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12 breakout K-pop idols invading the U.S. at KCON

Your K-pop summer crash course.


Sherry Tucci


For the past five years, K-pop has manifested its roots into American soil with its largest Korean culture and music convention, KCON Los Angeles. This year is no different as 12 artists will perform at the two-day concert. And if you’re not going to be among the crowd in the Staples Center, have no fear. KCON will be livestreaming the MCountdown concert.

Following last month’s KCON in New York, KCON L.A. brings a fresh lineup—save for Eric Nam and BTS, who also appeared at the New York leg of the convention. Everyone here is a huge, burgeoning star overseas.

Whether you’re headed to the convention site or livestreaming the event, this year’s lineup is wild and juiced. Even if you’re not a K-pop fan, with the list of diverse artists, you’re sure to find someone you like.

KCON will be livestreaming on Facebook Live and KCON.TV. The concert takes place Saturday and Sunday. Check out the performing artists below—you won’t want to miss a thing.

1) GFriend

Still rookies of the K-pop scene, the six girls of GFriend have a cute, lighthearted sound. Through their music, concepts, and adorableness in general, GFriend gives off an anime vibe, especially with their newest track, “Navillera.” Having just debuted last year, we can probably expect to hear the group’s previous title tracks “Rough,” debut song “Glass Bead,” and “Me Gustas Tu,” the song that boosted their international popularity when a recording of the girls performing on a slippery stage went viral.

2) I.O.I

The newest of the bunch, this girl group is only a few months old, having debuted at the beginning of May. However, I.O.I came into the game with an established fanbase, as all of its members competed on reality TV show, Produce 101. The 11 girls who make up the group emerged at the top from the pool of 101 trainees who participated in the show. Band members hail from different companies and have a supposed time stamp of 10 months to promote themselves. Once the 10 months are up, it’s unclear what will happen to the unit or where each member will take her career.

3) Dean

As a solo artist Dean has made waves in K-pop since his debut as a singer-songwriter. The artist has been writing music for big K-pop names like Exo and Vixx since 2013 and decided to take the stage himself last year. Over the course of one year, Dean has released a slew of singles, his first EP, and has teamed up left and right with Korean and Western names alike. Some notable collaborations include Dean’s work with Eric Bellinger and Anderson Paak, and projects with Korea’s Zico and Taeyeon (who will also make KCON appearances).

4) Amber

Amber will be appearing at KCON solo, although she is normally associated with the edgy girl group f(x). Known as one of the silliest and friendliest idols (she calls herself “llama,” after all), Amber is sure to light up the stage with the L.A. crowd—especially as an English-speaking L.A. native. Amber had her first solo EP in 2015, but has been even more active in solo activities in 2016. Although she’s very laid back, her songs discuss very important and serious topics, like self-acceptance. She’s K-pop’s social warrior, sincerely promoting understanding and individuality with candor.

Amber recently tweeted that she’d be performing some of her newest songs for the first time, directing fans to check them out and prepare for a giant singalong.

5) Block B

After a long legal battle and entertainment company switch in 2013, Block B has risen from the debris stronger than ever. The seven-member group has seen success with catchy releases like “Her” in 2014, a three-member subunit Bastarz in 2015, and continual solo projects from leader Zico. Almost all the tracks on Block B’s most recent EP Blooming Period were written by Zico. For the group’s KCON performance, we can expect to see a “Toy” stage—the EP’s single.

6) Shinee

The five-member group is composed of K-pop veterans, hailing from the same company as familiar names like Exo and Girls’ Generation. Although they haven’t had any new releases in 2016 (yet), they’ve got an extensive back catalog and can’t sit still for long. Members Taemin and Jonghyun have both had solo releases this year, and leader Onew starred in one of the year’s most popular dramas Descendants of the Sun.

7) Astro

Astro is the second newest group in the lineup, entering the K-pop scene in February with a song called “Hide & Seek.” Six young boys make up the rookie group, most of them still in their late teens. The group has released a summer EP since the debut, which is colorful and fun. Astro’s summer song “Breathless” features I.O.I member Choi Yoojung, so maybe a stage appearance at KCON is in the cards?

8) Twice

Twice is leading and fueling the next generation of K-pop. The JYP Entertainment outfit isn’t even a year old, but the girls have seen an explosion of love and support during their promotions for their most recent track, “Cheer Up.” Twice is likewise breaking records, like becoming one of the fastest K-pop artists to garner 50 million views on a music video.

9) Monsta X

Much like I.O.I, Monsta X formed its seven-member group as a result of a reality competition show called No Mercy. The group has drawn in countless fans over the past year. The boys recently put their popularity to the test by disguising as convenience store employees and taking note of how many people recognized them. Suffice it to say, the looks on girls’ faces when they realized their identities—in a matter of seconds—should speak for itself. The group also won the next generation Asian artist award at the Mnet Asian Music Awards in 2015.

“All In” is Monsta X’s most recent release, a powerful track with intense choreography. With members known for sharp dance moves, their KCON stage will probably include the songs that showcase them best like “All In,” “Hero,” and “Trespass.”

10) Eric Nam

The Atlanta-born star certainly made a splash among American fans with his hilarious jokes and comments both on the red carpet and onstage. At KCON New York, the singer gave a debut live performance of his recent single “Into You,” which is a collaboration between Nam and L.A. electronic dance band Kolaj.

Since the June convention, Nam has released a new song, “Can’t Help Myself,” depicting him as a nerdy guy trying to woo the girl he often meets at the bus stop.

11) TTS

TTS—which stands for Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun—is the vocal line of one of Korea’s most loved girl groups, Girls’ Generation. As a side project, the girls had a Christmas EP, Dear Santa, but otherwise haven’t had a release since their 2014 EP, Holler. They have however, been some of the most active soloists from their eight-member group, with Taeyeon and Tiffany recently releasing their own music, and Seohyun acting on the big screen.

Their stage should be one to look forward to with all the potential performances up their sleeves. Also, Taeyeon’s summer mini-album features a collaboration with Dean, so here’s hoping for a duet stage between them.

12) BTS

The boys of BTS have been “Fire” all year long, and if you haven’t heard of them yet, KCON L.A. is the perfect place to meet them. The seven Bangtan Boys will be headlining again, after doing so at KCON New York. In 2016, BTS finished its Most Beautiful Moment in Life trilogy with “Fire” and “Save Me.”It’s hard to say if the boys will play the same set or mix it up, but regardless of what they do, we can probably expect the same deafening screams from fans.

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