Things can be incredibly competitive in the K-Pop world, and oftentimes, an artist’s success (or lack of it) can be determined by a single event or song. The following 6 groups, chosen by fans on Reddit, all had a lot going against them when they debuted, and they could have easily disbanded if things had gone differently. However, all of these K-Pop artists have been able to work past their challenges and become very successful in the end!
This may be hard to believe, given their massive success now, but BTS really struggled at the beginning of their career. Their debut song, “No More Dream”, didn’t make much traction in the K-Pop industry, and their first several songs after it came out didn’t attract much attention either.
Coming from a small, pretty unknown company without much funding, BTS could have easily disbanded before they became popular. In fact, they almost did! With the release of “I Need U”, the group planned on likely disbanding if the song didn’t do well.
However, “I Need U” ended up earning them their first music show win, and that was when their success began. Their popularity continued to grow from there, and now, of course, they’re the most well-known K-Pop group in the world! Not bad for a group of seven talented guys from a small, almost-broke company.
Again, it may be hard to believe this now, but GFRIEND was also on the verge of disbandment at one point. They weren’t completely ignored when they debuted, but they also didn’t take off either. At one point, they actually had such little funding that the CEO of their company had to sell their house in order to get by.
In a sort of strange turn of events, it was actually an unfortunate performance that first got them more attention from the public. During a performance of “Me Gustas Tu”, the stage they were performing on was extremely wet and slippery from rain, and several of the members ended up falling multiple times during the performance.
However, their determination and dedication to continue the performance brought them new fans as the video went viral. The following year, they won their first music show award for “Rough”, and ended up winning 14 total awards for the song! Now, of course, they’re doing very well for themselves.
Though ATEEZ still isn’t a huge group yet, they have become very successful in the two years that they’ve been active since debut. However, their future success wasn’t obvious at first.
They debuted under KQ Entertainment, who was relatively unknown at that time. It’s often difficult for an artist from a small and unknown company to become really successful, so ATEEZ had an uphill climb from the beginning. Their first album that was released also didn’t make many sales, which was likely very disheartening.
Their popularity slowly grew, however, especially from international fans, and they made their first win in less than a year with “Wave”. They’ve been highly praised for the performance skills, and their most recent comeback album, ZERO: FEVER Pt.1, has made around 400k sales! Fans expect their success to continue to grow in the future.
At the time that (G)I-DLE debuted under Cube Entertainment, the company was short on money from promoting CLC and PENTAGON, and thus their debut, “LATATA”, was relatively low-budget. It was a bit of a risk, and their debut album made very few sales in the first week.
However, once the group started promoting “LATATA” on music shows, they gained attention quickly. Thanks to their great performance abilities as well as the popularity that Soyeon had received as a trainee, they quickly became one of the leading groups of the 4th generation of K-Pop.
They were able to find a pretty solid niche for themselves, and became even more greatly recognized after their epic performance on Queendom!
Similar to (G)I-DLE, SEVENTEEN’s company, Pledis Entertainment, was low on funding and actually nearly bankrupt when they debuted. The members were therefore unable to have a lot of training before they debuted, which actually ended up working well for them in the long run since they are now known for being so heavily self-produced and self-managed.
Despite the things working against them, their debut, while delayed for a while, was pretty well-received. “Adore U” was unique enough at the time that it came out that it stood out among the other boy group songs they were promoting against.
Unlike some groups, SEVENTEEN was one that became more popular gradually over time, though they have had some immediately more popular hits such as “Very Nice” and “Don’t Wanna Cry”. They’re now renowned for being one of the most (if not the most) synchronized group in the industry, and their status as a self-producing team is definitely very highly praised!
6. Girls’ Generation
Believe it or not, the “nation’s girl group” of the second generation of K-Pop did not start out as such. In fact, they got a lot of hate from the public even before they debuted. There are a lot of rumors as to why this is, though there doesn’t seem to be any real solid conclusion as to why.
Only a year after they debuted, Girls’ Generation took part in a multi-group concert called the Dream Concert in 2008, and they were treated terribly by fans. This was when the infamous “black ocean” happened — when before, the stadium had been full of light from the fans’ light sticks for other performances, most of the stadium went black as fans turned them off as a way to show their dislike for Girls’ Generation.
Fortunately, despite this disheartening incident, the following year was when the girl group came out with “Gee”, which exploded in popularity among K-Pop fans. Where before, they’d been scorned, now they rose to the top of the second generation of K-Pop to become one of the most successful girl groups of all time!