Kpop Trend Highlight: The band

With the Wonderband comeback having finally bathed us in it’s glory, I thought “What better time to address a small undercurrent of a trend in K-Pop” – the K-Pop Band.

K-Pop has, in recent years, been diverging from the typical idol style it had adopted for many years and is moving towards groups who want to be recognized for their talent and artistry (even when they don’t have any!). As part of this, we have seen K-Pop bands appear in the industry and carve themselves a little niche.

Before we start, I’ve stuck to K-Pop bands… K-rock/metal and indie are definitely different posts for a different day. There are many more acts I’d like to showcase to you all ,so don’t worry if you don’t see the band you love here – their moment is probably coming!

Probably the biggest name in current K-Pop band concepts is FNC Entertainment.

Not only are FNC home to two of the long-running stalwarts of the mainstream Kpop band in the form of F.T. Island and CNBLUE, but they are also home to new kids on the block N.Flying, as well as the girl band AOA Black.

F.T. Island are probably most known for the opinionated Lee Hong Ki, who seems to have a turbulent relationship with the label’s CEO and is famous for his love of nail art. They debuted in Korea all the way back in 2007 and are still around today with just one member change to their name. They boast an impressive discography (both in size and quality) and can easily be checked out on Youtube.

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After F.T Island, the band style at FNC did not stop and they began to cement their niche in 2009 with the debut of CNBLUE. With a more straight pop rock/less emo sound than F.T. Island, CNBLUE have proved to be monumentally popular, with individual members also pursuing solo activities in music and acting. Both F.T. Island and CNBLUE have been reasonably successful in Japan as well, increasing revenue streams and allowing them to continue as bands. Don’t worry guys – just like F.T. island, these guys have loads for you to check out on Youtube.

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N.Flying are the new kids on the FNC block and drag me back to my misspent youth with their rap rock sound. It takes all my power not to gush about these guys, because I love them! They look like they have the most potential to ‘fit in’ with the idol crowd, although it yet remains to be seen whether this will help or hinder them. Ain’t nothing gunna stop me going weak at the knees when Seunghyub (J.Don) growls though.

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Check out Youtube to see more of them just being adorable.

AOA Black are FNC’s girl group offering.  AOA (Ace of Angels) are actually made up of two subunits – AOA White and AOA Black, although the AOA White dance group actually just goes by AOA now. The band unit are AOA Black. They appeared as part of the group’s ‘Get Out’ and ‘Elvis’ releases and had their own release called ‘Moya’. Unfortunately, in the wake of the dance group’s success, AOA Black haven’t had a comeback since (although the CEO promises they will once AOA’s popularity is cemented).

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It’s not just FNC trying to take advantage of this niche though, and there are plenty of other veterans around! Possibly most notably Nell, who have enjoyed a great amount of success and are stalwarts of musicianship in K-Pop.

At the very edge of the K-Pop/band crossover there is Cherry Filter with a much more raw, aggressive punk sound. Nonetheless, Cherry Filter get on to music shows and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the delicate, perfectly made up dolls of Idol culture.

A stand out star of the K-Pop/band crossover is Jung Joon Young and his band JJY Band. It’s dirty rock with a pop friendly face, although whether his attitude will lead to longevity in K-pop, we will have to wait and see.

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Even pop label mega-hit-factory SM has attempted to cash in on the money to be made with instruments with their offering TRAX. Fans will lament TRAX to you as an example of SM mismanagement and, true or not, it does seem that TRAX didn’t quite manage to reach the heights and longevity they are capable of.

No K-Pop band list is complete without a mention for Royal Pirates. These guys started out from humble roots garage band style in America and are some hard working boys. They have some English songs for those who like that touch and the members definitely embrace the K-Pop style when it comes to making money, with members embracing CF’s, modelling and TV appearances.

Considering Brad from Busker Busker’s little cameo in the video above, where better to go next on the list than Busker Busker themselves. They have flirted with controversy in the past, especially relating to member Brad’s comments about Korean culture in the entertainment industry. Seemingly disbanded (although fans dispute this), I doubt we will stop seeing them, as their track ‘Cherry Blossom Ending’ surges up the chart on an annual basis.

Underrated girl band Bebop deserve 1000x more success than they have seen yet. With an ex-Girl’s Day member onboard, unfortunately these girls have still barely broken the surface of the K-Pop world – with perhaps their most well known appearance being in the music video for Wax’s Fly High.

Despite Bebop’s struggle, it looks like attitudes may be slowly shifting, with previously standard Idol group Wonder Girls donning instruments for their most recent 80’s inspired REBOOT album and Gyuri of KARA joining From The Airport for their recent hit The Little Prince. It remains to be seen whether this is a one album gimmick or a more permanent change, but there is no denying that the girls, on the surface at least, are taking it seriously.

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I think the question in everyone’s heads is whether this will pave the way for more band comebacks or whether this will lead to an Idol scrum of half-conceived band ideas, leaving no room for the talented bands waiting in the wings! I, myself, will certainly be championing the instrument playing heroes of the Korean music industry.

OneHallyuNoona

OneHallyu Blogger and Author of Kpop website HallyuNoona.com

http://blog.onehallyu.com

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  • Ash

    Cool article! I’m interested in whether the “Band” trend will kick off! Unfortunately, with the way most music shows are set up, the bands won’t be able to play their instruments live–which obviously is a big downer for bands. Thanks for mentioning Bebop btw :3

    • I actually touched on this on a post I wrote for another site. I don’t know where you are from in the world but in the UK we are kind of used to ‘music shows’ in this kind of format and bands playing live just isn’t an option the set up is a pain and comparatively time consuming.

      That’s not to say people always approve but it certainly didn’t stop many bands appearing over the years on Top of the Pops and similar (if that style of music is popular that is). I don’t personally think we will see a band trend take off long term in K-pop, simply because other K-music industries are getting more profitable now, so musicians won’t be as tempted to take the K-pop route. My best guess would be a bit of hype, some flirtation with proving talent using the band idea and a rookie group or two and then the situation will go back to much like it is now with a few band stalwarts in the industry and the odd bit of idols playing instruments like Henry’s violin or Chanyeol’s guitar.

      We are seeing an interesting move away from the ‘Idol’ concept and K-pop is becoming more diverse and trend led. First R&B, then Hip-hop and now moving into EDM, so it is certainly possible that while I don’t see ‘Idol’ groups (and the non-idol groups that kinda work like idol groups) going in a band direction, K-indie might move more into the Pop charts for example.

      Leaving Bebop out wasn’t an option for me 😉

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