Ashley Kumar, New Delhi
Do you enjoy listening to K-pop? If yes, then have you ever wondered how it all started in the first place? Well, for that, we’ll have to go back to the early 90s and pay a little tribute to all the greats who started it all.
As technology was spreading globally, almost everyone had heard about American pop music, including South Korean people. As they kept watching, the desire for a new kind of genre sparked among them. Yes, they still loved ballads and trot music which was usually about love and family values, but they wanted to see something new. Then in 1992, it all changed with the debut of Seo Taiji and Boys with their song ‘I KNOW’ on MBC. The song was a mix of the typical American style pop and the Korean language with very original dance moves, and it was the biggest hit. Instead of talking about love, the lyrics were about oppression and the corrupt school system, something the youth could relate to, and naturally, the youth became their fans. Thus, a new Korean music genre was formed, today known as K-pop.
With Seo Taiji and Boys’ huge success, many entertainment companies opened up, solely for the purpose of producing this new kind of music. SM Entertainment debuted its first boy group in September 1996 called H.O.T. which is short for Highfive Of Teenagers with their album ‘We Hate All Kinds of Violence’, which was a smashing success, selling about 1.5 million copies. H.O.T. did not just release songs about oppression and social evils but also released happy songs like ‘Candy’ which was also a great success. In 1997, SM Entertainment also debuted their first girl group called S.E.S. which are the initials of the members’ names (Sea, Eugene, Shoo). Their debut album called ‘I’m Your Girl’ sold about 650,000 copies. They tried various concepts like innocent and edgy, and they were a whopping success every time.
Apart from these three groups, they were many more who ruled this era. Sechs Kies was the most popular group and had the most iconic songs like ‘Chivalry’, ‘School Anthem’ and ‘Remember Me’. Roo’ra was one of the first co-ed groups which debuted in 1994. They have won various awards for their very unique music. A very iconic song of theirs called ‘3!4!’ still remains a very nostalgic memory for their fans. Then comes Shinhwa who had their debut in 1998 and remain the only first-generation group to date as an active group without any hiatus in between and with the original members. Other honourable mentions are g.o.d., Fin.K.L., Koyote, Two Two, Chakra and Fly to the Sky. And these are only to name a few among countless others!
Apart from Shinhwa, all the above-mentioned groups had their disbands after some time, but looking at how the K-pop market has grown in recent years, they have got back together and have released special albums, singles, celebrated their 20-25th anniversaries which left their fans in very happy tears.
Regarding their current status, some members of these groups are still active in the music industry, while others are appointed as permanent hosts in variety shows. For example, Lee Sang-min, who was a member of Roo’ra, is now one of the hosts of Korea’s variety show called ‘Knowing Brothers’. Kim Jong-min, who was a member of Koyote, has starred in many variety shows like ‘2 days & 1 Night’ and ‘Busted!’. Joon Park from g.o.d. has his own show called ‘Wassup Man GO!’ where he travels around Korea and makes fun blogs. Kangta from H.O.T. is still active in the music industry and has released various solo tracks like ‘Cough Syrup’ and ‘Freezing’. Yang Hyun-suk from Seo Taiji and Boys went ahead and started his own entertainment company called YG Entertainment. Sechs Kies signed a new contract under YG Entertainment and have continued to release new music under the label.
When the second generation came in around 2005, they would perform iconic covers of songs like ‘Lie’ by g.o.d., ‘We Are the Future’ by H.O.T., ‘Everlasting Love’ by Fin.K.L., ‘The Angel Who Lost Wings’ by Roo’ra and many more. They kept these songs alive throughout the age, and drown in nostalgic tears when they hear these songs today. SM Entertainment has now started to re-upload their first-gen artists’ music videos in higher quality on YouTube and is making re-mastered versions via their new groups.
This was the First Generation of K-pop that started it all. This was the era of new concepts and a complete change in music trends. Even though this trend has evolved in the past 10 years, to enjoy it in its raw form, is something else entirely and I think that it’s pretty amazing.
Do you have a favourite First Generation K-pop group? Tell me about them in the comments below!