Let us start with a short disclaimer – the word ‘top‘ is a bit exaggerated. As someone who only started listening to this type of music for about 4-5 years only, my knowledge is awfully limited, hence this list is just a list of my favourite groups😍. If your favourite group is not listed here, please do not feel offended or sad😎. Continue to stay with whoever you like, ok. Having said that, mine is as below.
Big Bang 빅뱅
The list here is not based on ranking, but if I were to make one, then Big Bang should be on top, hands down. Arguably the best K-Pop Boy group ever in the K-Pop industry, G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, Seungri and Daesung have over the years entertained us with so many great hits such as Blue, Bang Bang Bang, Loser, Haru Haru, Still Life, Fantastic Baby and many more. Seungri has since retired but the group is still going strong despite being in their 30’s already.
In spite of the group’s inactivity, they still stand strong in the monthly K-POP Boy Group Brand Reputation ranking at no.24 in December 2022. This ranking was determined by the Korean Business Research Institute through an analysis of the consumer participation, media coverage, interaction, and community indexes of various boy groups. This shows us that even though there is an increase in number of boy groups debuting; even garnering fame and fans, but Big Bang‘s fame never falters which proves how much of an impact they’ve made in the K-Pop industry. In fact, some of the newly debuted boy groups might have Big Bang as their inspiration to be an idol.
The group was formed by YG Entertainment and made their debut in 2006. They are known for their trendsetting musical experimentation, self-production, and stage presence. Overall, I can write so many things about this group from their history at the beginning, career achievement to their personal life. But I don’t think that I need elaborate too much. I just know that they are good. Very good.
The list certainly won’t be complete without the most famous K-Pop group of all time, BTS (Bangtan Boys). BTS was discovered by Big Hit Entertainment. Formed in 2013 as a seven-piece consisting RM (leader), Suga, Jin, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook. They are not only talented singers and performers; they are also able to co-write and co-produce their own materials.
BTS is a perfect example of a self-made group. Despite what new fans might think, BTS and Big Hit were initially not as big as they are now. The release of ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears‘ on 9th October, 2016 gave the Bangtan Boys a turning point in their career. A few months after their blow up, they revealed their new brand identity and started the “Love Yourself” four-part series, which imparts a message to their listeners that “loving yourself is true love“. Due to their inspiring message—I believe—is the reason (other than their masterpiece songs and spectacular performance, of course) their fans only continue to grow and not dwindle.
Some of my favourite songs from BTS include Idol, Permission to Dance, Life Goes On and Boy with Luv. They have also collaborated with international stars such as Halsey and Coldplay and garnered status as global superstars. The members have also found success as individual singers.
Tomorrow X Together (TxT) 투모로우바이투게더
The first successor to the worldwide K-Pop group BTS were “five individuals who came together under one dream in hopes of building a better tomorrow“; TXT. The group consists of five members: Yeonjun, Soobin, Beomgyu, Taehyun and HueningKai.
They debuted on March 4, 2019 with ‘Crown‘. It was about a boy with horns, who had thought his horns meant he was evil but with the help of the boy with wings, the boy with horns slowly learnt to love himself and see his horns as a crown. It wasn’t shocking to see BTS’s predecessors promoting the same message as them, in fact it was very lovely that they were spreading the “Love Yourself” agenda in a different way. With such a spectacular debut song, TXT gained immediate success and went on to win the Best New Male Artist at the 2019 Mnet Asian Music Awards.
TXT eventually moved on from their bright concept to a much darker one with ‘0X1=Lovesong (I Know I Love You)’ ft. Seori in 2021. They’ve grown from the ‘Dream Chapter‘ to the ‘Chaos Chapter‘ which showed a more mature and grown up side of them. After the release of their first twist in concept, they had another comeback with the same rock genre which garnered them more international fame.
TXT has proven themselves to be able to take up a different concept flawlessly, it makes me wonder if they will switch concepts again for their next ‘Chapter‘ and it also makes me wonder, how well will they present their new concept? With such flexibility, we can confidently say among the 4th Generation Male K-Pop group, TxT is a perfect representative.
Stray Kids 스트레이 키즈
Stray Kids (SKZ) consists of 8 members: Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, Han, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N. They debuted on March 25, 2018 under JYP Entertainment label after going through a survival show. As an artist under JYP, you’d expect Stray Kids to have an immediate blow up after their debut but in truth, they were a group that GREW big. Analytically, they won many rookie awards but the attention on them was still very blurry, especially in their own home country South Korea.
Most Stays (Stray Kids fans) might agree that these boys only started having a huge popularity growth when ‘God’s Menu‘ was released in 2020. Prior to that, when compared with other ‘Big 3‘ company groups, Stray Kids stood out the least. Despite having such a distinctive sound, they were sadly shunned from South Korean listeners. In addition to their efforts being disregarded by the public, the boys also did not receive proper promotion from their company.
Even if they were overlooked by their home country, these 8 boys only continued their pace and stood true to themselves. With the support from their great International fanbase along with their consistency, Stray Kids manage to achieve many exceptional awards; being the most awarded 4th Gen K-Pop Group, the first 4th Gen Group to win a Daesang, debuting 2 albums at no.1 on Billboard 200, and many more to come.
