K-pop is a fast-paced industry. Songs have a short period of time to become a hit and f they don't make impact, artists usually move on swiftly to the next promotion.
But there's a popular K-pop underdog story and it's the sleeper hit. That is, songs that have a sudden reversal on the charts, going from the bottom to the very top. Sometimes it's a gradual climb, other times it's a sudden spike. These chart reversals have saved the careers of groups on the verge of breaking up, reignited fandoms for forgotten groups and brought attention to rookies.
Here's just some recent songs that have become sleeper hits, and some of the ways it happened.
EXID: "Up & Down"
When "Up & Down" was released, EXID were on the verge of breaking up. The song came and went without leaving much of an impression, that is until some four months later when a fancam was uploaded of Hani performing the song's choreography.
The video started to gain attention in Korea and within a week, the song reappeared on music charts and entered the top 10 of daily charts. EXID ended up returning to music shows to promote the song again thanks to the renewed interest and won six times - it was the first time a song won five months after release.
PENTAGON had been incredibly busy since debut, and "Shine" came off of their sixth Korean EP Positive. The song originally placed in the 500s of the Melon daily chart and seemed likely to fade away, but thanks to its catchy refrain it gained popularity with K-pop fans as well as idols, who began copying the dance and sharing it online.
A month after its release, "Shine" finally entered Melon's top 100, charting at No.95 on the real-time chart. Not only did they end up with their highest ever charting song in Korea - it reached No.16 mid-May - "Shine" also became their first top 10 hit on Billboard's World Digital Song Sales chart.
"Rooftop" was released in January 2019 and was promoted by the group on music shows for the standard 3-4 weeks where it made little impact. But people who saw the shows commented on loving the song, and N.Flying's fans pushed for FNC Entertainment to put some YouTube ads up to get the song in front of more people. And it worked! The song spread through word-of-mouth, became a trending topic on Korean websites and rose to No.1 on Melon and Genie's daily charts, resulting in the group's first music show win!
TWICE: "Like Ooh Ahh"
They may be one of the biggest K-pop girl groups in the world right now, but TWICE's debut didn't hit the top of the charts right away. "Like Ooh Ahh" was released in October 2015, where it hit No.22 on Gaon's Digital Chart. Not bad at all of course, but it took three months for the song to reach its peak position at No.10. Since then, almost all of their singles have charted at No.1 on the Gaon charts.
Crayon Pop: "Bar Bar Bar"
The definition of a viral hit, Crayon Pop's "Bar Bar Bar" entered the carts at No.143 on its first week of release. Thanks to their colourful tracksuits and helmets, along with the signature jumping dance, the song's popularity spread. The repetitive lyrics and easy to learn dance moves helped the song become a viral sensation, and seven weeks after release, the song peaked at No.3 on Gaon.
"Bar Bar Bar" spent 31 consecutive weeks on the Korean charts, a surprise considering it had originally looked like the song wouldn't make it far. It also reached No.1 on Billboard's K-pop Hot 100.
AOA: "Excuse Me"
On release, AOA's "Excuse Me" was averaging somewhere in the 80s-90s on Melon's real-time chart. It was an underwhelming comeback considering they'd had quite a few big hits in their career at that point. However, the song ended up gradually rising up over a few weeks to eventually chart at No.22.
The rebound came thanks to their live performances drawing attention with their cute point dance. They also made an appearance on variety show Knowing Bros which gave the show its highest rankings ever at the time and also gave the girls more hype thanks to their fun personalities.
NU'EST's story is really incredible. The group were ready to break up in 2017, five years after having debuted. Their career was dwindling and their songs hadn't been charting well for some time. Everything changed when four members appeared on Produce 101: Season 2. Though only Minhyun made it into Wanna One, their participation in the show reignited interest in the group and their previous songs.
Most amazingly, their 2013 release "Hello" suddenly reappeared in the charts in June 2017, taking the No.1 spot on Genie's real-time charts, No.2 on Bugs and No.3 on Melon. "Hello"'s sudden popularity four years after release resulted in the song even being nominated for first place on music show Inkigayo.
Although it didn't win, the group would later have their first win since debut with "Where You At?" released as NU'EST W.
What's your fave sleeper hit story?
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