Who Is Girls Generation, the Group That Beat Bieber for Video of the Year?

A K-pop group beat out some big names for video of the year

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Girls' Generation on Aug. 25, 2012, in Yeosu, South Korea.

At the first-ever YouTube Music Awards, webcasted last night, Nov. 3, one big take-away was the importance of audience and viewer participation. The nominees were chosen based on their YouTube video stats and voting took place via video sharing.

But, while that meant that few of the nominees were folks new to YouTube’s audience, it didn’t mean there were no upsets. Take the Video of the Year category, for example, the category meant to acknowledge the “biggest” videos, based on views, shares, likes and comments. The ten nominees were:

  • Girls’ Generation, “I Got A Boy”
  • Demi Lovato, “Heart Attack”
  • Epic Rap Battles Of History, “Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney”
  • Justin Bieber (feat. Nicki Minaj), “Beauty and a Beat”
  • Lady Gaga, “Applause”
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Mary Lambert) “Same Love”
  • Miley Cyrus, “We Can’t Stop”
  • One Direction, “Best Song Ever”
  • PSY, “Gentleman”
  • Selena Gomez, “Come & Get It”

And the winner, despite big names like Bieber and Cyrus, was Girls’ Generation — a K-pop group that is still in the process of achieving the fame enjoyed by fellow nominee PSY. As CNN notes, audience reaction to the announcement of their win (made at the awards ceremony in New York) was muted.

(MORE: K-Pop’s Unlikeliest Fans: Middle-Age Males)

But, while some U.S. viewers may have been surprised by the result, it’s not actually all that surprising. (In fact, TIME sort of predicted something like this back in January.) One of YouTube’s quirks, compared to older models of music consumption, is its global nature. That’s part of the reason PSY got so big in the first place, and it means that YouTube becomes a major way for K-pop fans around the world — for example, in places where albums from groups like Girls’ Generation may only be available as imports — to find new tracks. While Lady Gaga gets more radio and TV play in the States, YouTube may matter more, overall, to Girls’ Generation.

So who are Girls Generation? The nine women, known as SNSD in Korea, have been a group since 2007. They also scored the top-selling K-pop album of 2012. Check out their award-winning video here:

(MORE Beyond PSY: 5 Essential K-Pop Tracks)