The Korean music industry is full of radiant talent with many artists succeeding on an international level. Many have made it outside their home country, like legendary group BIGBANG and their charismatic leader G Dragon (who recently toured the U.S.) and boy group BTS (who charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 with their brand new single “DNA”).
But where are the female artists?
Music in South Korea is as complex as it is in any other country with such a variety of artists and a lot of genres. Korean artists are highly trained in singing, rapping, dancing, acting and modeling (sometimes all at once) and are required to practically give their all. Often, the Korean public swoons for the pretty and sweet female groups like GFRIEND (they have the sweetest vocals and amazing dance moves) or Twice (they have an iconic song perfect for Halloween). But today, we’re focusing on four solo artists who have something in common: They’ve been in the industry for years and have an amazing, unique style that deserves to be written about. And also, they are complete badasses and don’t give a fuck.
Lee Sun Mi, commonly known as Sunmi, made her debut with the now disbanded, iconic girl group Wonder Girls in 2007 (10 years ago!). Even though she took some time off from the group, she came back to it in 2015 and stayed until its disbandment in earlier in February. In March, she signed to MAKEUS Entertainment for a fresh start as a solo artist, and in August she released her single “Gashina,” a song she co-wrote with YG’stop producer Teddy. The single won on a few Korean music shows and landed a #3 spot on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales Chart. One of the most remarkable things about her comeback (apart from the killer song and the colorful music video) is the opportunity she has had to connect with LGBTQ+ fans. When the song was originally performed, the peculiar dance routine included male dancers. But after practicing the routine with female dances—and being petitioned by the Internet to do it live—she delivered a truly unforgettable performance.
Jessica Hyun-ju Ho, known as Jessi, is a fierce American, South Korean based rapper, singer, and songwriter. Her tanned skin, badass attitude, and undeniable style are her most defining characteristics. After an on-and-off career, she was brought to the limelight after her appearance on the survival show Unpretty Rapstar where she showcased her rapping skills and her charm (she was even the runner-up). She’s not afraid of expressing herself and giving honest opinions, stating she regrets getting the plastic surgery her company forced her to have. But after getting a boob job and seeing all the controversy she said “I paid for the surgery with my own money. Why do I have to hide it?” Now, that’s how you end the haters! Her new album is out, and her lead single “Gucci” is seriously a song to be obsessed with. But if you’re more on the ballad side her song “Don’t make me cry” is a perfect blend of emotion and vocals that shows her versatility as an artist.
Kim Hyun Ah, stage name Hyuna, has been in the industry for years. She was Sunmi’s bandmate for a short time as the rapper in Wonder Girl’s but was forced to leave after a health problem. She surely had a destiny and in 2009 she debuted with the girl group 4Minute of Cube Entertainment. Her sexy image has always been the reason people dislike her and constantly slut-shame her, but honestly, how many times have you seen a woman as comfortable with her body in that industry? In 2015 she released a music video for her song “Roll Deep” which features her labelmate Jung Ilhoon (rapper, lyricist, and producer of boy group BTOB). The video raised eyebrows, but it truly shows her sexiness as an artist. She’s back in 2017 with her new single “Babe”, a song that shows a different side of her and her beautiful vocals.
Lee Chae Rin, better known as CL, holds quite a reputation in her home country. Although haters are always there, she surely has the talent to back her up: Her stage presence, badass rapping, and outgoing personality make her a strong figure in the industry. She was a part of one of the most legendary and best-selling girl groups of all time: 2ne1. The group is the third most successful female group, ranking below the Spice Girls and TLC but one spot above Destiny’s Child. They were active for less than 10 years (they debuted in 2009 and disbanded in 2016), but sold 66.5 million records. You might have heard their hit 2011 song “I Am the Best” at some point because it made it to American radio in 2014. Despite facing criticism by their own CEO (who called them ugly), 2ne1 has a place at the top of the most iconic groups not only in Korea but the world. CL was the leader of 2ne1, but also a fashion icon according to her fans and fashion designers (she even won the Best Style of 2016). As a solo artist, she hasn’t released much material, but she has a bright future ahead of her. She’s signed with Scooter Braun and is ready to take on America. Check out her awesome music video below.