As the 31st of December draws near, it’s time to look back at 2016 and all of the amazing male groups that have blown up the K-pop scene. These young men have sung, rapped, and danced their way into our hearts and shown us what real talent is. Read on to meet the nominees for Best Male Group in the 12th Annual Soompi Awards!
One of the most explosively popular groups in K-pop is EXO. These boys debuted in 2012 and by 2013 this wickedly talented bilingual, dancing, singing, and rapping group was topping charts and earning fans all over the world. In 2013 they cleaned up on music shows and albums rankings. The trend only continued as they made marks all over Asia. They deliver yearly holiday albums that are always successful. Success for EXO moves beyond music as they are considered not only musical ambassadors, but cultural ambassadors. Musically, this group emotionally explores ballads and dance music alike, taking on a multitude of genres with panache and their iconic showmanship.
BTS is the septet that debuted June 13, 2013 and has since conquered the world with their chart topping albums, sold-out worldwide concerts, insightful mix tapes, and constant output of solid material. This year alone they won best album at the Melon Awards, dropped Korean and Japanese studio albums, and bravely tackled social issues through their tunes. After constant group work, the members of this young and wildly successful group have begun branching out individually, showing off their solo talents with mix tapes and acting. They’ve already given fans a lot to look forward in the new year with their 2017 BTS Live Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour.
Block B is the definition of what it means to be a hip hop K-pop group, overcoming adversity and putting out solid album after solid album. Since their 2011 debut, they have evolved into a hard-hitting group with Zico working in production from the beginning. Their blend of soul, a bit of EDM, and a whole lot of interesting production elements like classical orchestrations is what make this rap-based group so versatile. Their aggressive, but individual rapping styles reflect on the group’s ability to always go all out and is also reminiscent of early American explorations of rhyming.
WINNER debuted in 2014 with YG after taking first place on “WIN: Who is Next.” The win came after several years of individual work all over the entertainment scene. Although the group has gone through a few bumps in the road, the end of 2016 sees the foursome going strong and preparing for new promotions. This group is one that really concentrates on writing cohesive material, and the vocals really match the personalities of these boys who Fuse named as breakout artists during 2014. A sense of dramatism is found in the lyrics written by the group and this year’s “Exit : E” album showed particular creative insight that bodes well for WINNER’s future.
BEAST is a go-to K-pop group. They debuted in 2009 and have survived that passage of time and change in the industry, including suffering some bumps and bruises of their own along the way. This group has traveled all over the world sharing their music, their top-notch vocals, and their flare for the dramatic. In Korea and Asia, BEAST does particularly well, sweeping up No. 1 places in music shows when they promote (which they do often) and bringing originality in vocal stylings and concepts to a constantly evolving world of K-pop. The members of BEAST are known for sticking together and with their newly formed agency, their future lies brightly ahead of them.
SEVENTEEN is a group with unusual formatting. The thirteen members are split into three sub-groups that play to their strengths — and they do it so well. Since their 2015 debut these boys have traveled all over the world, made a splash at KCON 2016, and dropped catchy tracks left and right. Because of their extensive pre-debut experience they’ve been able to put out a full album and three EPs in a year’s time. Within a week of debut they ranked on Billboard World Albums and kept appearing in American K-pop coverage. Fuse called them rookies to watch and indeed they are. Their wildly successful rookie year has propelled them deep into the mainstream of K-pop and kept these young performers in the limelight.
iKON may have only debuted in 2015, but this group was comprised of some heavy musical hitters long before they came together for their high-production YG debut. Some of them began training as early as 2009, and made musical appearances before all the members competed in “WIN: Who is Next.” Although they came in second, their standing in the K-pop world tells us that these talented young men are doing just fine. Because of their experience, the group has flown into the limelight since debut, touring Asia during 2016 and dropping singles along the way. iKON is made of steel and it shows in their rhythmic rapping, smooth vocals, and victorious feeling of finally being able to ride on top of the wave called Hallyu.
These concept kings have snowballed to stardom since their 2012 debut. Deeply involved in the creative process, VIXX carries through their albums from conception to final execution and that investment manifests in their music, choreography, and videos. Jellyfish’s first idol group is wildly popular in the United States, remaining steadfast on Billboard’s Social 50 chart, and continues to be a staple on worldwide charts and awards programs. The VIXX 2016 CONCEPTION project propelled the sextet through this year with a hot new concept and fantastic music to keep us grooving into 2017.
