Korean music, mostly referred to as K-pop, is taking the world by storm. So what is K-pop? K-pop simply refers to current day music that is made in South Korea, even if it isn't actually pop. The term K-pop has several different negative connotations attached to it here in America, but in most other parts of the world, it is a popular type of music for people of all countries to enjoy. Lately the Korean music industry has grown bigger and stronger than ever before, and as a result has started making its way into the States. Here's a list of reasons why I believe Korean music is soon going to make it big time in the United States.
1. It’s not just all bubble gum pop and cutesy lyrics
When most people think about K-pop, they think about bright colors and happy songs with a cutesy sound and lyrics. Yes, there are some groups that do go for a more cute concept, a majority of Korean music does not fit that description at all. In fact, I’m sure many of you would be surprised to know that a lot of Korean music gets its inspiration from American rap, hip-hop and R&B. Not very cutesy genres are they? Right now, the most common theme among girl groups is a sexy and sophisticated concept, while the guys try to be effortlessly cool. That’s not to say groups won’t put out a more upbeat and cute music video every once in awhile, but it’s not the norm. Even though it is a common stereotype that all Asians are little and innocent, there are plenty of rappers and hip-hop artist who are just as tough as American artists. Personally, my favorite Korean rap unit is Dynamic Duo. Their music has an old school vibe to it that seems to have disappeared in popular American rap music.
2. Korea has bands too
And by bands, I don’t mean K-pop groups. I mean actual bands with guitars, bass and drums. A large number of people seem to think that Korea only has one or two genres of music; however, the truth is, just like here in America, they have several different artists who fall under a wide variety of genres. Often times it is assumed that all Korean musicians were “manufactured” by the company they belong to, and while this is the case for some, there are still plenty of original and different sounding groups in Korea. One band that is starting to rise in popularity is the indie band Hyukoh. Much like Western indie artists, their appearance is simple, and their music guitar driven with a fantastic and unique set of vocals.
3. The American and Korean music industries are becoming increasingly connected
It is not uncommon for Korean musicians to work with well known individuals in the American music industry. It is also not uncommon for groups and artist to come to the States to record parts of their albums or film their music videos. Parris Goebel is a very famous and talented choreographer who has worked with several American artist including Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj. She also has strong ties with the Korean music company, YG, for whom she has choreographed many music videos. There have also been countless collaborations between American and Korean artists when it comes to writing and producing songs. One of the most recent examples comes from artist Taemin’s new album titled “Press It," which dropped on Feb. 23. The album features the title track “Press Your Number” which was produced by Bruno Mars for Taemin. I will not be surprised if before long we start to see American artists featuring on Korean songs, and vice versa.
4. K-pop has already been on American TV, you just didn’t realize it
I and several other K-pop fans were confused and surprised when BTS’ “Dope” and Block B’s “Nalina” were played during game replays before the commercial breaks of a Steelers game. Yes, it was only for a few seconds, and it was only the instrumental part, but it is still a sign of K-pop's growing influence in America. Are you a fan of the FOX show “Lucifer?” If you are then you may have noticed some K-pop playing through out one of the episodes. The show featured two songs from 2NE1 member CL, as well as Bigbang rapper TOP. Even "Family Guy" has jumped on the K-pop train. In one episode the characters of "Family Guy" discover K-pop and throughout the show make several references to famous K-pop videos, as well as showing a clip from Sistar’s “Touch My Body." It only makes sense to presume that Korean music will start gaining even more presence in American entertainment as time goes by.
5. It feeds into America’s consumerist society
It’s no secret that America is a fast-paced, consumerist society that is constantly searching for more forms of entertainment. In certain areas, America is great at producing content fast and efficiently, but in other areas, such as music, we are relatively slow compared to other nations. Almost everybody can relate to the struggle of having their favorite artists going on hiatus for years at a time without any kind of content or public appearance. Korean music fans almost never have this problem, in fact, it has been my experience that we have just the opposite. In order to stay relevant in the West Asian entertainment industry, groups must constantly be working on, and delivering new content. Whether it’s albums, music videos, concerts, interviews or variety shows, groups will usually have some kind of new content coming out at least every couple of months.
6.Their dances are amazing and mesmerizing to watch
This aspect of Korean music is definitely geared more towards the K-pop and hip-hop side of the industry, as it would be pretty strange to watch an indie band complete choreographed dances on stage. In order to be in a K-pop group, you have to be at the very least decent at dancing. Idols go through months and sometimes even years training both their voice and dance skills until they are able to debut. And the type of dancing these groups do isn’t the kind where you just hop around on stage and wave your hands; it’s the kind of dancing that you would see from a professional dance unit. Some groups have upwards of 12 members in them, and yet they are all able to dance perfectly in sync while singing. Even if you are not a fan of the music, you at least have to admit that their dancing is impressive.
7. It’s already popular in several other countries
Pretty much every Asian country has welcomed Korean music as a major part of its music scene. Korean stars perform most of their concerts in countries outside of Korea. Slowly but surely Korean music is making its way to new countries and becoming more popular than music from their own country. It’s only a matter of time before it starts to take over America, too. Now, I know one of the biggest objections non-K-pop fans make against listening to Korean music is that they can’t understand it. This clearly isn’t that big of a problem to fans in other countries where Korean is not spoken either. After all, plenty of countries listen to American music even though they do not speak English. At the end of the day, good music is good music, whether you can understand all the words or not. And if you are really that curious to know what a song is saying, there is always google. Plus several music videos put the English lyrics in the captions.
8.The American fan base has grown exponentially in the last couple of years, and it shows no signs of stopping
Back in high school the only people I knew of who listened to K-pop were either Korean, or the type of people who are a bit eccentric and would often get made fun of. But as time went on, I found more and more people that I knew listening to K-pop. Obviously I can’t base what I have observed where I live to everywhere in the country, but there are other signs to show that American K-pop fans are growing in number. This February, the popular Korean boy group EXO went on their first American tour. Fortunately, my friends and I were lucky enough to get tickets. And when I say we were lucky, I mean really, really lucky. Within seconds of the tickets going live, EXO sold out the Prudential Center, which contains 18,711 seats, plus a general admissions area. Most American artist would not even be able to do that. Sold out concerts are common among Korean artists who come to America. In fact, usually when a band comes, there are far more people who wanted and tried to see them, but couldn’t get in, than there are those who actually attend the concert. Clearly there is a large demand, and with every tour that a group goes on, the demand appears to get larger.
9.Their live performances are spectacular
Part of the reason that fans want to go to K-pop concerts so badly is because of how impressive groups are live. From elaborate stages to special effects and outfit changes, K-pop concerts have it all. I can speak from experience when I say that the atmosphere of a K-pop concert is unlike any other concert I’ve been to before. It is customary for fans to bring the official light stick of the group that they are seeing to the concert. This creates a beautiful spectacle of lights moving in sync to the rhythm of each song. This in combination with the various fan chants that go on during the concert, makes you feel as if you are one with everyone else, and gives you a feeling of inclusiveness that you won’t find anywhere else.
If you haven't heard of Korean music before, I hope you will look into it after reading this article. And if you have heard of Korean music but didn't think that it was for you, I hope that I have changed your mind. Even if you did not like any of the videos or songs that I put in this article, I know that there is Korean music that is out there waiting for you to enjoy it. You may have to do some searching for the type that you are interested in, but when you find an artist you love, it will all be worth it.