History of K-Pop: VIXX
Say the name VIXX and a few things come to mind: maybe the first thing is their reputation as “concept kings,” or perhaps the lasting legacy of their extremely respectful fandom, Starlights. But no matter what it is, VIXX certainly is a group that has left a lasting impression on the otherwise stagnant K-Pop world, and it’s easy to argue that their impact was anything but miniscule.
Formed by Jellyfish Entertainment in 2012, the acronym VIXX stands for “voice, visual, value in excelsis.” VIXX was created via their reality show myDOL, long before this method of producing groups became the norm. It can be argued that the group was ahead of their time in all aspects, from its formation to the extremely well crafted comebacks designed to tell a story. Before debuting, N, Leo, Hongbin, and Ravi were featured in music videos for fellow labelmates Brian Joo and Seo Inguk.
Their debut single “Super Hero” was released on May 24, 2012. As far as VIXX releases go in the entire scope of their discography, “Super Hero” definitely doesn’t fit into their image. The track itself is heavily EDM-influenced and bright. In fact, the main impact made by “Super Hero” is probably Hongbin’s horrible hair. While it’s not a bad song, it’s definitely considered generic, and stands as the group’s lowest charting release. Still, it’s fun to go back and see where the group began.
They faced a fair amount of obscurity at the beginning of their career with “Rock Ur Body” and “On and On,” two tracks that to this day have less than three million views on YouTube. Their darker roots didn’t begin to take shape until “On and On,” which showed the group in a complete 180 from previous releases. Although the musicality of the songs didn’t change much, seeing as they focused more on EDM than anything else, the visual concepts were much more intense. This proved to be a boon for the group when the single managed to chart highest at number four. “On and On” began the group’s experimentation with storytelling and unconventional choreography.
VIXX upped the ante with the release of “Hyde,” their darkest and most intense concept yet. The darker concept proved yet again beneficial to the group, with their first full album Hyde peaking at number three on the Korean charts. What is most interesting about this fact is that while the visual concepts for their releases shifted, the main musical elements of each song remained heavily focused on upbeat EDM. At this point, the visual and musical concepts were at polar opposites on the spectrum, and it was clear that the visuals and storytelling were what was getting the group their attention.
Their real skyrocket to fame came with the late 2013 release of Voodoo Doll and the accompanying title track of the same name. “Voodoo Doll” came with the release of two music videos, one rated 19+ for gore and a clean version for those who weren’t able to handle the true intensity of the concept on it’s own. There’s no question that “Voodoo Doll” was their claim to fame, with the album peaking at the top spot on Korean charts upon its release. “Voodoo Doll” left a lasting impression on viewers for its raw, powerful subject matter, something K-Pop as a whole had not seen before. The gamble into extreme intensity for a storyline proved to be a smart move for the group, skyrocketing them into public recognition. The release brought the group their first music show win on Music Bank.
** Warning: this video is incredibly graphic. We caution anyone with an aversion to bodily harm.
With “Voodoo Doll” spearheading the group into mass recognition, they pushed forward in 2014 with the release of single album Eternity and more well known Error. Diving into yet another fierce concept with a heavy storyline, “Error” maintained VIXX’s position at the top of the charts, even granting the group a break into the U.S. market in the early days. All things considered, the base of VIXX’s musical influence didn’t shift much in the two years since their debut, though “Error” managed to signal a return to their heavy EDM roots that were not as present with the release of “Voodoo Doll.” Hongbin’s acting skills also came to the forefront with the release of this music video, showcasing a heavily emotional story from start to finish.
Amidst the darkness, the group also released lighter tracks like “Love Equation” and “G.R.8.
U,” showcasing their ability to be more than just a one trick pony. “Love Equation” accomplished the coveted all-kill on music shows, bringing the group their first triple crown on The Show in 2014. 2014 also proved to be significant in VIXX’s expansion worldwide, with releases in Mandarin Chinese to promote the group both in mainland China and Taiwan. That same year, VIXX’s tour also expanded to Japan, the Philippines, and Singapore.
The group’s first subunit, VIXX LR, came into play in mid-2015. The duo, consisting of Ravi and Leo, helped catapult the group onto the Billboard Social 50 with their release. VIXX’s second studio album Chained Up came in the dwindling days of 2015, helping to keep the group at the top of the game both on the charts and within the sphere of K-Pop in general. “Chained Up” had a more gritty sound that differentiated itself from previous releases, helping the group climb to the number three spot on the US World Chart. VIXX was certainly one of the groups to ever make a major impact on the Western market; almost unintentionally, “Chained Up” received international recognition.
The storytelling took a whole new turn in 2016, with Jellyfish Entertainment releasing the “Concept Art Film” signaling a year-long project for VIXX, which intended to show a wide musical and conceptual spectrum themed around the gods that appear in Greek mythology. The first installment of this project was Zelos, a single album led by title track “Dynamite.” This release was particularly intriguing, seeing as it was a blend of VIXX’s many concepts, though it continued to showcase the group’s versatility. Despite being a far cry from what landed them in the public eye, Zelos maintained a place at the top of the Korean charts.
Following the somewhat surprising “Dynamite” came Hades, with a much more fitting “Fantasy” as the title track that solidified their position as concept kings in the industry. With continued commercial success, the final part of the project was released: single album Kratos with title track “The Closer,” a fitting mesh of the first two releases.
Continuing to expand their repertoire in terms of concepts, the boys returned in mid-2017 with Shangri-La, a heavily culturally influenced track that gained attention worldwide for its focus on traditional Korean practices. Renowned choreographer Keone Madrid was credited with creating the infamous fan dance that came along with this comeback, sparking even more interest in the release. Though by now four years separated them from their major breakthrough, VIXX continued to garner a significant amount of attention with this release.
Fans of Korean releases would have to wait until 2018 to hear from the group again, this time with a full album release in Eau De Vixx. The lead single and the latest release from the full group, “Scentist” highlighted yet another surprising dimension to the group.
Since “Scentist,” leader N has enlisted into the military. With initial contracts nearing their end last May, all members (save N still serving) but Ravi resigned, with the rapper instead venturing off to start his own agency despite his intention to return for group promotions. Following the departure of their leader, the remaining members have focused on different solo pursuits. Leo and Ken have a prominent place in the theater industry, while Ravi has released multiple mixtapes and is working on building his own label. Additionally, Hongbin has taken on multiple drama roles since N’s enlistment.
Military enlistment lingers for the remaining members of the group, likely squashing all hopes for a full group comeback in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, Leo and Ravi have both released solo projects, maintaining the group’s name at the forefront of the industry before military service calls. The next few years will prove crucial to the group, which has remained stable since their debut in 2012, contrasting with many now-disbanded groups of the same era.
VIXX’s start began at a time when K-Pop had maintained somewhat of a generic formula for success, but the boys managed to prove that they were able to work outside of that formula to achieve success. These days, it’s impossible to take a deep dive into the progression of K-Pop without mentioning VIXX. There’s hope for Starlights going forward that the group will reunite as a full unit to uphold their label as “concept kings” for years to come.