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While the industry was arguably dominated by retro-styled concepts recently, pulling inspiration from the disco glitz of the ‘80s and infusing K-Pop with electric synth, there is a new trend budding among releases that we can’t get enough of!

Falling in line with the rise of ‘Y2K’ fashion, which celebrates the trendy (and nostalgic!) clothing of the late ‘90s to the mid 2000s, K-Pop is immersing itself in the world of ‘high-teen’ concepts. The Korean-English word combines ‘high school’ and ‘teen’. While the high-teen concept was most closely related to Y2K fashion, the trend has evolved into a broader celebration of all things Millennial to Gen Z.

This highlight on youth culture now finds its home in K-Pop, reviving a fondness for the past. The result is a tender reacquaintance with beloved pop culture references, lyrics of romantic yearning, and a whole lot of color, glitter, and school uniforms.

Although this is not the very first time the industry has dabbled in high-teen concepts, the trend is rising with vengeance within the past couple of years. Take a stroll through memory lane with these iconic high-teen, K-Pop releases!

D.O Is The Main Romance Lead In “Rose”

EXO’s D.O unveiled his solo mini-album, Empathy, with the romantic song “Rose” as its title track. Before the official release, D.O teased the high-teen inspiration of the project through its concept images. Donning a jacket, white button-up, and tie, the artist resembled a student while also portraying the handsome boy-next-door appeal.

SM Entertainment

Meanwhile, the track itself delivers the high-teen concept as D.O wistfully contemplates how to gather the courage to confess his love to someone, paralleling the conflicts of classic teen rom-coms and dramas.

The acoustic folk sound of the song, paired with the music video’s warm palette and scenes of D.O peacefully riding his bike, brought viewers to the simple times of falling in love.


SM Entertainment

Meet LIGHTSUM: The New Girls On The Block

Cube Entertainment’s newest girl group, LIGHTSUM, gained incredible anticipation for their debut after revealing that their concept landed in the popular high-teen genre. As all the members are Millennials or part of Generation Z themselves, the group will release music with a youth-centric focus.

Cube Entertainment

The group certainly delivered with their first title song, “Vanilla”, a sugary pop-dance anthem that radiates teen spirit. The enchanting lyrics discuss the first moments of a blooming romance and the resulting feelings which can resemble a “sugar-high”. The members match the cheerful track with their own energetic charisma, showcasing strong performance skills.

As a group whose very conception is founded on the high-teen genre, we can’t wait to see what other releases the rookie group has in store for fans!


Cube Entertainment

Will You Take THE BOYZ To Prom?

Though “Christmassy!” was not an official comeback, THE BOYZ delivered the song and music video as a heart-warming Christmas present for their fans. THE BOYZ added their own holiday twist on the high-teen trend during the project.

During the video, THE BOYZ return to high school and transform into school heartthrobs, effectively breaking the Internet after the release (football jock Juyeon, in particular). Additionally, the members set hearts aflame with a series of “Christmassy” proposals mimicking traditional promposals.

Cre.ker Entertainment

As the video progresses, the members throw their own prom-styled party. The event reeks of nostalgia as the group wears velvet suits and pose for a photoshoot in front of a holiday backdrop. While the track was a sweet Christmas gift to fans, it was also a unique take on the high-teen concept that made fans the main leads of their own high school flick.


1theK | Cre.ker Entertainment

“Run Away” With TXT

Since their debut track “Crown” to their recent song “’0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” and everything in between, TXT have been on top of the game in terms of the high-teen trend. However, we still have a soft spot for “9 and Three Quarters (Run Away)”, which combines elements of the emerging concept with magic.

HYBE

The song itself is a more contemplative reflection on youth than typical brighter tracks within the high-teen sphere. Instead, the group serves an angst-ridden message about wanting to escape the burdens of life and run away with friends. However, its music video is anything but dreary.

The video is threaded together with subtle references to the famous ‘90’s and 2000’s series, Harry Potter, but takes fans on a new magical journey. Beginning in a typical school, TXT soon discover the enchantment of the building together. Featuring scenes reading in the library, evening swims in the pool, and a sudden discovery of a portal to an otherworldly forest, TXT turns the normal into the fantastical.

This makes for one of the more peculiar and memorable projects of K-Pop high-teen releases.


HYBE

All Hail The Queen Bee, Somi

Somi radiates ‘queen bee’ status in her recent music video for her comeback title, “Dumb Dumb”. With new platinum locks and wearing a variety of plaid sets during the video, the soloist reminds us of Cher from the legendary ‘90’s movie, Clueless. Similar to most older romantic comedies, during the music video for “Dumb Dumb”, Somi embarks on a girl-chases-boy journey.

The Black Label

Her attempts to impress her love interest include practicing expressions in the mirror before school and a flirtatious exchange in the cafeteria. However, the artist adds her own twist on the classic trope, abandoning her efforts to impress him.

By the end of the video, Somi grows tired of keeping up a facade. Instead, she catches her crush’s attention by simply being herself. Both the song and the music video are a wonderful addition to K-Pop’s high-teen craze by blending a love story and aspects of a coming-of-age journey all in one release.