Korean pop music is set to take over Dubai this weekend as 10 popular acts from record label SM Entertainment take to the stage for SM Town Live on Friday, April 6, at the Autism Rocks Arena in Dubai.
K-pop can be a rather confusing industry to follow, with mandatory military service and the cut-throat nature of the business meaning most big groups are like a revolving door.
So, to get you acquainted with the superstars that will take to the Dubai-Al Ain Road stage, here’s our beginner’s guide to all of the acts on the night.
This incredibly popular boyband was founded in 2011 with 12 members: the band features Korean and Chinese singers, and was initially split into two groups, Exo-K (Korean) and Exo-M (Chinese). But, after three members left Exo-M, the group became one again and currently has nine members. Their debut album XOXO was the best-selling album in South Korea in 2013. They won the Album of the Year at the Golden Disc Awards for four straight years from 2013-2017. In January this year, they became the first K-pop act to have their song Power (2017) added to the Dubai Fountain list of melodies. They also performed at the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. In terms of style, they’re renowned for doing a bit of everything, mixing EDM beats with a touch of rap and some smooth R&B.
Song to listen to: Power (2017)
Nicknamed the “Queen of Korean pop”, BoA released her debut album ID; Peace B in 2000 when she was far from a queen at just 13. She’s diverse too, having put out music in Korean, Japanese and English, with her second Japanese studio album, 2003’s Valenti, becoming her best-seller with more than 1.2 million copies sold. She’s also a dancer, composer and actress, and made her Hollywood debut in the independent dance film Make Your Move. The 31-year-old also has a massive social media-audience with 3.5 million followers on Twitter and 2.6 million on Instagram. Her sound is pure pop and generally upbeat, with her style changing with the times over her 18-year career.
Song to listen to: Valenti (2002)
This boyband was formed in 2005, and now consists of seven members. There were 13 at its peak. Their third album Sorry, Sorry became the best-selling Korean-language album in 2009 in Taiwan, Thailand, China and the Philippines. The band has downsized due to legal turmoil, departures for solo and acting careers and military service. Their fans are known as ELFs, which stands for Everlasting Friends. The group’s sound has ranged from truly bubblegum pop to rock, contemporary R&B and electropop.
Song to listen to: Sorry, Sorry (2009)
One of the most successful K-pop girl groups, they formed as a nine-piece in 2007, but are now eight. The 2009 single Gee launched them into stardom. The bubblegum pop track was named Song of the Decade by Melon, a South Korean online music store. They were dubbed “The Nation’s Girl Group” at one point, and fans also refer to the band by the moniker of SNSD, a short form of its Korean name. One of the members, Seohyun, was among the K-pop convoy sent to North Korea this week.
Song to listen to: Gee (2009)
This boyband made international news after lead singer Kim Jong-hyun took his own life in December last year, writing that “the life of fame was never meant for me” before his death. Formed in 2008, SHINee originally consisted of five members, but is now down to four – Onew, Key, Minho and Taemin. The group is known as much for their aesthetic and dance moves as their music. Their musical style is mostly contemporary R&B, but they do incorporate other genres, including hip-hop and EDM. The most fervent fans call themselves “shawols” a shortened version of the phrase “Shinee World”.
Song to listen to: Ring Ding Dong (2009)
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The group made their debut as a foursome with their song Happiness in 2014, and a year later added a fifth member. On Sunday, the entire group joined other South Korean acts in Pyongyang, North Korea, to perform for ruler Kim Jong-un. Their performance at the historic concert was the most talked about in Korean media. Their sound is more mature than that of many K-pop girl groups, blending sophisticated pop with R&B.
Song to listen to: Bad Boy (2018)
Kangta, 38, is a singer-songwriter and actor who has written more than 100 songs. He was a member of the popular boyband HOT in the late 1990s, a group that’s considered to have helped pave the way for K-pop, with bands back then known as “idol groups”. After the band broke up in 2001, Kangta released his first solo album, Polaris. He’s known for being a big-
ballad singer, but has also found success as an actor, appearing in Chinese and Korean dramas. In February 2018, he reunited with the members of HOT for a one-time performance on a South Korean variety show.
Song to listen to: Persona (2005)
Beginning as a four-member rock band in 2004, their name stands for “Typhoon Rose Attack Xmas”, which is a mash-up of the original members’ stage names: vocalist Typhoon Jay, drummer Rose Minwoo, bassist Attack Jungwoo and guitarist Xmas Jungmo. They’ve seen many iterations and members, but returned last year after a six-year hiatus as a trio with a distinctly EDM sound – having joined forces with DJ Ginjo.
Song to listen to: Notorious (2018)
Once a member of Chinese group Super Junior-M, Henry has found success as a solo artist. He’s known as an instrumentalist, playing the violin, piano and guitar, and has collaborated with K-pop stars including Girls’ Generation and BoA. He’s fluent in Korean, English, Mandarin, French and Cantonese, and will at times blend many languages into one performance. The 28-year-old has also appeared on Korean television dramas, and also composed music for them. Last year, he released a ballad he composed titled Girlfriend, which peaked at number 1 on several South Korean digital charts.
Song to listen to: Trap (2013)
TVXQ consists of duo U-Know Yunho and Max Changmin, but they were originally formed as a five-member boyband. Billboard magazine once described them as “K-pop royalty”. However, despite their success, three members decided to depart the group in 2009. Mixing pop, rock, hip- hop and contemporary R&B, TVXQ returned as a duo putting out their album Keep Your Head Down in 2011, which made its debut at number one on the South Korean charts.
What to listen to: Mirotic (2008)
Here's what you need to know
Tickets: Spread over five tiers, tickets range from Dh375 for general admission to Dh940 for the fan pit in front of the stage. They are available from www.dubai.platinumlist.net
Timings: SM Town is a festival, so this will a big night with a total of four hours of music. The first group takes the stage at 6pm, with the last performance ending at 10pm.
Don’t miss: A group performance featuring all 10 acts as they take the stage together for a medley around 9.30pm.
The stage: It is Y-shaped, with two elevated ramps extending all the way out to the crowd. With so many peformers and acts, you won’t know where to look.
Transport: Post-concert buses will be available from 9.30pm at a designated location within the venue, with routes including Deira City Centre, Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall.
Signs: No banners or posters attached to poles or sticks will be allowed. Hand-held paper or vinyl posters are accepted and should be written in English to be examined and approved by security staff.
Details: For more information and tickets for SM Town Live, go to www.117live.com