There are many Stray Kids songs that I like, including Time Out, Thunderous, District 9, Maniac and the new release Case 143. With a spectacular stage presence and music, I can see them to be around for several years to come.
EXO was supposed to be the leader of Gen-3 before their popularity was surpassed by BTS and slowly they went out of the picture. Yet, we simply cannot dismiss the impact that this group has made since debuting in 2012. EXO consists of nine members (originally 12): Xiumin, Suho, Lay, Baekhyun, Chen, Chanyeol, D.O., Kai and Sehun. They are noted for releasing music and performing extensively in Korean, Mandarin and Japanese. EXO is under SM Entertainment record label.
Members of EXO were not only successful as a group, but also individually. Almost all of them has had gained experience in the acting industry, with member D.O being the most well-known for his acting skills, winning many awards since 2014. Being in the music industry, it is clear that the members would not miss out the chance to shine outside their group and go solo. In fact, oldest member Xiumin has just had his solo debut with the song titled ‘Brand New‘.
Since their debut, EXO has released many great songs such as Love Shot, Call Me Baby, Monster, Tempo and so many more. Only their youngest members Kai and Sehun are left to enlist and Baekhyun to finish his enlistment to see EXO releasing a song as OT9!
Shinee is one of the earliest success stories in K-Pop music. They were formed by SM Entertainment in 2008 and have had huge impact in Korea music industry. They won numerous accolades and the title “Princes of K-pop“. The group is still popular these days. They just had a successful album in 2021 and worldwide tour this year. Currently they have four remaining members – Onew, Key, Minho, and Taemin. Vocalist Jonghyun shocked the entire K-pop industry in December 2017 when he committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Controversy aside, Shinee will always be remembered for their experimental sound and being the trend setters among the youth.
The group is also considered to be one of the best live vocal groups in K-pop and is known for their highly synchronized and complex dance routine. Among their greatest hits includes Sherlock, Dream Girls, Why So Serious? and their most iconic song, Lucifer.
Also, a very fun fact about Shinee is that their song—’Ring Ding Dong’—was voted as one of the top songs to avoid listening to during ‘Suneung‘ (Korean CSAT / College Entrance Exam) season due to its iconic intro and repetitive chorus. As a student myself, I avoid listening to the said song during my exam season because it is such an earworm.
When you think of “Seventeen“, you’d probably expect there to be 17 members, but in truth there are only 13. The origin of “Seventeen” was because they were supposed to debut with 17 members but four left before debut due to reasons of their own.
Still, 13 members for a K-Pop group is quite a lot. Imagine 13 guys sharing a few lines on a song. Must be dissatisfactory. However, they are broken up into three sub units which are Vocal, Hip-Hop and Performance Unit. This allows each member to have their own chance to shine and show their potential be it through an adlib, MV screentime or dance break. The group is formed by Pledis Entertainment and the thirteen members are S.Coups, Jeonghan, Joshua, Jun, Hoshi, Wonwoo, Woozi, DK, Mingyu, The8, Seungkwan, Vernon and Dino.
Note that the group is not under one of the big entertainment labels in Korea but due to their wonderful talents, they managed to find success in this industry. Members are actively involved in song writing and choreographing, as well as many other aspects of their music and performances. They gained instant success when their debut EP, 17 Carat became the longest-charting K-pop album of the year in the US in 2015. They continue to produce good music and songs like Hot, Rock with You and Very Nice which became big hits domestically and around the globe.
Super Junior 슈퍼주니어
Super Junior rose to stardom following the release of their best-selling single “Sorry, Sorry” in 2009. To me, it is still their best song ever and it is so good that fans are still listening to it over and over again. It also set the type of music the group is offering to their fans, i.e that funky hip hop techno music with special effect here and there. Well, most SM Entertainment‘s artists have this trait. It workable for them and helps the company to sell millions of records.
The band was formed by Lee Soo-man, the founder of SM Entertainment in 2005. It is one his earliest success in this industry. It consists 13 members – Leeteuk, Heechul, Yesung, Shindong, Sungmin, Eunhyuk, Donghae, Siwon, Ryeowook, Kyuhyun, Han Geng, Kibum and Kangin. The last three names departed the band in 2011, 2015 and 2019, respectively, leaving them with 10 presently.
Super Junior (also known as SJ or SuJu) has huge contributions in Korean Wave and were dubbed by the media as the “King of Hallyu Wave“. Super Junior was the best-selling K-pop artist for four years in a row. The group has earned thirteen music awards from the Mnet Asian Music Awards. In 2012, they were nominated for “Best Asian Act” in MTV Europe Music Awards.
This 2nd Gen group was so successful that on their 10th Anniversary, Label SJ was established by SM Entertainment just for them. The group acquired their own independency, being wholly responsible for their own management, album production and activities. The group may have less of an impact nowadays than they did back in the 2000s, but their accomplishments are more than enough to make to this list. Do check out their music in Spotify and enjoy the thrills of their music.
