Arensshi is a fan of Korean Pop Culture. She has been following the industry since 2009. She loves to talk about anything Korean.
When we hear the word K-pop, the first thing that comes to our minds are boy and girl group singers. However, K-pop is broader than that. They may be few, but yes—there are successful soloists in this industry too. Some of them made a name on their own, some are members of a famous group already and some are former members.
In an industry filled with “group” competitors, these soloists—especially the female ones—deserve tons of respect and applause for merely surviving. In this article, I present to you some of the few who successfully climbed to the top. Here are five of the most successful female Korean singers.
Debuted in the tender age of fifteen as a soloist, IU is one of the best-selling artist of South Korea. She released Good Day in 2011 which propelled her into national stardom. After that fateful year, IU has been smashing records left and right. Her songs and albums have climbed to the peak of music charts earning her the title Digital Queen. Billboard and Forbes recognized her contribution to her country’s music industry and have published tons of articles on her success. On top of that, IU is a prominent actress too with big dramas under her name such as Hotel del Luna, My Ahjussi, and Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryo.
With the K-pop mainstream scene boasting mostly of dance songs with heavy beats, IU’s music can be considered as a breath of fresh air. She may also have dance songs, but she is more known for her softer, acoustic, and soothing type of music. Famous for writing her own lyrics, IU’s songs reflect her own feelings and life, thus making her music more relatable than others. She has indeed proven herself as an exemplary artist through and through.
“When I’m not a kid or an adult, when I’m just me, I shine the brightest.”
- Palette (IU feat GDragon)
Kim Taeyeon is the leader of one of the most popular South Korean girl groups of all time: Girl’s Generation. The group was coined as the nation’s girl group and is considered a legend in the K-pop scene. Taeyeon debuted as a solo artist last 2015 with her mini album I which enjoyed tremendous commercial success. Her titular single with the same name peaked at number two on South Korea's Gaon Album Chart and charted atop the US Billboard World Albums. Since then, Taeyeon has been releasing hit songs back to back and has earned numerous awards and nominations.
One of the main vocalists of her group, Taeyeon’s weapon in her music is her powerful voice. When you listen to her songs, expect that you will hear her belting out in most of them. Before 2015, Taeyeon was famous for singing ballad songs for television soundtracks. However, since she debuted, she has been experimenting with different genres. This reflects her reflexivity as an artist.
Taeyeon (Kim Taeyeon)
"Flower petals wilt
I had difficult times, but followed a small light
Distant day, let it go far, faraway
I fly splendidly"
— I (Taeyeon)
Sunmi is a former member of Wonder Girls, the group who brought us the hit songs Tell Me, So Hot and Nobody. She debuted as a soloist in 2013 after leaving Wonder Girls momentarily to focus on her academic career. Her debut single 24 Hours achieved an all-kill on music charts, and her debut extended play Full Moon peaked at number two and at number three on Billboard’s K-pop Hot 100. In 2015, Sunmi joined Wonder Girls again until its disbandment in 2017. After the disbandment of the group, Sunmi changed agencies and released Gashina which is her most famous and successful song. Gashina debuted at number 2 on the Gaon Digital Chart and topped it the next week. Adding to that, Billboard named it as the third-best K-pop song of 2017.
Sunmi’s genre consists of synth-pop, electropop and retro. She was known for her classy sexiness and her songs were famous for their catchy beats, thus, producing some of K-pop’s most popular dance crazes. In fact, Gashina’s dance was so popular that even many K-pop idols danced to it.
You have withered, I have bloomed
And it’s over
Even if you wanna come back
You may seem like you’ll be fine without me right now
But no matter how much I think about it
Are you sure you’re not crazy?
- Gashina (Sunmi)
Another former member of not just one, but two big girl groups in South Korea, Hyuna is one of the most popular female celebrities in her country. She debuted as a soloist in 2010 and in 2011, she released the album Bubble Pop. Its title track with the same name was truly a global success and its music video was the first video by a female solo K-pop artist to surpass 100 million views. Hyuna then appeared in Gangnam Style by Psy which is the most viewed Korean video of all time. She has continued to release hit songs, with most of them always staying at the top of the music charts.
Hyuna considered her style as performance-oriented music. She is deemed as one of the sexiest stars in South Korea and this shows in her songs which have suggestive beats and lyrics. Hyuna wrote most of her songs’ empowering lyrics, which inspire a great number of the female population.
I want you to express yourself honestly every day
As if you’re not you
Sometimes, my walk gets sexy and confident
Feels like I can do something today
- Lip and hip (Hyuna)
The youngest on this list and certainly one of the most successful fresh bloods in the industry, Chungha finished fourth in the Mnet’s girl group survival show Produce 101 resulting in her becoming a member of the now defunct girl group IOI. After IOI disbanded in 2017, Chungha released her debut EP entitled Hands on Me with the lead track Why Don’t You Know. In 2019, she released her single album Gotta Go which earned her first-ever music program trophy on the MBC Music’s show champion. Chungha has also released original sound tracks for Korean dramas such as Hotel del Luna and Dr. Romantic 2.
Chungha’s edge on Produce 101 was her dancing prowess. She was the main dancer of her group and now, just like almost all Korean artists, she has been releasing bops with catchy beats that you can dance to. Aside from that, however, Chungha’s music also comprises of ballads and slow songs which shows her vocal abilities too.
I've got colours of my own, I gotta paint them out
Yeah, I wanna go wild
Give the canvas what it needs, I wanna make them proud
I am liking this style
I keep loving and that's how I win
I'm gon' be doing my own thing
- Flourishing (Chungha)
Jessica Ho, better known as Jessi, has been in the industry for so long already but it was in recent years that her star truly shined. She found mainstream popularity during her appearance on the Hip Hop reality competition called "Unpretty Rapstar".
Her decision to sign under Psy's label "P Nation" also favored her. Just a year after signing with the label, she was able to release her most famous song named "Nunu Nana". The single peaked at number two on South Korea's music charts and its dance steps became a sensation on Tiktok. After that, Jessi continues to release many bops that people love.
Jessi is a hip hop artist and one of South Korea's empowered female rappers. She is also a good vocalist with a deep and husky voice. Her songs show a fine mixture of rap and vocals. Her personality also reflects on her songs for she writes them herself.
I'm feelin' like million bucks, yeah
Must be the million bucks, yeah
Today I'm feelin' kinda extra bright
Cameras flashin', I see extra lights
— JESSI (Zoom)
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© 2020 Arensshi