When idols debut, there is no telling where their careers may take them. Even groups who debuted in the same year can have very different futures.
1. 2009 – 2NE1 & f(x)
When 2NE1 debuted with their edgy hip-hop style, they gained a lot of attention. At first, they were seen as the female counterpart to BIGBANG but quickly established their own unique image and sound with “I Don’t Care”. Over the years, the group tried out eccentric, Gothic fashion along with a range of bold, bright outfits but they never lost the strong, feminine style their fans loved.
f(x) entered the K-Pop world as a 5-member girl group with their debut track “LA chA TA” and its accompanying fun, funky music video.
Although the group’s debut did not receive as much attention as 2NE1’s, by 2011 the group had achieved commercial success. “Hot Summer” was downloaded over 375,000 times in the week of release and went on to become one of the most successful singles of 2011, selling 2,909,384 copies.
2NE1 disbanded in 2017 after a two-year hiatus following Bom‘s 2014 drug scandal.
Afterward, Dara re-established her acting career, Minzy opened the Millennium Dance Academy, CL made her American solo debut with “Hello Bitches”. 2NE1 was one of K-Pop’s most successful girl groups and remains one of the best-selling girl groups of all time, having sold 66.5 million records.
f(x) became a quartet after Sulli left the group to pursue her acting career in 2015.
The remaining members have not released an album together since 4 Walls in 2015, but their dedicated fanbase patiently awaits their next comeback. In the meantime, Krystal has wowed fans with her acting skills in dramas such as Bride of the Water God, Luna has been involved in musical theatre, Amber made her solo debut in 2015 with her EP, Beautiful, and Victoria will soon be releasing her solo album Victoria.
2. 2010 – INFINITE & Teen Top
INFINITE debuted as a 7-member group with their first mini album First Invasion. In their debut music video of the same name the group took on a mixed concept: suits and vintage punk, showing off their versatility. Within their early years, the group’s popularly began to climb. In 2013, their mini-album New Challenge sold over 160,000 copies in Korea and became one of that year’s best-selling albums.
Teen Top debuted with 6 members and a catchy pop sound.
They were nominated for the 2010 “Best New Group” and “Best New Male Artist” awards at MAMA and later won the 2013 “Single Album of the Year” award at the Golden Disk Awards for It’s.
INFINITE is now a 6-member group.
Hoya decided not to renew his contract and made his solo debut March 28. The remaining six INFINITE members released a new album, Top Seed, in January. It debuted at number four on Billboard’s World Albums Chart.
Teen Top became a 5-member group in 2017 after L.Joe ended his contract.
The remaining members released their second studio album High Five that same year and continued to promote as a group.
3. 2011 – Apink & Block B
Apink debuted as a 6-member group with their mini-album, Seven Springs of Apink in April of 2011. Seven months later, they received their first award: the “Female Rookie Award”, at MAMA. In the video for the album’s hit track, “I Don’t Know”, the singers showed off their pure and sweet image while dressed in white and pale pink.
Block B debuted as a 7-member hip-hop group.
They showed off a suave and spiky glam-punk look in their debut “Freeze” music video but quickly switched over to a more street-wise image in their “Don’t Tell ‘Em” music video. The group has been known to play around with wild and funky concepts, never restricting themselves to just one look.
Unfortunately, their debut also came with controversy. The “Freeze” music video was banned by the Commission of Youth Protection because they felt that it was too risqué for Korean television.
Apink became a 5-member group in 2013 after Yookyung left the group to focus on her studies.
In their seven-year career, the group has won multiple awards and released six albums: three in Korean, three in Japanese. The remaining members have made both solo and acting debuts.
In 2012, just a year after their debut, Block B stirred up controversy.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and KBS banned two songs from the group’s their second mini-album for being inappropriate for minors. In the following year, Block B filed a lawsuit against their label to nullify their contract. After switching to a new label, Seven Seasons, Block B went on to produce multiple albums and make their Japanese debut. Block B made a comeback on January 8 with their repackaged album, Re:MONTAGE.
4. 2012 – EXO & B.A.P
EXO debuted with an impressive 12 member lineup made up of Chinese and Korean members. The members were divided into two sub-units, EXO-K (Korean) and EXO-M (Mandarin Chinese) that promoted their debut album separately in the two countries. The group was well-received both in Korea and China. Before the year was up, EXO had been nominated for and claimed several awards, including “Best New Asian Artist Group” at MAMA. By 2013, the group had achieved commercial success and a dedicated fanbase.
Like EXO, B.A.P.’s debut was strong.
They began with a well-received “alien” concept mixed with a tough, bad boy image that set them apart from many “pretty boy” groups at the time. In Korea, B.A.P’s debut EP Warrior sold over 10,000 copies within two days of release.
Over the last six years, EXO’s popularity has remained high despite the loss of several original members.
Luhan, Kris, and Tao all left the group, filed lawsuits against their agency, and have since achieved solo success. The remaining members released their first full-length Japanese album Countdown in January.
Today, B.A.P still has all of its original members despite once filing a lawsuit to nullify their contract in 2014.
The group has undergone various concept changes but has held on to its original tough look and sound. B.A.P released their eighth single album, Ego, in December 2017.