Flemish vocal pop group K3 -- whose original lineup featured Kathleen Aerts, Kristel Verbeke, and Karen Damen -- were brought together by producer and former Belgian recording artist Niels William in 1999.
Initially fashioned with the Spice Girls
in mind, the group went on to release a string of Belgian chart-toppers before a drastic lineup change in 2015. Their debut single, "Wat Ik Wil" (What I Want), was well received, but did not turn the group into an overnight sensation. K3's follow-up single, "Heyah Mama," still fell short of the mark, this time mocked by judges in pre-qualification for the 1999 Eurovision Song Contest. The group decided to release the track anyway and ended up scoring a major hit. "Heyah Mama" spent 30 weeks at the top of the Belgian charts, achieving gold record status. Their debut album, Parels (Pearls), featured the group's previously published singles and went gold in presales alone. Their follow-up, Alle Kleuren, hit shelves in September 2000, landing even more impressive sales than its predecessor. A merchandising frenzy ensued, including plans for a movie, TV series, clothing, and even K3 dolls. The band's 2001 release, the eponymous single and the LP Tele-Romeo went double-platinum. In 2002, after the release of their fourth album, Verliefd, William sold the band to Studio 100, a Flemish television company. Studio 100, producers of Dutch and Belgian children's programming, went on to incorporate a string of television shows into the K3 brand. De Wereld von K3 (K3's World) debuted and ignited a bigger pop culture boom in their native market, even resulting in a K3 museum housed at the Plopsaland amusement park. When their eighth album, Ya Ya Yippee, was released in 2006, it became their seventh release to debut atop both the Belgian and Dutch charts. Their final album with the original lineup, Kusjes (Kisses), was released in 2007. Two years later -- and a decade into their career together -- K3 experienced their first major shake-up with the departure of Kathleen Aerts on March 23, 2009. Almost immediately, a singing competition aired in order to find her replacement. K2 Zoekt K3 crowned Josina "Josje" Huisman with the top prize, and the first album by the updated K3 (MaMaSe!) was released a month later in tandem with yet another television show, the Hello K3 sitcom. This second incarnation of the group released four albums together, ending with Loko Le in 2013. The group returned to the spotlight in March 2015, but it wasn't to announce a new release. Rather, all three women announced their departure from K3. Eight months later, a revamped lineup debuted, featuring Marthe De Pillecyn, Hanne Verbuggen, and Klaasje Meijer. Original member Kristel Verbeke became their manager. The new K3 released the group's 14th album 10,000 Luchtballonnen, in late 2015, which debuted at number one on the Belgian charts and became their biggest seller to date, going eight times platinum. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez & Neil Z. Yeung, Rovi