By Michelle Woo
Before there was SNSD, 2NE1, Big Bang, and Wonder Girls, there was S.E.S., g.o.d., and H.O.T. Familiar with these names? You must be an O.G. K-pop fan.
Today, the manufactured genre has flooded the global consciousness (perhaps you've heard of a little video called “Gangnam Style?”), but the roots were planted more than 15 years back, when the first crop of fresh-faced boy and girl bands stepped onto the stage in Seoul and captured the hearts — and charged up the hormones — of a teenage generation. The was no autotune, no off-the-wall costumes and dizzying special effects, just catchy tunes, fun dance moves and surprising talent. Here then, are the top 10 old school K-pop groups.
Considered by many as the original Korean idols, H.O.T. (which stands for High-Five of Teenagers) connected with the nation's youth with songs about society and teen angst. The five boys — Moon Hee Jun, Jang Woo Hyuk, Tony An, Kangta and Lee Jae Won — debuted in 1996 and nearly every album they released sold over a million copies. They broke up in 2001.
Debuting in 1997, the three-member group was considered the female version of H.O.T. While their image shifted from cutesy to edgy, the trio –Sea, Eugene and Shoo (ie S.E.S.) — attracted legions of fans who loved their ethereal songs and sweet voices. The group released several successful albums before disbanding in 2002.
Sechs Kies (AKA 6kies)
A onetime rival of H.O.T, this hip-hop group debuted in 1997 with members Eun Ji Won, Lee Jae Jin, Kim Jae Duc, Kang Sung Hoon, Ko Ji Yong and Jang Su Won. The band was divided into “Black Kies” and “White Kies” with the former doing most of the rapping and the latter doing most of the singing. After releasing four albums, they split in 2000.
With a name that stood for “Fin Killing Liberty,” the all-girl quartet took a stance against the oppression of freedom. (Fin means “ending” in French). They were the antithesis of the bubblegum-pop groups of their time, stomping onto the scene with R&B power ballads. In 2002, the four members Lee Hyori, Joo Hyun, Lee Jin and Sung Yuri all went onto pursue solo careers.
Debuting in 1998, Shinhwa is still around today, making it the longest existing boy band in K-pop history. The boys — Eric Mun, JunJin, Shin HyeSung, Andy Lee, Kim DongWan and Lee MinWoo — all have charisma and killer dance moves. After a four-year hiatus, the group made a comeback this year with their 10th studio album, The Return.
While the group wasn't an overnight success — their Spice Girls-style was considered too brazen in conservative Korea — the five girls found fame with their third album Get Up, which hit the No. 1 spot on the pop charts. Baby V.O.X., which stood for Baby Voices of Xpression, existed from 1999 to 2005.
Entering the scene in 1999 with the single “To Mother,” g.o.d. (Groove Over Dose) nabbed the most prestigious awards, appeared in a TV series and sold out concerts. The five boys members, fronted by lead singer Park Joon Hyung (an Orange County native!), released seven albums before their disbanding in 2006.
Rapper Kim Jung Nam and vocalist Kim Jong Kook were Turbo, a supercharged duo that debuted in 1995 and swept the charts with their second album, New Sensation. The title track “Twist King” was an instant sensation that made the nation want to get up and dance.
Going way back into the history of K-pop, you'll find Roo'ra (“Roots of Reggae”), whose songs were grounded in, indeed, reggae. The group debuted in 1994 with members Lee Sang Min, Go Young Wook, Kim Ji Hyun, and Shin Jung Hwan, and single “There Are No Secrets” was their breakout hit. Controversy struck in 1996 when it was discovered that a sampling of a Japanese track was included in their song, “Cheon Sang Yu Ae.” The group broke up in 2001.
Diamond Bar buddies Teddy Park and Danny Im were two of the original members of 1TYM (pronounced “One Time”), Korea's original hip-hop idol group. The charismatic and energetic band, which also included Oh Jin Hwan and Song Baek Kyung, debuted in 1998 with the album One Time for Your Mind and released four more until going on hiatus in 2006. Today, Im is the host of Danny From LA, a Los Angeles-based talk show on MNET.