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Down with SMTown? Get to know the K-Pop stars ahead of Dubai gig

This is the first time the city has been added to the massive SMTown Live world tour series


After taking off with its first tour in Asia in 2008, SMTown Live, a global performance brand managed by South Korean entertainment agency SM Entertainment, has been held in cities including Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Bangkok, Paris and Seoul.

This is the first time Dubai has been added to the massive K-Pop world tour series.

The SMTown Live World Tour VI in Dubai will include four hours of performances by BoA, TRAX, EXO, Red Velvet, Girls’ Generation, Kangta, Super Junior, SHINee, NCT U, NCT Dream, TVXQ!, f(x) and Henry, as well as musical collaborations and an exclusive EDM section.

Not sure what the fuss is all about? Gulf News tabloid! brings you the A to Z guide on the K-Pop stars that will take over the city.


Kangta — real name Ahn Chil-hyun — is a singer-songwriter, music producer, radio DJ and actor. He was a former member and lead singer of SM Entertainment’s first boy group H.O.T, aka High-five of Teenagers, which was one of the most popular K-pop groups during the late 1990s in South Korea and across Asia.

After the group’s disbandment in 2001, Kangta, who was only 13 years old when first discovered by his agency, pursued a solo career under SM Entertainment.

He has established himself as a singer-songwriter, having released hit songs such as Evergreens, Polaris and North Star.

He has also collaborated with Shin Hye Sung from K-Pop boy group Shinhwa and singer and actor Lee Ji Hoon to form project group ‘S’, short for Supreme, and formed a pop duo Kantga & Vanness with Taiwanese singer Vanness Wu from Taiwanese boy band F4.

In 2014, the legendary Korean singer and labelmate BoA were both appointed creative directors of SM Entertainment. Apart from acting, singing, producing and composing, Kangta is currently a DJ for MBC FM’s radio programme, Kangta’s Starry Night.



Since breaking into the music scene in 2008, SHINee has become one the biggest boy bands in South Korea.

The ‘Princes of K-Pop’ are known to be one of the best live vocal performers in the K-pop industry in addition to their complex, immaculate dance moves, which has led the quintet to win the Best Dance Performance awards in the male group category at the Mnet Asian Music Awards on three separate occasions.

Onew, Jonghyun, Key, Taemin, and Minho also started a youth fashion craze, referred as the SHINee trend, and regularly topped the charts and maintained strong record sales in their native country.

Although debuting with an R’n’B sound, SHINee has experimented with new sounds and various genres, having released hits such as Ring Ding Dong, Dream Girl and Lucifer.

Additionally, the boys-to-men quintet have a huge following in Japan, leading them to release a string of high-quality Japanese discographies.

Last December, the members lost 27-year-old vocalist Jonghyun, who took his own life after suffering from depression.



Exo were first introduced to the public as a 12-member South Korean-Chinese boy group with a cosmic backstory — each gifted with supernatural powers — and were divided into two six-member subgroups, Exo-K and Exo-M, focused on singing and performing the same songs to a Korean and Chinese market, respectively.

Since their breakthrough hit song Growl from their XOXO album in 2013, Exo gained popularity and garnered zealous fans, known as Exo-L or Exo-Love, who helped the group grab more than 100 Korean music programme awards, top music charts and sell more than one million physical copies with each album.

Three Chinese members have departed from the group, but this hasn’t stopped the superstars from continuing to reign.

The quadruple million sellers are one of the best-selling Korean artists in Asia and won a number of daesangs or grand prizes at music awards throughout their career. They also made history by becoming the first K-pop artists to have a K-pop song featured in The Dubai Fountain show’s star-studded playlist.

When not promoting as a group, the nine members are hardly inactive. They’ve participated in a number of side projects, from starring in musicals, movies and television shows and dramas to forming Exo-CBX, a sub-unit featuring Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin, and other creative pursuits.


Super Junior

K-pop boy band Super Junior, which debuted in 2005 as a 13-member group, is an established name back in South Korea and in the Asian pop music scene. They gained immense popularity and a huge fanbase, who are collectively known as ELF — an acronym for EverLasting Friends.

With their vocal harmonisation and entertaining stage performances, Super Junior managed to become heartthrobs across Asia and one of the South Korea’s most popular pop boy act.

It was their successful hit single Sorry, Sorry in 2009 that catapulted them into K-Pop stardom and international recognition.

