True veterans of K-Pop will remember the 2000s and 2010s of the industry as extraordinarily creative and experimental days, wherein K-Pop emerged as an international phenomenon and went through some growing pains to get to know itself better.
1. Wonder Girls’ “Tell Me” was the anthem of a generation
Any veteran K-Pop fan knows that the entire country was addicted to the strange and magical melody and lyrics of Wonder Girls’ “Tell Me”, not to mention its quirky dance moves. It inspired countless parodies and boosted Wonder Girls’ and JYP Entertainment’s status in the industry.
2. Variety shows were everything
The big entertainment companies began getting their idols to appear more and more on variety shows and showcase individual members’ personalities almost to the exclusion of all else. This became such a norm that Super Junior was even criticized for a while for not making new music and appearing only on television.
But, of course, that didn’t deter anybody from jumping on the “Sorry Sorry” dance train.
3. HyunA was named the sexiest idol ever
In 2011, Hyuna claimed the title of one of the sexiest idols ever to grace K-Pop with “Bubble Pop” and “Troublemaker”. Some even predicted that this was the sexiest K-Pop or even Hyuna would ever be—if only they had seen K-Pop now!
4. That time PSY chugged an entire bottle of Soju on stage
PSY’s success overseas with “Gangnam Style” is a well-known fact, meme, gif, vine, etc. But only true fans of PSY know that during his first concert in Seoul back from the U.S., he chugged an entire bottle of soju in one go to celebrate Korea, K-Pop, and his success.
5. It took Brown Eyed Girls 3 whole years to become famous
Brown Eyed Girls debuted in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2009 with “Abracadabra” and its “Arrogant Dance” that they found their way to mainstream popularity.
The subtle, but sensual, main dance move was all the rage and remains a staple reference even to this day.
6. 2NE1 was actually a huge risk for YG Entertainment
2NE1 was seen as a huge experiment and a gamble because the members didn’t fit K-Pop’s then rigid definition of beauty.
Nevertheless Sandara Park’s “apple hair” was beloved, desired, and rarely executed by the public.
7. It was unclear whether Girls’ Generation would be a hit
When they first debuted, there were those who actually doubted Girls’ Generation’s potential for success and marketability! The girl group went on to prove them wrong almost immediately with the release of “Girls’ Generation” and “Into the New World”, and eventually became known as “the nation’s girl group”.
8. BIGBANG debuted as a hip-hop group
BIGBANG’s sound wasn’t always what it is today as the group’s debut concept was hip-hop. What’s more, that the public initially thought the group lacked any extraordinary visual members!
9. KARA’s “Mister Mister” dance refocused K-Pop’s choreography game
KARA’s back-focused, addictive dance was not only popular, it influenced K-Pop choreography for years to come.
10. I Am a Singer was the gladiatorial stage for veteran and renowned K-Pop stars
Veterans like Lee Sora, Kim Gun Mo, YB, and Baek Ji Young went toe-to-toe in front of a huge live audience for the 1st place. There was no hiding—honor was at stake.
11. IU’s first few albums were relative flops!
IU’s first three albums, Lost and Found, IU…IM, and Growing Up were not very popular at all. Compared to Growing Up, which sold around 22,000 copies, her third EP, Real (with the popular single, “Good Day”) sold an impressive 85,000 copies. Her popularity really started with Real.
12. Hyolyn of SISTAR was the fierce queen of the day
Hyolyn came through blazing with her fierce and no-filter personality to go with her amazing vocals.