Fourth-generation K-pop groups have been causing all the buzz lately. With an increase in survival shows and a rise in general fan following due to the Hallyu wave, K-pop has been a hot topic. K-pop is a term used to refer to Korean popular music. After the explosive popularity of music acts like BTS and Blackpink in recent years, fandom growth has increased for almost all groups. With greater international exposure and social media marketing, K-pop has never been more widely liked. It is now ranked among the top 10 music markets in the world.
Though, K-pop is more well-liked internationally now, it has always been relevant. Seo Taiji and Boys, a boyband that debuted in 1992, are given credit for popularizing the sound of modern K-pop. Their success led to the birth of more idol groups in the 2000s like H.O.T, Sechs Kies, and TVXQ, who paved the way for groups to come. Since then, K-pop has become slowly become as prominent as it is now. The third-generation groups may have catapulted the industry to its significance, but the fourth-generation K-pop groups are the ones now creating new benchmarks.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 fourth-generation groups which have been garnering the most attention lately!
Treasure is a 12-member group formed through a reality-survival show by YG Entertainment. The group comprises of members Choi Hyun-suk, Jihoon, Yoshi, Junkyu, Mashiho, Yoon Jae-hyuk, Asahi, Bang Ye-dam, Doyoung, Haruto, Park Jeong-woo and So Jung-hwan. Treasure includes 4 Japanese and 8 Korean members. Before they even debuted, Treasure managed to secure a place on the Billboard Social 50. They have also received multiple Rookie of the Year awards. Treasure is the second-fastest boy group ever to become Million Sellers. Within five months of debuting, they managed to collectively sell over 1 million copies of their albums. Treasure’s music is characterized by the hip-hop and dance genres.
They have charmed the fans with their impactful performances and humorous personalities. Their variety show on YouTube ’Treasure Map’ is full of funny moments and highlights the good natured-ness and teamwork amongst the members. Their debut in Japan earlier this year was highly successful, granting them the top position on the Oricon Daily Chart for four consecutive days.
Pieced together by KQ entertainment in 2018, this boy band includes eight members: Hongjoong, Seonghwa, Yunho, Yeosang, San, Mingi, Wooyoung, and Jongho. Ateez is popular for their energetic choreographies and synchronization on stage. They have made a name for themselves as some of the most popular fourth-generation K-pop groups. The team leader Hongjoong is an active participant in the music the group puts out. Before they debuted, Ateez had a variety show that allowed the fans to get to know the members better. Hongjoong was seen working on his laptop to compose music for the group in multiple episodes. The fans often praise this aspect of their music.
Coupled with sleek moves and impactful dance breaks, this group has garnered a lot of attention internationally. Since 2018, Ateez has bagged 11 wins on award shows. They have also taken a win on the popular show ‘Immortal Songs’. Their seventh EP, Zero: Fever Part 3, sold more than 500,000, consequently earning them a Double Platinum certification in November.
When it comes to the best fourth-generation K-pop groups, we simply cannot not mention Enhypen. The boy group consists of 7 members; Heeseung, Jake, Jay, Sunoo, Sunghoon, Jungwon, and Niki. Sunghoon, one of the members of the group, was an ice-skater at a national level. He is well-known for his chiseled features and grace on stage amongst fans. Introduced to the public through a survival show called I-Land, Enhypen is a group formed by HYBE. They are a brother group to both TXT and BTS. The survival show they were put together through was followed by many K-pop fans. By the time it ended, the boys had gained a large fan following. Their social media platforms already had 1 million followers pre-debut.
Additionally, the pre-orders for their debut EP had already reached 300,000 a week before release. Enhypen broke records with this EP, becoming the K-pop group with the highest-selling album with a 2020 debut. Their first full-length album secured them a place on the Billboard 200. They missed out on the Top 10 spot by a scrape, having placed at #11. Since stepping foot in the music scene in late 2020, Enhypen has managed to awe the fans with each comeback. The group has successfully bagged 12 trophies for their first-year awards.
Having received much attention since pre-debut, Stayc are one of the fourth generation K-pop groups to keep an eye out for. The group consisting of 5 members: Sumin, Sieun, Isa, Seeun, Yoon, and J, debuted in 2020. With their stunning visuals and crystalline voices, Stayc have captured the hearts of many. They were in the spotlight before they even debuted due to their dance covers on YouTube. Their debut act ‘So Bad’ was a success, and they sold 4,300 copies on the first day of sales. By the end of the week, they had sold more than 10,000 copies. Both these feats were the first to be achieved by a K-pop girl group with a debut in 2020.
Their playful comeback with ‘ASAP’ went on to boost their popularity even further. The catchy beats and chorus paired with the trendy dance were a hit amongst the general public. Commended for its creative concept by fans, their September comeback ‘Stereotype’ earned them their first music show win. Stayc has also won multiple rookie awards and have been nominated for many more in the upcoming award shows. They were voted the second most popular fourth-generation K-pop girl group by young Koreans this year.
(G)Idle is one of the most-streamed 4th generation K-pop girl groups. The five membered group was formed by Cube Entertainment in 2018. It is composed of Miyeon, Minnie, Soyeon, Yuqi, and Shuhua. (G)Idle originally consisted of 6 members, but Soojin left the group in August 2021. They were immensely successful after debuting, despite not belonging to a ‘big 3’ record label. This success branded them as ‘Monster Rookies’. An uncommon characteristic of this girl group is their involvement in the production of their music.
