Top 5 K-Pop Artists to Watch in 2015

Courtesy of WA Entertainment
MAMAMOO

In the ultra-competitive K-pop world, it's extremely tough for a new act to place themselves among the top stars. While these five artists have not yet broken into the market's mainstream consciousness, based on fan anticipations, past chart performance, YouTube views and industry talk, Billboard has picked the five acts who seem primed to make a splash in 2015.

iKon

Following a very similar path to 2014 breakout stars WINNER, Korean super-label YG Entertainment created their latest boy band on a competition reality show where K-pop hopefuls competed to be a part of the hip-hop-focused septet iKon. With their debut single still in the works, iKon members Bobby and BI have been garnering attention for verses in tracks like Hi Suhyun's "I'm Different" and Epik High's "Born Hater," the latter track being a breakthrough moment in cementing Bobby as an up-and-coming MC to keep an eye on.

MAMAMOO, @WA_Mamamoo

This soulful girl group is garnering loads of attention for focusing on talent and vocals above all else. With a retro-based sound that highlights their superb singing and rapping skills, it feels like only a matter of time until the cool quartet have a signature song that cements them amongst the top girl groups. 

G.Soul, @GSOULplanet

After 15 years of training in JYP Entertainment (home to Wonder Girls, 2PM), G.Soul made his K-pop duet with the stunning R&B ballad "You." While the 26-year-old dropped his debut EP You to acclaim, 15 years is a long time to wait -- this singer is hungry for more and we're excited for what he's going to bring to the table.

Joo Young

Before 2014, Joo Young gained a strong underground following for his YouTube covers and occasional collaborations with artists like Lyn. But the budding star broke out late last year when he collaborated with SISTAR member Hyolyn for "Erase" -- one of the best K-pop songs of the year. Starship Entertainment (the label home to SISTAR and K.Will) has nicknamed him their "secret weapon" with all seemingly ready for his attack on the industry.

GFRIEND, @GFRDofficial

Longtime K-pop fans will vividly remember when Girls' Generation made their debut with their sugary single "Into the New World" in 2007. Fast forward to 2015 when Girls' Generation has proven to be an unshakable K-pop force, new girl groups are taking cues. From its sweet sound to non-stop choreography, GFRIEND's debut single "Glass Bead" has drawn comments for the undeniable nostalgia it brings for the "Into the New World" days. Along with up-and-coming girl group Lovelyz, GFRIEND are leading a new wave of female acts with a classic innocent look, leaving 2014's uber-popular "sexy" trend behind.

Additional reporting by Jessica Oak