While K-pop artists and companies are notoriously secretive about their music plans until they’re ready to unleash the full scope of their comeback, we do have a slight indication of how 2019 is going to shake out — and things look extremely promising.
After 2018 saw K-pop artists break chart barriers and further widen their scope of influence, this year will be all the more important to see how the industry can grow and continue to advance itself on a global scale.
From legendary anniversaries to highly anticipated records that could catapult acts to new commercial and artistic heights, check out the 10 releases Billboard has eyed to make major impact from the K-pop scene this year below.
1. g.o.d, Then&Now (Jan. 10)
The classic boy band will celebrate 20 years in the industry with a special new album includes new songs as well as rearrangements of past g.o.d hits. Most notably, superstars like IU, Henry, Urban Zakapa‘s Jo Hyun Ah and Yang Da Il join the band for a remake of 2001 K-pop legendary hit “Road,” to help introduce a new generation of listeners to the veteran quintet.
2. GFriend, Time for Us (Jan. 14)
The chart-topping girl group will kick the year off strong with their second full-length album. It’s been almost three years since GFriend released their first LP, 2016’s LOL, which saw them charge their twinkly synth-pop with high-energy EDM for the single “Navillera.” The sextet has revealed a mix of ethereal, fairytale princess–like looks (as seen in their “Sunrise” visual teaser below) as well as a darker, bolder vibe in the accompanying “Midnight” photos. Lead single “Sunrise” is composed by the producers behind the group’s 2018 hit “Time for the Moon Night,” No Joohwan and Lee Wonjong.
3. ASTRO, All Light (Jan. 16)
The quickly rising boy band also looks to hit big at the top of the year with their first-ever full-length album All Light. The group has shared a highlight medley of the album teasing all 10 songs, and while it hasn’t been confirmed as the lead single, track No. 2 “All Night” is produced by LDN Noise — the British production duo that’s crafted No. 1 K-pop hits for the likes of SHINee, EXO and Red Velvet — indicating this new LP could take ASTRO to a new career high.
4. Seventeen, You Made My Dawn (Jan. 21)
After dropping the feel-good summer EP You Make My Day in July, Seventeen will switch things up for the winter release of You Made My Dawn. Previewed the dark hip-hop track “Getting Closer,” released in late December, the 13-member boy band appear ready to start their 2019 with a more mysterious aura, showcasing yet another side of themselves in a career that’s seen the self-composing idols explore loads of different genres.
5. Tiffany Young, TBA (early 2019)
While the singer-songwriter has made strides in transitioning herself from girl-group member to solo star with two singles, Tiffany Young seems to have gone through a creative rebirth that will be shown on a five-track EP coming early this year. After revealing a bold new look on social media, the star shared some thoughts on her upcoming record and hinted that we’ll get a deeper look into the stories and past that made her the person she is today.
“Recently having to address some of the most painful personal struggles in my life about my family had made me realize how important they were into what makes me, ME,” she wrote to her followers, referencing allegations of fraud made against her father that forced her to speak out about their relationship. “It has let me channel ALL of myself honestly into my art while writing this upcoming EP. its been a time to really open up some wounds & heal.” The record is led off by the single “Born Again,” dropping on Jan. 24, with the full EP expected soon after.
6. Monsta X, TBA/Take.2
After an important year that saw the boy band hold their biggest U.S. shows to date and become the first K-pop group to play on iHeart’s Jingle Ball tour, Monsta X could barely keep their 2019 plans contained when chatting with Billboard late last year.
“We already made some stuff with other artists, but it’s top secret,” Kihyun said, before I.M shared they have a collaboration with a male DJ that some think could be Marshmello after a photo together. The group also told Billboard that they have more English tracks coming, after previously sharing that fans can anticipate their Take.2 album following up October’s Take.1 Are You There? that went Top 10 on the World Albums chart.
After scoring two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 and landing themselves the No. 8-ranked Top Artist of 2018, it’d be tough for BTS to have a better year on the charts than they did in 2018 but we have a feeling they — and their super-passionate ARMY — can do it. While there haven’t been any concrete plans revealed, BTS will likely keep up with their galloping release pace that in 2018 included multiple releases in Korean and Japanese, plus solo mixtapes and an English single with Steve Aoki. Some fans have speculated BTS’ quiet February means the guys will spend the month preparing for a late-winter/early spring return. No matter when it comes, this album will be key in defining BTS’ legacy.
After signing with Interscope Records, snagging enviable billing on this year’s Coachella lineup and announcing world tour dates, eyes are on BLACKPINK to see how the girl group navigates their first big foray into the international pop market. While it hasn’t been clear what the next move is as a group, the CEO of the quartet’s Korean record label YG Entertainment Yang Hyun-suk did share that each member will be releasing her own song. Jennie’s “Solo” dropped in November — landing her a No. 1 on World Digital Song Sales — and we know Rosé will be the next member to release, though no further details have been shared.
After a miraculous career resurgence since competing on Korea’s Produce 101 show, NU’EST has spent more than a year splintered into the four-member NU’EST W sub-unit, while Hwang Minhyun promoted with Wanna One. Though nothing concrete has been shared yet, a very telling video was uploaded on NU’EST’s YouTube account on Dec. 31 (below) where viewers saw four flowers joined by a fifth flower, all but confirming Minhyun’s return to his band mates. NU’EST W reached new heights for the group — including their highest Billboard chart positions to date — with the full-group comeback only indicating the group growing bigger.
10. BIGBANG/BIGBANG Member Solos
This year will see the four BIGBANG members currently serving their military duties return, which their label YG Entertainment has hinted could lead to new music from the band or the members. While youngest member Seungri has shared plans to enlist early this year, having G-Dragon, Taeyang, Daesung and T.O.P all returning to the industry is a major musical event on its own.