K-pop, or Korean popular music, started around the 1950s, but the kind most people are familiar with began in the ’90s. It is a newer form of music that combines rock, hip-hop, electronic, and pop.
Entertainment companies in South Korea have been forming K-pop groups over the years, gaining worldwide attention. While K-pop has been around for a while, many idols stand out among the others.
So in this post, we’re going to take a look at the lives and careers of 21 of the most famous K-pop singers. Let’s get started.
When it comes to K-pop, there are a lot of big names out there, but to start our list, we have Park Ji-Min, a.k.a. Jimin.
Born in 1995 in Busan, South Korea, Jimin made his debut in 2013 as a member of the hugely popular Korean boy group BTS. As a vocalist and dancer for the group, he quickly gained a reputation for his powerful ballads and captivating dance moves, which won over fans around the world.
He has three solo songs with BTS: “Lie” in 2016, “Serendipity” in 2017, and “Filter” in 2020. These quickly rose in popularity, with “Lie” and “Serendipity” having over 50 million streams on Spotify, surpassing Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”
Jimin’s fame continued to grow even when he launched into a solo career in 2018 with the release of “Promise.” Now, he continuously ranks on Korea’s Billboard and surveys as a fan favorite year after year.
Frequently cited as the king of K-pop, we have Kwon Ji-Yong, or G-Dragon. Born in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea, he started his music career young—at the age of six as a member of Little Roo’Ra, a junior dance group.
When he was older, he trained under SM Entertainment and then YG Entertainment before debuting in the boy band BigBang in 2006. G-Dragon was the rapper and songwriter for the group and, with them, won many awards, including 2008, 2012, and 2015 Artist of the Year.
In 2009, G-Dragon started a solo career, releasing his debut album Heartbreaker. It contained one of his biggest singles, a song of the same name, which went on to sell over 300 thousand copies. The album itself won Mnet Asian Music Award’s Album of the Year.
Next up, we have another member of the BTS, Jeon Jeong-Guk, or simply JungKook. Born in 1997 in Busan, South Korea, he is the youngest member of the group, having debuted in 2013.
While a member of BTS, JungKook has done many solo tracks, but it was the songs “Euphoria” and “My Time” that hit the Billboard charts. Both became the longest-charting songs of the group and other K-pop bands, staying over 85 weeks in their rankings.
As a solo artist, he produced “Stay Alive” for a BTS-based webtoon. It became his first solo song to chart on Billboard Hot 100, Billboard Global 200, and British OCC’s Official Singles Chart.
Recently, it has been announced that JungKook will perform at the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022. At the same time, he’ll be releasing a new song for fans to enjoy.
Though not Korean-born, Lalisa Monoban—better known as Lisa—of Bangkok, Thailand, auditioned for YG Entertainment at 13. She impressed the judges and CEO at the time and was given the opportunity to train with them in 2011, becoming the first foreigner at YG and paving the way for more to join the K-pop world.
In 2016, Lisa debuted as the main rapper and vocalist for BLACKPINK, one of the leading Korean female dance groups. Their album, Square One, included one of their best songs, “Whistle,” which topped all South Korean charts.
Lisa soon began a solo career, releasing Lalisa in 2021. The music video for its lead single of the same name broke the world record for the most viewed YouTube video by a solo artist in 24 hours.
Lisa has won numerous awards, including the most recent (2022) MTV Video Music Award for Best K-Pop Video, making her the first Korean to receive the award.
Singer-songwriter Suga, or Min Yoon-gi, was born in 1993 in Daegu, South Korea. He is the main rapper for the world renowned BTS.
He first debuted in 2010 as part of the hip-hop crew D-Town. Then he joined Big Hit Entertainment originally as a music producer but began training as a member of BTS soon after.
In 2016, Suga began a solo career and released his first (eponymous) mixtape on Soundcloud. This was well-received, but its re-release in 2018 landed it at #3 on the Billboard World Albums chart. His second mixtape, D-2, in 2020 was also a success, rising to #11 on the Billboard 200.
