The So-Called "Golden Era" of K-Pop. Do You Agree?

Since we walked through the 1st Gen K-Pop last week, it’s time to move on to the next era: from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s. If the first few idol groups trialled with the potential of Korea’s music industry and made an opening for Hallyu (Korean Wave), the 2nd Gen grabbed the baton stick and won the relay. Since this is the era that I’ve lived in and that I've fangirled for, I’ll have much MUCH more to talk about! 😍

TVXQ!

SM Entertainment

There’s a saying in Korea whenever one brings up the subject of K-Pop: “there will never again be a group like them.” In Korea, they are Dong Bang Shin Ki (DBSK), Tohoshinki in Japan, and TVXQ! in others. Called the literal legend of K-Pop, this 5 member group from SM Entertainment was a home run from the moment of their debut with Hug. I still remember the time when my sister taught me how to use the internet and showed me the MV - I was absolutely shocked by Hero’s (now called Jae-Jung) visuals, because he was the most beautiful human I've ever seen, ever. After their debut as an acapella group with soft ballad-like songs, they released heavy-beats like Rising Sun and "O"-Jung.Ban.Hap, hitting their peak of fame with MIROTIC in 2008. The popularity of TVXQ! was number one in both Korea and Japan, and became the one to widely open the doors of ‘Hallyu’ in Japan. With their fan club named Cassiopeia, TVXQ! was first to be recorded in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as 'having the largest official -paid- fan club,' in 2008. Three members Hero, Xiah, and Micky left the group in 2009, and the two members U-Know and Max kept the group as a duo. Even after the separation TVXQ! easily lived up to their past fame with songs like Keep Your Head Down and Catch Me.

Super Junior

SM Entertainment

The debut of Super Junior took the whole country by surprise because they were so out of the ordinary. First of all, the fact that there are thirteen members stumped the public. Making the best of a large number of members, Super Junior was first to come up with “unit groups,” smaller groups within the group, to target different genres and audience (e.g. Super Junior-T, H, M, K.R.Y, and D&E). The initial plan was to make a debut for a twelve-member group with the songs Twins and Miracle as Super Junior 05, as a 1-year project. But the group gained so much love and thousands of fans were gathered in such a short time that SM decided to keep the group. They ended up adding another member, Kyuhyun, in 2006 to make the group official making another debut with U. Their 2009 release, Sorry Sorry was a mega-hit in both Asia and Europe, and since then Super Junior’s success outside Korea had skyrocketed. In Taiwan, Sorry Sorry recorded number 1 on the national music chart for 121 WEEKS. To date, three members have left, yet the group and their fan base stays tight as always, celebrating their 15th anniversary this year in 2021. 

SS501

DSP Media

There are SOOOOO so many groups that represent 2nd Gen K-Pop, but the iconic three were the so-called “Dong-Su-501” - Dong Bang Shin Ki, Super Junior, and SS501. SS501 from DSP Entertainment (formerly called Daesung) debuted in 2005 with their first single, Warning. As DSP’s rookie group, Warning did get them the attention, but their actual nationwide recognition started with their second single released in the same year, Snow Prince - giving them the nickname “princes of K-Pop”. Following the path of TVXQ!, the group was an enormous hit in East Asian countries and most of all, Japan. SS501 was the first-ever non-Japanese Asian group to be charted in the Top 10 of the Oricon Weekly Chart with their debut single. Hyun-Joong, the leader of the group, has most notably been a huge celebrity in many East Asian countries since his appearance as Yoon Ji-Hoo in the iconic K-Drama Boys Over Flowers (2009). Even though I was a desperate SM Entertainment fan back in the days, I was pretty obsessed with SS501’s songs such as Love Like This and Four Chance. The competition between the three main boy groups (TVXQ, Super Junior, SS501) and the fans was pretty fierce, and I remember this tension between my friends 😂 Nonetheless, since these groups were widely acknowledged as the unbeatable top 3, the fans came together and called for peace. When SS501's contract with DSP ended in 2010, the members went partways without any official disbandment announcement .

Girls’ Generation

SM Entertainment

Now the girls! When one reminisces the mid-2000s to the 2010s, there will always be Girls’ Generation. Also known as SNSD (So-Nyeo-Shi-Dae), this group was called the little sisters of Super Junior - characterised as another large SM Ent. group with nine members. These girls are called the “textbook of girl groups,” meaning that all girl groups should put Girls’ Generation as their ultimate role model and goal. From their debut in 2007 with Into the New World, there hasn’t been a single title song of theirs that did not shake the country. As they steadily gained popularity with songs like Girls’ Generation and Kissing You they peaked in 2009 with their all-time masterpiece Gee and continued to top their success ever since. The so-called “Gee-syndrome” hit Korea and the countries around it big time. Their coloured skinny jeans were in trend for a few years, and the "Gee dance" was covered by fellow celebrities and millions of fans around the world. Girls’ Generation's level of performance is in another class, with their perfectly synchronised and skilled choreographies. The group have fans all over the world, including US. In 2017, Billboard picked Girls’ Generation as the top of ‘10 Best K-Pop Girl Groups of the Past Decade,’ quoting the following: “Going strong 10 years into their career, Girls’ Generation are undisputed K-pop royalty.” After Jessica’s leave in 2014, the group still stay strong as an eight-member girl group. 

Wonder Girls

JYP Entertainment

Finally, the group that started the whole girl group dance craze. Wonder Girls will forever be named as the legendary group that reached the top of the country in the shortest time period. No exaggeration here when we say that these five girls have literally gave life to JYP Entertainment in the 2nd Gen of K-Pop. When the group first debuted with Irony in early 2007, the five members included Sun-Ye, Sun-Mi, Ye-Eun, So-Hee, and Hyun-Ah. Yes, I mean Hyun-Ah that used to be in 4minute and is the top solo diva now 🤩 Unfortunately, she had to withdraw from the group on their debut year due to health issues, and Yoo-Bin joined the team as the new rapper. September 2007 was when this group started walking the road to success with Korea's biggest hit song ever, Tell Me. It only took Wonder Girls a single year to strike a turkey with the three big sensations, Tell Me, So Hot, and Nobody. This group was the initial start of the girl group dance cover trend, with their easy-to-follow and catchy choreography. The songs and dances of the group also striked the US pop scene, and in 2009, Nobody became the first Korean song ever to enter the Billboard Top 100. 2010, Sun-Mi had to pause her career due to health reasons, being replaced by the new member Hye-Rim. In 2015, Sun-Ye and So-Hee left the group entirely and Sun-Mi rejoined the group to make a group of four. Unfortunately, the contract with JYP ended in 2017 and the group officially announced disbandment.

From the mid-2000s onwards, the gate for K-Pop idols opened wide and started reaching all countries around the globe. The competition was real, which allowed each group to put more and more effort to sharpen up the shining talent they already have. To talk about idol groups that conquered the 2nd Gen K-Pop, a single article can never be enough. BIGBANG, SHINee, 2NE1, KARA, Brown Eyed Girls, Beast, 2PM, 2AM, Miss A, Infinite, SISTAR, f(x), 4minute… Stop me now or the list will go on forever. Shout out to every single group & generation of K-Pop history, that made the worldwide love for K-Pop possible today 💞

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