You may think you know a thing or two about K-pop if you have ever heard Psy’s internationally viral song, “Gangnam Style”, but that only scratches the surface of all that K-pop entails. Right now, K-pop is the fastest growing genre of music in the world, and it has created its own popular subculture amongst young people from every part of the globe.
To put it shortly, K-pop is Korean pop music. But it’s just a general term that can refer to other types of music that originated from South Korea, like hip hop, rock, electronic, and R&B. Though the music is a refreshing contrast to what’s popular here in the states, part of the reason K-pop has gotten so popular is there are some big personalities that comes along with the music.
To fully understand, you have to start watching the music videos. Each K-pop video is an explosion of colors, dancing, and immersive storytelling. Basically, every music video is treated like a short film, so they hold nothing back in their production. The choreography and visuals are on a different level when compared to a lot Western music videos. These videos are also a door for viewers to connect with the “idols” who are performing.
The term “idol” refers to a performer who has trained under one of the massive talent agencies of Korea. The largest of these agencies are YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and SM Entertainment. The idols that work for these companies are typically trained for a few years before they can be placed into a group or become a solo artist. “Idol” is also a fitting word for how fans view the artist, because many become obsessed with them.
Many Americans are interested in the process of how the Korean music industry works because it is so different from ours. In Korea, the best way to make it in the business is to be brought up by a talent agency. These companies train their artists for years before they can perform for the public. Even then, most of what they put out isn’t actually from the artist themselves, but a collaboration from the company as a whole. This is probably what K-pop gets the most criticism for. Many say their approach to music is too much like a factory’s.
As a group or an artist gains popularity though, they do start to make more of what they like. Some of the biggest stars in K-pop like CL, G-Dragon, Girls Generation and BTS are popular for who they are, and the sound and brand they have as artists.
K-pop idols bring a whole new meaning to branding. They are associated with a certain style like “cute”, “punk” or “tough” and something that they capitalize on. When a new artist or group debuts, it’s like establishing a new brand.
K-pop idols never shy away from a chance to make a splash on the fashion scene either, and, K-pop has had significant influence on the fashion industry in America. Their styles often surpass western stars’ in intensity and originality because they’re not scared of dramatic hair styles or weird fashion trends.
Korean pop music is completely different from pop music here in the States, but it has been gaining much popularity over the past few years. There have been several artists that have tried to cross over into America’s music industry. CL, is one such artist who has recently made her American debut. CL is a rapper and singer who is known for her attitude, charisma, and as being the “Baddest Female” of Korea. Yet, even she has faced the hardships that come when trying to make it in a new country where the language is completely different.
Crossing over from any country into America has proven to be a difficult task, and many have not succeeded. CL has an enormous following here already though, so all eyes are still on her to see if she joins the rest who have failed, or if she will be just as successful here as she is back home.
K-pop is a fast-growing industry, and the best way to understand it is to start listening and watching. Be careful though, because you might join the rest of us in obsessing over it.