Suga continued growing his work and is now one of the most sought-after producers in the industry. His songs frequently chart, and he has collaborated with well-known artists worldwide, including ØMI and Psy.
Once again, we have a member of BTS, Kim Seok-Jin, better known as Jin, who was born in 1992 in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea.
He was scouted off the street by Big Hit Entertainment due to his good looks. He then debuted with the BTS in 2013 in their album 2 Kool 4 Skool. He went on to release a few solo songs with the group, one of which was “Moon.” The song peaked at #1 and #2 on the Gaon Digital and World Digital Song Sales charts, respectively.
Jin started solo work in 2016. Most of his songs received positive reception, but it was “Super Tuna” in 2021 that went viral. For eight weeks, it was YouTube’s World Popular Music Video, and he was even named most successful K-pop male artist by Forbes magazine.
For our next K-pop artist, we have another BLACKPINK member. Kim Ji-soo—or simply Jisoo—was born in 1995 in Gunpo, South Korea. She joined YG Entertainment in 2011 and trained for five years before becoming BLACKPINK’s lead vocalist and the oldest member of the group.
Jisoo is also well-known for her fashion style. In the teaser for “How You Like That,” her two-bow hairstyle and dot style makeup trended and influenced many fans. She has also endorsed several fashion brands, including Dior and Cartier.
Aside from singing, Jisoo has also ventured into acting. She had a cameo in the TV series The Producers and had the lead role in Snowdrop. The latter landed the singer-actress an Outstanding Korean Actress award.
Korea’s little sister IU was born in 1993 in Seoul, South Korea. As a child, she loved to sing and act, and this manifested in her career as she grew older.
Her singing debut came as a single called “Lost Child” in 2008, which was followed by her first studio album, Growing Up, the following year. Reception for these, however, was varied and was not a commercial success.
This changed in 2010 with the release of IU’s EP Real. “Good Day,” the album’s lead single, topped the Gaon Digital Chart and won 6 awards from various music award organizations. Billboard also called it the best K-pop song of 2010.
She is also an actress, having starred in the teen TV drama You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin, Bel Ami, and Hotel del Luna.
IU is considered one of the best-selling female and solo artists in Korea, with over one million albums, not including paid digital downloads. She also holds the record for the most #1 songs.
Born in 1995 in Daegu, South Korea, Kim Tae-Hyung—better know as V—is a member of BTS. He had auditioned for Big Hit Entertainment and passed, debuting with the group in 2013.
V is often credited with co-writing many of the songs for BTS, including “Hold Me Tight” and his solo song “Stigma.” In 2018, he released “Singularity,” his second solo song. It landed multiple Top Hit lists that year.
While BTS got him his start, V has taken that fame and continued it as a solo artist as well. The first independent song he released, “Scenery,” broke the records of SoundCloud after it had over 100 million streams in 14 days.
“Gangnam Style” is arguably one of the most viral Korean songs, and it’s all thanks to South Korean rapper Psy.
The debut of this artist was rocky, with his album Psy from the Psycho World! fined for inappropriate content. His second and fifth albums were flagged as well; however, these did not stop the talented rapper.
In 2012, he released his sixth album, which contained “Gangnam Style.” The song skyrocketed Psy’s popularity and blew up YouTube, becoming the most-watched video that year—it has the Guinness world record for the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views (among many more acclaims)!
As a result of this, Psy is known worldwide for being one of the first K-pop artists to achieve great success out West. Since then, he has released multiple songs that have topped South Korea’s charts.
Next up, we have MAMAMOO singer Hwasa, born Ahn Hye-Jin in 1995 in Jeonju, South Korea. She started singing at a young age and was featured in the tracks of other South Korean artists before her own success.
She debuted with MAMAMOO in 2014 with their release of “Mr. Ambigious.” Afterward, she went on to compose songs for the group, including her own solo, “Be Calm.” This reached #35 on the Gaon Download Chart.
