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5 New Acts to Watch at KCON LA

GFriend perform in Seoul, South Korea
TPG/Getty Images

GFriend perform in Seoul, South Korea on Dec. 28, 2015.

Los Angeles’ annual K-pop invasion, KCON, begins this Friday at the LA Convention Center and all eyes are on the Korean musicians heading to Southern California for the massive event. While the three day-event will be filled with food, shopping and panels with industry leaders, the highlight is most certainly the two headlining concerts to be held on Saturday and Sunday nights.

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Five years in, KCON LA has more top Korean artists than ever before with popular boy bands SHINee and BTS headlining the shows. (BTS also headlined at KCON NY last month, the first leg of this year's KCON USA presented by Toyota.) But even as top names are performing their latest and greatest hits, some newer faces will be looking to make an impact as well.

Among the new kids on the K-pop block are two new male acts set to hype up the crowd with their diverse styles and several rising girl groups making their stateside debuts with incredibly addictive songs. Here is our list of five new acts to catch at KCON LA this year.

ASTRO

While girl groups may be battling it out for the Song of Summer competition in South Korea, this boy band’s bright sound fits the season perfectly. After their debut in February, ASTRO picked up a strong fan base early on and they’ve already had two EPs -- Spring Up and Summer Vibes -- appear on the World Albums chart. Since they’re still new and haven’t yet reached mainstream K-pop fans, ASTRO may be one of the lesser known acts at KCON LA this year but their upbeat synth-pop sound will likely excite the Staples Center audience.

I.O.I

With 11 trainees from different South Korean entertainment companies, I.O.I is a temporary girl group that will disband in 2017. But fans haven't let that keep them from falling for the band, as I.O.I has become one of 2016’s hottest K-pop acts. I.O.I’s hyperactive, EDM-pop hybrid sound resulted in the group’s intense popularity both in and out of South Korea following the releases of several singles, including “Crush” and “Dream Girls.” Since I.O.I’s future has an end date, this KCON debut is possibly the group’s first and last stateside performance.

GFRIEND

GFRIEND has been winning over audiences in Asia and North America for some time now but for the first time ever they’ll be appearing in front of US fans at KCON LA. The schoolgirl-inspired sextet has released hit after hit since they debuted with “Glass Bead” last year and their latest, the sugary retro pop song “Navillera,” is currently topping South Korean music charts. Known for their precise dance performances and intense stage presence, GFRIEND’s stateside debut should not be missed. 

TWICE

With more than 150 million views on YouTube, TWICE has gone viral online but this year’s KCON performance marks their first North American appearance since the group was formed through a television program last year. Since their inception on-screen, TWICE has won over the K-pop scene and last year’s “Like Ooh-Ahh” provided them a groundbreaking debut. Their most recent single, “Cheer Up,” is an infectious summertime hit in South Korea that will surely amp up the crowd as the Californian audience is likely to fall in love with the group’s quirky songs and bright personalities.

DEAN

His crooning may diverge from the dance-pop sound of the K-pop acts performing at this year’s KCON, but DEAN is one of the must-watch acts at KCON LA 2016. To say that alt R&B comes to life with his performances is an understatement. The producer-turned-singer has been turning heads since he began collaborating with artists like Anderson .Paak and Eric Bellinger last year but he really broke ground as an artist with his performances at SXSW earlier this year. Since then, DEAN’s held a US tour and made his name as one of the most innovative musicians in South Korea with the release of his charting debut album, 130 Mood: TRBL. Along with the concert on Saturday, DEAN will also perform at Klub KCON on Friday night.

DEAN, GFRIEND, and I.O.I will join Block B, Amber of f(x), and SHINee at the Saturday (July 30) performance while ASTRO and TWICE will appear alongside BTS, Girls' Generation-TTS, Eric Nam and Monsta X on Sunday’s performance. Tickets for both night’s shows are still available through KCON USA’s website

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