It’s no secret that for better or worse, the late 1990s to early 2000s are slated to make waves this decade. If the late 2010s saw the rise of ‘70s and ‘80s-inspired disco throwbacks, then 2021 will give way to the Aughts and Y2K. We’re now seeing it in recent fashion, beauty, and pop music trends, accompanied mostly by loud, optimistic, and futurist aesthetics we’ve been acquainted with during our childhood back in the day.
But if we’re being honest, nothing is as exciting as the renaissance of the 2000s currently happening in K-pop! From the Queen of K-pop herself, BoA, who started the craze with her 20th anniversary in December last year, to the surprise reunions of legendary girl groups After School and T-ara, 2nd generation K-pop artists are here to remind us what we’ve been missing.
To celebrate, we’ve compiled this list recapping some of the most iconic 2nd-gen K-pop idols that came back and reunited this year!
Hyuna, “I’m Not Cool”
First off our list is no other than 2nd-gen Kpop’s girlboss blueprint Hyuna. Following a tumultuous relationship with her former agency, Hyuna, together with her beau Dawn, signed with Psy’s P Nation (both Hyuna and Psy previously collaborated in a version of “Gangnam Style”). “I’m Not Cool” marks Hyuna’s first comeback under the label after “Flower Shower.” In the music video, she dazzles with another electrifying hit, eclectic costumes, and a newfound confidence, singing “Gotta keep it chic and uninterested, when they stare / That’s the way I like it.”
Hyuna first debuted as Wonder Girls’ main dancer and main rapper, although she had to withdraw from the group due to health-related concerns. She debuted back as an idol in 2009 under Cube Entertainment’s 4Minute, actively working in one of 2nd-gen’s top girl groups until their disbandment in 2016.
Epik High, “Rosario”
Alternative hip-hop trio Epik High, composed of Tablo, Mithra Jin, and DJ Tukutz, debuted back in 2003 under YG Entertainment. Since then, they have established themselves as a mainstay, with hits like “Fly,” “It’s Cold,” and “Lovedrunk” receiving international acclaim. They eventually went on to become the first major Korean act to play at Coachella in 2016.
This year, they are about to hit another milestone with their upcoming two-part tenth studio album “Epik High Is Here.” The first part was released earlier this year, last January, with the lead single “Rosario.” The song also features 2NE1’s very own CL, who sings“I am a legend / And I’m here to stay” in the hook, rightfully occupying their space as one of K-pop’s most enduring acts.
Shinee, “Don’t Call Me”
After being teased in SMTOWN’s new year concert, 2nd-gen’s resident concept kings SHINee came back with its seventh full-length album “Don’t Call Me” in February. The group debuted back in 2008 and is currently composed of members Onew, Key, Minho, and Taemin. The late Jonghyun is still constantly remembered by the four; Minho, for one, thanked him on their anniversary last May.
Known for their powerhouse vocals, effervescent music, and stylish concepts, SHINee has produced a range of hits from “Ring Ding Dong” and “Lucifer” to “View” and “1 of 1.” This comeback also featured a repackage almost two months after “Don’t Call Me,” with their nautical-themed lead single, “Atlantis.” They weren’t done yet though: Japanese EP “Superstar” got its digital release in June. And yes, all these were recorded before maknae Taemin left for the military in May.
In January of this year, while receiving her daesang at the 35th Golden Disc Awards, soloist IU hinted at a comeback with her pre-release single “Celebrity,” which was released in preparation for her fifth studio album. Two months later, IU officially came back with the album and its title track “Lilac.” An ode to her youth and her career-defining decade, “Lilac” immediately received commercial and critical acclaim.
In 2008, IU debuted with her debut single “Lost Child.” Since then, she has went on to become one of K-pop’s biggest stars, with hits such as “You & I,” “Bbibbi,” and “Love Poem.” Besides music, she is also a successful actress, starring in a number of well-recognized K-dramas.
2PM, “Make It”
Following the members’ military discharge, K-pop’s OG DILFs, 2PM, made their comeback this year with their seventh studio album “Must.” The lead single “Make It,” composed by main dancer Wooyoung, showcases jazz and pop elements with 2PM’s signature suave groove.
Also debuting in 2008, 2PM became one of 2nd-gen K-pop’s representative boy groups, especially known for their sexy and carefree concepts. Their hits include “Again & Again,” “Heartbeat”, and “Hands Up.” They are slated to release their Japanese EP, “With Me Again,” this coming September.
After much speculation, Taeyeon finally came back with the retro pop single “Weekend.” Riding off hits like Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More,” “Weekend” overflows with disco-infused guitar strums, catchy melodies, and Taeyeon’s angelic vocals. It also pays homage to the early 2000s as Taeyeon is seen sporting iconic Y2K brands like Juicy Couture and Von Dutch.
Taeyeon debuted as the leader and main vocalist of one of the most iconic girl groups of all time, Girls’ Generation, a.k.a. SNSD. Originally debuting with nine members, Girls’ Generation went on to become “The Nation’s Girl Group.” Taeyeon’s single also comes just a month before the group’s 14th anniversary in August which is set to be memorable as the members will make their first TV appearance together after four years.
Brave Girls, “Chi Mat Ba Ram”
Fresh off their “Rollin’” fame, Brave Girls finally came back with another summer anthem, “Chi Mat Ba Ram,” released just a month ago. Their fifth mini album “Summer Queens” serves as the group’s follow-up after a video of them performing their 2017 single “Rollin’” suddenly went viral in South Korea, shooting the girls at the top of local charts for the weeks to come.
With the group debuting back in 2011, it took Brave Girls a decade and multiple line-up changes before members Minyoung, Yujeong, Eunji, and Yuna solidified their status as Korea’s current “Summer Queens.” At one point, their team even expressed how “Rollin’” saved them from disbandment. Their unexpected rise to popularity is a testament to South Korea’s current nostalgia for K-pop’s 2nd generation.
Photo courtesy of Shinee’s official Twitter account