In 2019, Hwasa debuted a single, “Twit,” as an independent artist. It was a commercial success, topping the Gaon Digital, Gaon Download, and Gaon Streaming charts.
Hwasa’s venture as a solo artist has brought her more fame than her time with MAMAMOO, and her voice keeps her songs charting worldwide. The singer has also gone on to collaborate with well-known artists, including English singer Dua Lipa and Korean rapper Loco, and has grown in popularity since.
Born Jung Ho-Seok, we have South Korean rapper and songwriter J-Hope. This artist started his career with Neuron, an underground dance team, before joining BTS in 2013.
Since his debut with BTS, he has been heavily involved with the discography of their albums, and like his other BTS mates, he has also released solo works. His first was a mixtape in 2018 called Hope World, which landed on the Billboard 200.
In 2019, J-Hope collaborated with singer Becky G. to create “Chicken Noodle Soup.” After its debut, it reached over 9.7 million streams and made it onto the Billboard Hot 100, making the Korean rapper the first of the BTS members to chart there.
J-Hope recently dropped his first studio album, Jack in the Box, to universal acclaim, and it became certified Platinum.
Singer-songwriter Baekhyun was born Byun Baek-Hyun in 1992 in Bucheon, South Korea. He started singing at the young age of 11 and was the singer of a couple of local bands during high school.
Later, he trained under SM Entertainment before debuting in 2012 with EXO as their lead vocalist. The group became a huge success, winning several Gaon Chart Music Awards seven years in a row.
Baekhyun soon went solo, releasing City Lights in 2019. It topped the Gaon Album Charts and was certified double-Platinum, breaking the record for the best-selling album by a solo artist at that time.
Billboard has called his voice a “standout,” and it’s the main reason he has such a following across the globe. In 2020, Baekhyun won Best Male Artist (Overseas) at the Asian Pop Music Awards and has been nominated for and won various other awards as well.
First mystery girl introduced by YG Entertainment, we have Seoul-native Jennie Kim. As a child, she had always had an interest in singing and dancing, so it was only natural for Jennie to audition at YG.
Successful with her audition, she debuted with BLACKPINK in 2016, along with other members, Jisoo, Rosé, and Lisa. The group has been immensely successful. Two of their music videos, “Kill This Love” and “How You Like That,” has the record for most-viewed video 24 hours after their release.
In 2018, Jennie released the song “Solo” for her independent debut. It immediately topped the local and Billboard‘s World Digital Songs charts. The following year, she won Song of the Year from Gaon Chart Music Awards and Best Female Solo Artist by the Philippine K-pop awards for the song.
Rapper Kim Nam-Joon, better known as RM—was born in Goyang, South Korea. He initially wanted to start a career in literature, but inspired by Eminem, he turned his poetry into rapping and joined various hip-hop circles during high school.
He first auditioned for Big Deal Records, but it didn’t go as smoothly as he hoped. Although he failed that audition, Big Hit entertainment got in touch, and he began training with them at 16 and debuted as a member of BTS in 2013.
RM has also collaborated with many other artists, like the girl group Glam, American rapper Warren G, and even with Marvel for the Korean soundtrack of Fantastic Four.
Recently, he has announced that he will be devoting more of his time focusing on solo work, with plans to release his debut solo album this December 2022.
Chae Young Park, or Rosé, was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1997. Music was in her life at a young age, and she sang in church choirs.
She first auditioned for YG Entertainment in 2012 at 15 and was ranked first out of those auditions. She trained for four years before debuting with BLACKPINK in 2016.
In the first quarter of 2021, Rosé dropped her first solo album, simply entitled R. Within 24 hours of release, the lead single “On the Ground” gained over 41 million views and charted on Billboard Global 200.
By the end of 2021, Rosé had won Top 20 Albums and Top 20 Songs of the Year (Overseas) by the Asian Pop Music Awards for both R and “On the Ground,” as well as Best Music Video (Overseas).
