Blast to the Past: Popular K-Pop Groups from Debut Compared to Now, 2022 Edition


It’s pretty common that people change over time—whether that’s how they dress, how they present themselves, their own personal views, etc. K-pop groups are no different. Many groups start with a set image and theme, incorporating them throughout various eras. However, K-pop is a fast-moving industry—themes change from album to album, concepts develop into other concepts, and sounds are constantly evolving.

Because K-pop groups tend to change quite a bit, it’s always fun to look back at their debuts. These eight groups have not only captured the hearts of fans with their music now, but they’ve been doing so since their debut. So let’s take a look at some of the more popular K-pop groups today and what they started off as!

Female K-Pop Groups

With their own unique styles and catchy songs, these female K-pop groups have held the hearts of fans for years. These four groups in particular are probably the most widely known throughout the female side of K-pop. Take a glance at where these iconic female groups started.


Since their debut in 2014, MAMAMOO has taken the stage by storm. Their debut was considered one of the best K-pop debuts by critics and has continued to bring fans in to this day. Each member—Solar, Moonbyul, Wheein, and Hwasa—caught the eye of K-pop fans around the world for their spectacular vocals, outstanding visuals, and lovable personalities.

Their debut song, “Mr. Ambiguous,” brought a classy and simplistic style to the group. The jazzy vocals, eye-catching colors, and simplistic look made this female K-pop group stand out above the rest.


The concept photos and stages for their debut extended play (EP), Hello, carried bright colors and loud patterns you couldn’t help but look at. (You can click here to watch their debut stage.)

In most recent years, MAMAMOO has been focusing slightly more on their solo activities—each member taking the time to release solo music or personal projects they’ve been working on. As a group, however, their most recent EP came out in the middle of June 2021—WAW (or Where Are We). With the title track “Where Are We Now,” MAMAMOO came back with powerful vocals and even more captivating visuals.


This ballad-like EP stole the breaths of fans and truly brought new meaning to vocal powerhouses. The whole EP shows just how refined MAMAMOO has become as a group and brings a certain elegance to K-pop.

Overall, MAMAMOO’s style of music and their image has become more refined since their debut. They’ve grown into themselves and will continue to do so as the years go by. With their slightly recent re-signing of contracts, MAMAMOO won’t be leaving the K-pop scene any time soon. We can’t wait to see what they’ll become even further down the road!


Like some other JYP Entertainment (JYPE) artists, TWICE was formed from a survival music show. After surviving the show Sixteen, TWICE made their debut on October 20, 2015 with nine members—Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung, and Tzuyu.

The group was quick to gain attention for their cutesy fashion, their crush-catching songs, and their dance moves. Their debut song was “Like Ooh-Aah.” The music video featured a surprising twist on the typical high school love story (hint: zombies).


The concept photos and stages for their first EP The Story Begins features a lot of cutesy, school-crush outfits and bright colors.

In recent years, TWICE has gone on to break a couple of records for female K-pop groups. In particular, with the conclusion of their recent world tour, TWICE became the first female K-pop group to have two separate arena tours in the US.

And before this tour, in November of 2021, the group released their third Korean studio album, Formula of Love: O+T=<3, with the title track “Scientist.”


This album was TWICE’s best-selling album to date and carries a particular disco-pop vibe to it. Though it still encapsulates the cutesy-crush style, it’s hard to deny that TWICE has grown more into themselves. They’ve explored more genres with this album and taken a more mature approach to their presentation.

Overall, TWICE has dived head first into their crush-themed songs, but they continue to provide something new for it throughout various themes. If the first album showed the girls in their high school era, then it’s only fitting that their most recent era has them in their “work” era—or their scientist era.

Red Velvet

One of the most widely known female K-pop groups from 2014/2015 is Red Velvet. This five-member group has quite a unique beginning compared to the others already on this list. Firstly, in August 2014, four members of Red Velvet—Irene, Seulgi, Wendy, and Joy—made their debut with the song “Happiness.” The song is bright, bubbly, and lovable just like happiness is itself.

The fifth member of Red Velvet—Yeri—didn’t appear until just under a year later, making the group have practically a second debut with a full group for the song “Ice Cream Cake.” This unique occurrence happened because Yeri, at the original debut date, was still a bit too young to make her own debut. So the group made a second debut once she was of age.


At their debut (in 2014 and 2015), Red Velvet portrayed their bubbly pop music with catchy choruses, lovely choreographies, and eye-catching colors. Quite literally, the colors of these music videos and concept photos pop off the screen with their vibrancy.

