Chhavi Sharma, Surat, Gujarat and Ashley Kumar, New Delhi
K-pop (Korean pop music) originating from South Korea, is vast content-driven music, divided into several categories, one of which is based on “Generations.” Seo Taiji and Boys is considered to be the first K-pop group that gave birth to the K-pop industry. Groups debuting around the short timeline of 2012-2016 are considered to be a part of the 3rd generation of K-pop. The Third Generation of K-Pop artists plays a significant role in the breakthrough of the K-pop industry in the true sense.
After their seniors’ efforts to make K-pop an international phenomenon, they took K-pop to another level. Groups including EXO, BTS, BLACKPINK, Twice, EXID, BtoB, Got7, ikon, Mamamoo, GFriend, Seventeen, Winner, Red Velvet, NCT, MONSTA X, SF9, ASTRO, VICTON etc. are a part of this generation. 3rd generation was when K-pop started to get internationally famous and get global recognition. It was because of this generation that K-pop became truly a phenomenon. This generation put in a vibrant genre to Korea’s existing music industry where it could now be seen as something absolutely global and successful.
The songs in this time were different and bright with a speck of darkness in between. Dance routines became a standard which became one of the main elements of talent. It was at this time that groups would start making songs that would target a particular audience. It was also at this time that groups would start breaking societal stereotypes, proving that you don’t have to change yourself in order to fit in society. A great example would be Mamamoo.
Their music hit differently in the K-pop industry, and because of their lyrics, non-conventional thinking and quirky style, they gained a lot of attention and initially got a lot of support as well. This instigated a humungous international growth as well as domestic growth for the current K-pop market of the 3rd generation.
This was also the time when groups would fix an image for themselves. EXO was one of the first groups that came into this generation starting with their debut year in 2012. They were assigned all earthly elements’ power and abilities for each member such as fire, water, light, wind, teleportation, flight, lightning, ice/frost, telekinesis, time control, and healing which became their signature. This unique concept grabbed attention and EXO became the group with massive popularity and a dedicated fanbase.
With their first album ‘XOXO’ in 2013, alongside their single ‘Growl’, EXO became an instant hit, as they sold over one million copies, making this group the first Korean group to do so in 12 years. The group was also appointed as Korean Tourism Ambassadors in 2018 and had the honour of performing at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
One of the most famous groups, BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan), also comes in the 3rd generation line debuting in 2013. With humble beginnings at the start, this group saw immense success and popularity in years to come cementing their position as one of the top-global artists in the music scene. They became ‘The K-pop Group’, achieving every artist awards in their reach domestically and internationally. By 2016-2017, BTS had made their way to the Global music market, leading the Korean wave in many countries across the world breaking numerous records and stereotypes.
The group also became the first Korean act to top the US Billboard 200 Chart with their ‘Love Yourself: Tear’ (2018), followed by topping the Billboard consecutively with multiple singles and getting nominated for Grammy in 2020 and 2021. The members even became the youngest recipients of the prestigious ‘Order of Cultural Merit’ and were titled the ‘Presidential Envoys of South Korea’ by addressing the United Nations 73rd and 75th General Assemblies.
This time was basically labelled as “the quirkier, the better”. Groups like EXID, Red Velvet and Twice had album concepts that visually and musically set them apart from others. Songs like ‘Psycho’ ‘Up and Down’, ‘Red Flavor’, ‘Fancy’ and ‘Cheer Up’ had eye-popping effects and colours which initially led to their smashing success.
This was also the time when the impact of social media was recognised. Artists started to open Instagram, Facebook and Twitter account to promote themselves better which led to a flood of international fans from all corners of the world. These accounts also made it easier to communicate with fans on a more personal level, fandom wise.
Apart from year-end awards and physical album sales, other indicators such as YouTube views, digital charts, group rankings, brand reputation, and digital sales started to mean a lot for ascertaining a group’s popularity and success in this generation and for the upcoming next generation as well. Dance choreographies were made to be catchy, trendy and original. For example, most of Red Velvet and Twice’s choreographies have a certain point in them which makes it easier for fans to follow along.
Following the list, BLACKPINK came as a group with a girl-crush concept and naturally, they became a standard for it. Their lyrics, vocals, rap-line and choreographies became a new trend. They became the first female K-pop group to gain 1 billion views on YouTube, all thanks to their original concept which caught the audience’s eye.
If we were to talk about 3rd gen’s vigorous dance routines, NCT and Seventeen are the dominant ones. NCT, currently comprising of 23 members, boasts its unique concept of unending members lineup and sub-units called NCT 127, NCT Dream, WayV, & NCT U that have carved their name for their experimental music and intricate concepts.
On the other hand, Seventeen is a 13 members group, split into three sub-units namely “hip-hop”, “vocal unit” and “performance unit.” The choreographies of NCT and Seventeen have set the bar real high globally and are nearly impossible to match their level. It is because of these groups that newer ones are expected to showcase ever more unique moves for their albums.
GOT7 is also one such group that stood out during this generation the most because of their pure focus on hip-hop. They cemented their place in this scene and generation right from the beginning and became a true hip-hop phenomenon later on exploring other genres as well.
MONSTA X is a well-known group formed through a survival reality show. The group is known for their intimidating and confident music style approach and has come a long way with their amazing discography comprising amazing tracks in both Korean and English.
The 3rd generation might’ve been a short one, but they were the ones who brought in numerous trends, massive international and domestic appeal and have broken numerous records while setting many. These artists have set the standards and bar high for K-pop what it is today. Which Third generation group is your favourite? Tell us in the comments.