Featuring Sumni, Everglow, Kim Woo Seok, and more
K-pop fans across the world can rejoice as global festival KCON has announced its long-awaited return as an in-person event in the United States, South Korea and Japan this year after a two-year COVID hiatus.
From pop-rock experimentalists DAY6 to K-pop veteran Sumni and girl group Everglow, the festival promises an “upgraded version” of past iterations, and will be “packed with new content reflecting the trends of Gen Z fans and programs tailored for local fans on top of original fan favourite programming and panels unique to KCON”.
The festival will start with three introduction events in May called KCON 2022 Premiere – to be hosted in Seoul, Tokyo and Chicago – before the main 2022 instalments of KCON take place in Los Angeles between August 19 and 21 and Japan on as-yet-unannounced October dates. The festival is also bringing back its digital program KCON:TACT for fans who cannot attend in person.
While we wait for the full line-up, we’ve selected five K-pop acts to familiarise yourself with.
One of the few pop-rock bands in K-pop, DAY6 are known for eschewing choreo-heavy numbers for a more traditional band set-up. Their genre-blurring approach has seen them explore everything from synth-heavy pop to 80s disco and heartbreak anthems, without ever sounding off-key. This is particularly the case in 2021 EP Right Through Me, where the group bounce between Korean ballads, 90s East Coast hip-hop and punk numbers, while tackling themes of love, anxiety and heartbreak. Need any more convincing? Here’s a viral video of an audience member crowd-surfing during a particularly moving performance of “You Were Beautiful”.
KIM WOO SEOK
Member of the boy group UP10TION and a former member of the project boy group X1, Kim Woo Seok has more recently been flexing his acting skills on fantasy drama Bulgasal and web drama Twenty Twenty. Earlier this month, the star released his third solo mini-album 3RD DESIRE, which he says is all about sleep. The six-track EP features an array of sugary pop hits, where Kim takes on the role of a “human dreamcatcher who prevents bad dreams”. Vibe.
It hasn’t been long since AB6IX burst onto the scene with their 2019 hit “Breathe”, yet the boy band has already been making waves for their hypnotising dance-pop strain that combines hip hop elements with house music. Despite the pandemic forcing the cancellation of their European and US tours, the four-piece group persevered with a string of enthusiastic releases, including their 2021 album Mo‘ Complete – a punchy array of floor-to-wall-bangers and sentimental ballads.
Since arriving onto the scene two years ago with their ferocious debut “Bon Bon Chocolat”, EVERGLOW have managed to carve out a space in the K-pop landscape that’s uniquely their own. Synonymous with ‘girl crush’ – a phrase used to describe groups who combine femme-fatale ferocity with cool-girl attitude – the six-member group combines sassy headbangers with slick choreography with powerful pay-off. Need a place to start? We recommend EDM rager “Dun Dun” and the synthwave-inspired “La Di Da”.
This one needs no introduction. A staple of second-gen K-pop, Sumni began her career in Wonder Girls, AKA the first-ever K-pop group to enter the Billboard Hot 100 with their 2010 single “Nobody”. Since then, the singer has released a string of synth-heavy singles, from the city pop-inspired “Pporappippam” to the EDM-heavy beats of “Gashina” and “Heroine”. Her 2021 EP 1/6 is an emotionally charged deep-dive into the singer’s personal struggles with borderline personality disorder, which she explores via a rosy Y2K lens. The music video for Mean Girls-inspired “You can’t sit with us” dives headfirst into the era, with slick 00s choreography, early web chat boxes, and double denim lewks.