K-pop has become huge in the United States, but like American music, there are a number of different genres when it comes to the Korean music scene. I personally love listening to Korean R&B, a twist on soul music mixed with some jazz. With its smooth and soothing notes, I could listen to it all day. Some of my favorite artists are Crush, Lena Park, Zion. T, Lee Hi, Dean and Mamamoo.
Crush (Shin Hyo-seob) is a singer-songwriter that debuted in 2014 as a solo artist. He was originally under the agency Amoeba Culture run by Dynamic Duo, another R&B group, but he has recently joined P Nation. Crush is known for his soft and smooth voice as well as his great personality. Like many other artists, he performs on stage and composes original soundtracks for dramas. One of my favorites is from the drama “Goblin” and is titled “Beautiful.”
2. Lena Park
Lena Park (Park Jung-hyun) has actually been a solo artist since 1998. She grew up in Los Angeles and studied at UCLA for one year before transferring to Columbia University. She also grew up as a member of the church choir and can play the saxophone, piano and guitar. Park won many singing contests in America before her debut in Korea. In Korea, she is nicknamed “The Nation’s Fairy” because of her powerful voice despite her small body. She has performed on the Korean show “Immortal Song,” a program where singers remake legendary songs, and “Begin Again,” where a few artists go to foreign countries and busk.
3. Zion. T
Zion. T (Kim Hae-sol) is a hip-hop artist and R&B singer, recognizable by his signature sunglasses, which he is rarely seen without — but don’t let the fact that you can’t read his eyes intimidate you. He actually has a very nice personality and smiles often.
He is under YG Entertainment and is also good friends with the aforementioned Crush. His style of music is fairly similar to Crush’s, but he is also known for having a very unique voice. Some of my favorite songs from him are “The Song,” “Yanhwa Bridge,” “No Makeup” and “Just,” a collaboration with Crush.
4. Lee Hi
Lee Hi (Lee Ha-yi) did not actually debut until October of 2012. Before that, she auditioned on Season 1 of the Korean show “Kpop Star,” where she placed second and signed under YG Entertainment. Afterward, she released her song “1, 2, 3, 4″ as a solo artist. Her nickname was “Monster Rookie” while she was training, and she is known for her low and husky voice. From her music, I recommend “My Star,” “Breathe” and “Rose.”
Dean (Kwon Hyuk) is a singer-songwriter as well as a producer. He has a long history with music, expressing interest in it since his teens. By 18, he was involved in the music industry and wrote songs for various artists, including K-pop group Exo and Justin Bieber. In 2015, he debuted in America with his song “I’m Not Sorry” featuring Eric Bellinger. That same year, Dean also released his second Korean single album, “Pour Up.” To this day, Dean is known as the “Korean R&B Prince of Asia,” and is known in the hip-hop and rap industry.
Mamamoo is a Korean group consisting of the members Solar, Moonbyul, Wheein and Hwasa. They debuted in 2014 and have released many successful songs including “Um Oh Ah Yeah,” “Mr. Ambiguous” and “Décalcamonie.” They’re known for their jazzy vibes and beautiful harmonization; their voices stand out in an industry dominated by colorful, over-the-top pop music. My personal favorites are “Piano Man” and “Egoistic.”
Each of the members have recorded solo tracks. Hwasa (Ahn Hyae-jin), the lead vocalist, released her first solo song, “Twit,” in February 2019 and is a regular guest/member on the show “I Live Alone.” Hwasa is still rising in fame, and her most recent song is titled “Maria.” She has also featured in many songs, and her voice comes across as very charismatic.
As you can probably guess, there are still so many other Korean R&B artists in this industry. I encourage you to go explore. Maybe you’ll find something you like!