There are certain images that quickly come to mind when you say the word “girl group” — the coordinated sophistication of The Supremes, the five strong personalities in Spice Girls, the empowered confidence of Destiny’s Child.
But not every act follows the proven mold. Around the world, concepts stray far from typical girl group tropes — with the following five outfits from Japan, Sweden and beyond being unbelievably unique.
1. Orange Caramel (South Korea)
Let’s start with one of the most believable, shall we? Orange Caramel is a quirky trio created around the idea of “candy culture” — so think hyperactive, kawaii-like styling matched by the addictive hooks for which K-pop is known. The results created some of Korea’s most bizarrely creative music — 2014’s “Catallena” (below) blended Bollywood disco, funk guitar riffs and a Punjabi folk song, while 2012’s “Lipstick” combined saxobeat with the famous snake charmer melody — with offbeat concepts that created a string of hits. Whether playing fairy tale witches in “A-ing” or playing terrifying “Spot the Difference” models in “My Copycat,” the group’s success in Korea and Japan proved they were onto something.
2. Aquababes (Czech Republic)
The idea of record labels or TV shows manufacturing a girl group is not new, but what happens when the food industry gets involved? Czech spring water company Aquila debuted Aquababes in 2014, with the intention to not only promote their product, but to give promising young singers a platform for their future careers. Since then, five or six new girls create the outfit each year to release and promote one single.
The 2017 iteration released their pop stomper “Tvoje Muza” (translated to “Your Muse”) in May, but we’re still smitten with the effervescent 2015 “Cista jako Laskas” (“Pure as Love”). Not bad for a bottled water company.
3. K3 (Belgium)
Remember The Wiggles? The quartet of adult Australian males who made silly songs strictly for the Disney Junior audience? Belgium has the female version of that in the sensational K3. The outfit has found chart success, snagged TV shows, were immortalized by Madame Tussauds and even warranted their own museum, all by marketing directly towards children and on kids television programs.
While the original members Karen Damen, Kristel Verbeke and Kathleen Aerts — a.k.a. the three K’s that originally formed the group’s namesake — have left, their initial steps of operating trend- and pop-driven children’s music with coordinated clothes and bright images have kept the brand going strong for nearly two decades, with Verbeke now managing the group.
4. Kamen Joshi (Japan)
While most female troupes boast a cute, glamorous or sexy aura, Japan’s Kamen Joshi went for… terrifying? Touted as an “underground” idol group (compared to the acts with major labels and connections, Kamen Joshi is independent), the group bring bubblegum melodies over aggressive EDM-metal production, all while wearing Friday the 13th-inspired masks. They’ve managed some impressive successes — including a chart-topping single in their home country with 2015’s “Genkidane” (below) — and continue to build a solid fanbase with daily theater performances in Tokyo. (And, yes, they do sometimes take their masks off in music videos, and for select television and media appearances.)
5. Dolly Style (Sweden)
Perhaps a more controversial inclusion on the list, Dolly Style is the bubblegum trio that were created in a “dollyhouse” and inspired by ’60s Victorian culture. While the members themselves have constantly shifted, the group’s personas stay constant with “Holly” (who always has blue hair), “Molly” (in pink), and “Polly” (purple) jumping into exceedingly syrupy Swedish-pop productions — to some chart domestic chart success, thanks to debut single “Hello Hi” and viral YouTube numbers with 2015’s “Cherry Gum.”
While the group has been called out for insensitive appropriation of Asian culture, supporters say they play more to a Lolita styling than Japanese kawaii culture. The girls most recently released “Bye Bye Bby Boo” in April: