The ‘90s were a monumental period for K-pop. Idol groups were just beginning and hitting it big with the teenagers and younger generation of the time. Aside from the popularity of the singers, the music, clothing, and music videos perfectly depict the trends of the ‘90s in South Korea, which was similar in different parts of the world too. Many of us at KultScene grew up in the ‘90s and still remember the sounds and styles that will always create a nostalgic feeling. Get ready to be transported back the decade of the ‘90s.
I began listening to K-pop well into the 2010’s, so my ‘90s Korean music knowledge is limited to singers who used to be part of groups or obscured images that sometimes come on variety shows. So for this week’s playlist, I had to do some digging and decided I would start with some lady I had seen in a recent Roommate episode. As it turned out, that woman was S.E.S’ Shoo, and Sunny and Youngji made a big deal out of dancing to her song, I’m Your Girl. When I looked it up, the song sounded and the music video looked like all the Mexican and European girl groups I loved back in the ‘90s — the hip hop and pop hybrid beats paired with soft vocals, the cutesy, funky choreography. I just knew that if I had known of S.E.S back then, I would’ve liked them too. Even if you don’t know I’m Your Girl, like me a day ago, everything about it evokes nostalgia and sounds familiar to all us ‘90s kids.
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g.o.d’s debut song To Mother is what made them a group known for its heart wrenching lyrics. Every child has felt this way at one point, when they’re thinking back about the times when they acted bratty towards their mother. g.o.d sings about being a son of a single mother who cannot afford a lot of food and who works hard and belittles herself because of problems that he causes. But before he can ever say “I love you,” she dies from exhaustion. A song that everyone can relate to, g.o.d’s To Mother is one of the most poignant K-pop songs from the 90’s.
Nothing brings me back to my childhood better than the sounds of the ‘90s. And H.O.T’s Candy is no exception. The music, the clothes, the synchronized dancing embody all that makes a boy band from the ‘90s amazing. Not to mention that H.O.T is credited as one of the first idol groups in K-pop. The song itself boasts catchy beats and lyrics that many still enjoy listening to today. From the video, it’s easy to tell that during the time of ‘90s Western boy bands, such as NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, Korean boy bands (like H.O.T) had similar clothing and music styles. Even if you weren’t familiar with this group during their time together, Candy will bring you back to their heyday and help transport you back to the ‘90s.
Park Jin Young’s Honey became a sensation in 1998. It was part of JYP’s fourth album, and the music video went to become iconic. The song has an R&B and soul feeling that makes the song to sound still modern and still influential. SM Entertainment even tried to recreate this mixture of sounds with TVXQ!’s Something. JYP’s lyrics are always very catchy; he surely knows how to make a hit song. The ‘90s were all about experimenting with music, especially in pop music. Each band was trying to create their own unique sound, and JYP managed to create his own staple sound which always evolved, but also always had that R&B influence that he loves so much.
Each of the big groups from the ‘90s were responsible from some sort of style or genre permeating throughout the rest of K-pop to this day. While the cute image was popular with many groups at the time, it was Fin.K.L’s sound on Forever Love which has had a lasting effect on girl groups to come. The twinkling piano melody coupled with an orchestra or electro synth riff has become the go-to sound for cute songs ever since. It was even referenced in the very similar sounding Wonder Boy by one time After School sub-group After School Blue. Also I love the unprocessed vocals; they sound terrible, but it’s cute. It’s what all groups would sound like today if they didn’t rely on producers and MRs.
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SHINHWA made their debut in 1998, and Eusha! Eusha! (으싸! 으싸! ) (which was a remake of Manfred Mann’s song Doo Wa Diddy) was their second single off of their debut album. This is probably their cutest concept to date; a fun and upbeat song that gives off a bouncy feel, which will make you want to get up on your feet, wave your hands in the air and dance around continuously. As a proud Changjo, Eusha Eusha introduced me to the K-pop world, and my life has forever changed.
To portray the uplifting music, they filmed most of the music video outside on a beach. And for someone who lives in the Northeast, like myself, where there’s currently 70+ inches of snow outside, it’s fantastic because I can listen to this song anytime of the year and feel completely warm. Nowadays, it’s rare to see music videos being filmed outside, as a box concept and fancy CGI have become the norm. This video, however, gives off a more ‘real’ feel and personally, I feel more connected that way.
What’s your favorite ’90s K-pop song? Share your faves on the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.