K-pop syndrome is becoming as fierce as ever. From world tours to talk shows on American TV, and releasing albums through partnerships with U.S. record labels, K-pop is solidifying its presence as a force to be reckoned with in the global market.
Billboard Korea, issued bimonthly, will explore the footsteps of K-pop artists who are taking the world by storm: the first group under our focus is GOT7. Through their world tour “Keep Spinning” that kicked off last year, the boyband will hold their very first stadium concert in Bangkok in May. After the initial concert sold out immediately, GOT7’s added one more show, further proving their global popularity.
Debut and the First Full Album
Going back one more year, there was Jae-beom and Jinyoung’s JJ project in 2012. The two debuted with a song that combined rock and dance elements, which helped launch a viral sensation, boosted by the duo’s appearance in the TV drama Dream High 2 prior to their debut. Though each had totally different styles and personalities, they somehow blended perfectly, with each complimenting what the other lacked. The two inevitably had a strong presence among the members of GOT7 when the group finally made their debut. Later, JJ project added four members, as well as Youngjae to form GOT7.
GOT7’s beginning was a bit rough. The sampling of “Tell Me” drew attention and they became known for the acrobatics, but the group’s presence shone through thanks to their appealing tunes and the catchy melody of 2014’s “A” from the group’s second EP, Got Love. GOT7 immediately followed this with a full album, Identify, which was a success. In the age of streaming, it is difficult to promote the songs evenly, especially follow-up singles (in this case, a repackage album would be released instead). The production cost and other efforts to create a full-length album in the current K-pop ecosystem is quite staggering, which makes it all the more meaningful that the group followed their string of early EPs with a full album. The title, Identify, was also central in that it was released right at the moment GOT7 was standing at the crossroads of discovering their own identity.
After Showcasing Diversity, Established with Flight Log
To be honest, they were still in their transition. Shifting between the extreme images of playful, spirited boys, suddenly matured men, and adorable youngsters, GOT7 displayed a wide spectrum appeal. Fortunately, at the time, Jackson was active in variety shows to promote GOT7’s name. After that, it was thanks to the Flight Log trilogy that they elevated their status to the point they’ve reached today. The frequent releases definitely played a big part, as they were able to move on from their early imagery to develop a more refined impression. The Flight Log trilogy showed their growth at a time when trilogy releases were quite common on the K-pop scene at the time, even if GOT7 came relatively late to that game. They differentiated themselves by demonstrating that each member participated directly in the production process and also putting each singer’s individual musical talent, style and growth on display, mesmerizing hundreds of thousands with their unique appeal.
Outstanding Musicality, Solo Work, and Conceptual Consolidation
After the Flight Log series, GOT7 entered a stable orbit. In particular, the intense choreography and the title tracks produced by Jae-beom became their trademark. Each member released solo songs and became more mature and enriched through acting and other side projects, with the individual and group activities on a nearly two-track system that created a synergy effect that improved the overall team’s appeal. Leader Jae-beom used the name Def. to quench his thirst as a solo artist through his Soundcloud account, which also featured albums from beloved musicians such as Primary to Deepshower. In particular, Deepshower has been lauded for his participation in George’s “Boat” and Lucid Fall’s album production. Youngjae was also making his own moves, using the name Ars to create a Soundcloud account that featured music from overseas DJ/ producer Sanjoy.
Jinyoung also dipped into the acting pool, but perhaps the greatest musical achievement was accomplished by Jackson, a beloved star of Korean and Chinese variety shows who successfully launched a solo music career in China. He invited Gucci Mane to feature on his songs and was himself featured on one of Goldlink‘s albums, making him one of the most internationally successful rappers ever from an active K-pop artist in South Korea.
Global Star GOT7
GOT7 launched their first world tour in Asia and North America in 2016 and added Europe and South America on their second world tour in 2018. During the recent Keep Spinning World Tour, they were featured on a variety of media platforms, including Teen Vogue, Elle, and Fox TV. It is no exaggeration to say that GOT7 have emerged as one of the biggest global K-pop vehicles. They’ve attracted attention in Asia because of their earnest performances, but the popularity gained in Europe, North and South America proves that they are a phenomenon across many continents.
It’s definitely a plus that several members speak English, which has earned them some added media exposure and helped them grow rapidly. Jackson’s overseas activities have helped keep their name in the headlines and they are also attempting various projects to make use of each individual strengths and charms, such as Jus2. All the while, their solo activities are harmonized back into the group through great teamwork, which has helped GOT7 rise to the place they are today.