Who are your Must-Hear K-pop Groups? Here’s Mine!

The New York Daily News recently wrote an article about the recent SMTOWN concert at Madison Square Gardens in New York City. At the end on the article they listed (with reasons) their 5 must-hear K-pop groups, which were: 2NE1, Big Bang, Super Junior, 2PM, and TVXQ.

The article, especially their recommendations of 5 “must-hear” K-pop groups, started me thinking about how I talk about K-pop to my non-K-pop loving friends and who I would recommend to someone who was interested in listening to K-pop. But I decided not to limit myself to only groups… I’m going to include solo artists as well 🙂 It was more difficult than you think coming up with this list as I wanted to nominate Big Bang, T.O.P, G Dragon and Tae Yang separately but I decided that wasn’t fair. But if you only have time to listen to one group… it has to be Big Bang!!! I also like a lot of Korean music that probably isn’t technically considered K-pop but for the purposes of this post, I will include them (so perhaps a better title would be my must-hear Korean music).  

Cindy’s “Must-Hear” K-pop Groups and Solo Artists:

Big Bang 

I love, love, love Big Bang! They were my first K-pop group that I listened to (at least knowingly) and I fell in love with their music immediately. I still listen to the first song I liked – Lies (거짓말) – and it was the first song I tried to memorize so I could sing it in the noraebang. I own almost all of their albums – some bought in Korea, some online, and some on iTunes. They produce some very dance-worthy songs and the music videos are often like little mini movies. Plus T.O.P., Tae Yang and G Dragon all have fabulous solo or duo albums. And don’t just believe me, they just won the MTV EMA Worldwide Act. If you only listen to one K-pop group, it should be Big Bang. 


They are a newer K-pop group and surprisingly for me, they are a girl group. Why is this surprising? I generally like male voices better but the girl-power sound of 2NE1 makes me smile. And I like being happy so I like them. Plus, their music is quite dancable too! For fun, girl-power music, they are the group to listen to. 

Dynamic Duo

Okay, they probably aren’t considered K-pop but I think they are the best Korean hip hop/rap duo. And that’s saying something as there are lots of other great acts. Plus I find their music videos funny or different from most other Korean music videos (others tend to be sad). For a great introduction of their music, check out their first album, Taxi Driver. And if you want to listen to other similar music, check out MC Sniper, Drunken Tiger and Epik High. 


You really can’t have a list of K-pop singers without have Rain or 비 as he’s know in Korean. I mean the dude made Time magazine’s “100 most influential” list (and People magazine’s “beautiful people” list). It can’t all be his abs 🙂 Although I was very surprised when I heard the song “Rainism” (and saw the video) because it was super suggestive for a Korean song (it got slapped with a 19+ label). And he can also act – Full House was the first Korean drama I ever watched and it was so sweet (even if the kiss at the end was super disappointing). And yes, I watched both Speed Racer and Ninja Assassin (mainly for Rain). 

TVXQ also know as (동방신기) Dong Bang Shin Ki

They started off as a group and are now a duo, and like many K-pop groups are quite popular in Japan (as well as the rest of Asia). I grew to like them more recently as I hear them often on SeoulFM (the online K-pop music station I listen to at work) and love the high-energy of a lot of their music. Plus the dance moves in their music videos rock! 

My “Honourable Mention” goes to the always fun to listen to but definitely not K-pop, punk group No Brain. I first heard them live at the Seoul World DJ Festival were they played a couple of songs, including one with Big Bang. I was smitten and continue to listen to them. Plus it didn’t hurt that they recorded a song – Oh My Friend – with Big Bang 🙂 

Who would make your list? I know someone is going to argue with me and say Super Junior or SHINee should be there 🙂

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

4 thoughts on “Who are your Must-Hear K-pop Groups? Here’s Mine!

  • February 19, 2012 at 2:29 am

    On a comment I made an hour ago or so, I said that I had no interest in my language/culture until middle school. In 7th grade, I started listening to kpop.
    1) I have no allegiance to any one group other than SHINee, and that’s only for their older/less mainstream songs. I do love Replay, 화살, and Romantic.
    2) For fun-to-sing ballads (sounds like an oxymoron, I know) SM the Ballad, A-ble (without the word i love you), December, 4men
    3) Pure Eyecandy: X-5
    4) Fave songs: I’d say Infinite (Hysterie, she’s back), Mblaq (Y, Cry, Stay, Again, 낙서), Clazziquai, which isnt mainstream kpop (She is, Romeo n Juliet, and Sistar (Ma Boy, Shady Girl) sang some of my favorites.
    5) Best old kpop: 파도 by UN, Perfect Man by 신화, BoA in general but especially Next Step

    Clazziquai gets a second mention for having the best OST track to the best drama ever, My Lovely Samsoon. The main girl is a real woman with spunk, the main guy is played by Hyunbin, the plot is great, and the song “She Is” is in pretty much every episode. BEST SONG EVER.

    • February 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      Love your well thought out comment and I have to say I’m a fan of Clazziquai too. That’s what lead me to listen to Alex, who I love for ballads.

  • September 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for mentioning DBSK/TVXQ!!! They are my favorite Korean music group and even though they’ve split into TVXQ and JYJ – they’re still Dong Bang Shin Ki to me!

    • September 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm

      No problem! ^^ I still think of them as Dong Bang Shin Ki too as that is how I was first introduced to them.

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