KPOP

A Breakdown of Positions in KPOP Groups

Elly Zulaikha
November 6, 2020
5 minutes

Have you ever wondered why every KPOP group has roles assigned to them? Roles or positions in a group determine their singing line distribution, screen time, where each member appears in a group photo, and even who’s the “face” of their group. Still confused? Let us clear that for you!

There are many assigned roles/positions in KPOP groups. The basic order is usually leader, vocalist, dancer, maknae (we’ll explain this shortly), visuals and, the face of the group. Sometimes a group may not have official roles assigned to them and some groups interchange their positions from time to time, but it all comes down to their company’s decision. Let’s begin our breakdown, shall we?


Leader

Image via Youtube

Most KPOP groups have a leader (but not all) who is assigned either by the group’s company or chosen by the group's members. In general, the leader’s role is to take care of other members, act as representatives during stage/award shows, and are mostly the most mature/charismatic. The leader is usually, but not always, the eldest member or the one with the most training experience (how many years they train as a KPOP trainee).

*From left - Jihyo (TWICE), BLACPINK, Irene (RedVelvet)

Take, for example, Jihyo, the leader from TWICE, was a trainee with JYP for 10 years, but she was actually voted to be the leader by anonymous voting from her members. However, she’s not the eldest member of the group. On the other hand, Irene from Red Velvet is the leader of the group and also the oldest member. Whereas BLACKPINK is one example of a group that does not have an official leader. 


Vocalist


Image via koreaboo

Depending on the size of the group, there can be many vocalists who are split into mains, leads, and sub-vocalists. 


Main Vocalist - The main vocalist(s) are the ones who receive the majority of vocal lines per song. They are notably given the most challenging lines because of their steady vocal range. Plus, they usually support lead vocalists during the chorus and are more inclined to sing solo parts than sub vocalists. 

They’re also the ones more likely to sing live during stage performances. One of the best main vocalists in 4th Gen Groups is Jongho from ATEEZ.

Image via koreaboo


Lead Vocalist - Unlike the Western term where “lead vocalist” means “lead singer”, lead vocalists in KPOP are usually secondary to main vocalists. They take a vocal lead in songs by singing before the main vocalists during verses, and they may also sing the chorus with support from the main vocalists. 


Image via uhdpaper

What sets them apart is their singing ability to consistently sing, at minimum, one higher or lower octave than their fellow vocalists. Lead vocalists may also temporarily step in for the main vocalist if they are sick or injured. 


Sub Vocalist - Sub vocalists, otherwise known as vocalists, usually supports main and lead vocalists. Although their lines are typically short in their songs, they help bridge the song forward before the main and lead vocalists come in. 


Rappers


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Rappers are one of the important positions in a KPOP group, as a majority of them contribute to song-writing and line distribution.


Main Rapper - Like main vocalists, main rappers get a big share of parts and often receive more than one verse. Although it depends on the song structure, sometimes they can also sing (a little bit) alongside vocalists in their group. Bobby from iKON is known to have the best rapping technique for 3rd Gen Groups.


Image via sbs.au.

Lead Rapper - Like the lead vocalist, lead rappers are also secondary to the main rappers. They will rap in terms of how many lines they receive per song and are not necessarily judged by their rapping skills. 

For groups that have three types of rappers, lead rappers usually have one verse per song and often rap with the main rapper during other parts. But groups that have two rappers, they may get the same or slightly lesser verse than the main rapper.


Sub Rapper - Like the sub vocalist, sub rappers usually receive the least lines and mostly support the main rappers and lead rappers.


Dancers


Dancers are arguably the ones who made KPOP dances the most entertaining to watch. They are generally expected to be above average or excellent dancers and usually focus less on singing. 


Main Dancer - The main dancer is always the one who has superior dancing skills and receives fewer lines for singing, but it depends on the group and sometimes they can be the main vocalists too. They take on front and center positions during a dance break, the one most likely to receive dance solos, and sometimes become a dance teacher during practices or even contribute to creating the group’s choreography. 


TXT is one of the 4th Gen Boy Groups where every member is an excellent main dancer AND main vocalist. ATEEZ is also another 4th Gen Boy Group where everyone is talented in dancing.


Lead Dancer - Like lead vocalists and rappers, lead dancers are secondary to the main dancer and receive even fewer vocal lines. They are usually the ones who dance at the front of the group, during group formations and are often spotted dancing near the main dancers. 


Maknae (Youngest)


Image via g-idle fandom

Unlike other positions, maknaes are usually assigned due to their birth order. The maknae is always the youngest member of their group and are considered the “baby” of the group. Maknaes are very diverse, as some are known to be cute and shy, some who are multi-talented, and some are known as the troublemakers of the group. For example, Shuhua from (G)-IDLE is a troublemaker of the group.


Visuals

Image via kpopperstates


As KPOP is known to have idols who are extremely good looking, it is no wonder they have such roles as the visual. Visuals are considered the most attractive member of the group due to their distinct look/features. 

At the same time, it isn’t unusual for groups to have multiple visuals. They are usually hired for brand endorsements and are placed center in group photos because of their eye-catching appearance. While it’s not always the case, the visual can also be the face of the group.


The face of the Group

Image via uhdpaper


Finally, the Face of the Group leads the group visually. While a majority of them are also visuals, they are usually the most popular member of the group. In most cases, depending on their popularity, this role can change constantly. Like visuals, they will be placed close to the center in group photos, they may be styled in unique outfits that make them stand out from the rest of the group and they also receive a larger majority of screen time in music videos. 

Additionally, the Face of the Group is mostly the representative of the group, especially at variety shows or in various public events. But, some groups promote all their members equally and don’t have a specific face of the group member. 


Image via kpop.youzab

Hope you have a clearer idea of why and how positions in KPOP groups serve different purposes. As each member have their own strengths, it is no wonder why KPOP groups are hella talented when they band together!


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