It’s 2022, and women rule the K-pop industry
Female artists have finally risen to the top of the K-pop industry in 2022. It’s been a long time coming, for sure. But it was worth the wait for fans.
The year has been a renaissance for women in K-pop — from the rise of female rookies like IVE, NewJeans, and LE SSERAFIM, emotional reunions of 2nd Generation girl groups like Girls’ Generation, 2NE1, and Kara, to chart-topping tracks that show off different sides of females at their best.
Not to mention this year was a reminder that women can rule the industry, especially if they’re given the opportunities to do so. Boy groups and soloists had shining moments in 2022 as well, but it’s clear that this is the year for women.
As we wrap up the year, let’s recall some K-pop girl groups that caused a wave of hysteria through their songs, performance skills, and legacy.
Girls’ Generation (SNSD)
Longtime K-pop fans were overjoyed when it was confirmed that Girls’ Generation (SNSD) will release music as a complete unit after five years. Since their debut in 2007, the girl group is one of the most prominent figures of the Hallyu wave, and earned the nickname “Nation’s Girl Group” in South Korea.
After the 2017 album “Holiday Night,” the members forged their own paths in the entertainment scene with Taeyeon and Tiffany as singers; Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona, and Seohyun as actresses; Sunny as a variety star; and Hyoyeon as a soloist and DJ. The group didn’t disband, but it’s evident that the members are carving their own lane as individuals.
But SNSD’s passion for defying industry odds remained strong. The result is the seventh studio album “Forever 1,” a labor of love that commemorates their 15th anniversary and showcases a maturity of their signature bubblegum pop sound. The record is composed of 10 songs, including a title track with a nostalgic callback to their 2007 debut, crafted as a promise that their love will last forever.
2NE1’s disbandment in November 2016 came as a shock to fans, and their final single “Goodbye” just rubbed salt into the wound.
2gether again ♠♥♣♦ 2NE1 reuniting for @88rising’s Head in the Clouds Forever set.
Watch the @YouTube livestream for more surprises from the desert https://t.co/369m1pEHng pic.twitter.com/R40ntMdx5L
— Coachella (@coachella) April 17, 2022
This explains why Bom, Dara, CL, and Minzy’s reunion at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April 2022 was an emotional moment for fans. It’s no secret that the members get together post-disbandment, but this marks their first live performance since the Mnet Asian Music Awards in December 2015. It remains uncertain if they will release a new song, but it’s a sign of better things to come.
Rosé describes “Born Pink” as a record that celebrates the “essence of BLACKPINK” in an exclusive interview with The Korea Herald, adding that it’s an album the members are proud of. It might have taken the girl group almost two years to release the follow-up to “The Album,” but the main vocalist said the members were “full of confidence” during its production.
BLACKPINK also returned to the concert scene with a vengeance, as they have been embarking on the massive-scale “Born Pink” world tour since October 2022. Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa are set to meet their Filipino fans on March 25 and 26, 2023 at the Philippine Arena.
The girl group also proved their fire will last for long, as they’re named as “Entertainers of the Year” of TIME Magazine in December.
Debuting as a K-pop idol is just the beginning of a cutthroat journey in the industry, as many newbies are prone to be buried among industry heavyweights. However, IVE managed to emerge as one of K-pop’s most promising acts within a year of their debut.
The six-piece act from Starship Entertainment — composed of members Yujin, Gaeul, Rei, Wonyoung, Liz, and Leeseo — is all about the Beverly Hills-esque elegance and chic take on self-love. Apart from Yujin and Wonyoung’s previous experience as IZ*ONE members, they embody the meaning of their group name in all its glory; hoping to show what they have.
But the highlight of IVE’s career so far is releasing one hit after another. From their catchy debut “Eleven,” hypnotic “Love Dive,” to the addictive “After Like,” it’s clear the group has a penchant for tracks that appeal to listeners right at the first note. To note their many achievements, “After Live” sold over 900,000 copies in the first week of its release while “Love Dive” achieved many accolades including the “Song of the Year” awards at the 2022 MAMA Awards and Melon Music Awards.
Surprise drops are rare in K-pop, so NewJeans debut in July came as a breath of fresh air. The gamble seemed impossible to pull off, but it worked because of their addictive debut EP and nostalgic concept that reminds listeners about the joys of teenhood. For starters, members Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin, and Hyein said in an exclusive interview with Billboard that they’re proud of doing something new through their music.
