K-POP (Yearender) K-pop's momentum continues, girl groups dominate in 2023

(Yearender) K-pop’s momentum continues, girl groups dominate in 2023

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By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Dec. 15 (Yonhap) — As the year 2023 draws to a close, the K-pop industry reflects on a year marked by extended global expansion and a continued craze for girl groups following the trend from last year.

While the temporary hiatus of superstar BTS for its members’ mandatory military service posed a new challenge, their solo endeavors and the flourishing success of younger groups kept the K-pop phenomenon alive and thriving.

The growth of new girl groups, notably led by NewJeans and Ive, was particularly noteworthy this year.

South Korean girl group NewJeans poses for a photo during the 2023 Melon Music Awards at Inspire Arena on Yeongjong Island in Incheon, west of Seoul, on Dec. 2, 2023. (Yonhap)

NewJeans became a sensation with its first single album “OMG” and second EP “Get Up,” smashing charts at home and abroad upon their releases in January and July, respectively.

Achieving a milestone by topping the Billboard 200 within a year of its debut, the K-pop quintet solidified its global status by winning the Top Global K-pop Artist award at the 2023 Billboard Music Awards last month.

In addition, the group clinched the 19th spot on Apple Music’s year-end chart with its smash hit “Ditto.”

The group later emerged as the biggest winner at South Korea’s two major annual K-pop music awards — the MAMA Awards and the Melon Music Awards — claiming two of the coveted four grand prizes at each event.

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K-pop girl group Ive is seen in this photo provided by Starship Entertainment. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

K-pop girl group Ive is seen in this photo provided by Starship Entertainment. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Ive garnered wide media attention by winning both the rookie award and grand prize at various local annual K-pop awards last year. Continuing its hot streak, the group once hit the mark this year with “Kitsch” and “I Am,” along with tracks off its first EP, “I’ve Mine,” building on the achievements of “Eleven,” “Love Dive” and “After Like.”

Several others representing the fourth-generation girl groups such as Le Sserafim, aespa and (G)I-dle collectively spearheaded the so-called golden age of girl groups this year by taking turns dominating various domestic music charts.

Fourth-generation girl groups refer to those that debuted or gained significant attention in the industry after the year 2020.

On the Billboard 200, the torchbearers of K-pop’s future, including Tomorrow X Together, Stray Kids, NewJeans and Ateez, took turns to rise to the top, cementing K-pop’s influence in the American music scene.

K-pop girl group Fifty Fifty is seen in this photo provided by Attrakt. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

K-pop girl group Fifty Fifty is seen in this photo provided by Attrakt. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Rookie girl group Fifty Fifty also became a sensation, securing the 44th spot on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart with its hit single “Cupid.” It became the first K-pop girl group ever to hit the year-end chart, with Psy being the first K-pop act to enter it with “Gangnam Style” in 2013. Jungkook’s “Seven” ranked 82nd, making him the first K-pop solo artist to be on the chart in over a decade, following Psy.

K-pop boy group BTS poses for a photo after they arrived at a military boot camp in Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province, on Dec. 11, 2023, to see off members RM and V, who entered the camp to receive five weeks of basic military training, in this photo captured from the group's account on X, formerly known as Twitter. (Yonhap)

K-pop boy group BTS poses for a photo after they arrived at a military boot camp in Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province, on Dec. 11, 2023, to see off members RM and V, who entered the camp to receive five weeks of basic military training, in this photo captured from the group’s account on X, formerly known as Twitter. (Yonhap)

BTS, the global icon that spearheaded K-pop’s international rise, went on hiatus until 2025 earlier this week, when its remaining four members — RM, V, Jimin and Jungkook — enlisted in the Army. Three older band members are already in service, with Jin, the oldest, being the first to join last December. He was followed by J-Hope and Suga.

But it has been since June of last year that BTS officially paused group activities to focus on solo projects. The members have since proven their potential as solo artists, seamlessly filling the void left by their group activities.

This image provided by BigHit Music shows BTS' Jungkook performing hit solo singles at Today Plaza in New York City as part of the Citi Concert series of the American NBC morning show "Today" on Nov. 8, 2023 (U.S. local time). (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This image provided by BigHit Music shows BTS’ Jungkook performing hit solo singles at Today Plaza in New York City as part of the Citi Concert series of the American NBC morning show “Today” on Nov. 8, 2023 (U.S. local time). (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Jimin and Jungkook, in particular, made history by clinching the top spots on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 main singles chart with their solo singles, “Like Crazy” and “Seven,” a feat not achieved by any K-pop solo artist before.

Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was previously the highest-charting K-pop track by a soloist, ranking second for seven consecutive weeks in 2012.

BTS member Jimin is seen in this photo provided by BigHit Music. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

BTS member Jimin is seen in this photo provided by BigHit Music. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The strong chart performances by K-pop artists led to the music’s further expansion in the global market, especially in the United States.

According to Luminate, a U.S. music market analysis firm, cumulative on-demand audio and video streaming for the top 100 K-pop artists reached 90.4 billion as of October this year, a significant 42.2 percent increase from the same period last year.

Exports of K-pop albums also experienced remarkable growth as they hit US$243.81 million in the first 10 months of this year, up 20.3 percent from a year ago, according to trade statistics of the Korea Customs Service. The figure already surpassed the previous annual record.

Notably, exports to the U.S. surged by 67.3 percent from the same period a year ago, underscoring the genre’s growing impact on a global scale.

In the domestic market, fourth-generation girl groups such as NewJeans, Ive, Le Sserafim, aespa and (G)I-dle continued their chart domination, building on last year’s success.

sshim@yna.co.kr
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