8 K-pop groups for rock fans, from Tomorrow X Together to Dreamcatcher and Xdinary Heroes
- There’s a growing number of Korean pop-rock groups active today, and they deliver a harder-edged sound
- From the glam-rock-meets-dance of Dreamcatcher to Lucy’s folk-flavoured indie rock, these are the Korean groups rock fans should follow
K-pop may bring to mind a certain type of music, but there’s a wide array of styles in the genre.
Korean idol pop-rock bands have been making their mark on the world for years, with the likes of FTIsland, CNBlue, Day6 and NFlying turning out multiple hits and attracting numerous fans.
Nowadays, there’s a growing number of rock-influenced K-pop groups – bands and more traditional dance-focused groups.
Here, in alphabetical order, are some rockier bands, ranging from major-label acts to indie groups and incorporating a broad spectrum of performance styles.
A dance-oriented group, Dreamcatcher are for those who like socially conscious music that’s metal- and glam-rock-flavoured; their latest single, Maison, puts a call for climate action front and centre.
Their singles are typically K-pop-style dance tracks with heavy rock elements, and the band incorporates an often nightmarish, bewitching storyline in their music videos. Stand-out vocals and dynamic choreography have made them fan favourites.
They have sold out multiple dates on this summer’s tour of the United States, and their music videos have each racked up tens of millions of views on YouTube.
Though they’re not K-pop exactly, I couldn’t get through this list without mentioning Jannabi, arguably one of the biggest bands in South Korea in recent years.
These indie rockers have been active for about a decade now, and have numerous hits and awards to their name. Their brand of pop rock is whimsical, nostalgic and conceptual. They are popular for their storytelling and live performances.
With vivacious frontman Choi Jung-hoon, Jannabi have grown their audience since a breakout year in 2019 saw their album Legend named one of the best of the year at Korean music award shows.
The act most recently released their EP Jannabi’s Small Pieces II: Grippin’ the Green in May, a follow-up to 2020’s Jannabi’s Small Pieces I.
Lucy were formed in 2019 on South Korean televised talent show Superband, where they came second. Since then, they’ve released a variety of singles and EPs, and after a pretty quiet 2022, are set to release their first album, Childhood, on August 17.
With the distinctive tones of vocalist and guitarist Choi Sang-yeop and drummer Shin Gwang-il flowing over Shin Ye-chan’s violin (yes!) and bassist Cho Won-sang, Lucy’s music is a blend of folksy indie rock and ambient synth pop.
The alt rock group currently known as Onewe were formed in 2015, and renamed in 2018 by management company RBW, connecting them to the more typical K-pop idol group Oneus, which also formed that year.
Their music blends emotive vocals from Yonghoon and Dongmyeong (who also plays keyboards) and occasionally from bassist/rapper Cya. The group have released a series of EPs and albums, gradually gaining attention for their powerful vocals and flair for drama.
The act kicked off the year with their EP Planet Nine: Voyager and followed it up with the sentimental single Roommate in May. Two members, Yonghun and guitarist Kanghyun, recently enlisted in South Korea’s military, in line with the country’s mandatory draft.
But don’t worry: there’s still plenty of content, including Onewe appearing on the band competition TV show Great Seoul Invasion, currently airing.
5. Rolling Quartz
A self-proclaimed K-rock girl band, Rolling Quartz are a traditional rock act with an edgy style that screams fierceness and powerful energy. Featuring five members and fronted by rich-toned vocalist Park Jayoung, they released their first song, Blaze, in 2020, and most recently released the song Holler in June.
The group have been steadily growing their presence, with their first EP, February’s Fighting, fronted by the single Delight, appearing on international music charts, and have collaborated with K-pop acts such as Alexa.
6. The Rose
Starting out as buskers and now a popular pop-rock quartet with a tendency towards impassioned melancholia, The Rose have been together since late 2015. They have seen a few ups and downs, including a contract dispute with their former label, and spent time on hiatus while band members served in the military.
Now they’re back, signed with Far East Movement’s Transparent Arts label, and about to embark on their Heal Together World Tour.
The tour marks the upcoming release of their Heal album. This new release follows December’s Beauty and the Beast.
7. Tomorrow X Together
Though they often dabble in other genres, especially synth pop, they’ve spent much of their career making songs which blend typical rock instrumentals with trendy pop and hip-hop sounds. This is especially notable on singles like 2021’s 0x1=Lovesong (I Know I Love You) and Lo$er=Lover and May’s Good Boy Gone Bad.
8. Xdinary Heroes
The six-member group with an angst-laden, rebellious pop rock sound released their first EP, Hello, World! on July 20, along with music videos for the songs Test Me and Strawberry Cake.