The year of 2014 debuted an international group of seven talented men who have since appeared multiple times on Billboard’s World Album charts as No. 1. This funktastic septet brings fun and energy to the K-pop scene. GOT7 gets down and dirty with the writing process that produces aggressive tracks with roots in EDM, but also some straightforward tunes that showcase clean-cut vocals. What makes GOT7 such a staple in the world music market is their accessibility, their videos, and their youthful image that persists regardless of the mood of their music.
If you’re looking for a high-energy group of young men who put on a mean live show and have some of the most awe-inspiring choreography, look no further than INFINITE. The septet debuted in 2010 and established their signature electropop sound. Although they’ve tackled different genres, it is the thread of early 90s synths that tie their albums and sound together. Paired with this signature sound is the minute synchronization of their dancing for which K-pop fans all over the world know them. INFINITE has ranked No. 1 on Billboard Twitter Emerging Artists and has remained real and relevant on charts and awards programs throughout Asia and internationally.
Since May of 2008 SHINee has ridden atop the Hallyu wave, setting trends and precedence for high-quality dance, singing, multi-faceted members, fashion, and more. These five talents have grown from boys to men under the spotlight and their style has evolved brilliantly over the past nine years. They are a staple in K-pop like kimchi is to a Korean table and it’s proven by how they chart in Asia and on Billboard, by their wildly successful first and second North American fanmeets in Chicago and Texas, and their extensive worldwide touring. Over the years they have tackled more musically difficult genres and showcased their immense growth, solidifying their status as a K-pop super group. Now riding pretty, SHINee has only to surprise us with their adventures in 2017.
BTOB is a group that bolsters the mood of the K-pop scene with their levity, rejuvenating music, and their buoyant personalities. Since their 2012 debut they have grown into their sound, tackling darker R&B tunes and getting involved in the composition of the music on their albums. In 2016, the septet shot to the top of Oricon with their Japanese single L.U.V., proving their international appeal. The past few years have seen them consistently nominated for awards all over Asia for singles and albums alike. Their most recent album “New Men” will tide us well into the new year.
CNBLUE is unusual in today’s K-pop landscape because the group stands tall amongst boy groups as a genuine rock band. This four-piece group started out performing in Japan and in clubs before they debuted in Korea in 2010 and began charting with their catchy tunes. Their presence in Japan remains strong in honor of their roots. Even in their earliest days, the band had a hand in the composition of its songs both lyrically and musically. Over the years they have only become more involved and we can see that ownership on stage. Jung Yong Hwa is a powerful front man while Lee Jung Shin, Lee Jong Hyun, and Kang Min Hyuk have made names for themselves both as part of CNBLUE and independently.
Since their 2008 debut, 2PM has had an image of raw masculinity that they have never failed to uphold even in their more romantic moments. It gives them a magnetic appeal and a unique stamp in the bustling world of K-pop. This group is a champion of the R&B sound and tonality with slick vocals that are punctuated by their athletic dancing. Their involvement in their tracks has directly reflected on their growth over the past nine years. After their army enlistment, we will most definitely see how those experiences broaden their musical horizons.
On January 27, 2012, B.A.P made one of the musically strongest debuts in mainstream K-pop hiphop with “Warrior.” This single set the metaphorical and physical stage with its melodic elements typical of K-pop, like call-and-answer spurts of lyric, and impressive displays of voice types, rapid-fire rapping, and rhythmic manipulation. From here B.A.P only went up in quality and energy. The members have distinct musical influences ranging from American rappers to traditional Korean music and that reflects in their work over the past four years. It also makes them appealing all over the world as they tour Europe and Asia, and claim the top spots on music shows and on charts. This prolific group has made an indelible influence on K-pop with their energy, musical output, and unique style.
See the nominees here:
The 12th Annual Soompi Awards is sponsored by Spottoon, a premium comics library, and held in partnership with American network Fuse and Korea’s top production house ZANYBROS.
Raine0211 is a lover of all things Korean, especially K-pop, K-drama, and Korean food. When she’s not writing for Soompi, she’s playing the cello and singing. She happily indulges in all kinds of K-pop, but her biases are SHINee, Infinite, and VIXX. She lives with her sister, her roommate Elsa, and her two cats, Timmy and Momo, all of whom also love K-pop and K-drama.