Many fans of Red Velvet have used the group’s name to describe their music style—explaining that their more innocent, bubbly pop songs fit in the “red” category and the more mature, elegant songs fit in the “velvet” category. In 2022, Red Velvet released two separate comebacks—a Japanese one and a Korean one. Both songs—”Wildside” and “Feel My Rhythm”—seem to show off the group’s charming elegance and maturity.


If you listen to their debut song and then to their most recent song, it’s pretty easy to hear the difference. Their music seems to have grown up with them. Though they still perform fun and poppy songs, there’s more depth to their music now. They seemed to have found a way to combine both their “red” and “velvet” sides to present fans with something amazing.


Probably the most widely known female K-pop group is BLACKPINK. Since their debut in August of 2016, these four ladies have been kicking music’s booty (almost literally, too). The four members—Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa—made their debut with the EP Square One and the title track “Whistle.”

From the very get-go, BLACKPINK holds “bad girl” vibes. They carry themselves highly, almost daring anyone to mess with them. This distinctly rebellious sort of feeling made BLACKPINK stand out above the other female K-pop groups from this era.


With their stylish fashion, their deep rhythm, and their powerful aura, BLACKPINK started off strong for their debut. But they haven’t stopped yet.

Unfortunately, BLACKPINK seems to release music a bit slower than most other K-pop groups. Though most of their songs have become hits in their own right, so it might not be too bad to wait for another masterpiece from them.

In recent years, the members of BLACKPINK have been releasing solo works. Lisa’s own solo work broke records for Korean female solo artists and nearly broke the whole world. The group’s most recent album, The Album, came out in 2020 with the title track “How You Like That.”


As the name suggests, this song is another powerhouse performance for BLACKPINK that shows their carefree attitude and their own coolness. They still hold tight to their rebellious vibes but have turned a bit more mature in the sense of not bothering to care for what others think of them. Even their slightly romance-oriented song “Lovesick Girls” still holds an “I’ll do it myself” feeling to it.

Overall, the biggest growth for BLACKPINK probably comes from their maturity. They’ve always carried a rebellious and “do your own thing” vibe, but now they seem to hold themselves without a care for others’ opinions.

Male K-Pop Groups

Though the female K-pop groups have grown in their own way, these four boy groups have shown just how different groups can get over the years. Between the various genres and unique styles, these K-pop groups encompass everything K-pop has to offer.


Starting with one of the major K-pop groups from the third generation, EXO gained attention from the moment they made their debut in April of 2012. Uniquely, EXO started as two groups—EXO-K and EXO-M. EXO-K sang their songs exclusively in Korean while EXO-M sang them in Mandarin Chinese. After some of the Chinese members from EXO-M left around 2014/2015, the two groups began performing as one unit. They now consist of nine members—Suho, Lay, Xiumin, Baekhyun, Chen, Chanyeol, D.O., Kai, and Sehen.

The groups debut with the song “MAMA,” a powerful song that dives into both the hip hop style and the electric dance beats. Though their fashion sense is very 2012, the song was just what K-pop fans wanted at the time.


(You can also watch the Chinese version from EXO-M here.)

Like many boy groups around this era, EXO started with a more hip-hop sound. They had intense, in-your-face songs that you couldn’t help but stop and listen to. Their powerful dance moves and dark style were more than enough to turn heads, though their concept photos seems quite tame compared to the music video for “MAMA,”

Because the group has been around for just over ten years now, many of the members have been serving their military service. At this current moment, three members are in the military. But EXO continues to release music, focusing more on sub-group works and individual pieces.

The group’s most recent EP, Don’t Fight the Feeling, came out in the middle of 2021. With five total tracks, the chosen title was “Don’t Fight the Feeling.”


Right away, you can tell that EXO has shed the hip-hop influence from their debut just a bit. Even in their other albums from the past few years, the group has picked up a sultrier tempo rather than intense. They’ve incorporated dance more into their music than they once started with. But they do still include quite impactful raps—especially from their album and song “Obsession.” But it’s not quite the same.

Their fashion has certainly refined itself, too. The Don’t Fight the Feeling EP brought aircraft uniforms (a more modern cohesiveness rather than the seemingly mix-match pieces from most 2010s K-pop groups).

Overall, EXO has changed quite a bit since their debut. But that’s not always a bad thing! They’re still releasing amazing music unique to their style even with a few members missing.


