The past few months have seen the K-pop solo debuts come thick and fast. From Teen Top’s Niel and SHINee’s Jonghyun to Girl’s Day’s Minah and T-ara’s Eunjung, it seems like everyone is now in on the act.
This month has seen KARA’s Hara drop her first solo material, and the likes of VIXX’s Ken also have albums in the pipelines.
But there are dozens of idol group artists who we’d also love to see take to the stage on their own. Who do you think should try flying solo? Take a look through our list, vote in the poll, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Infinite is a pretty active group. Since the group’s debut in 2010, Infinite has produced a massive output of almost 20 singles, albums, and EPs, making the boys one of the most prolific boybands out there.
But although they have found the time in their busy schedule for a subunit project in the form of the always-fun Infinite H, they have been less active when it comes to solo projects.
Perhaps talent agency Woollim Entertainment thinks Infinite works too well as a group. Sunggyu and Infinite F has dropped material in the past, but there are certainly several other candidates within the group should Woollim ever feel the urge to go in a slightly different direction.
And what better candidate than Woohyun? His very fun ToHeart side project with SHINee’s Key showcased his talent, and this “Immortal Songs” performance showed that he has enough stage presence to captivate an audience all on his own.
Woollim could do a lot worse.
Hearts were aflutter late last year after new reports surfaced claiming that not one but two Block B members were on the verge of releasing solo material. Several media outlets stated that Taeil and U-Kwon debuts were imminent.
Fans’ hopes appeared to be dashed when Seven Seasons, the group’s representatives, denied that no debuts would be forthcoming, as the group was busy with Japanese promotions. However, fast-forward five months or so, and this dropped:
Now, admittedly, it might be a bit much to hope for yet another Block B solo release this soon. After all, Zico’s “Tough Cookie” was only released just over half a year ago.
And of course, the Bastarz subunit release only dropped a few months ago.
But if you think about the wildly differing styles of the Zico and Taeil releases, you could come up with a pretty convincing argument for why U-Kwon needs to be the next Block B artist to get a shot at a solo album. Zico went with a predictably hard-edged release, as one might expect, while Taeil slowed it down a bit.
In U-Kwon, though, Block B has an artist who can steer the middle path. He can mix the darkness with the light, so to speak, for a perfect hip-hop/pop balance.
As the Taeil solo rumors eventually turned out to be true, Block B fans live in hope that the same eventually turns out to be the case for U-Kwon. The guy clearly has many talents.
VIXX fans, would it be too much to hope for? Two VIXX members solo projects?
Arguably Ken, who is currently preparing his own debut, is the most obvious pick if you are thinking about who in the group could conceivably go it alone. After all, Ken not only has plenty of charm, but can also has a very decent voice, as he proved recently on JTBC’s “The Last Song.”
However, Leo’s vocal skills are arguably on another level from anyone else in the group.
One issue that may put some off, however, is Leo’s reputation for having a somewhat “quirky” personality. Late last year, a writer on the MBC Everyone show “Weekly Idol” went public with criticism of Leo’s “distant” attitude in the wake of his appearance on the show. A storm of complains from angry fans later led the writer to apologize and then resign from the program.
Whatever the truth of the matter is, though, good solo artists do not need to have flawless personalities. In fact, in many ways, Leo actually seems to have something of an edge about him, something that makes him stand out from the crowd, and that is something he could use in his favor. For a solo performer, being distinct is not just about looks, it is about personality, too.
Couple that edge with the vocal talent he has already proven in going toe-to-toe with the likes of LYn…
…and you could make a pretty strong case for Leo being VIXX’s next potential solo project.
On a stage featuring BTS’ Rap Monster and Suga, EXID’s LE, Yoon Mi Rae and the rest of the MFBTY crew, Baro managed to outshine them all.
That calls for some pretty serious charisma and rap skills – especially in front of one of the biggest crowds of the year – the Dream Concert held in Seoul’s gigantic World Cup Stadium.
Basically, any one of B1A4 could go solo, and many would say that the time is right for Sandeul after his formidable appearance on the “it” show of the moment, “King of Mask Singer,” where he proved once and for all that he has bags of vocal skills.
Everyone who knows anything about K-pop knows Sandeul can sing.
