Some of the Best K-Pop Artists of the 2010s


I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea for me, die-hard K-pop fan, to write an article about the best K-pop songs of the decade, but I did… at one point.

That got scrapped out very quickly when I went into my cluttered mess of numerous Spotify playlists and extremely disorganized YouTube history. My entire decade of music laughed at me because I can’t choose. Decisions? What are they again? And you know a huge struggle happened because… it’s March. Oops. The struggle was truly real in the formation of listing some of the best K-pop groups and artists of the past decade.

Despite the occasional scandal, the past few years for K-pop has been filled with numerous milestones as various groups and artists made waves more globally than the beginning of the decade.

Girls’ Generation
While they formed in 2007, their huge impact and legendary songs are why they’ve landed as one of the best K-pop groups of the past decade. Also known as SNSD, Girls’ Generation debuted with the song “Into the New World,” and was a nine-member girl group until Jessica left in 2014. It’s a little hard to say if they’re still active as a few members have recently left the agency representing the group and each of the members are pursuing their own careers outside the group. But whether the group continues on with the remaining members, reunites, or completely disbands, no group will ever completely replace the legacy Girls’ Generation has created.

EXO has honestly gone through thick and thin considering how the group originally had 12 members and two sub-units (EXO-K and EXO-M). Since then, the lineup has gone down to nine and the two groups have merged to one as three members of EXO-M left. It might seem like one left, but due to China-South Korea tensions, Lay is focusing on his activities in China and hasn’t been able to participate in EXO’s comebacks for a while. Other than Girls’ Generation and 2NE1, they’re another group that has stuck with me since I first ventured into K-pop and one of the few groups where I like almost all of their songs. They get pretty dark with some of their songs, particularly with their latest release titled “Obsession.”

I remember my first introduction to BoA was “Eat You Up” when all of my friends were listening to it. I was ignoring the lyrics, but I remember being fascinated with BoA’s dance moves and wondering where I could learn them. (To be fair, I was 12-14 and thought it would be a good idea to try and get into the entertainment industry. 😂) Unfortunately, she’s one of the artists I somehow lost keeping track of and I have no clue about her latest releases, if any.

Originally made up of five members, Sulli later left f(x) and passed away in 2019. Although the remaining members haven’t disbanded, they’ve all left SM Entertainment and it’s been unknown for years if they’ll make a comeback. I discovered f(x) during my years being slightly obsessed with electronic and hip-hop music and it took me another few years to realize f(x) is a function notation in Algebra. With no official confirmation of disbandment, I’m hoping the remaining members will eventually make a comeback sometime in the future.

I almost forgot about HyunA, who is a true Queen in her own right and definition of breaking the norm in the K-pop industry. In fact, an entire article could be dedicated to all the ways she’s done so during her career, and she was even a member of 3 of the other groups who have made a huge impact at the end of this list.

And anyone who thinks her boyfriend Dawn/E’Dawn paved the way for her in the industry and contributed to her rise to fame will have me coming at them with a pitchfork and a horde of K-pop stans who agree HyunA paved the way before he came along. Both she and E’Dawn were removed from Cube Entertainment when they went public with their relationship back in 2018. They signed with P Nation (founded by “Gangnam Style” singer PSY) early last year and both released solo singles in November.

I’m 95% sure if I leave BTS out, someone will come out and hunt me down with an extremely pointy stick. BTS, short for Bangtan Boys, is a seven-member boy group that formed in 2013 and they’re one of the groups that have been breaking records. I’m super picky with my music so I don’t consider myself a diehard fan (at least, not enough to consider myself a part of the ARMY), but some of their tracks are absolute bops with powerful and meaningful lyrics, including their latest single, “On.”

Once a four-member group that officially disbanded in 2016, each of their songs have dominated the industry since their debut song, “Fire.” 2NE1 brought unique concepts and music that broke away from the norm of girl groups at the time—dark and edgy. Since then, each of the members has pursued their own careers, with CL recently releasing a new solo album in December 2019.

Orange Caramel
The first subunit of After School, Orange Caramel formed in 2010 with three of the After School members. They’re not a group that I listen to often, but they once became human sushi in their music video for their song, “Catallena,” and that video still sits with me. Talk about being memorable.

Consisting of four members, Blackpink debuted in 2016 and gained success early on. They debuted with “Boombayah” in a year where I stayed away from K-pop and music in general, so I didn’t get a chance to listen to any of their songs until after they started gaining success. But I can safely say if I did stay in the K-pop loop, they’re likely to have landed into my recs earlier rather than later. Better late and never though, right?

ATEEZ is a relatively young group, especially compared to the rest of the groups on this list, but I’m 99% sure I’ll have regrets if I don’t include them. Plus, I converted someone into being an ATEEZ stan; if that’s not devotion, I don’t know what is. They’ve come a long way since their debut, especially considering they’re from a small entertainment agency rather than the major ones nearly the rest of this list is from. They’re a personal favorite of mine and I’m hoping they’ll be around for many years (preferably surviving the mythical 7-year Curse). They recently released “Answer” a month ago.

Other Legendary Groups Who Left an Impact:

Big Bang, SHINee, Super Junior, BEAST (B2ST), 4Minute, Wonder Girls, TVXQ, U-Kiss, Shinhwa, SS501, KARA, miss A

Various groups have come and gone from the industry, each of them making their contributions to the K-pop world in unique ways. There are numerous groups not on this list that have released some of the best and memorable music over the past decade, especially to those who have been following the industry for years.

Honestly? This list doesn’t even do justice to the number of groups I’ve more than likely forgotten or even the entire industry in general, I’m 99.9% sure of it. But it’s exciting to see how far K-pop has come in the past decade and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next. | Hannah Sophia Lin


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