This wouldn’t be an article about K-pop groups if we didn’t mention the iconic SHINee. As the longest-running group on this list, they have quite literally set the stage for many of the other groups. For years after their debut, the (at the time) five-member group had taken the K-pop world by storm with their unique styles. Even with four members today—rest in peace Jonghyun—the group still stands out for their fashion sense and their tasteful music.

SHINee made their debut in May of 2008 with the song “Replay.” At nearly fourteen years old, this song is that song that everyone has heard at least once in their life. It’s catchy, full of everything you think a boy group in 2008 would have (those hairstyles… those dance moves… oh boy).


Much like EXO, most of the members of SHINee have already served their time in the military. At this current moment, however, Taemin is finishing up his service. Once he’s done, then the entire group will have served.

Before Taemin left, the four members—Key, Minho, Onew, and Taemin—released their seventh album Don’t Call Me with the title track “Don’t Call Me.” It was released at the beginning of 2021.


In typical SHINee fashion, the music video incorporated eye-catching colors, unique fashion, and impeccable dances. The song is just as catchy as ever for SHINee, having slower but more powerful beats throughout.

Throughout their nearly fourteen years as a group, SHINee has been through a lot. They’ve gone through various styles and various music genres. But they never lost the SHINee touch no matter how much they’ve developed.


Since their debut in 2012, BTOB has stolen the breaths of K-pop fans around the world for their insane vocals. This, at the time, seven-member K-pop group—consisting of Eunkwang, Minhyuk, Changsub, Hyunsik, Peniel, Sungjae, and Ilhoon—sang their way into the hearts of anyone who would listen.

Their debut took place in March 2012 with the song “Insane.” As typical 2010s, this song incorporated the heartbreak of love and a few questionable hairstyles (and perhaps reactions… I’m still not sure why the one was standing on the piano…).


Though BTOB are most known for their power vocals now, they have more musical talents than that. Their debut song, and album, showcase their versatility in rapping and more. One major thing, though, has stuck with this K-pop group: they have emotional songs that will pull on your heartstrings from the first listen.

After the last two group members were discharged from their military leave, the group finally released their first group album for nearly five years. This album, Be Together, was released a few months ago in February 2022 with the title track “The Song.”


Their comeback solidifies what we already know about the group: their vocals are chill-worthy and their songs will never fail to give you a few things to cry over. Their style, too, has grown more into their own personal style just like their voices. The concept photos show simplistic outfits and refreshing colors.

Overall, BTOB seems to have stepped more into their role as powerhouse vocals. Though they haven’t fully let go of their rapping (as they shouldn’t), they’ve turned ballads into heart-grabbing pieces with more sing-song raps and softer tones.


The last on our list of K-pop groups is BTS. Since their debut in 2013, this seven-member group—consisting of RM, Jin, SUGA, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook—has changed quite a bit since their debut. From their success internationally and their own personal growth, their style has evolved into something nearly opposite of their debut song.

In June of 2013, BTS debuted with their song “No More Dream.” Similar to EXO and the other groups from this era, BTS began as more of a hip-hop group. “No More Dream,” from their debut single album 2 Cool 4 Skool, showed off heavy beats and more rapping than singing (one of the main singers even rapped a good portion of this song).


With black clothing, heavy eyeliner, and the occasional flashing of abs, BTS carried a certain bad boy style to them. Even in a few of their albums following the first one, they kept up with the defiant sort of style. They even have a song called “Danger” to further their hip-hop style.

Most recently, BTS has been performing a few concerts in Korea and the US. Their most recent music, English tracks “Butter” and “Permission to Dance,” was released in May 2021. Very noticeably, these songs aren’t quite the hip hop, rap-heavy beats like their songs from their debut. Instead, these songs are lighthearted and pretty fun.


Like the songs themselves, their fashion style for these concept photos is a lot lighter. With brighter colors, less serious environments, and vibrant hair colors, there’s no hint of a bad boy rebellion anywhere anymore.

BTS Butter Concept photo

Image from BTS’ Weverse

BTS seems to have changed quite drastically if you compare their very first song with the latest ones, but there is still a lot more hip-hop in them than what you might see. Their last full-length album, Map of the Soul: 7, contained the intense rap song of “Interlude: Shadow.” So I wouldn’t say that BTS has lost their hip-hop roots, just that they’ve grown into more styles of music.

Which K-pop groups do you think have changed the most since their debut?

We only mentioned a small handful of K-pop groups, but there are so many out there that have had quite the transformation since their debut. Which one do you think has changed the most?

If you’d like to read into more idol-related things, feel free to check out our K-Pop Category! We write about upcoming comebacks, various artists, and more.

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