Compared to their flashy contemporaries, NewJeans forged a late 90s to early 2000s approach through “Attention,” “Hype Boy,” “Cookie,” and “Hurt.”
NewJeans didn’t disappoint in their follow up record “Ditto,” a pre-release winter single for their upcoming comeback in January 2023. The Baltimore club-inspired song is about someone being anxious to get into a new relationship, while the music video is an eerie take of friendship from two different worlds. The track was an instant hit, as it topped domestic charts, as well as iTunes Top Songs in seven countries including the Philippines.
The beauty of LE SSERAFIM rests in the members’ personal stories; Sakura was one of the prolific members of J-pop groups HKT48 and AKB48, as well as IZ*ONE; Chaewon was set on breaking free from her cute image in IZ*ONE; Yunjin has been a longtime trainee and a victim of hate comments in the Korean survival show “Produce 48”; Kazuha was a professional ballerina at the Dutch National Ballet Academy; and Eunchae is determined to be recognized as someone who’s not a shadow of her experienced bandmates.
The result of the group’s story is their debut EP “Fearless” where they confidently declared the world is their oyster. Despite the removal of Garam in July, the five-piece act forged ahead with their follow-up mini-album “Antifragile.”
Since then, LE SSSERAFIM has been surprising fans and casual fans with their performances in year-end festivals and award shows. The future is bright for the group, and hopefully a sign for better things to come.
Coming back to the industry as a five-piece act — following the departure of Soojin in August 2021 — was a daunting task for (G)I-DLE yet they managed to pull through with the release of their hit tracks “Tomboy” and “Nxde.” “Tomboy” rose to prominence, earning its spot as one of the most commercially successful K-pop songs of the year and its music video snagging 185 million views.
TWICE’s dedicated fandom, also known as ONCE, waited with bated breath if the group’s world tour and Nayeon’s solo debut would be the last of the nine-member act — but they broke the infamous “seven-year jinx” by renewing their contracts with JYP Entertainment in July.
“I’ve been counting down the days to share this news. I’m glad you all liked it. I’m sure many of you must have worried about when the glad tidings would arrive, but I’m happy that I can tell you this,” leader Jihyo said, as she opened up about the group’s contract renewal on social media.
TWICE celebrated the next chapter of their career with the release of their mini-album “Between 1&2” in August, featuring the title track “Talk That Talk,” a record where the members exercised more of their creative freedom as artists. While it’s known that members Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Chaeyoung, Dahyun, and Tzuyu contribute lyrics in their previous records, their recent EP is a display of how the group has come so far.
Fans were also elated when the girl group announced their future activities in December, including a pre-release English single in January 2023 and a mini-album in March.
Known for their eccentric approach to K-pop, Red Velvet solidified their unofficial title as “concept queens” with their 2022 title tracks “Feel My Rhythm” in March and the kitsch-inspired “Birthday” in November.
Both mini-albums show off the Red and Velvet sides of Irene, Seulgi, Wendy, Joy, and Yeri in all their mature glory, notably with “Feel My Rhythm” following a contemporary approach to classical musician Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air on a G String.”
The four-member aespa dove deeper into their mythology in their 2022 release “Girls,” as Karina, Winter, Giselle, and Ningning — and their four AI counterparts — defended the fictional world of Kwangya from the villain known as Black Mamba.
“Girls” earned rave reviews from critics, including Rolling Stone which praised the track for capturing the group’s “signature sound and unveiled more of their storytelling.” To add, the song was also listed in the American magazine’s “The 100 Best Songs of 2022” list.
2022 was a busy year for Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, and Yuna, as the girl group dropped the English single “Boys Like You,” Japanese singles “Voltage” and “Blah Blah Blah” and released two mini albums “Checkmate” and “Cheshire”; and are currently holding their world tour. The group is set to visit the Philippines for the Manila leg of their “Checkmate” tour at the Mall of Asia Arena on Jan. 14 and 15, 2023.
KARA is another second-generation K-pop group that returned to the spotlight, as they reunited for their eighth EP “Move Again” in November. The record is a momentous one for fans since it marks their first release since their disbandment in January 2016, and their first to feature Nicole and Jiyoung since 2014.
The mini album is also the girl group’s 15th anniversary release, and is made as a special tribute to Hara who passed away in November 2019. The music video of the EP’s title track “When I Move” also featured an additional microphone stand, symbolizing Hara’s presence in the group.
