Music Opinion #4: K-Pop Generations

Updated: Sep 9

This series is about me giving my opinions on anything music-related. Any response to the topic is welcome unless you're being toxic.

Yes, guys, I'm still alive!

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted anything. I've been busy with other stuff, but I'm not abandoning blogging!

Anyway, I'm back with a fun topic today. I originally planned to criticize a song, but I figured to talk about something that's light on the brain. Well, this subject still requires some thinking, but it's not time-consuming.

As you can tell, I'm talking about K-Pop generations. There have been debates about the start of each generation. Did 1st gen start with Seo Taiji & Boys? Did 2nd gen begin in 2009? I'm sure you've seen these questions.

Today, I like to determine my timeline of K-Pop. Everyone has different opinions about this topic. There are no right and wrong answers. I view it as a fun exercise to keep your mind busy!

I'll be giving a brief overview of each period, instead of going in-depth. It would take a long time for me to research and type!

With that said, let's take a look at my determination of K-Pop's generations!

1992-1995 (Seo Taiji & Boys a.k.a. Pre-debut of K-Pop)

I don't need to explain. After all, Seo Taiji and his boys dominated the music scene in South Korea. However, the tiny number of groups and sounds weren't enough to call this K-Pop. This trio, though, showed a glimpse of what Korea can do in the music scene.

1996-1999 (1st Generation of K-Pop, SM & DSP)

The 1st generation of K-Pop began in 1996. It all started with Lee Soo-man establishing SM Entertainment, thus creating the in-house production system that has been K-Pop's core identity. The first group to emerge successfully was H.O.T. From there, more groups during this time would experience success, such as Baby V.O.X., Sechs Kies, S.E.S., Fin.K.L, Shinhwa, and g.o.d. It was also the time when SM and DSP Media were the leaders in the K-Pop industry.

2000-2003 (The Birth of Soloists)

More groups would come in spades during this timeline, but none were as successful as their predecessors. However, each year would see a successful soloist debut with fame following.

2000 launched the career of BoA, the most famous K-Pop solo singer of all time! The next year started the career of another famed singer, PSY. You definitely recognize him through his viral hits later in his career. Finally, 2002 and 2003 each saw the start of Rain and Se7en. I'm not familiar with the latter's work, but I've heard he was popular during his prime.

Looking at the list of singers, PSY and BoA are the king and queen of K-Pop, while Rain and Se7en are the princes battling for PSY's spot (it will never happen).

2004-2006 (2nd Generation, Rising Gods of the East)

It took a while for me to realize, but I've concluded that 2nd generation started with TVXQ!. From 2004-2006, they were the stars of K-Pop!

While known for their ballads, they're also known for delivering SM's crowning sound- SMP, or SM Performance. It's an intense mixing of different genres, and TVXQ! is responsible for writing the template, along with a few other groups down the road.

Anyway, in their debut year, they released Tri-Angle, a song you wouldn't hear in today's music scene. As insane as the production sounds, the group took it to several levels in 2005 and released Rising Sun, their best song to date! Fast forward to 2006, O-Jung.Ban.Hap. was delivered. Talk about a group that was aiming to be the "Gods of the East," and they did! Truly the idol of idols!

2007-2008 (Start of The Big 3)

K-Pop fans know about "The Big 3"- SM, YG, and JYP. Though the idea was there with BoA, Se7en, and Rain, I would say the title started in 2007 when each company released a big hit. Here's a list of the biggest song from each company in 2007 & 2008:


SM- Into the New World (Girls' Generation)

YG- Lies (Big Bang)

JYP- Tell Me (Wonder Girls)


SM- Mirotic (TVXQ!)

YG- Haru Haru (Big Bang)

JYP- Nobody (Wonder Girls)

2007 raised the success of the three most prominent K-Pop companies of all time, and 2008 approved it!

2009-2011 (The Golden Age of K-Pop)

K-Pop fans talk about the "Golden Age of K-Pop." When did it start? I would say it began in 2009, considering the numerous hits that came out from different artists. When did it end? It's a bit hard to justify, but I would say it ended in 2011.

There were numerous classics from a handful of artists that defined the "Golden Age of K-Pop." Here is a list of songs that became iconic in the industry:

SS501- Love Like This

Super Junior- Sorry, Sorry

Brown Eyed Girls- Abracadabra

Girls' Generation- Gee

Girls' Generation- Genie

2PM- Again & Again

SHINee- Ring Ding Dong

U-KISS- Man Man Ha Ni

2NE1- Fire

G-Dragon- Heartbreaker

Taeyang- Wedding Dress

4Minute- Hot Issue

After School- Because of You

Beast- Bad Girl

IU- Good Day

BoA- Hurricane Venus

CNBLUE- I'm a Loner

T-ara- Bo Peep Bo Peep

Super Junior- Bonamana

Girls' Generation- Oh!

SHINee- Lucifer

4Minute- HuH

Rainbow- A

Secret- Madonna

Miss A- Bad Girl Good Girl

SISTAR- Push Push

TVXQ!- Keep Your Head Down

Super Junior- Mr. Simple

Hyuna- Bubble Pop!

Girls' Generation- The Boys

Kara- Step

Wonder Girls- Be My Baby

2PM- Hands Up

2NE1- I Am the Best

After School- Shampoo

Beast- Fiction

f(x)- Hot Summer

T-ara- Roly Poly

Infinite- Be Mine


Trouble Maker- Trouble Maker

This was definitely the Golden Age of K-Pop! It kickstarted the industry's vision of releasing well-produced hits from a lot of artists that would gain recognition from more international fans!

2012-2016 (3rd Generation, Gangnam Style, and The Nation's Pick)

2012 acts as the transition year from 2nd generation to 3rd generation. You can make the case it belongs to both. Anyway, I'm sure people know what came out of K-Pop during that year. I don't need to say it, just look at the title for this section! Other than the viral hit that swept the globe off its feet, the industry kept churning out classics that would appeal more to foreigners, while not abandoning its unique sound.

A year after, K-Pop would see another artist launch into popularity. That would be none other than EXO! From 2013-2016, the group dominated K-Pop. Hit after hit, it seemed that there was no stopping EXO. Despite a few members leaving, the craze never died down. Instead, it got crazier. From Growl to Love Me Right to Monster, EXO cemented themselves as a legendary group in K-Pop!

Lastly, this is the era of 3rd generation, when the industry kept the momentum going from 2nd generation. K-Pop presented itself in various styles that would appeal differently to other regions.

2017-2021 (4th Generation, Korea's Legends)

K-Pop from 2017-2021 needs one word- BTS. After all, they are the talk of the industry in recent years. The group rose to local prominence in 2015-2016. Who would've thought they would break down the barrier guarding America? I knew they had a chance, but never to this extent! From performing on American music shows to being #1 on billboard, BTS truly made a name for themselves as "Korea's Legends!"

This is also the era of 4th generation, where groups "seem" to cater more towards western fans. It definitely brought in popular western sounds to K-Pop (arguably for worst), but the industry finally found its way into America. The big question remains though- will it stay and become number one in the country? Only time will tell.

Hope you had fun reading this! I certainly had fun typing this! Honestly, I think we're lucky to experience the growth of K-Pop. The industry's timeline has a unique characteristic, but it's not done writing its story yet. We shall see what K-Pop has in store for the coming years!

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