One of the biggest groups in term of numbers. NCT (Neo Culture Technology) is another successful product of SM Entertainment and was introduced in January 2016. The group has an unlimited number of members (this means, more will be added). Currently, they have altogether 23 members – Taeyong, Taeil, Johnny, Yuta, Kun, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Winwin, Jungwoo, Lucas, Mark, Xiaojun, Hendery, Renjun, Jeno, Haechan, Jaemin, Yangyang, Shotaro, Sungchan, Chenle and Jisung. Like other groups that have more than 10 members, NCT is divided into four different sub-units: NCT U, NCT 127, NCT Dream, and WayV.
NCT U is the first unit to debut in 2016 with the double digital single “The 7th Sense” and “Without You“. This unit does not have fixed members and will undergo a change in line up every comeback depending on their suitability with the concept. This unit also does not have a comeback every year due to NCT having a lot of members and some being in more than 1 unit. Their latest comeback was in 2021 with studio album ‘Universe‘.
On the same year, the second sub-unit known as NCT 127 debuted with their debut EP ‘NCT #127‘. The unit is based in Seoul, with the number “127” representing the longitude coordinate of the city. Even though they are based in Seoul, NCT 127 still managed to find international fame. Their first full-length album ‘Regular-Irregular‘ in 2018 received a Platinum KMCA certificate and the album also debuted at number eighty-six on the US Billboard 200. Their new-found international success had SM extend their promotion to the US with an English version of title track ‘Regular‘ and ‘Cherry Bomb‘.
Their third sub-unit, NCT Dream was even more special than the first two sub-unit. It was originally a group with an admission-and-graduation system, in which members would leave after reaching age of maturity (19 years old, internationally). But in 2020, the sub-unit was rebranded and the graduation system was abolished. The group presented a bright, youthful concept ever since their debut with ‘Chewing Gum‘. They did have a short change in concept, but as they are more loved for their bright concept, SM stuck to it.
Lastly, their latest (2019) sub-unit; WayV promotes in China under LabelV. As guessed, they release songs in Mandarin with a line up consisting of a few Chinese members. WayV has earned several accolades from both national and international award ceremonies, including the Favourite Asian Artist at the 2020 Mnet Asian Music Awards and the Best Dance Performance (Chinese) at the Asian Pop Music Awards for their 2021 single “Kick Back“.
Overall, NCT as both a whole and as units gained so much success that by 2022, the group have managed to sell 24 million album across all sub-units, making them the best-selling act under SM Entertainment.
Interesting to note that GOT7 was initially supposed to debut as a six-member mix-gender group and used the working name “GOT6” but was changed to GOT7 as number 7 is considered as lucky number. Hence, GOT7 refers to “seven lucky people come together“. Hmmm… Not sure if this contributes to their success but the group certainly make waves since their debut in 2014.
JYP Entertainment had been scouting members of GOT7 since 2009 and by 2013 the managed to assemble the final team comprising Mark, Jackson, BamBam, Yugyeom, Jay B, Jinyoung and Youngjae. In January 2014, Got7 released their first EP, Got It? The album shot to No. 1 on Billboard’s World Albums Chart and was No. 2 on the Gaon Album Chart. What a feat and thus propel to stardom in years to come. They became popular as a hip-hop group that incorporates martial arts tricking and b-boying styles in their performances.
Since their debut, GOT7 has produced many hit songs such as Confession Song, Fly, Girls, Girls, Girls, If You Do , A and my personal favourite Hard Carry.
They departed from JYP Entertainment in January 2021, following the expiration of their contract with the agency and signed under Warner Music Korea. They are still rebranded themselves as a self-producing K-Pop group.
It is note easy to pick the best 10 and leave some of my other favourites from the list. Therefore, I created this part to give honorable mentions to some of the K-Pop boys group that could have made the list but did not. Here are some of the groups that deserve honorable mentions:-
MONSTA X 몬스타엑스
Monsta X was created from the hit reality TV survival program “No Mercy” produced by Starship Entertainment. They are popular not only in Korea but also in Japan.
The group was launched by JYP Entertainment and made its debut in Japan in 2011 to great success. They are known for their old-school sound and compared to most K-pop boy groups.
TVXQ (DBSK) 동방신기
They were formed by SM Entertainment in 2003 and started as a five-member boy group. They hit it big with Mirotic back in 2008, which is still considered one of the most popular Kpop songs.
Ateez was formed by KQ Entertainment. It consists of eight members: Hongjoong, Seonghwa, Yunho, Yeosang, San, Mingi, Wooyoung and Jongho. They debuted on October 24, 2018, with the extended play Treasure EP.1: All to Zero.
Astro was formed by Fantagio and debuted in 2016. The group is composed of six members: MJ, Jinjin, Cha Eun-woo, Moon Bin, Rocky and Yoon San-ha.
The Boyz (Tbz) 더보이즈
The Boyz (Tbz) was formed and managed by IST Entertainment. The group debuted on December 6, 2017, with the lead single “Boy” from their debut EP The First.
A college student without a life path. Currently lives in campus in Labuan. Is not consistent in the things she loves. Stan The Boyz, WJSN and Monsta X as her main. Trying her skill as a blog writer. Whoop whoop.