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Music Library Thematic Displays: Women of K-Pop

This guide showcases resources from the George F. DeVine Music Library centered on specific themes. Selected themes reflect UT School of Music events and programs, as well as cultural celebrations.

Origins of K-pop

The origins of popular music in Korea have roots stretching back to the late 19th century with American missionaries introducing folk songs in schools, followed over the decades by music influences from Japan during its Japanese occupation through the second world war. In the 1950’s American culture was brought further to South Korea following the Korean War in the 1950’s through USO shows and concerts. However, the beginnings of popular music that fits what we would today define as K-Pop began in the 1990’s with influences from American and European pop music. Groups like Seo Taiji & Boys, Deux, and 1TYM found success in the early 90’s and were followed by the formation record labels that dominate the industry today, including SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment in 1995, 1996, and 1997 respectively. This rise in popularity has continued into the 21st century, coming to be known as Hallyu, or the Korean Wave. K-Pop today is a multi-billion dollar industry and continues to leave its mark on the world and popular culture, with PSY’s music video for “Gangnam Style” being the first YouTube video to pass 1 billion views, and the group BTS having songs and albums that have topped the charts with Billboard.

Books on K-pop


The Groups


The band Blackpink performing a concert

Blackpink, often stylized as BLACKPINK, is an all-girl K-Pop group formed in 2016 with YG Entertainment. The group is made up of four members - Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa. The group’s music video for their song “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du'' is the most viewed music video on YouTube for a Korean girl group, amassing 1.8 billion views as of March 2022. Blackpink has seen success in the past few years in particular, with their single “Ice Cream” with Selena Gomez reaching number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and their premiere studio album The Album (2020) reaching number 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. The Album was preceded by their compilation album Blackpink in Your Area.

Beyond music, Blackpink also has a sizeable filmography for a group of their age, starting with the variety show Blackpink House in 2018, followed by multiple tour documentaries made by the group or by outside directors, from Blackpink Diaries in 2019 and 24/365 with Blackpink in 2020 that can be found on their YouTube channel or on the South Korean streaming service V Live, to a cameo on YG Future Strategy Office and Blackpink: Light Up the Sky on Netflix, to Blackpink: The Movie which was released in August 2021.


The band 2ne1

2NE1 was a South Korean girl group with YG Entertainment. Consisting of four members - Bom, CL, Dara, and Minzy, the group made their debut in 2009 on the single “Lollipop” with the boy band Big Bang, also on the YG label. Later that year they released their self-titled EP 2NE1, followed the next year by their first of three studio albums To Anyone in 2010. They would follow To Anyone with Collection in 2012 and Crush in 2014. The group has made cameo performances and appearances in the 2009 South Korean TV series Style, film Girlfriends, and in the 2014 seasons of America’s Next Top Model and The Bachelor.

In 2015 the group went into hiatus and each member began working on solo projects and 2NE1 was relatively silent until the announcement of Minzy’s departure from the group in April 2016, with YG announcing the group would continue as a trio. This trio would never be realized however, and 2NE1 would disband in November. The group has been heralded as an iconic girl group of that time of the Korean Wave, and each member has gone on to have a solo career of their own.


Red Velvet

The band Red Velvet performing on stage

Red Velvet is a girl group formed in 2014 with SM Entertainment. Originally debuting with four members - Irene, Selugi, Wendy, and Joy, the group added a fifth member, Yeri, the following year. Their musical style is representative of their group name, with some songs more ‘Red,’ fitting within genres like pop, electronic, and hip hop while the ‘Velvet’ side is made up of ballads and R&B. As of 2022 they have released three albums. 2015’s The Red and 2017’s Perfect Velvet are in Korean, and 2022’s Bloom is in Japanese. Red Velvet has also appeared on their own variety show Level Up Project! that ran from 2017-2020, in the 2015 biographical film SMTown: The Stage, and as the voices of The K-Pop Gang in Dreamworks’ 2020 film Trolls World Tour.

Red Velvet, as well as a few other girl groups, are known for subverting the norms of the K-Pop industry with the audiences they attract and their performance. Dazed Magazine has noted that while many girl groups have primarily male-dominated fanbases, Red Velvet and others like 2NE1 and Girls’ Generation are known for having mostly female fans, breaking away from traditional stereotypes for female pop artists to be sexy or innocent.



The band Twice performing on stage

Twice, often capitalized as TWICE, are a South Korean girl group that formed on the reality competition show Sixteen . The show had sixteen performers compete for the nine spots in the group. The winners were Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Dahyun, Mina, Sana, Chaeyoung, and Jihyo with Tzuyu being added to the group by audience vote and Momo being added to the group at the decision of label founder J.Y. Park. The name for the group came from the idea that the group touches their audience’s heart twice, through the ears and the eyes. In 2017 TWICE became the first female K-pop group to have the number one album and number one digital song for Billboard’s World charts at the same time. The album and song were Twicetagram and “Likey” respectively.

Since their debut and breakthrough in South Korea, TWICE has gone on to make three Japanese albums and “The Feels” which was the groups first English language song released in October 2021. The group's fashion, music videos, and music are based on bright colors, cuteness, and bubblegum pop aesthetics. While other groups are also known for their dancing, TWICE has especially been known for the popularity of their choreography with the trends based around recreating the dances of “The Feels”, “Feel Special”, “What is Love?”, and “TT” all going viral on various social media websites.

The Business of K-pop

There are numerous entertainment and management companies in the K-Pop industry. In the late 90’s however three rose to the top and dominated the growing landscape. The ‘Big Three’ consist of SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP entertainment. SM was founded by record producer Lee Soo-man, who observed the American music industry while studying in the United States. The other two companies were formed by K-Pop stars, with Yang Hyun-suk founding YG Entertainment and the singer Park Jin-young establishing JYP Entertainment. While these companies dominate the industry, they are far from the only entities in K-Pop. Other companies like Big Hit Music have BTS signed with them and PSY of “Gangnam Style” fame left YG to form his own company P Nation in 2019.

Groups and performers signed to YG Entertainment

Sechs Kies

The four members of the band Sechs Kies


The four members of the band Blackpink


The twelve members of the band Treasure

Lead of Sechs Kies, Eun Ji-won

Singer Eun Ji-won


The rapper G-Dragon


The Korean hip hop duo GD & TOP

Bands and performers signed to JYP Entertainment


The six members of the band 2PM


The nine members of the band Twice

Singer and founder of JYP Entertainment, JY Park

Singer JY Park

Stray Kids

The eight members of the band Stray Kids

Red Velvet, Girls’ Generation, Exo, BoA, Taemin, Yoona, Hyoyeon

Red Velvet

The five members of Red Velvet

Girl's Generation

The nine members of Girl's Generation


The nine members of the band EXO


Korean popstar BoA


Korean pop star Taemin


Korean singer Yoona


Korean singer Hyoyeon


(1) "Blackpink" by Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. , used under CCAS License 3.0

(2) "2ne1" by Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., used under CCAS License 3.0

(3) "Red Velvet" by Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., used under CCAS License 3.0

(4) "Twice" by Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., used under CCAS License 3.0