However, I am guessing that Sandeul’s silky voice would lead him into ballad territory, and to be honest, ballad singers are not very 2015.
The artists who seem to be making it big in K-pop this year can really mix it up, exactly like Baro.
He is an artist who can mix things up – and variety is the name of the game right now.
OK, if you are a BTS fan, this is the part you have been waiting for. Who would you most like to see go it alone?
Rap Monster might be the obvious pick due to his speed and powerful delivery, but at the risk of treading on a few toes, Suga arguably has more stage presence. And in this fantastic track, he outshines his bandmates. Judge for yourself:
I also feel that Rap Monster solo would go too deep into serious hip-hop territory, rather than stay in the melody-led K-pop zone that BTS is more comfortable with.
People who have heard Rapmon’s mixtape this year may agree. You can take a listen here, but please bear in mind that it is certainly NSFW and contains adult language in multiple languages. It is undoubtedly high quality, but it goes a little hard for the average BTS fan.
Admittedly, Suga (who has also put out a “mixtape” of his own) is also not much of a singer himself, as evinced here:
However, he quite clearly has a great personality and a winning sense of humor and would have no problem keeping things a little lighter.
There are a lot of ifs and buts involved, admittedly. But if you are a fan of this group, what could be more fun than speculating about who would make the best BTS solo artist?
Clearly someone from this group has to make a solo debut at some point. EXID has both talent and popularity, the two ingredients key for a successful solo venture, but the big question for Yedang Entertainment is who to go with first.
For most neutrals, LE is the most obvious choice.
She was a founding member of the group, and in the early days of EXID it seemed that the entire group had been built around her.
Certainly she has raw talent, and many would agree that she is the most gifted female idol star rapper out there. Ever since her pre-debut days, it was clear she had skills.
I am no big fan of the pre-Hyerin and Solji version of EXID, but even back then, LE was a shining light. Take for example this otherwise pretty so-so track – lifted completely during LE’s rap sections.
She has featured on numerous songs with other artists, this being the real stand-out so far.
However, LE is not the only candidate. Solji is as powerful a singer as LE is a rapper, and arguably has more stage presence. Here she is tearing it up on her victorious “King of Mask Singer” performance.
But it does not end there. Hyerin also has serious vocal skills and an abundance of quirkiness, bubbliness, and cuteness that none of the others quite have.
And Hani? Well, who could have more appeal than Hani right now? Many people just think that EXID is just Hani anyway. She could probably run in the next Korean presidential election. If it were held tomorrow, she’d quite possibly win.
Heck, even Junghwa could probably go solo.
Although the EXID girls are probably getting some rest right now ahead of a probable late-2015 full group comeback, it would be pretty special if Shinsadong Tiger, the hit producer mastermind behind Yedang, were to throw EXID fans a bone in the form of a quick solo album.
The girls’ stock has never been higher, so the agency has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Although the Sulli heat continues to simmer after the difficulties of last year, the f(x) girls have not disappeared completely, with Amber’s solo debut the most recent activity from the act.
Although Amber fans got quite a kick out of “Shake That Brass,” Luna enthusiasts might argue that the latter’s featuring sections for the music show performances of the track were scene-stealing.
More recently Luna (unexpectedly for some) clinched the “King of Mask Singer” crown with some assured performances. But those in the know will remember this absolute belter from way back in 2012.
The girl has star talent, there is no denying it. And as f(x) appears to be in limbo right now, a Luna solo effort would be a great way to keep fans onside, and to explore a different side to this artist.
It is pretty hard to captivate when you are in a group with eight members (sometimes even more). But if anyone truly stands out in Nine Muses, it is Kyungri. A magnetic personality, unique looks, rap skills, and vocal ability, she has the full package.
And this is probably why it was Kyungri who got the nod when it came to assembling a side project in the form of Nasty Nasty, in which she was the outstanding member.
She has also made some top-level TV appearances, including as a recent stint as a panelist on “King of Mask Singer.”
Although the rest of Nine Muses have their merits and unquestionable talents, it takes a certain magnetic quality to go it alone.
The one exception is perhaps the group’s most recent addition, Keumjo, who exudes the very same “don’t you dare look at anyone else but me” aura as Kyungri.
Unlike the latter, however, Keumjo still has a lot to prove before anyone takes the idea of her as a solo artist seriously. She is certainly one to look out for in the future.
