Music is all about experimentation and finding a sound. While some groups keep to a style or experiment as a whole group, others turn to subunits or solo releases. Subunits are known for being a way to promote a group while also capitalizing on the skills of certain members. They have their own music style and concept that sets them apart, and are still connected to their group. While some bands have relied heavily on subunit concepts, such as NCT and LOONA, others dabble in it to change things up. For both types, it works and the content is spectacular.
Here are a few recent and classic K-pop subunits you should know!
- Block B – BASTARZ
BASTARZ is a part of Block B and consists of members B-Bomb, U-Kwon, and P.O. They debuted in April 2015 with a mini-album and the title track “Zero For Conduct,” and have since released two mini-albums and a Japanese single. Their music doesn’t stray too far from Block B’s sound, but has been a way to showcase the three members on their own and is also a place for them to work on their own music production. Their last release was in May 2019 with the mini-album I’m a Mess. B-Bomb is the first of the three currently serving his military enlistment duties, which means we won’t be getting a comeback for a while, but there’s still plenty of content to enjoy for now.
- SEVENTEEN – BSS
BSS, or BooSeokSoon, is a fun trio that turned from jokes to subunit. Members (BOO) Seungkwan, DK (Lee SEOKmin), and Hoshi (Kwon SOONyoung) from boy group SEVENTEEN surprised their fans with this unit for a single that would remain iconic. While the group itself is made up of units, BSS kept themselves separate from their other members, even joking that they were their label seniors. “Just do it” is their only release and they promoted the single for a week, but their fans remain loyal and optimistic as they sing the song as a full group on their world tour, Ode to You.
- Girls’ Generation – Oh!GG
Oh!GG is Girls’ Generation’s second subunit and consists of members Taeyeon, Sunny, Hyoyeon, Yuri, and Yoona. In September 2018, they released a digital single album with the title track “Lil’ Touch.” This subunit helped fans through the start of the group’s hiatus as something more than solo releases but less than a complete unit comeback. The two songs from this album are only different than previous tracks in maturity and that they follow a different musical trend. Each member is currently pursuing their own solo ventures, but a comeback isn’t out of the picture.
- GOT7 – JJ Project
Members JB and Jinyoung first released a single together as JJ Project two years before GOT7 debuted. Their single “Bounce” was known amongst the fans, who remained hopeful for the duo to release something together again. In 2017, their wish came true as JJ Project came back with a mini album titled Verse 2. All of the songs are different than GOT7’s releases as their tracks are more relaxed and mature, and each was written by one or both members. A comeback isn’t a definite no, but make sure to check out GOT7’s other subunit, Jus2, while you wait.
- LOONA – LOOΠΔ/yyxy
LOONA made a name for themselves pre-debut through their series of subunit releases. yyxy is the third of the subunits and consists of members Yves, Chuu, Go Won, and Olivia Hye. They follow their own concept which is part of the “LOONAverse.” Title track “love4eva” was released in May 2018 along with a mini album, and is loved by both fans and casual listeners for its fun, cute sound and the feature of Canadian musician Grimes. While these subunits were created for introduction purposes, they were all popular and a comeback might be possible. If you enjoyed this song, make sure to support LOONA’s recent comeback from February of this year!
- After School – Orange Caramel
Orange Caramel is well known for their fun and odd concepts that set them apart from their group After School’s mature vibe. This trio consists of members Raina, Nana, and Lizzy who debuted this subunit in 2010. Since then, they’ve released two mini albums, two full albums, and many singles. Their last performance together to date was on April 15, 2016. While their future as a group and subunit is uncertain as members leave their company, they’re open to making more music in the future.
- Super Junior – Super Junior-D&E
Made up of Super Junior members Eunhyuk and Donghae, Super Junior-D&E doesn’t stray very far from their home group. They have their fun songs while also showing off their vocal and dancing abilities in others. Since their debut in 2011, they have released three mini albums in Korean along with many singles and Japanese works. Both members completed their military service between October 2015 and July 2017. The pair’s most recent comeback was in April 2019, and they are very active both in their main group and their subunit.
- VIXX – VIXX LR
VIXX and VIXX LR both have intense concepts with VIXX LR being the lighter of the two. Members Leo and Ravi use this subunit to showcase their strong vocal and rapping abilities. The name of the unit comes from the first letters of their name and also “left” and “right,” which represents their contrasting presences. They debuted in 2015 with “Beautiful Liar,” breaking music show records and scoring them a Song of the Year nomination. Their only comeback was in August 2017. Ravi is currently very active with his solo career and is no longer with the group’s company, but remains a member of the VIXX. While there hasn’t been a comeback in three years, there is always a possibility of a release.
There are many subunits that come from both popular and smaller groups, and the projects that arise are all amazing. If you aren’t a fan of the music from a group, it’s always worth it to check out subunits because of their different sounds. You never know, you might like their songs!
Subunits give a spotlight to certain members who you might not have noticed as much, and are a great method of promotion and experimentation. They’ve proved as successful and fun, and we can’t wait to see what new member combinations will debut in the future
What are some of your favorite K-pop subunits?
Cover Image: kpopreviewed
Written by Chey Olexa