10 K-Pop Artists to Watch in 2018 - Rolling Stone
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10 K-Pop Artists to Watch in 2018

From Loona to Neo Culture Technology, here are the top K-pop acts to follow in 2018

nct u


Thanks to Seoul megastars BTS, 2017 was the year K-pop finally broke in the United States. BTS made their American television debut that spring on the Billboard Music Awards, snagging the title of Top Social Artist – and breaking Justin Bieber’s six-year winning streak. In November, the band returned to perform at the 2017 American Music Awards, paying additional visits to Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden on their late night TV run. Their 2017 EP Love Yourself: Her has now spent 27 weeks on the Billboard 200 – the first K-pop release ever to do so – and their singles “DNA” and “MIC Drop (Remix),” the group’s collaboration with Steve Aoki and Desiigner, were both certified gold. Their next full-length album, due May 18th, has already topped Amazon’s sales chart with preorders alone.

For most American viewers, BTS was their first taste of K-pop since Psy’s viral 2012 hit, “Gangnam Style.” But while the seven-member boy group are nothing like Psy, they feel familiar in different ways: their carefully coordinated outfits and dance moves made some nostalgic for One Direction, or even the boy band golden era of the Nineties. But beneath BTS’ glossy surface lies an elaborate and deliberate infrastructure. Music, lyrics, and production – all of which the members have a hand in – work in tandem with wardrobe, visuals and meticulously crafted narratives to create an interactive experience for fans on social media. While the detective work is par for the course for long-time followers, it’s a crafty way to keep newer fans hooked. 

And BTS isn’t the only Korean act gliding into the American consciousness with smooth moves and tresses. The captivating spectacle that is K-pop – conceptual staging, powerful choreography, crazy-catchy melodies, and dynamic performers – has captivated listeners around the globe. After his departure from boy group 2PM, Seattle-born singer-rapper Jay Park hustled hard and started his own label before signing to Roc Nation last year. And at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Korean hip-hop queen CL and boy group EXO closed out the games with high-octane performances. While K-pop idols may just be starting to gain traction in the general public United States, their fandoms are powerful enough to sell out arena tours in mere minutes. Here are 10 more acts on the rise.


For those easing into
K-pop, energetic girl group Momoland
will help make the transition smoother. With a playful sensibility, the group’s
nine members each bring their own touch of whimsy to the mix. Fans of BTS may
recognize tendrils of “DNA” in the bass line of Momoland’s latest
track, “BBoom BBoom.” The group shows off their campy side in the
song’s cable-shopping-network–inspired video, selling everything from makeup to
soft drinks to plungers – including a surprise rap break – with all the
enthusiasm and overacting of the best infomercials. Perhaps this year the public will finally buy what Momoland is selling.

NCT (Neo Culture Technology)

NCT is SM Entertainment’s boy group of the future. Comprised of
18 members (so far), NCT is the label’s most ambitious project, designed for
optimal global reach. The full lineup charged onto the scene last week with their potent single, “Black on Black” – although they’ve previously released music as smaller sub-units. The sexy kingpins of NCT U, the more rowdy
NCT 127, and the most junior group, NCT Dream were the first groups to debut –
and they are primed for world domination. But it’s “Baby Don’t Stop,”
the latest release spotlighting Ten and Taeyong of NCT U, that really affirms their boss status. The crafty bass line, Taeyong’s confident rapping and Ten’s
sensual singing make for a mesmerizing performance piece. The label intends to add even more members, based in different cities around the world.

Oh My Girl

Dreamy girl group Oh My Girl debuted in 2015 with the bright and bubbly “Cupid” and has consistently delivered solid singles since. After exploring a range of styles over the past couple of years with mixed reception, Oh My Girl finally cemented themselves as a serious pop contender with this year’s exquisite “Secret Garden.” But their latest effort, “Banana Allergy Monkey,” takes the ethereal brightness of their last single into dangerously kooky-cute territory. With sweet and silly choreography to match, the song centers a monkey with an unfortunate allergy. Even though its humor easily befits a children’s TV show, “Banana Allergy Monkey” is a bona fide summer jam.


Half-Korean, half-Mexican singer and dancer Samuel Kim Arredondo has been training to be a K-pop star since he was 11. He first trained with pop group Seventeen before forming one half of short-lived hip hop duo 1Punch – but he made his real breakout as a contender in the second season of Produce 101. Showing strong performances throughout the competition and consistently ranking high in audience votes, Samuel seemed like a shoo-in for the final group. But in one of the season’s biggest surprises, he placed 18th in the final round. Resilient as ever, the now 16-year-old performer debuted as a soloist shortly after the show with his carefree single, “Sixteen.” Everything about his latest offering is best described as slick – his dance moves, his self-assured lyrics, even the glossy sheen of his hair.

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