the past several years, K-pop has, quite literally, taken over the world. Fear not —  I don’t mean world domination, but rather a new genre of music and culture that has spread outside its origin country of Korea. Whether you’ve heard of K-pop through the talk of BTS performing at the Grammy Awards or Blackpink appearing on SNL, there is a good chance K-pop has wiggled its way into the vast horizons of your mind. At first glance, this eclectic music genre seems to be a culmination of bright lights, iconic choreography, and, most importantly, high production value. While this does apply to numerous parts of K-pop, it’s quite an understatement since the term itself translates to “Korean Pop/Popular Music”. Thus, there are dozens of other types of singers and subgenres nested in this deep multi-million dollar industry. 

If you’re someone who may not be so attracted to the more “stereotypical” aspects of K-pop or have taken a shot with groups like BTS and Blackpink and can’t get into it, this list is for you.

  1. Jamie is a 23-year old singer-songwriter who first found success from participating in and winning a televised singing competition, K-Pop Star. She then became part of a duo but is now doing music solo, and might I add that I absolutely love her solo music. Even though she grew up in Thailand, she is also fluent in English, which is apparent in almost any interview she either hosts or gives. Plus, she hosts weekly podcasts that reveal more about her adventures in Korea as well as advice to listeners (look up “What Would Jamie Do?”).

    Song Recs: Stay Beautiful, April Fools, PUTP (Pick Up the Phone), Do You?

    Sounds Like: Demi Lovato mixed with BENEE. Upbeat but also chill sometimes and can hit those high notes

  2. This might be the only group on this list but I can say without a doubt is one of my favorite K-pop artists holistically. The group name is actually a play on words: “Red” is meant to represent their playful, more bubblegum-pop music while “Velvet” is the R&B / chill side. In other words: it’s the best of both worlds! If you find yourself not liking their upbeat happy songs, then you can easily just listen to the mellow ones instead. The five member girl group has been going strong since 2014 and have won numerous accolades to date.

    Song Recs: Bad Boy, Psycho, Russian Roulette, So Good

    Sounds Like: Imagine you have five Ariana Grande’s in one group – the harmonies!

  3. I’m sure I’ve talked about Eric on this site before; in fact, I mentioned him in my 10 Artists to Listen to ASAP article. Growing up in Atlanta and going to school at Boston College, he is also very fluent in English—even coming out with an all English album a year ago! He just released new music a month ago, but I haven’t gotten the chance to listen to it yet. Eric’s voice is absolutely heavenly and almost makes me wonder how he’s older than everyone on this list….  

    Song Recs: Congratulations, You’re Sexy I’m Sexy, Body

    Sounds Like: Shawn Mendes mixed with Lauv. Just a really nice voice.

  4. 4. Heize

    Heize is interesting in the sense that she sings and raps. Similar to Jamie, she gained popularity after participating in a rapping competition and has gained success with solo music. Heize has also been featured in a lot of other Korean songs and almost all her music falls under the R&B theme. Despite this, she has also sung some ballads, many of which are played in different Kdramas.

    Song Recs: We Don’t Talk Together, Jenga, Wish You Well, And July

    Sounds Like: Summer Walker mixed with H.E.R

  5. 5. IU

    IU is probably the definition of “Lazy Sunday” music, but I’m not complaining. Debuting at the mere age of 15, IU has been in the K-pop industry for over a decade and she’s still going strong. Her music is a mix of ballads, R&B, and just chill tracks. Quite honestly, out of everyone in this list, her music is most similar to that of the Indie genre.

    Song Recs: BBIBBI, Palette, eight

    Sounds Like: BENEE mixed with Birdy with a dash of King Princess. Indie also mixed with ballads and lofi

     

  6. There seems to be a trend in successful Korean artists having their roots in competitive reality shows. Daniel originally went on a show called Produce 101 to be a part of a rising boy group...and won! After the group disbanded, he ultimately started not only his own solo career, but also his own company. Despite still being new to the scene, Daniel has made a name for himself in the K-pop realm by being able to sing and rap.

    Song Recs: What are you up to?, Waves, Color, Horizon

    Sounds Like: Blackbear and Rich Brian but more upbeat

Once you get past the fact that you may not understand what they’re singing (because, hey, translations/subtitles exist), K-pop becomes so immersive, and the subgenres within it become absolutely addicting.