Beyond K-pop: Korean Alternatives to K-Pop That You Should Listen to Now
Do you feel like people are judging you for only liking KPOP? Are you curious what music lies in the unknown mist of K-Indie music? Look no further! I have conveniently compiled a list of some of the non-KPOP musicians that I like to help ease you into the realm beyond KPOP
First, let’s start off with an easy transition, KPOP to Rap and R&B.
Rap and R&B
I introduce the rap and R&B group first, because this is the group that is most well known by people outside of Korea. Rappers and singers of R&B in Korea often reach larger fame and collaborate with rappers from KPOP groups. In this list I don’t include any members of KPOP groups who rap or sing R&B on the side (like Mino and Zico).
Here’s my list with music video recommendations linked in the titles:
Zion T.- A quiet, sunglasses-wearing musician that has blown up with popularity. His songs are gold. He mostly sings, but he actually got into music by rapping in college.
Dean- A young gun who takes his name from James Dean. Basically, he’s new eye candy in Korea.
Crush- A guy who mostly sings about relationships; he can go from hard beats to slower songs.
Bumkey- The vocalist that all the other rappers collaborate with. He also comes out with some religious songs.
Verbal Jint- This guy is omnipresent because he’s collabing all the time and surprising audiences by randomly performing at other people’s concerts.
Drunken Tiger- Could be considered one of the top dogs when it comes to Korean rap.
Dynamic Duo- These two are truly a dynamic duo. Gaeko and Choiza have separate rapping careers, but come together to make this group.
Beenzino- A Korean rapper whose lyrics are witty. When he collabs his rap actually is on the same topic as the rest of the song, which sometimes doesn’t happen in Korean music.
Bear in mind that there are so many other artists that I did not include. The reasons being that 1) there are just too many to cover and 2) this article is supposed to start you off, not provide an all inclusive list. Amongst my favorites are Zion T, Dean, Crush, Verbal Jint, and Beenzino. They frequently mix rap and R&B and can often be found collabing together. Many would argue that some of the members of this list have reached such popularity that they should be labeled as KPOP, emphasizing the ‘POPular’ part of KPOP.
Mix Genre Groups
Mix genre groups are groups that are neither here nor there on the music genre spectrum. They range from pop-electronic to cheerful rock ballads. Here’s the list:
Clazziquai Project- A three member group with upbeat, electronic music that will get you bouncing. A favorite of mine and also reasonably well-known.
Standing Egg- Another three member group that have a pop-acoustic flair. Very soothing.
Bluepaprika- A band in the style of soft rock and upbeat light vocals.
Cheeze- A band I still don’t know too much about, but the light vocals and beat of many of their songs is drawing my interest.
Lim Kim- A young singer with a smooth voice who used to be a part of the group Casker. She’s born in the same year as me, which makes me feel inferior….
Neon Bunny- I would call her electronic, but she’s a little bit of pop too. Another light voice, is this a trend?
The mix genre group is a hodge-podge of singers and musicians that don’t fit anywhere...except in my heart. (Cheesy, I know.) A lot of ‘Korean indie’ music crosses genres to make music that is unique and therefore not mainstream. If you’re down for some additional exploring, check out the record labels that these bands are under to find more interesting music.
I have no other choice but to put these singers in their own group because of the power of their voices. Their genres may differ between ballad or upbeat pop-type music, but their vocals set them apart from other singers.
Park Hyo Shin- A popular singer among an older generation, this guy sings ballads that will make your heart squeeze out a single tear of pure beauty.
Nell- Labeled as indie rock, but I’m not putting them in the rock section because their rock feels different to me. The song I linked is a slower one of theirs, but an all-time favorite of mine.
K. Will- He’s described as soul and ballad, but he’s come out with a lot of upbeat songs. He’ll either take you to the moon or to the depths of sadness.
Davichi- This duo is nearly KPOP, but their ballad style sets them on the outer sphere of that world.
Give these powerful singers a chance, and you’ll have a song for any bittersweet or lovely moment of your life.
I search, and I search, but I don’t find many rock bands that 1) last for more than a year, and 2) that I like. I can name two.
The Koxx-I freaking love this band. The lead singer seems a little crazy, but in a cool way. Definitely a band worth exploring. Their music is upbeat and combines electronic music with their attractive keyboardist.
WHOwho- Can you find more than one of their songs? That’s the real question. Great band, but difficult to find their music on the internet. They look and sound like they started in a garage.
Now this isn’t to say that there are no other Korea rock bands. There are, but I’m not so knowledgeable in this area. Feel free to go searching yourself, however!
By far this is not a comprehensive list of bands, groups, and singers that live beyond the realm of KPOP. That’s where you come in; if you know another other good Korean non-KPOP music, leave a comment!
Katarina Brown is an editorial intern with The Austin Chronicle; University of Texas at Austin alumnus; and HKC chief copyeditor.