20140803_seoulbeats_4minute_hyunaIn a market saturated with groups, going solo in K-pop is a risky venture. An idol’s ability to captivate an audience as a singular entity is tested as their members step back from the spotlight for this moment. Solos offer us another side of a particular member who may have been pigeonholed into his/her respective role in the group. It is through solos that fans get to hear these members tell their personal stories in a fashion more suitable to their own musical tastes.

Seeing how 2015 is starting off with a string of solo announcements, it only feels appropriate to look at some notable idols who broke away from their group image to take on an individual identity. To keep things simple here, only idols who are still part of active groups have been chosen for discussion. That sadly means no Lee Hyori, Sunmi, Jay Park, or Ha:tfelt on this list. Let it be known that this is obviously a partial list of personal favorites and not meant to represent the full spectrum of soloists. In other words, feel free to add your own in the comments below.

  • G-Dragon

20130303_seoulbeats_bigbang_gdragonLove him or hate him, no one can deny the powerhouse that is G to the D. Every single one of his albums has performed well on music charts, and he sweeps awards across the board every year he drops one.

His first solo album called Heartbreaker really cemented his abilities as an artist on many levels. The title song of the same name turned the leader of Big Bang into an overnight sensation. The timing of this release couldn’t have been better as his group enjoyed success from “Lies” and “Haru Haru,” two of their most popular tracks that were penned by him. His training in YG Entertainment included being required to write a song a day, so his abilities didn’t go to waste — Add in his producing and composing skills, and you have an unstoppable force with a long, prosperous future ahead of him.

  • Taeyang

Like his best friend G-Dragon, Taeyang was groomed for musical domination in his trainee days. This payoff was evident with the release of Solar, which showcased his smooth R&B vocals. Noting Usher as his inspiration, it wasn’t too surprising for fans to hear this side of the sensitive singer. He took a more proactive role in his 2014 album, Rise, which garnered him grand awards for his hit song “Eyes, Nose, Lips.” Infusing his personal experiences into his lyrics, he reached a broader audience that could relate to his tales of heartache. With more fans acknowledging his talents in both singing and songwriting, Taeyang is an artist who understands the power of emotion in music.

  • Hyuna

Whether she’s earned your respect or not, people can’t stop talking about her and for good reason. Hyuna is often the subject of criticism for being too racy for K-pop, yet she embraced a cheekier side of her persona with Bubble Pop. Using her sexuality to her advantage, she came out with a vibrant song that revealed her playful, bubbly nature. The infectious tune became an ear worm for listeners who enjoyed the lighthearted song that featured a cute dance. She revels in playing the mischievous nymph who knows you want to join her naughty antics, but keeps things close to the line instead of pushing it. Her song “Red” demonstrated that ability best as she turned a children’s song into something no one expected. As the queen of surprises, she manages to rule us all with her charms.

  • 20131122_seoulbeats_Jaejoong_YJaejoong

When it comes to the unexpected though, one must bring up JYJ‘s Jaejoong. His stoic demeanor has been known to put off some fans, but thankfully his journey as a soloist opened him up. One of his most notable releases has to be WWW, a rock-influenced album that displayed Jaejoong in all of his mystical glory.

It would’ve been easy for him to stick to the status quo with R&B ballads since fans were used to that sound from JYJ, but Jaejoong had other ideas. Luckily for us, they worked as he embraced his inner rock god to give us music with edge and raw emotions. He stood out for not only taking on a genre rarely heard in K-pop, but also for being brave enough to embody this gritty image that most visual idols avoid.

  • Taemin

Being the youngest of the group comes with its own set of burdens, the biggest one being that fans forever view that member as an eternal child who must never grow up. Taemin threw that fantasy out the window with his 2014 debut album Ace. The adorable maknae who blinked incessantly through interview responses out of nervousness became a composed and refined young man. Like a wine whose time had finally come to be uncorked for just the right occasion, it took years for him to develop into the confident performer he is today. It was definitely worth the wait.

What these names all hold in common is an ability to shine as brightly on stage alone as much as they do with their group members. They prove their roles in their groups aren’t based on superficiality, but on their genuine skills as performers and artists. As more idols take the plunge into solo waters, we can only anticipate what sides we’ll see from each person.

What solos did you enjoy? Are you looking forward to any upcoming solos? Share your thoughts!

(YouTube [1][2], Images via YG Entertainment, C-JeS Entertainment, Cube Entertainment)