Kep1er, a project girl group formed through the competition show “Girls Planet 999,” debuted with a bang in January — as they accumulated over one million followers on their official Tiktok account. The nine-member act is crafted as a callback to astronomy, which can be seen on their group name and debut track “WA DA DA,” and they went on to release songs such as “Up,” “We Fresh,” and “Wing Wing.”
One of the most-awaited K-pop debuts, NMIXX introduced fans to their signature brand of “MIXX POP” in March 2022 with “O.O” The girl group was initially unveiled to the public through a series of pre-debut videos, until their eventual presence in the music scene.
Unfortunately, member Jinni announced her departure from the group in December, three months after the release of their comeback single “Dice.” Despite this, Lily, Haewon, Sullyoon, Bae, Jiwoo, and Kyujin forge ahead.
A dark horse among girl group rookies, Billlie’s latest single “GingaMingaYo (the strange world)” — released last February — brought wonders to their career and lore. The growing interest towards the group started when member Tsuki caught the attention of fans and local K-pop enthusiasts through her fancam which garnered over 11 million views.
A girl group that gracefully seesaws between self-love and youthful attraction, STAYC is known for their contemporary take on tried-and-tested K-pop formulas. This includes the release of their 2022 EP “Young-Luv.com” and single album “We Need Love.”
Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the female soloists who dominated the K-pop scene in 2022.
Taeyeon of Girls’ Generation
One would think that Taeyeon of Girls’ Generation has reached her peak as a K-pop idol. But her third studio album “INVU,” released in February, proved that the reign of one of the industry’s brightest stars is far from over.
Taeyeon’s latest record proves that she can be more than a vocalist with powerful chops and emotional range, as it showcases her maturity in the industry. The title track of the same name has been a hit among critics, with Billboard listing the song as one of their favorite K-pop songs of 2022.
Nayeon of TWICE
A huge wave of responsibility rests on Nayeon’s shoulders as the first member of TWICE to go solo — right on the seventh year of the girl group’s career. But the addictive “POP!” proved that it’s a showcase of the K-pop idol in her bubbly and effervescent best.
In an exclusive interview with Teen Vogue, Nayeon said she put a lot of effort in her solo mini-album as she focused more on the process and not the reactions of fans.
Contrary to K-pop newbies, Korean-American rapper Jessi is a veteran who has been in the industry since December 2005. But the artist’s hit song “Zoom” and “Zoom in Manila” concert in September is a hopeful sign of a new breakthrough in her career.
Another veteran included in the list, Sunmi of Wonder Girls fame earned international acclaim after her latest single “Heartburn” made it to British music publication NME’s year-end list of “The 50 Best Songs of 2022.” The 30-year-old K-pop idol also had a busy year, as she held her “Good Girl Gone Mad” world tour in Europe, North America, and Asia.
A far cry from her elegant image in IZ*ONE, Choi Yena decided to go on a quirky and whimsical route as a soloist. This can be seen in her debut EP “SMiLEY” and follow-up mini-album “Smartphone,” where she described it as a peek into her “own positive energy” in an interview with The Korea Herald.
Yena’s gamble proved to be successful, as she bagged the Best Musician Award at the 2022 Asia Artist Awards and was nominated for Artist of the Year at the 2022 Melon Music Awards.
Seulgi of Red Velvet
Red Velvet fans — also known as Reveluvs — were overjoyed when Seulgi made her debut as a solo artist in October. Embracing the spooky undertones of the girl group, the K-pop idol showed off her maturity as an artist, as her debut solo EP “28 Reasons” includes the self-written track “Dead Man Runnin.”
Seulgi admitted in an interview with The Korea Herald that the production of her solo record was a time she “used my brain the most.”
Moonbyul of Mamamoo
2022 was a whirlwind for Moonbyul of Mamamoo, as she dropped her second EP “6equence” and single albums “C.I.T.T (Cheese in the Trap)” and “The Present” — coupled with solo concerts in Seoul, South Korea. She also released a special album called “Present” for fans to celebrate the holiday season.
Despite having a busy year, Moonbyul revealed that her new music is a way to express her desire to “meet fans for a longer period.” EDV
From ‘anti’ to ‘V Live’: A K-pop glossary for newbies
K-pop invasion: From a local trend to a global phenomenon, and beyond
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.