You’ve heard of Rain, IU, BoA, PSY, and Ailee, but do you know these solo K-pop gems? The Korean music industry gains countless great new groups and artists every year. Whether it’s due to not gaining enough popularity initially, or simply the test of time, many have become lost and forgotten. I’ve composed a list of the top 10 solo artists that even the oldest and most decorated K-pop fans may not be familiar with today.
I’ve stuck to the true Korean pop category in particular for this list, leaving out rock, rap, hip-hop, indie, R&B, ballad, and others. The following are also all solo artists who actually debuted as solo artists, not solo units or members who broke away from bands— such as KIXS, originally from DMTN/Dalmatian, or Kahi, originally from After School.
This female artist debuted four years ago and screams “girl power” in every sense of the term. Her songs “Left Out” and “Hypnotize” (the latter of which has a Korean, English, and Spanish version!) will certainly put you in a hypnotized groove. Her videos show females are just as strong as men and deserve to fully shine! After a break, she returned under the new stage name ANDA with the somewhat scandalous song “Touch.” ANDA is still active to this day, and most of her newer music videos hint at homosexual themes.
One of my personal favorites in this list, CrazyNo is a Korean-Australian who moved to Korea through the Hallyu-wave to show his music mixing skills. He was known for his interesting ability to twist his singing as if he was a “scratched record” (Example: 1:39 in the video below). “Musiche” is a zany, techno beat that brings up the topic of how liking music doesn’t make you ignorant or insane— although his unforgettable, crazy antics and dance moves certainly make it seem that way. However, that’s his unique charm! Sadly, he didn’t have a comeback after his debut.
After having won one of Thailand’s largest singing competitions and making a name for himself there, Nat Thewphaingam then set his sights on the Hallyu Wave. With the move, he brought a new, more upbeat sound to his music. His debut song “She’s Bad” has that definite 2011 Kpop feeling, and it certainly helped Natthew to have featured a rap from Highlight‘s Yong Junhyung. He’s still active to this day and has put out songs collaborations with impressive artists such as g.o.d‘s Son Hoyoung.
4. Kim Sori
After being left out of the upcoming band Jewelry in 2006 due to not fitting the image, Kim Sori was given the chance to debut as a solo artist in 2009 with the song “Lip.” Her looks and style have been compared to Lee Hyori. In 2010, she became a six-month member of the popular show “Invincible Youth,” providing more exposure for her at the time. Kim’s catchy song “Dual Life,” released in 2013, garnered lots of attention online and overseas, but was given some harsh criticism for parts of it being too sexual.
Let’s go back almost ten years to this young cutie with a dark, sassy attitude. Perhaps young Noh Ahjoo wanted to be an idol singer, but also liked the idea of being a second generation Chaebol (wealthy Korean families who own large corporations), which happened to be the name and concept of one of his more popular songs. It gathered a lot of negative criticism from the media for its bragging of an excessive and indulgent lifestyle. In 2009, AJOO released a song with his at-the-time label mate, and popular singer, Younha, called “Paparazzi.” He put out a few tracks before ultimately leaving stardom in 2010.
A mix of Rain and Se7en, this idol’s style definitely took pages from his seniors’ books. Yet, Taegoon still has his own, unique flair. With a natural sexiness about him, it’s somewhat sad his fame couldn’t be retained, but he did develop a tight-knit group of followers at the time. Taegoon is still active today, but focuses primarily on being the featuring artist for other singers’ tracks. Unfortunately, it’s been five years since his last solo comeback.
This baby-faced cutie definitely deserves a spot on this list. Still active to this day with new comebacks, as well as Drama OST’s, NC.A is slowly but steadily gaining more love from followers. Her song “Vanilla Shake” will shake you up with its cute, addictive dance and “ding-dong-ding-dong” hook. Be sure to check out her dancing with penguins (Yes, penguins!) on the live performances of her song “Coming Soon.”
8. Baek Seungheon
One of the more recent debuts on this list, Baek Seungheon is double trouble as an actor and singer. You’ve probably seen him in dramas such as “Something About 1%” and “High School Love On.” His steady voice and impressive visuals carry the songs which have that “I’m really sad but just have to dance it out” vibe. His song “Till The Sun Rises” boasts almost 700,000 views since 2012.
FatCat first gained interest when she worked with Defconn in 2011. She eventually debuted as a solo artist, impressing many who were unfamiliar with her singing-rap style. Her song “Is Being Pretty Everything?” brings up the issue of how girls can feel unimportant just because they aren’t considered “pretty.” It then goes on to reinforce how they all deserved to be loved just like anyone else.
10. Roh Jihoon
Sexy is the perfect way to describe Roh Jihoon of Cube Entertainment. He put on a show with fellow singer Ailee for the 2012 “Korean Music Festival.” Acting as a sexy, tension-filled couple for a performance, they even ended it with a kiss, which netizens raved over. His sharp looks and charming demeanor mix perfectly in his music video for “Punishment” as we see him chasing the illusive girl of his dreams. The unique “shoe-sliding” and “belt-pulling” dance will keep your eyes glued to the screen.
How many of these artists did you recognize? What did you think of their songs? Hopefully you were introduced to an unfamiliar artist that you liked! Let us know in the comment section below!
CaptainMal has been into Korean Entertainment for seven years now, since 2010. She travels to conventions in her area, showcasing her “Kpop Game Show’” and occasional Kpop cosplay. Although her favorite bands are Infinite, Super Junior, and VIXX, she boasts a love for a huge variety of artists throughout the last 15 years of Kpop. Other than Kpop, CaptainMal loves Disney, 80’s rock, Daft Punk, Gaming, and Orange Juice.
Media: As Credited