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The Emo Band to K-pop Stan Pipeline is Real, so here’s some groups to get into if you want to Join!

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

If you told middle school me that I would be one of the biggest K-pop fans ever, she would laugh in your face. You see, in middle school, the only artists I would listen to were bands like My Chemical Romance, Pierce the Veil, and Paramore, and would scrunch my nose at anything that didn’t have an electric guitar blazing through it. 

However, as I grew older, I obviously became much more appreciative of many genres of music, including K-pop. And, I am not the only one that has had this somewhat drastic music taste shift; there are many documented threads on social media sites like Reddit and Twitter in which users share how they went from mainly listening to “hardcore emo bands” to “bright bubblegum k-pop.”

Now, as much as I love the bright bubblegum K-pop now, I do believe that there is also a middle ground between the two genres, which I would argue actually leads to the pipeline being as common of an experience as it is for many K-pop fans. And so, here’s a quick list of some of the K-pop groups that I believe will appeal to a former? (I still listen to midwest emo now to be honest….) emo kid now.

But, before I make my list, I do want to give some disclaimers. First, this is not an article that is necessarily about rock bands in Korea (there’s this great playlist by Spotify that I think will do a better job exposing you to some of awesome Korean rock bands that are out there), nor is this an article that will contain all the K-pop groups that have implemented rock elements into their music (here’s a playlist if you’re curious enough about K-pop idol rock too). Rather, this is a list of groups that I have been interested in, along with reasons why I personally think these groups and bands appeal to my emo self. Additionally, I will probably throw around a lot of technically very different genres of rock when I am talking about the appeal of groups (mainly metal, rock, pop punk, etc), not just emo only. Anyways, let me get onto my list. 

1. NCT 127

In the K-pop world, NCT 127 is one of the groups that are known for their “noisy, abrasive, and experimental discography.” In particular, their sound tends to be based in both RnB and Hip Hop, with mixes of many other genres, such as Afrobeats (Fact Check) and EDM (Superhuman, Chain, Firetruck). Additionally, they are known for doing out of the box things when it comes to their songs, such as using a very unconventional flute sample throughout their song, “Sticker.” So, despite not having any rock influences in their music at all, I believe that they are one of the most appealing groups to an Emo music lover because of how musically “full” they are; their songs contain lots of clashing harmonies, have powerful vocals, and are quite loud, much like our emo hits. From songs like “Punch” to “Simon Says” to “Cherry Bomb,” you will find yourself enjoying how hard-hitting their instrumentals are (please listen on a bass boosted speaker, you will find the experience just as satisfying as listening to a band bass boosted just trust me), and appreciating how ear-wormy their music can be. 


Another thing that I remember enjoying about being an emo music fan was how theatrical the concepts, music videos, and performances could be; I still remember having my mind blown by the music videos put out by My Chemical Romance because of how lore-focused they were and how awe-spiring everything was to look at. And though concepts are a very big thing in K-pop as well, I think the one group that has created an identity through their concepts that is just as awe-spiring as the emo bands of the time is the girl group Aespa. Their lore is honestly even quite intensive for me to explain in this little blurb, so I will link a description of it here. This lore ended up lending itself to having a very unique, futuristic concept, which even big websites like Pinterest have taken on to call “aespacore.” But in addition to how eye-catching Aespa’s visuals can be, another thing that I think emo fans will come to appreciate is how “brain scratchy” Aespa’s music can be; their fusion of the genres EDM, RnB, and Hyperpop (best seen in their songs “Savage,” “Illusion,” and “Drama”) have led to them having very hard hitting, satisfying instrumentations that I think many emo fans will appreciate for how they hit similar brain scratching zones that emo rock does. 


Honestly, I’m putting this group on the list because of one thing that I think is tempting enough to include: their etherealness. Their music has this kind of grandiose to it, which I think is due in part to the classical instruments they infuse into their songs. More specifically, the “grandness” of their music almost reminds me of some women fronted rock/metal bands, like Evanescence or Within Temptation. Additionally, I think another thing that I can see fans of groups like Evanescence or Within Temptation gravitating towards is the style of singing used by Purple Kiss, which I personally feel is very reminiscent of the vocal styles used by the main vocalists of these metal/rock bands. Some songs that I think really fulfill this musical niche in particular are their songs “Sweet Juice,” “T4ke,” “Ponzona,” and “Pretty Psycho,” while “My Heart Skips a Beat” is one of my favorite rock songs ever put out by a K-pop idol group. 


And… now we get into the band that was the whole reason I wanted to write this article in the first place and quite literally one of my favorite K-pop groups of all time, Xdinary Heroes. I swear, this band was quite literally made for former emo kids; they take inspiration from a lot of the 2000s rock bands we all loved growing up: My Chemical Romance, Green Day, Muse, Bring to the Horizon, Blink 182, etc while also incorporating many elements of music found in typical idol K-pop groups music, such as the chord progressions they use and the way that the members sing; their songs tend to be more melodic then on the shouty side that I notice with my rock favorites. In other words, their music scratches the heavy drums and bass that I crave from rock bands, while also providing something new and distinct from the K-pop world I love. Additionally, their concepts and music videos also have that somewhat familiarity to the emo bands of the past while also being distinctly them: from their take on “death clowns” to “edward scissorhands style horror” to even the typical “boys in playing instruments in the rain” video that I also associate with the early 2000s rock bands of the time. All and all, Xdinary Heroes is a group that I am really drawn to for their ability to be the best of both worlds in regards to combining elements of K-pop and rock, and I am really excited to see how they grow as a group. Some of my personal favorites by them include basically the entirety of their Troubleshooting album, “Man in the Box,” “Pluto,” and “Strawberry Cake.”

And, those are some of my personal favorite K-pop groups as of late, and groups that I believe will really appeal to the “Emo” music fans out there who are interested in seeing how real this emo to k-pop stan pipeline really is.

Brinda Kalita

UC Riverside '24

4th year history major with opinions on anything and everything