Happy 5th Anniversary, After School! Top 5 Must-Watch Performances By the K-Pop Girl Group
Five years is a tough time to remain relevant in pop music -- particularly in K-pop, where five years is considered the expiration date for idols. But Korean girl group After School has not only been able to prosper through its first half-decade -- latest single "First Love" was the group's highest-charting entry on the K-Pop Hot 100 yet -- but also continues to show increasingly stronger stage performances with each single.
Since debuting as a quintet in late January 2009 to the current lineup of eight members -- the group has K-pop's only admission/graduation concept -- the After School girls have increasingly placed more emphasis on stage performance, looking to hypnotize audiences with catchy tracks paired with dazzling onstage showmanship. It's hard to imagine most -- if any -- Western pop star dedicating themselves to such extreme live shows. And don't forget: Lip synching is a bigtime "no-no" in the band's native South Korea.
To celebrate After School's anniversary, K-Town has selected five must-see performances from the hardest-working performers in K-pop. From their Pussycat Doll-esque debut to a seven-woman pole dance routine, these are the K-pop hotties' most impressive stages.
"Rip Off"/"Flashback" (2012)
After spending the first half of 2012 promoting in Japan, After School returned with a sexy showgirl concept for its comeback K-pop performance. The ladies brought a whimsical cane dance, with a sexy spin, to perform quirky, electro-pop jam "Rip Off." Mixing canes and top hats with cut-off tops and short shorts, the girls shimmied and popped their way through the catchy track. It was a fun juxtaposition to the seductive stage for dubstep dance track "Flashback" -- chock-full of tantalizing hair flips and provocative leg spreads -- but hardly the group's most dynamic.
"Play Girlz"/"AH" (2009)
Overflowing with energy and eager to prove themselves, the girls' debut stage marked the beginning of their can't-miss live shows. Performing "Play Girlz" and their debut single "AH," the members rocked a look inspired by the Pussycat Dolls, though slightly less sexual. The quintet showed big vocals, fierce rap skills and remarkably flexible choreography while oozing confidence rarely seen in a rookie girl group. Look out for members Kahi and Soyoung both showcasing some super-high leg lifts.
"Let's Do It"/"Bang!" (2010)
Just a year after its debut, After School's marching band concept for 2010 single "Bang!" marked the beginning of the group's highly-technical concept performances. Inspired by the Nick Cannon-starring 2003 film "Drumline," the members showcased themselves a confident all-female marching band. The ladies marched onstage to track "Let's Do It!," twirling their drumsticks and beating on their personal drums totally in sync. The upbeat intro was an exciting lead-in to a performance of "Bang!" with a routine packed with stompy choreography making After School appear like a troupe of uber-talented cheerleaders.
"Let's Step Up"/"Shampoo" (2011)
To commemorate the release of first full-length album "Virgin," After School prepared a tap dance to the LP's intro track "Let's Step Up." Kicked off by slick taps by then-leader Kahi, the eight members clicked their heels through "Let's Step Up" before moving into a performance of single "Shampoo." Boasting nine members at the time, the outfit appeared to move as one with flowy arm movements, seducing hair flips and just the tiniest bit of sexiness with a few group body rolls.
"First Love" (2013)
Last July, After School told Billboard they trained six months to master their pole dancing routine -- or "pole art," as member Uee described it. Despite Lizzy fracturing her ankle and Raina injuring her wrist, the ladies managed to pull off a captivating stage to perform week after week. "Pole dancing can be considered racy, but we wanted to break those stereotypes," the group added. "When people see After School's 'First Love' performance, we hope people can see it's a very appealing sport. We're putting our all in our performance, hoping that we can change the views of even a few people." With the "First Love" performances, After School confirmed that sexiness could be a bona fide athletic skill and became, surely, their hardest performance to top.
Special Mention: Watch all eight members perform the pole art -- including four girls on one pole -- in the music video for Japanese single "Heaven."