2015 was a year in which almost every major kpop group and soloist made at least one comeback. So who had the most influence over the kpop landscape? Who were the ultimate trend groups of the year? It’s impossible to answer with 100% accuracy, but I’m going to try my best!
Male Group: BTS
There was no group this year who enjoyed as stratospheric a rise as BTS. They’d been making waves since their debut in 2013, but with a subtle change of sound and image, combined with their first music show win, they released two of the biggest selling albums of 2015. More than that, they forged a unique path for themselves as a group in a genre that is largely about following current trends. BTS always felt a step ahead, and I’m not sure the full force of their impact has even been felt yet. They were definitely at the forefront of the hip hop trend that took hold in 2014 and early 2015, but now that things are changing yet again, they’ve positioned themselves as a leader… looking forward and pushing boundaries.
Honorable mention: Bigbang
Female Group: Gfriend
From a small company with no track record debuting idol groups, these girls scored quite a coup when Glass Bead turned out to be a long-lasting, surprise hit. And to prove they were no fluke, Me Gustas Tu arrived in July and became an even bigger smash. What makes them truly influential in 2015 is almost the opposite to what makes BTS such a force. Instead of looking forward, they’ve mined from the past and reminded everyone how fun kpop can be. With a bright image and athletic choreography, they tweaked the ubiquitous cutesy image just enough to make it fresh again. I think it’s clear that their pair of hits have spawned many imitations in the past couple of months. I expect that to continue in 2016, for better or worse.
Honorable mention: Girls’ Generation