Called the idols’ idol because many Korean idols have cited him as their inspiration, Lee Taemin started his music career at 13 after his mom encouraged him to audition for SM Entertainment. He soon debuted as a member of the boy band SHINee the following year.
With SHINee, Taemin grew in popularity over the years. The band is seen as one of the best vocal groups in K-pop history. Their dance performances have also been crowned one of the best, especially after receiving the Best Dance Performance (Male Group) from Mnet Asian Music Awards three times in a row.
In 2014, Taemin began a solo career. Most of his studio albums and EPs have reached the top 2 on Korean charts. His unique dance choreography in the single “Move” has been highly praised, which sparked the “Move” dance trend. It also garnered Taemin a Best Dance Performance (Solo) Award.
Born Lee Chae-rin, CL was known as the lead rapper for the girl group 2NE1. She debuted with them back in 2007 and rose to fame along with the group.
In 2015, she released her first solo track, “Hello Bitches.” It was well-accepted, but it was her 2016 “Lifted” that landed her a spot on the Billboards Hot 100, albeit #94. She went on to collaborate with other artists and even recorded the soundtrack “No Better Feelin'” for the movie My Little Pony.
CL’s bold rapping gained her numerous awards throughout the years, including Most Outstanding Song of the Year for “Hwa” in 2020 and Female Solo Singer Popularity from the Asia Artist Awards in 2021.
Lee Sun-mi, or simply Sunmi, was born in Iksan, South Korea, in 1992. Inspired by Korean singer BoA, she auditioned at JYP Entertainment, succeeded, and became a trainee at 14.
She got her start in 2007 as a member of Wonder Girls. The group rose to fame with hits like “2 Different Tears” and “Why So Lonely” before disbanding in 2017. Sunmi was with Wonder Girls for three years before announcing her leave to focus on school.
After a three-year hiatus, she debuted as a solo artist with the single “24 Hours.” The song charted at #2 and #3 on the Gaon Digital and Billboard Korea K-Pop Hot 100 charts.
Sunmi is known for the emotion that she brings to her songs, and many fans call it Sunmi-pop. She has been nominated for numerous awards, winning the Outstanding Singer of the Year in 2020 from the Asia Pop Music Awards.
Rapper HyunA started her career in 2006 as one of the Wonder Girls but left them after a year due to health concerns. It was not long before she joined another girl group, 4minute, before starting a solo career in 2010.
Her debut solo song, “Change,” sold over 2.4 million copies upon release, peaking at #2 on the Gaon Digital Chart. However, HyunA’s global success came with “Bubble Pop,” with more than 100 million views on YouTube. For the song, HyunA received the awards Popularity Video and Best Dance Performance (Solo).
She went on to release more hits, including “Ice Cream” and “Golden Lady.” Hyuna recently won four awards for her latest album, I’m Not Cool (2021), and for the lead single of the same name.
21. Seo Taiji
Lastly, we have Seo Taiji. This K-pop artist began his career as a bass guitarist for the heavy metal band Sinawe. After this, founded Seo Taiji and Boys, whose use of rap in Korean music changed the music industry for the better and was popular during his time.
The band released four eponymous studio albums, with all three selling over 1.6 million copies. To this day, his albums are considered some of the best-selling South Korea has ever seen.
After disbanding in 1996, Seo Taiji started a solo career. His debut album as a solo artist, Seo Tai Ji, had more than a million sales despite having no promotion. His second album, Ultramania, however, is considered his best, in which he won Best Male Artist.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous K-Pop Vocalists
From its music to the fashion trends of the artists, K-pop has influenced many fans today.
Musicians like Psy, Jimin, IU, and the others mentioned above have made a name for themselves in the industry, which is seen through their music, awards, accomplishments, and huge fan base.
And it does not stop there. K-pop continues to expand across the globe as it becomes more well-known due to artists, old and new, creating amazing music for people to enjoy.
Who do you think we have left off the list? Let us know, and we’ll add them!