Posted by : Qiyu Hu July 18, 2013

Welcome to the new series known as K-Pop For Dummies, equipped with everything you'll need to know (or not) about the fandom, especially if you are just getting into this fenomenal genre of music.

For starters, today we'll be discussing the different roles in groups. Sure, you've probably watched a couple of music videos and you're starting noticing some members sing more while others have what seems like no lines at all, some appear for dance breaks and are generally in the middle in dance while others are in the back when it comes to dance... or those members, you know, which have awkward screen time and do nothing other than acting cute... this is all determined by the different roles in a generic K-Pop group.

In most groups, there's always a main and lead singer, main and lead dancer, a rapper, visuals and face, leader and the notorious maknae. Right now, all this information taken in may sound a bit confusing and you might be wondering what are the differences between main and lead, face and visual... but after this lesson, you'll understand it perfectly. Now, let's break that down in simpler terms.

Main vocalist is basically the real deal, taking adlibs, choruses and generally harder parts in songs. Lead vocalist, however, takes a secondary role after the main vocalist, usually backing the main up, singing harmonies, handling verses or singing the lines when the main vocalist is busy screaming his or her head off for high notes. This is decided by the vocal prowess of the idols themselves, in terms of range, control and other musical aspects needed in a vocalist. 

The same goes for the dancers, with the main dancer usually dancing in the front, taking dance breaks, free styling and showcasing short parts of the dance when requested while the lead dancer usually supports the main dancer. Likewise, 
the rappers also follow this distinction of lead or main and has the main rapper rap the most and take most of the raps while the lead backs them up or take the smaller raps.

The other most easily confused roles are the visuals and the face. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably but can also be distinguished. The visual, is usually the better looking members of a group. There can be several visuals, but for the face, there will only be one. The face is almost like the representative of the group and is often the most popular member. For example, Yoona is the face of Girls' Generation, but other members like Taeyeon and Tiffany can be visuals. 

Lastly, positions like the maknae and leader is pretty easy to understand. The maknae is the youngest in the group and the leader, as the name suggests, leads the entire group. However, there are times when there can be visual maknaes, who are basically the member who look like the youngest but is really not. A good example is Ricky from Teen Top, who looks younger than Changjo who is the real maknae.

If you are still confused, we can take any group from K-Pop and break it down in this way. Let's say EXO-K. Suho is the leader (leads the group) and the lead vocalist (backs up the main), Baekhyun and D.O are the main vocalists (takes most of the hard singing parts). Kai is the main dancer (is in the middle most of the time while dancing) and lead rapper (backs up lead) and face (main representative of the group) and Chanyeol is the main rapper (takes most of the raps) and visual (good-looking). Last but not the least it's Sehun who is the maknae (youngest), lead dancer (backs up the main) and also the visual (good-looking).

Now you can read a group’s profile off Google without being boggled by the many roles in a group and find yourself a bias in the group.

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{ 5 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. All of these make sense to me except for "maknae". Probably because I think the whole Confucian social hierarchy thing is bullshit.

  2. The whole 'maknae' is based off the Confucian hierarchy system? Are you sure about that because the Confucian beliefs are much different than the maknae role, tbqh...

    And I never really got the maknae role, either. I mean, sure, the person is the youngest but... what? They deserve glorification and praise for the birth year?

  3. I assume that's where it stems from. There's a lot more to Confucianism than that, but the age-based social hierarchy seems to be a big part of it.

    Like I said - it doesn't make sense to me. I think respect should be earned - not automatically assigned based on your birth year.

  4. Ah, now I understand!

    Precisely, rather than having it based on birth year it should rather be how well you handle things and lead.


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