[Soompi 15th] Our Picks for K-Pop MVP’s from the Past 15 Years

No matter how you look at it, 15 years is a long time, which makes it all the more amazing that so many artists that were around at the very early days of Soompi are still alive and kicking today. We thought it would be fitting to go through each of the years Soompi’s been bringing you the best in K-Pop and choose the MVP that came out of each year. We’re defining MVP as the artist that had the most impact and relevance in the long run, with emphasis on the international fandom. The choices were pretty clear for most years, though the competition was particularly fierce in 2008, 2009, and 2010, leading to some disagreement amongst our staff (Hottests vs. Shawols, anyone?). This might explain the explosion of new idol groups that debuted in 2011 – 58, if you’re keeping count.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit our favorite oppas and noonas in their younger days.

1998: Shinhwa

Shinhwa, which means “legend,” has truly proven themselves to be the legendary idol group that could withstand the thing that tore all other groups apart – time. I distinctly remember hearing “Eusha Eusha” for the first time at a Korean music store, and let’s just say I was not impressed. Of course, the group and the song would end up fully winning me over their aegyo and versatility.

Debut song: “Resolver”

Runners up: Fin.K.L., 1TYM

1999: g.o.d

g.o.d, a.k.a “Groove OverDose”, was JYP’s first foray into the idol group space. They had a different feel from existing SM and DSP groups of the day (the original Big 2 agencies), with their R&B flavor and smooth raps. Their debut song “To My Mother” was an instant classic.

Debut song: “To My Mother.” The music video stars a very young Jang Hyuk.

Runner up: Fly to the Sky 

2000: BoA

13-year-old BoA took the K-Pop world by storm with her debut single, “ID; Peace B.” She spent two years preparing for her debut and would quickly conquer both Korea and Japan with her catchy dance hits, and is still a relevant and beloved figure in K-Pop today.

Debut song: “ID; Peace B

2001: Jewelry

Jewelry may have never ruled the charts, but they stand out as being the longest running girl group ever, even though the current version is more like a sequel than the original.

Debut song: “I Love You

Runner up: KISS

2002: Rain

Rain was rejected by many agencies because they didn’t think he was attractive enough – talk about sticking it to the man. Rain is the Rock Lee of K-Pop – a genius at hard work, who’s shown his detractors time and time again through his success not only in music, but on TV in hit dramas like Full House, and on the big screen as well.

Debut song: “Bad Guy

Runner up: Leessang

2003: TVXQ

TVXQ, Tong Vfang Xien Qi, DBSK, Dong Bang Shin Ki, Tohoshinki, etc etc. I like to think of them as H.O.T. 2.0 – the new and improved version of the iconic boyband that would set the standard for the new generation of idol groups. Despite the fracture that broke the hearts of Cassies around the world, all 5 members are still very active in the industry, whether through performing in their respective groups (TVXQ/JYJ), or making a name for themselves as actors.

Debut song: “Hug

Runners up: Epik High, Hyori, Se7en

2004: SG Wannabe

“Simon and Garfunkel Wannabe” won us over with their smooth vocals and R&B sensibilities. Despite dance groups taking over the K-Pop scene, this group continues to release hits nearly a decade later.

Debut song: “Timeless

Runner up: TRAX

2005: Super Junior

SM Entertainment took a gamble when they unleashed the megagroup Super Junior into our lives, and boy, has it paid off. Despite more than their share of controversy, the group continues to dominate the international fandom in their various configurations.

Debut song: “Twins

Runner up: SS501

2006: Big Bang

There are idol groups, and there are artists. Big Bang somehow toes the line of being both with great success, something that few other mainstream groups have been able to pull off. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they are a group that other groups idolize and wish they could be.

Debut song: “La La La

Runner up: Brown Eyed Girls

2007: Girls’ Generation

Love them or hate them, Girls’ Generation is K-Pop’s gold standard in terms of success and widespread appeal. Their combination of innocence and sexiness has Sones around the world devoted to these impossibly perfect “girls next door.”

Debut song: “Into the New World

Runners up: Kara, Wonder Girls, FT Island

2008: 2PM

2PM started the “beastly” idol trend, straying from the traditional “flower boy” route. More likely to photographed without shirts than with, their manly yet adorable appeal made them fan favorites. The loss of their Leadja was painful for many, but 2PM and Jay Park continue to find success in their separate ways.

Debut song: “10 out of 10

Runners up: SHINee, Davichi, 2AM, IU

2009: 2NE1

Their introduction alongside none other than labelmates Big Bang certainly didn’t hurt, but 2NE1 quickly made a name for themselves while coloring outside the lines of what a girl group can be.

Debut song: “Fire

Runners up: BEAST, MBLAQ, 4minute, T-ara, f(x), Secret

2010: CNBlue

Despite the accusations of plagiarism that would have destroyed a lesser group, CNBlue exploded onto the scene with their rock-band-meets-idol-group combination.

Debut song: “I’m a Loner

Runners up: miss A, SISTAR, Infinite

2011: A Pink

As shown in our History of Idol Groups infographic, nearly a quarter of all idol groups up to that point debuted in 2011, so it’s all the more meaningful that A Pink was able to separate themselves from the enormous pack and stand out from the rest.

Debut song: “I Don’t Know

Runners up: Block B, B1A4

2012: B.A.P

Bang Yong Guk & Zelo did a great job in setting the stage for B.A.P’s explosive popularity. It’s hard to believe they’ve only been around for little over a year. The dissonance between their pretty blond hair and intense performances adds to their charm.

Debut song: “Warrior

Runners up: EXO, SPICA, Lee Hi


No one has really stood out in 2013 yet, though it’s only been 3 months. Pledis has been making some waves with a reality show for their 17-member boy group called, you guessed it, Seventeen. Could they be the next BIG thing?

So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Any egregious omissions? Unforgivable slights? Tell us who your MVP’s are from the past 15 years, and don’t miss our massive 15th Anniversary Giveaway, going on through May 10th!