All their comebacks have done well, with ‘Dumdi Dumdi’ becoming a public favorite. It became the second best-selling female group single album in history, breaking sales records for single albums. They have been nominated 97 times on award shows and taken home 29 trophies. (G) Idle’s popularity with their first two music releases alone skyrocketed Cube Entertainment’s sales by 58%. In Billboard’s list of best K-pop groups of 2018, the girl group secured the top position. Their recognition was powerful enough to keep them on top of the Brand Reputation rankings consistently. Their appearance on ‘Queendom’ only boosted their popularity amongst the general public further, making them unstoppable.
5. Stray Kids
Stray Kids entered the music scene in 2017 through a reality show of the same name. This boy group has eight members: Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, Han, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N. Before making their official debut with ‘District 9’, they had released a track called ‘Hellevator’. This release gained them multiple fans internationally and allowed them to debut with a large fanbase. Chan, Jisung, and Changbin are heavily involved in the production of their music. Together, they go by the name 3RACHA. They were a previously formed hip-hop crew who released their music on SoundCloud.
Loved for their self-produced music and powerful rap, Stray Kids received multiple rookie awards upon debuting. The group became the first fourth-generation K-pop group to take home a Daesang, receiving the Best Performance Award at the Asia Artist Awards earlier this month.
Formed by JYPE in 2019, Itzy is a girl group with four members Ryujin, Yeji, Chaeryeong, Yuna, and Lia. They had a very successful debut with their dance-pop song ‘Dalla Dalla’. Itzy received multiple Best New Artist awards in their first year. They have managed to secure 29 wins on music shows since their debut. Their powerful and charismatic dance routines are all fan favorites, garnering a variety of covers.
The member’s bubbly and cute personalities that contrast with their concept are always fascinating to fans. Itzy has a strong theme that speaks of self-love and uniqueness. Their album’ Crazy in Love’ went up to #11 on the Billboard Top 200, making them the 3rd K-pop girl group to get within the top 15. Itzy’s success in their first year enabled them to pocket the Rookie Grand Slam (winning the “Rookie of the Year” award at all five major awards shows).
3. The Boyz
The Boyz are an 11 member boy group under Kakao Entertainment. They debuted in December of 2017 with the powerful pop track ‘Boy’. The members from oldest to youngest are Sangyeon, Jacob, Younghoon, Hyunjae, Juyeon, Kevin, New, Q, Haknyeon, Sunwoo, and Eric. The Boyz may not have had immediate popularity like many other groups, but slow and steady surely does win the race. Despite having taken some time to build an international fanbase, their significance locally is unrivaled amongst fourth-generation groups. They are known by most K-pop fans for their clever choreographies and unique performances.
Their popularity saw a huge boost after their appearance on the survival show ‘Road to Kingdom’ in 2020. Their creativity, tricky dance moves, and variety in concepts captured the hearts of many viewers. Being a local favorite, The Boyz’s releases always chart high on all Korean music charts. They are the only 4th generation boy group to make it to the Brand Reputation ranking of December. Getting five wins on their comeback with ‘Maverick’ in November, The Boyz became the only fourth-generation boy group to get a win on all music shows. They have 15 music show wins and have taken home 25 awards since their debut. They were also voted as the most popular fourth-generation K-pop group by young Koreans this year.
Aespa is a 4-member girl group formed by SM Entertainment in 2020. Consisting of Karina, Giselle, Winter, and Ningning, this group became famous for their stunning vocals. Aespa stand out with their unique concept. The Sci-Fi theme and interesting storyline make it fun to keep up with Aespa. They each have an AI counterpart who make appearances in all their music videos. Their debut with ‘Black Mamba’ earned them their first music show win. This made them the first SM group to earn a win with their debut song after Girls Generation.
Despite the achievements they made with their debut, it was their comeback song ‘Next Level’ that went viral among the general public. Their comeback with ‘Savage’ in October gave them a spot of No. 20 on Billboard 200 and Artist 100, making it the highest debut by a K-pop girl group on both charts. Within a year of their debut, Aespa have collected multiple awards, including Best New Artist and Best Dance Performance (Female Group) at the Seoul Music Awards and Mnet Music Asia Awards, respectively. Aespa’s large fan following in South Korea gave them the top position on the most popular fourth-generation K-pop girl groups by young Koreans earlier this year.
TXT is undoubtedly the leading act of fourth-generation K-pop groups. Also known as Tomorrow x Together, they are a boy group launched by HYBE in 2019. The group consists of Yeonjun, Soobin, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and Huening Kai. Yeonjun, the charming all-rounder of TXT, is widely regarded as the ‘fourth-generation it boy’. His capabilities in all fields, including dancing, singing, and rapping, as well as stage presence, are adored by many. Their refreshing debut album made its way to the number 1 spot on the Gaon Album Charts. Having managed to bag a place in Billboard 200 as well, they got the well-deserved nickname of ‘Monster-rookies’.
TXT’s comebacks are well-received internationally as well as locally since its debut. Taking wins on music shows is a given for them. Upon sweeping the Rookie of the Year award on all five major award shows, they were crowned as Grand Slam Rookies. While their debut and early music was catchy dance-pop, their recent comebacks have shown influences of rock sound. As of now, they are the most-streamed act on Melon amongst all active fourth-generation boy groups. TXT have bagged 25 trophies at award shows and are the 4th generation K-pop group with the most wins on music shows.