10 K-Pop Solo Artists That Should Be On Your Radar
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By now, you’ve probably already heard of the massive popularity of many K-pop groups such as the Bangtan Boys (BTS), EXO, Stray Kids, Seventeen, and Blackpink. The truth is, whenever someone mentions anything about K-pop, people often tend to assume they’re referring to one of the many popular K-pop groups and not K-pop solo artists.
However, while there are definitely many great K-pop groups to listen to, there are also many amazing K-pop solo artists out there as well. Sure, these solo artists don’t always have a large dance group choreography in their music videos (some of them still do), but they are still able to produce some amazingly creative and catchy sounds.
Let’s not forget about the solo artists who are defeating the odds and earning their place amongst the greats. Here are ten K-pop solo artists that should be on your radar. This list consists of a range of Korean rappers, singers, and even former group members who have also decided to go solo. You won’t regret checking them out.
Our Top Ten K-pop Solo Artists
Taemin, which is the stage name for the artist Lee Tae Min, actually started his music career as part of the group SHINee back in 2008. However, after several years of experimenting and creating music under his own definition, Taemin decided to become a solo act in addition to being a member of SHINee. He officially debuted as a solo artist in 2014.
Taemin is known to be a very innovative and experimental artist. He is always trying new things to further refine his individual musical style. Basically, if you listen to a Taemin song, you’ll know it’s a Taemin song. His music is truly unique and worth a listen.
IU, the stage name for Lee Ji Eun, actually represents the words “I” and “You”, which is meant to represent a union of the singer and listener through the art of music. As far as female solo K-pop artists go, IU is truly a star as she is famously known as one of the greatest K-pop solo artists (or artists in general) in the industry. Her music is catchy, funky, and high-energy, making you want to dance (or at least bob your head). Aside from music, she is also known as a host for many radio and TV shows as well as a K-drama star.
The solo artist G-Dragon (Kwon Ji Yong) is well-respected in the industry. In fact, he is commonly revered as one of the true kings of K-pop. Not only is G-Dragon a singer, but he is also a songwriter, rapper, fashion icon, and entrepreneur of sorts. He had his start in the industry fairly early, especially considering that he trained for more than six years with YG Entertainment. At age twelve, he entered the music world as a rapper. Unlike many of the other K-pop artists on this list who have a sound that’s primarily pop-ish, G-Dragon’s music sounds mature, grungy, and intense. He blends hip hop, pop, and R&B into amazing works of art. Currently in mandatory military service, he will be back in October, and will hopefully put out more music for everyone soon!
If you follow K-pop culture, then you’ve definitely heard of BTS. If you’ve heard of BTS, then you know who Jung Hoseok is, who’s referred to by his stage name, J-Hope. J-Hope started his music career as a member of the famously-known boy band, and in the years that followed, J-Hope and the rest of the BTS crew proceeded to produce record-breaking hits that earned them a very large fan-base and prestigious awards to match.
However, only last year, J-Hope decided to experiment with creating his own music in the form of a solo mixtape release. So far, his solo status has been well received by fans, who enjoy listening to his upbeat and catchy music that blends several genres together effortlessly into melodic bliss.
Kim Chan Mi, who goes by her stage name Chungha, was originally famous as the main dancer (and sub-vocalist) of I.O.I, which was a short-lived K-pop group that existed after performing on the show Produce 101. Today, however, she is a well-known name in the industry due to her soulful voice and great dance talent. Chungha finally debuted as a solo artist in 2017 after releasing her album Hands on Me. Fun fact: Since Chungha lived in Dallas, Texas for eight years as a child, she is fluent in both English and Korean.
The South Korean singer Lee Sun-mi, known as Sunmi, was originally a member of the K-pop group Wonder Girls. In 2010, she decided to leave the group in pursuit of a career in academics instead. However, after only three years away from the music industry, Sunmi decided to return, only this time as a solo artist rather than a member of a group. In August 2013, she debuted her first solo EP, Full Moon, which included several chart-topping hits. As she moves forward, she plans to continue her solo career, with a mini-tour already planned as of this year. Her music is colorful, soulful, sensual, and truly unique.
Better known as Yesung, Kim Jong Woon began his career as a member of the famous group Super Junior. However, he ultimately decided to branch off and start his own solo career instead, with the release of his album Here I Am in 2016. His most recent release happened only this year, with the 2019 mini-album Pink Magic.
Aside from his music career, since 2007, Yesung is also a well-known actor. He appeared in several movies, including The Stage, Super Show 3, I Am, My Korean Teacher, and more.
Amy Lee, who’s better known as Ailee, is actually an American singer who was signed to a South Korean label (YMC Entertainment). She was originally signed with Muzo Entertainment of America, but her 2010 audition with YMC led her to land a deal and ultimately join the ranks as one of the most sought-after solo K-pop artists. After being absent from the scene for three years, Ailee returned this year with the release of her album butterFLY, which has topped world music charts. Her music is a mix of many different genres, but she tends to keep funky and upbeat energy throughout.
Amber Josephine Liu, or simply Amber, is a well-respected figure in the K-pop industry. Although she is technically a Taiwanese American singer, she is based in South Korea and started her music career there. Amber grew up in Los Angeles but ultimately moved to Seoul at age 16 to start a career in the music industry. At just 17 years old, she earned a spot as a member of the girl group f(x). In 2015, Amber ultimately decided to go solo with her music, releasing a debut album titled Beautiful. Aside from singing, she also composes, raps, dances, and edits videos. She is also adored for being an unconventional figure in the industry, sporting baggy clothes and a short hairstyle to stay true to her tomboy style.
Sunggyu, who’s real name is Kim Sungkyu, started his career in 2010 as the leader and main vocalist for the K-pop group Infinite. Only two years later, Sunggyu decided to go solo and debuted his first soloist album called Another Me. For several years after, he kept himself busy with several musicals, dramas, and other musical acts. However, in response to a large request by his fans, Sunggyu ultimately returned to his music recording career in 2018 with the debut of his album 10 Stories. While it is a full album, it is also a bit of a love story as well, which pays homage to Sunggyu’s involvement in drama and musicals. Each song in the album portrays a different emotion. His return to the music scene was so well received that tour tickets sold out within minutes of becoming available.
K-pop Solo Artists: Choose Your Flavor(s)!
As you can see, K-pop goes well beyond the mainstream boy and girl-bands. There are many amazing K-pop artists who have fared equally as well in their solo careers, offering many varying flavors of music and appeal. While this list covers ten of the most popular K-pop solo artists, there are many other amazing soloists who are taking over the scene as well. As you probably already know, one of the most enjoyable things about K-pop is that it offers a wide variety of music flavors to suit just about any taste. Whether you like reggae, R&B, pop, soul, rap, or a blend of all of the above, you’ll surely find what you’re looking for from one or more of the amazing artists above. Stay adventurous and be open to the many flavors K-pop has to offer!
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Peter Manley is a freelance journalist and contributor to Trend & Chaos
This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)