A Music Lover’s Favorite 15 K-Pop Artists

Edward1849 has been carefully curating our Weekly Soompi Music Charts for the past 8 years, and is a true connoisseur of K-Pop. I asked him to share his 15 favorite artists to help celebrate our 15th birthday last month, so let’s keep celebrating �de42

Wow! Time flies so fast. It seems like just yesterday that I joined Soompi, and now we are celebrating our 15th anniversary as the longest running K-Pop site in English. Soompi introduced me to K-Pop and it’s been an important part of my life ever since. Over the years, I witnessed the astonishing growth of K-Pop to now an international genre. 

I wasn’t here at the beginning – I joined in 2000, but still I am old enough to write my 15 favorite K-Pop artists. These are the K-Pop artists that I respect the most. Many of them have been in the industry for a long time. You won’t find too many idol artists on my list, just like on my year-end countdown. But all of these artists make very good music. Here they are:

1. Brown Eyes – Always my No. 1 choice despite their very brief existence. Their influence on today’s K-Pop ballad is without question. Yoon Gun and NaUl win fans with their music, not their appearance. They never even performed on any music programs but still sell millions of records. Both Yoon Gun and NaUl have solo careers now. Yoon Gun recently came back with a new single “Back To You,” while NaUl has written the hit song “It’s Not Like That” for Younha.

MV: Already One Year

2. Wheesung – I still think he is the best male vocalist in Korea despite several new male soloists are making a case. Wheesung is enlisted in the military now. Before then, he helped launched the career of his prize pupil Ailee, who swept nearly all of the New Artist awards last year.

MV: With Me

3. Yoon Do Hyun/YB – whether it is his solo work (mostly ballads) or being the front man of YB (mostly rock songs), he always produces quality songs with his husky voice.

MV: Love Two 

4. Kim Jong Kook – His heyday was in the mid-2000s, and has slowed down a bit recently. Perhaps he is focusing more as an entertainer on “Running Man” now. I’ve listened to him since his Turbo days. His trademark high pitch voice makes any song better.

MV: One Man

5. Vibe – Love their pure R&B style. They only come out with a new release once every few years, but two of their songs “I Hate You Even Though I Still Want To Be With You,”and “That Man, That Woman” are my all-time favorites. Both Ryu Jae Hyun and Yoon Min Soo are more active producing for other artists, but recently Vibe did release their fifth album “Organic Sound,” their first full album in three years. Of all the more active artists now, 4men really reminds me of Vibe and they are produced by Yoon Min Soo.

MV: That Man, That Woman 

6. Brown Eyed Girls – Perhaps the only idol group on my list and they deserved to be here. Originally promoted as an R&B ballad group (they are supposed to be the female version of Brown Eyes), they did not become very popular until they switched to uptempo dance songs. They proved that with talent, they can do any kind of music. All four BEG members (JeA, Narsha, Ga In, and Miryo) have released solo albums as well.

MV: Abracadabra

7. Lee Seung Chul – Whether it was his days with Boo Hwal or his solo songs, he always brings a sincere voice to his songs. Very underrated outside of Korea but is well respected within the industry.

MV: Long Day

8. Suh Young Eun – One of my favorite female soloists, though I like her songs from the early to mid 2000s the best. In recent years, with the more convenient releases of digital singles, she experiments with various styles of music, including collaborations with male artists.

Live Performance: Angel

9. MC The Max – Love their rock ballads. They were the group of winter in the early 2000s, releasing an album almost every year during the winter featuring a sad ballad title song. Not as active now but recently seeing them participate in a drama OST. Hope they will come back soon.

MV: Goodbye For Now

10. Ji Sun – This ex-vocalist of Loveholic is still very successful after she went solo. She features a dreamy voice that is quite unique in K-Pop. It goes well on both her Modern rock and her ballad tracks.

MV: Goodbye Heart

11. Kim Yoon Ah – I like her solo work better than her songs with Jaurim. She had an amazing album “315360” three years ago. And the album “Glass Mask” in 2004 was excellent as well.

MV: Going Home

12. Park Hye Kyung – Like Ji Sun, she has an unique laid back voice that catches my attention every time she sings. Unlike most artists on my list, Park Hye Kyung is very active, releasing lots of songs but she doesn’t promote them much so they become underrated. Recently, Park Hye Kyung released her second remake album “Happiness Rewind.”

MV: Rain

13. Baek Ji Young – She already has one of the most amazing careers in K-Pop, only to get better and better with age. In the early days, she was the queen of Latin-style dance songs. Then she was hit by a video tape scandal that many people thought she would not recover from. They are all wrong. When she switched to ballads she became very popular. In recent years Baek Ji Young has participated in so many drama OST’s she has earned a new nickname as “Queen of OST’s.” She has just released a dance beat single “Recall,” proving that dance music is not only limited to younger idol artists.

MV: I Won’t Love

14. Lee Soo Young – I really like her early albums (up to her 6th album). Almost all her hit songs featured a mega production movie-like MV. She was the ballad queen until Baek Ji Young’s comeback. Has not been as active since getting married, but she did release a remake album earlier this year.

MV: Solitary

15. Yangpa – She is another artist that doesn’t come out with an album often but all her releases have been quite popular. Her Vol. 3.5 album “A Letter From Berkeley” is one of the best ballad albums by a female soloist. I still listen to it now from time to time.

MV: Love…What Is It?

Be sure to check out Edward’s Weekly K-Pop Music Charts, a comprehensive representation of all the different charts and appearances by artists in the industry.