Let’s be real, K-pop’s 2nd Generation was a cultural reset.
Addictive tracks, commanding stage presence, Hallyu icons, and a hint of random Engish lines are the quintessential traits of K-pop groups that debuted around 2003 to 2011. Time has long passed since their peak, but you can’t deny their influence in the industry. Case in point, 2NE1’s reunion at the Coachella festival.
Here’s a beginner’s guide to some of the biggest groups of K-pop’s 2nd Generation. Take note: this isn’t even half of the era’s icons.
The hitmakers and undisputed chart-toppers
No matter what song they release, these groups shoot to the top of the charts. Whether they’re known for being digital monsters or the icons of physical sales, fans are unknowingly wary when it’s they’re about to release new music. And it’s not because they have a strong fanbase or they’re well-known to the general public—their discography has mastered the right elements for a hit.
1. Girls’ Generation (SNSD)
God-tier hits: The Boys, Genie, I Got A Boy, Lion Heart, Gee
God-tier hits: I Am The Best, Can’t Nobody, Missing You, Falling in Love, Fire
God-tier hits: Bae Bae, Loser, Fantastic Baby, If You, Haru Haru
God-tier hits: Touch My Body, Alone, Shake It, Give It To Me, So Cool
The chameleons and concept slayers
Following a concept is one thing, but being effortlessly and completely absorbed in it is another, and SHINee and f(x) mastered the art of concepts. With their distinctive sound and identity, they’re considered the weird yet immaculate icons in the industry. Both groups have always set the trends—and they manage to be ahead of their time with their masterpieces.
God-tier hits: Replay, Lucifer, View, Dream Girl, Stand By Me
God-tier hits: Red Light, 4 Walls, Electric Shock, Hot Summer, Shadow
The dangerously charismatic foxes
Anyone can be sexy, however, it takes an insane amount of confidence to embrace your own sexuality—especially onstage. While these groups have attempted to pull off a cute concept in the past, they’ve mastered the art of seduction without being too vulgar or overwhelming. Instead, their version of sexy is alluring, confident, and even empowering to fans.
God-tier hits: Again & Again, Ultra Lover, Heartbeat, Angel, Hands Up
8. Miss A
God-tier hits: Touch, Hush, Only You, Love Song, Breathe
9. After School
God-tier hits: Ah, First Love, Because of You, Shampoo, Diva
God-tier hits: Poison, Starlight Moonlight, Madonna, Talk That, Love is Move
God-tier hits: Rising Sun, Hug, Spellbound, Why, ‘O’-Jung.Ban.Hap
The unparalleled and effortless bias wreckers
These groups might not be your ultimate favorites, but there’s something about them that catches an outsider’s attention. Whether it’s their unique personality or God-tier discography, they can capture and maintain your attention. It’s hard to stand out in the oversaturated K-pop industry, but it takes an inborn level of charisma to stand out from the pack. And these idols have that gift.
12. Super Junior
God-tier hits: U, Bonamana, It’s You, Sexy, Free, & Single, Devil
God-tier hits: Volume Up, Whatcha Doin Today, Hate, Cold Rain, Huh
God-tier songs: LUV, I’m So Sick, No No No, Dumhdurum, Only One
15. Wonder Girls
God-tier hits: Irony, Why So Lonely, So Hot, 2 Different Tears, I Feel You
God-tier hits: Dangerous Lady, Mr., Lupin, Pandora, Mamma Mia