Wait, K-pop? Like, Korean pop?
Yes, you heard it right: K-pop is the newest and coolest musical phenomenon, and you’d better get excited.
It isn’t just a genre of music — K-pop is also a subculture in its home country of South Korea, and especially abroad. In fact, the genre’s popularity in America has practically skyrocketed since Wonder Girls’ collab with the Jonas Brothers in 2009, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012 and BTS’ American Music Awards performance in 2017.
In fact, five of the current top 10 Billboard World Albums are K-pop. The genre has been on the Billboard charts for a while, although it’s never been in the top 20 of the Hot 100. Heck, the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics even featured some of the hottest K-pop artists — such as EXO and CL — with rave reviews.
The popularity is increasing to this day, and for good reason. I mean, who doesn’t love K-pop?
“K-pop is super popular because of the incredibly talented singers that everyone wants, plus amazing looks, incredible dancing skills and dynamic music videos,” said freshman physiology and neurobiology major Asha Daryanani. “Just because it’s in Korean doesn’t mean that only Korean people can understand. Music is a universal language.”
K-pop first became known to the international eye during the hallyu wave — or Korean Wave — in the 1990s. The Wave was a movement throughout East, Southeast and South Asia of Korean culture, primarily in the form of Korean dramas and music (mostly K-pop). Even now in Western society, K-pop is becoming more common.
But the question remains: How do people get into K-pop in the first place? The music is in Korean with English sprinkled here and there, all of the companies are located in South Korea and it’s usually filmed and produced in the country. So how can someone in the U.S. get exposure to the awesome, amazing music?
“I don’t actually remember the exact way that I got into K-pop, I just remember it being instantaneous,” Daryanani said. “I saw a few music videos from Big Hit Entertainment (BTS’s company), loved their singing, choreography, and the meaning, and before I knew it, I had spent hours watching them.”
Nowadays, we have the world at our fingertips and a quick search can lead right to K-pop. There are channels dedicated to K-pop that feature people reacting to K-pop music videos that are famous for their production value and simply put, awesomeness.
K-pop has Western influences, too, whether that be through rap, hip-hop or pop. With the success that K-pop has been having, especially in the past few years, there have been accusations that the music is becoming too Westernized. But have no fear.
“Marketing agendas will definitely look into the culture they’re trying to reach — it’s just how it works,” senior landscape architecture major Mustabin Hossain said. “I don’t think K-pop is Americanized, but they’re definitely trying to have America and the rest of the world’s attention. It’s music: They add themes to impress the fans they’re performing for. They add American themes when they have … American fans. They do the same when they go to other countries like China or Mexico.”
Even though it’s spreading further west, K-pop and its idols will continue to remain true to their language and culture. It’s Korean pop, after all.
“After winning an award at the Billboards and then performing at the AMAs, they’ve been asked about this many times. BTS doesn’t want to start singing in English — they want to keep doing what they’ve been doing to get this far, which is singing in Korean,” Daryanani said.
For newcomers, it can be rather daunting going into the wonderful black hole of K-pop, which is becoming more and more popular with every Olympics performance and western award show. So here are some recommendations to ease your journey.
“If you want to get into K-pop, try adding a genre you’re already into in your search, such as K-pop R&B or K-pop Ballad,” Hossain said. “Some of my favorite K-pop artists I’d recommend are BoA, DEAN, Infinite and VIXX.”
Daryanani suggests guy groups BTS and Seventeen, girl groups EXID and Blackpink and soloists HyunA and Jay Park. Her current favorite songs include “Thanks” by Seventeen and “PeekaBoo” by Red Velvet.
Every K-pop journey is different. Whether you’ve liked it since middle school in its earlier stages or you’re just discovering it now, K-pop is not only a fantastic inclusion into your iTunes library, but also a wonderful and warm community you’re allowed to fangirl and fanboy over. And it’s becoming the next big thing — if it isn’t that already.