In addition to their group and solo activities, the entertainers have divided into subunits, including Super Junior-T, Super Junior-K.R.Y., Super Junior-D&E, Super Junior-H and Super Junior-M — to target different parts of Asia with different musical genres.

While Kangin and Sungmin are on personal hiatus due to some negative public opinion, Han Geng and Kim Kibum left the group and Ryeowook and Kyuhyun are serving their mandatory military duties. The seven active Super Junior members are set to release Replay, a repackaged version of their eighth album, Play, on April 12.



Canadian-born singer-songwriter Henry made his first appearance as a member of Super Junior’s Mandarin-language subgroup Super Junior-M. It went on to become immensely successful in China and Super Junior’s most successful side project.

Aside from being in a South Korean-Chinese boy band, Henry, who is of Taiwanese and Hong Kong descent, made his debut with his first solo EP Trap in 2013 and second EP Fantastic in 2014.

Apart from releasing multiple singles, Henry recently released Korean, English and Chinese versions of his newest single Monster in February.

While not promoting his solo work, he has his own music production team called NoizeBank and has collaborated with and written and produced songs for artists, including Super Junior and Super Junior-M, Se7en and Exo.

He has also tried his hand in acting, having appeared in South Korean-Thai drama film, Final Recipe, as well as South Korean TV dramas.



Best described as “United’ team, NCT U is the first sub-unit of 18-member boy group NCT — an abbreviation for Neo Culture Technology. NCT is a globalised band that consists of different, limitless number of members divided into multiple units, tasked with creating a timeless group that appeals to diverse audiences in different demographics and locations.

In NCT U, any of the performers from NCT’s subunits can be added and given a song depending on who is the best fit.

The group’s primary unit, NCT U, stepped in to the spotlight with the release of digital singles The 7th Sense and Without You, in both Korean and Chinese in April 2016.

Additionally, they recently released an intense urban hip-hop track, Boss, and the group’s first duet Baby Don’t Stop, which are both included in NCT’s full-length album, NCT 2018 Empathy, along with other singles.


NCT Dream

After Seoul-based group NCT 127, NCT Dream is the third subgroup of the interchangeable, conceptual group. NCT dream is a youth-focused group, made up of teenagers with their own distinct style.

NCT Dream has the youngest members, currently consisting of Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Haechan, Jaemin, Chenle and Jisung.

The young group showcased their bubbly boyish side in August 2016 with their digital debut single Chewing Gum and released their first single album The First a year later.

Along with releasing singles and their first mini-album We Young, the group shifted from their adorable, youthful charm to a more manly, defiant attitude with their comeback track Go also featured in the NCT 2018 Empathy album.



Dubbed as Kings of K-Pop, TVXQ! is one of the few acts to remain in the ever-changing K-pop industry from the beginning of their career without breaking up. They’ve lead the way for K-pop to thrive and break into the Japanese music market and they became Asia’s most popular music act in the 2000s.

Originally a five-member boy band, TVXQ! consists of U-Know Yunho and Max Changmin.

TVXQ!’s Korean fan club Cassiopeia helped them become one of the most popular Korean male idols in the 2000s. Their fourth Korean album Mirotic was their best-selling album in 2008, selling more than 500,000 copies. Their Japanese fans, aka BigEast, has helped TVXQ!’s presence remain undiminished in the Japanese music market, especially on the Oricon chart.

Last November, the duo, known as Tohoshinki in Japan, rewrote Japanese Oricon music chart history by becoming the first foreign artist group to have six Japanese albums top the weekly music chart.

The duo released their eighth-full album, New Chapter #1: The Chance, on March 28. This is their first album since being discharged from completing their military service.



In 2004, South Korean rock band Trax debuted as a four-member group. Their band name is short for Typhoon of the Rose Attack on Xmas, which stands for each member’s stage name, and also refers to recording tracks.

When two members departed the group, leader and main vocalist Jay and guitarist Jungmo continued as a duo and changed their band name to Trax.

They debuted with Korean single Paradox in 2004 and have since released three mini albums — Cold-Hearted Man (2010), Oh! My Goddess (2010) and Blind (2011) — a full length album First Rain and several Korean and Japanese singles.

This February, the duo collaborated with LIP2SHOT and Sophiya on their first EDM single Notorious as a part of their label’s music project SM Station.

