There’s nothing like having a mini K-pop group inside a bigger K-pop group.
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Recently, you may have seen the term “subunit” trend on social media or mentioned on your feeds. While the moment served as a lesson on the importance of writing for TV, it also got people curious as to what this K-pop term means. For the uninitiated, a sub-unit is basically a small K-pop group within a main group. Sub-units are formed by two or more members and release and promote their music as if they were their own group. Not every K-pop group is required to have a sub-unit, but the start of one does allow some members to flex their skills in new ways while showcasing new pairings and team-ups for fans to enjoy.
subunit 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/qowufkO7VA— saint 🧸 (@bop4minyo) February 12, 2023
Building a sub-unit can come in many forms, whether it be because they’re of the same nationality, are part of the same line, or just radiate strong chemistry worth exploring. Regardless of how a sub-unit is made, these mini-groups often drop fire tracks that deserve a spot on your K-pop playlist, as these following sub-units have shown. Some are still active, others are not, but they all share the fact that their music slaps.
Carats had to wait for years for BSS (BooSeokSoon) to really hit their stride, but the wait was so worth it. In 2018, SEVENTEEN’s Seungkwan, Hoshi, and DK came together as BSS and treated the world to their first digital single Just do it. Five years later, fans were given a proper comeback from the boys with the drop of the energetic SECOND WIND album and lead single Fighting. Their comeback gave us that much-needed energy to get through our days.
EXO-CBX AND EXO-SC
Not only does EXO release fire music all the time, but so do their two sub-units, too. EXO-CBX is composed of Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin, and serves as a very dangerous vocal group. From Hey Mama to Blooming Days, the trio devours any song given to them. EXO-SC, meanwhile, is the team-up of rap line Chanyeol and Sehun with their combined talent giving us bops like What a life and 1 Billion Views.
IRENE & SEULGI
The girls and the gays won when Red Velvet’s two oldest members decided to team up to release music. This sub-unit shook the K-pop world when they dropped Monster, the lead single off their first, and so far only, mini-album. Not only was the song one of the best K-pop tracks of 2020, but its queer-coded music video sent fans into a tailspin. Let’s hope 2023 will see a Red Velvet and Irene & Seulgi comeback.
GD X TAEYANG
BIG BANG wasn’t the only one responsible for giving us classic K-pop songs, so were their sub-units. While we will always have a soft spot for GD and T.O.P with ZUTTER, GD X TAEYANG was that duo. Even though they only have one song to their name, it’s fine if it’s a track like GOOD BOY. It’s an explosive EDM K-pop track with an equally frenetic and memorable performance at MAMA 2014.
Technically, all groups under the NCT label, from 127, WayV, and Dream, can be considered a sub-unit given the unique structure of the group. But we’ll be going with NCT U as that is the group with the most fluid member line-up. It’s not often NCT U makes a comeback, but when they do, you know it’s going to be a moment. The guessing game of which members SM decides to put together is in itself part of the fun of this sub-unit.
Even with just three members, Girls’ Generation’s first sub-unit delivered those top-tier tracks. Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun came together in 2012 to form Girls’ Generation-TTS and charmed the world with their debut album, Twinkle. That was then followed up with 2014’s Holler and their last comeback in 2015, Dear Santa. Considering how the whole group came back for a comeback in 2022, we’re hoping for a sub-unit comeback soon.
Whether you call them Bang Chan, Changbin, and Han or CB97, SPEARB, and J.ONE, 3RACHA is that fire hip-hop sub-unit to watch out for. Even before Stray Kids made their debut, 3RACHA was already out there making a name for themselves with their original songs and remixes. And their talents aren’t just limited to performing as the trio is the main writing and producing force behind many of SKZ’s tracks.
Even if you aren’t into K-pop, you probably have heard of this group and their internet-famous hit Catallena. But did you know that they’re actually a sub-unit? Orange Caramel is a sub-unit of the K-pop girl group After School composed of members Nana, Raina, and Lizzy. While the group may no longer be active, we’ll at least have this timeless classic.
The sub-unit that started it all. Even if they have yet to debut, they’re already trendsetters, which hopefully is a sign that TWICE’s first sub-unit is going to deliver. Composed of the group’s J-line, Mina, Sana, and Momo are coming together to drop their first six-track mini-album this July 26. TWICE’s new album in March and the J-line’s debut in July? ONCEs eating good this year.
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