Stratosphere: Artists to look out for in 2020

Stratosphere January

If you had told me in 2010 that western pop artistes would collaborate with K-pop artistes in 2019, I’d have pegged you as insane. Yet, I sit here, humbly (and very gladly) proven wrong.

It’s been a wild decade, and while many of the second generation K-pop groups that first put K-pop on the world map may have disbanded or become shadows of their former selves, the Hallyu Wave is in better shape than ever. Starting from the phenomenal success of PSY’s Gangnam Style to BTS’ Boy With Luv (feat. Halsey) breaking into global charts, it’s safe to say K-pop has successfully made its mark.

Photo Credit: Big Hit (YouTube)

While the decade may have begun with mostly cutesy bubblegum pop, there was an unprecedented sense of complexity and diversity by the end of it. We’ve seen the rise of Latin pop (e.g. Super Junior’s Lo Siento) and tropical house (e.g. KARD’s Hola Hola) amongst others. K-pop and its genre-bending defiance has allowed it to adapt its sound perfectly for the global stage.

K-Indie has also progressed immensely, with groups like HYUKOH now getting recognition on magazine covers and even spots on foreign soundtracks. There’s never been a better time to immerse yourself in the Hallyu Wave. And whether you’re new to the scene or just hungering to discover talent, here are some artistes you should be excited about as we move into the new decade.

 

1. LOONA 

If you’re a fan of mainstream K-pop, chances are you would have chanced upon the hashtag #stanLoona at some point. And while #stanLoona may have become a meme at this point, the group themselves are by no means a joke. LOONA (stylized as LOOΠΔ), whose Korean name translates to ‘Girl of the Month’, debuted over the span of two years, with individual members first forming subgroups and subgroups then forming the full group.

Photo Credit: Bugs! (Korea)

What makes LOONA special is the pure dedication their company puts into establishing the ‘Loonaverse’. Each of the twelve members and their subgroups have their own lore and symbolism, such as LOONA yyxy escaping Eden to discover themselves. Fans are often debating conspiracy theories and lores on the Loona Wiki or discussion forums such as Reddit.

Each member and subgroup have their own individual styles, such as LOONA 1/3 having a more innocent theme and LOONA ODD EYE CIRCLE being a girl crush concept. With the group’s first full comeback slated for February, it’s time to enter the Loonaverse and #stanLoona.

A little bit more (some day) have strength (oh yeah)
Love is more cruel than college entrance exams

2. Changmo

Changmo may have been steadily rising to fame since his debut in 2016 thanks partially to a hugely successful collaboration with Hyolyn, but the rapper-producer’s fame exploded from the later half of 2018 through 2019 on the back of his appearance on Show Me the Money and a mini docuseries by Dingo.

Photo Credit: Changmo (Instagram)

The rapper brings with him a sense of decadence (read: excessive partying, fur coats and girls) often seen in western rap music videos which is a welcome change for Korean rap. Yet, he’s never lost his roots and is extremely humble, confessing that he was shocked a star like Chungha would agree to collaborate with a ‘nobody’ like him.

I will shout in this city
“I’m finally here”

3. ATEEZ

This eight member group is an underdog story waiting to parallel BTS’ massive success in the west. Hailing from a non-‘big 4’ entertainment agency, the group still managed to sell out their first world tour in North America and are expected to return overseas for arena and stadium shows later this year.

Photo Credit: KQ Entertainment

Similar to BTS and their initial offerings, ATEEZ goes hard on their electronic hip-hop style, and while some may call this western pandering, ATEEZ has managed to make it truly their own with songs like Pirate King and Wonderland. With K-pop playing on the world stage, this is the perfect year for ATEEZ to continue their path to global domination.

If this moment is our wave (our wave)
Don’t be afraid, face it with more strength

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