How K-Pop Became The Western Favorite Music
In a survey released in 18 nations in 2020, roughly 22.7 percent of those surveyed claimed that the genre K-pop was “widely known” in their nation. The fame was at the point where K-pop was recognized to the wider public and relevant products were being marketed. According to the report, K- pop's popularity extends much further than South Korea's borders.
Thousands of people are singing their souls out in a language they don't speak on a hot July afternoon in New Jersey. The Prudential Plaza in Newark has been completely taken over by fans of Kpop for the weekend; in the driveway, the crowd chants along to a sequence of Korean-pop songs by groups like Exo, Red Velvet, and BTS, whose arena-rock stomper "Fake Love" receives the most applause.
A teenager dancing troupe close by teaching signature movements from K-pop music videos, while another stage in the complex feature songwriter meet-and-greets, beauty seminars, and panels like "Meeting Idols in Korea: Reality vs. Expectation." The moderator, Whitneybae, a K-pop blogger, advises, "Manners in Korea are taken very seriously. "Rookie groups are kind, exchange pleasantries and bowing 90 degrees," .However, more seasoned idols will ask, "What's up?" in an attempt to welcome you in a nicer, more "American" manner.
When Kcon initially came to the United States in 2012, it garnered a few thousand followers and interested locals. Since then, the number has grown to more than 125,000 people, split across norms across both coasts.“The chanting was really intense the last time,” organizer Angela Killoren recounts, “that mainstream music industry executives told me they'd never heard the roof blown off like that before.” The show's prominence corresponds to the global expansion of K-pop, which has grown from a minor genre to a $5 billion global industry in the last five years.
On October 6th, the seven-member Seoul group BTS became the first Korean band to perform at Citi Field in New York, solidifying K-pop hold in the West. The performance, which sold out quickly, followed the group's popular single "Fake Love," which debuted at No. 10 on the U.S. Billboard chart.During the first 24 hours, it surpassed Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do" on the Billboard Hot 100. BTS' album Love Yourself: Tear debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in May, selling 135,000 copies in its first week.
BTS aren't the only ones. When Blackpink's "Ddu-Du Ddu-Du" debuted at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June, it became the highest-charting Korean girl group debut in the United States. Super Junior, a 12-member Korean group, presently has a Latin hit with "Lo Siento," which has over 37 million YouTube views and is composed in both Korean and Spanish.“Someone has to travel down that route and cut through the jungle and make some noise, and I believe that group [was] BTS,” says Phil Becker, vice president of content at Alpha Media, that also owns 68 radio stations in the United States. “I believe we will be discussing some of the biggest mainstream American artists injecting themselves into K-pop albums in six months.”
Psy's "Gangnam Style," a powerful sound mixed with highly stylized visuals, became the first video to reach a billion plays on YouTube in 2012. However, most K-pop fans now regard that song as a one-off novelty. “‘Gangnam Style' was an anomaly,” Killoren explains. “The dynamics were Internet-meme-driven, like ‘oh, look at this.’” other label attempt label attempt to promote the genre globally faltered; the nine-member Girls Generation undertook a marketing campaign for their Interscope Records debut in 2011, but it “just didn't work out,” according to one industry vet. Wonder Girls had previously gone on tour as the Jonas Brothers' opening act but had yet to strike a success.
Claude Kelly, a writer for Bruno Mars, One Direction, and Girls Generation, was perplexed as to why K-pop hadn't taken off: “The scale of the pop over there [in Korea] has always been quite Michael Jackson-esque.They do not really compromise on production, money, or practice, so I've always wondered, "Why isn't all this big-budget showbiz crap make a dent in American society the way it should?"
It's possible that those groups tried very hard and much too early to connect to a worldwide audience. Wonder Girls and Girls Generation also recorded English-language adaptations of their hits, but they were not successful. However, BTS has continued to sing in Korean while incorporating Western pop elements in various ways.“The music of ‘Fake Love’ was so amazing that you really can listened to it and appreciate it and not even worry about the lyrics,” admits Leslie Whittle, radio program coordinator at Houston’s KRBE. BTS’ first Top 10 album, last year’s Love Yourself: Her, features tracks recorded with the Chainsmokers.Ever since, the trio has collaborated with Steve Aoki, Zedd, and Ali Tamposi (co-writer of Camila Cabello's "Havana" and Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger").
K-pop songs take the recognizable rhythms of American pop music and turn them up quite a bit by combining genres and cultures. “Everything in the Top 40 is in the mid- to low-tempo range. “K-pop gives you a happy, good vibe,” Whittle explains. lyricist Rodnae "Chikk" Bell adds, "Korean pop music likes uniqueness and shifts."“The average American song has four to five tunes. The average K-pop song is between eight and ten minutes long. They have a lot of melodies as well.” That's excellent news for R&B hitmakers in the United States, who have also been dissatisfied by the country's gradual shift from their style but towards loops and minimalist melodies in order to catch pace with hip-hop.
Teddy Riley (Blackstreet, Keith Sweat) and Harvey Mason Jr. (Mario, Toni Braxton) have resurrected their Nineties-era R&B careers in other countries. “We're really being reconnected to our own stuff right now,” Kelly explains. “Hey, here is the crap you did that was awesome, and we still love it,” he says of K-pop acts.
The K-pop changes, according to Aoki, would not have transpired without any of the streaming revolutions: “With streaming, supporters now have such a tremendous voice, and that's how BTS becomes a sensation — also because fans made it a success, just as punk and hardcore underground culture,” the DJ explains. “These guys are unstoppable. And I don't think it'll go away since the fans are generating such a massive deal about it.”
The significant majority of fans on Soompi, one of the largest online K-pop sites, which has been active since 1998, are not Korean (the same is true of Kcon attendees).However, its 22 million active users spend several hours interpreting songs and dissecting K-pop's complex music videos, which are packed with narratives involving murder, familial treachery, dream sequences, grief, and time travel, among other things. Kristine Ortiz, a community manager at the corporation that runs Soompi, says, "A lot of it is extremely visual."“They're able to develop a visual experience through clothing and detailed storylines in music videos.
That isn't something you hear very often in Western music.” Interviews with musicians are decoded by fans who comprehend the language. Language is more of a point of access than a barrier: “It's already a part of the culture in Korea, and they speak the same language,” Ortiz explains. “In the United States, it's a journey of self-discovery, which is thrilling for fans.
Users discover music and begin researching on their own. There's a degree of determination and socialization that American artists don't have.” Some fans, she claims, even master Korean as a result of the performance. The majority of Soompi's users are female and young.When BTS landed in Los Angeles last year to play at the American Music Awards for the very first time, they were met by a wild British Invasion-style crowd. “Boy bands and girl bands are as old as the Beatles, and this is part of the history of music in general,” Killoren explains, stressing that K-pop feeds a “constant hunger.”
Notwithstanding BTS's unprecedented success, radio stations are still wary of putting K-pop on the air. Becker of Alpha Media says his radio company is hard at work figuring out where — and how — to make some changes. “It's common for people to ignore things because they aren't written in English,” he explains.“If ‘Despacito' was the most-played song last year, why can't we play more music that aren't in English?” says the challenger. (Earlier this year, "Despacito" becomes first Latin-pop song to gain a diamond certification and over a billion Spotify plays.)Nevertheless, as Super Junior's K-pop/Latin crossover success shown, the United States is not the genre's only target market. “Listeners are starting to expect us to look at other countries,” Whittle adds. “As programmers, we are becoming increasingly convinced that the world is a much smaller place than it once was.”