On March 26, their music label SM Entertainment announced that the group will shed their rock image and switch to an electronic dance music (EDM) group, with an additional member, DJ/Producer Ginjo, joining the band. The three-member group, will officially be known as TraxX and will release new music in April.


Meet the girl bands that shook up K-Pop

The SMTown world isn’t a playground just for the boys. From the child prodigy that’s BoA to the powerhouse that’s Red Velvet — who even had the leader of North Korea clapping to their tunes earlier this week in a historic series of concerts in Pyongyang — check out the ladies of K-Pop who will perform in Dubai.



Coming from diverse backgrounds, f(x) formed as a K-Pop girl group consisting of five multinational members: Amber, Krystal, Luna, Sulli and Victoria. Their group name originates from the mathematical notation for a function, with ‘f’ referring to flower, while ‘x’ indicates the XX chromosomes of women.

Since their debut, the K-Pop girl has released two EPs and four full-length albums: Pinocchio (2011), Pink Tape (2013), Red Light (2014) and 4 Walls (2015).

Although Sulli left the group to pursue acting in 2015, the remaining members returned to the music scene with their fourth studio album, 4 Walls, and their fans, who call themselves MeU, still continued to support the quartet during their group activities.

While the four-piece group hasn’t made another comeback with a new album during the last three years, the members focused on their solo ventures in acting, singing and other activities.


Red Velvet

Red Velvet, an all-female girl group, is composed of five members, all of who use a mononym: Joy, Seulgi, Irene, Yeri and Wendy. Their official fandom name is ReVeluv, short for Red Velvet + Love.

Unlike most K-pop girl groups, Red Velvet has a gained a loyal young female following and has embraced a dual concept, Red and Velvet. The Red part denotes a bold and bubblier, pop-oriented side to them — seen in songs like Ice Cream Cake and Red Flavor — while the Velvet side signifies their mature, R’n’B persona.

Their first and second full-length album The Red and Perfect Velvet as well as Rookie EP and Red Summer EP, topped Billboard’s World Album charts, making Red Velvet the first female K-pop act to have the most No 1 albums on the chart.

Upon the release of their repackaged album, The Perfect Red Velvet, in January, it placed at No 3 at the Billboard’s World Album chart and topped the Gaon Album chart in South Korea.



BoA is among one of the top artists in the Asian music scene and is regarded as a pioneer in setting off K-Pop across Asia. Two years after being recruited by SM Entertainment talent agents after accompanying her brother to his audition, she made her debut at the age of 13 with her first album ID: Peace B in 2000.

The soloist rose to prominence in South Korea and, in particular, Japan, in the 2000s. Her debut Japanese album, Listen to My Heart, was the first album by a Korean artist to chart the Oricon chart. BoA also made history in Japan by becoming the only non-Japanese artist to have two million-selling albums.

In her nearly two-decade long career, the Queen of K-Pop has sold a dozen full-length Korean and Japanese albums as well as recorded songs in Mandarin Chinese. Additionally, her English-language album, BoA, is the first Korean album to rank on Billboard 200 chart upon its release in 2009.

She not only participated in a variety of entertainment fields in Korea but also starred in her first Hollywood movie as the lead actress in Make Your Move, alongside Derek Hough.


Girls’ Generation

Girls’ Generation, also referred as SNSD, is considered one of the best-selling K-Pop girl groups in their homeland and beyond Korea.

Two years after stepping into the spotlight, the nine-member group rose to prominence with their girl-next-door charm and best-selling sugary, infectious bubblegum song Gee, which was arguably the most popular Korean pop song in 2009.

With their effervescent tunes and signature bubblegum pop music, they continued to win numerous accolades and race up their country’s charts with mega hits such as Genie, Hoot, Run Devil Run, and many more.

Adding to their list of achievements, the pop sensations were listed in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition for winning 13 awards at the Melon Music Awards and were the first K-pop act to perform their English version of The Boys on US network television.

Apart from sweeping the Korean music charts and former member Jessica leaving the group in 2014, the record-breaking act also garnered similar success in Japan.

Shortly after releasing their sixth album, Holiday Night, which is the group’s third No 1 on Billboard’s World Album Chart, it was reported that Sooyoung, Tiffany and Seohyun left their agency in order to pursue solo activities.


Check it out!

SMTown Live will perform at the Autism Rocks Arena from 6pm on April 6. Tickets start at Dh375.