When the “Hurt Locker” promotions curtail, serious thought needs to be given to the idea of a Nine Muses solo endeavor.
And in Kyungri, the group has a potential solo star all ready to go.
OK, you are going to need to bear with me on this one, because admittedly at first glance, it may come across as a long shot.
But consider the following:
Firstly, Jungah is now the elder stateswoman of After School. She has been rocking stages since the group lined up like this:
Since Jooyeon’s departure from the group late last year, After School’s future has become the subject of intense internet speculation.
Uee is busy with her acting duties, the continuing popularity of sub-unit Orange Caramel is palpable, and agency Pledis Entertainment is clearly busy with its latest pet project, Seventeen.
This would lead many to think that even if there is an After School comeback sometime this year (there have been whispers to the effect on the grapevine), we are never going to see a return to the days when you could call the girl group’s output prolific.
Basically, the likes of Jungah are treading water at this stage, but things need not be like this. Remember that Pledis was originally set up to promote the agency’s female solo champion, Son Dam Bi, who has since moved on.
If there is one thing Pledis knows how to do from experience, it is promote solo female talent. With Lee Hyori currently out of the game, there is no dominant solo female out there making up-tempo dance hits.
To borrow a boxing idiom, the championship belt is currently vacant. Jungah has the dance moves, charm, and sex appeal a female solo star like that needs, and the experience and maturity to boot.
Sure, on the basis of pure vocal skill, Raina might seem like a more obvious After School solo champion. However, although Raina’s collaboration with San E last year was outstanding, her solo album was mainly full of softer ballads – not an area that Pledis artists really tend to excel at. Only Jungah could realistically be expected to perform tracks like this.
Again, it is a long shot, but Jungah does not seem that busy right now, so when the Seventeen promotions wind down, it might be worth giving the idea some thought. What do you say, Pledis?
Skeptics out there would say that Crayon Pop has had its day after the phenomenal and quite unexpected success of “Bar Bar Bar” in 2013. The follow-up “Uh-ee” was fun, but never hit the levels of its predecessor.
This year’s “FM” was a good song and a fun concept, but possibly not quite the right track for this group. I kept listening and wishing 4MINUTE was singing it instead – it was too much of a girl group song for Crayon Pop, if that makes any sense.
In between, Crayon Pop and its talent agency, Chrome Entertainment, have tried numerous combinations of side and solo projects, including Soyul’s largely forgotten “Y-Shirt” single.
Choa also featured along with her twin sister Way in the Strawberry Milk subunit group, which, let’s be honest, pretty much sank like a stone.
But if Chrome thinks long and hard about where it went wrong with Strawberry Milk, the agency might stumble across a way to make Choa’s potential solo debut go a lot smoother.
Basically, Chrome tried too hard to make the twins look and sound cute, when really, you hardly need much effort to do that. Cuteness come very naturally for Choa and Way, it is what made them famous in the first place.
Chrome just needs to focus on crafting a good song and a fun concept, Choa has the cuteness side covered. There is no need to over-egg the pudding. In the case of Choa, less could be more.
But Choa is more than just her cute looks. She is arguably the most talented member of the group, and made a brief acting debut last year in “High School: Love On.” She has also been cast in two high-profile musicals this year, showing she has what it takes to be a “serious” singer.
Need more convincing of the notion of Choa as a serious performer? Check out her and Way on this:
Choa has the talent and charisma to succeed on her own where her other groupmates have been less successful. The time has come for her to tackle something more mature; she truly seems capable.
And maybe one day…
She raps, looks the part, and clearly has a very bubbly personality. If she could couple that with a little more stage presence, she would be an ideal solo star in the making.
She even sings.
The group has only recently made its debut, but this boy’s got some serious skills!
Well, that’s it for our list, Soompiers, now it’s over to you! Tell us your thoughts on our picks and let us know which artists you’d love to see drop solo releases in the comments below.
timmydee is a music geek with a penchant for pop, an enthusiasm for electronica and a hankering for hip-hop. When he isn’t writing for Soompi, he is remixing your favorite K-Pop tracks – with sometimes astounding (but often catastrophic) results.
*The views expressed in this article solely reflect those of the author and do not represent Soompi as a whole.