K-pop is a term that is often used on the internet, and there is quite a popular fan following around the world. This ‘once local, now global’ phenomenon has an interesting background as to how it all began, but before that, what is K-pop anyways?
K-pop is short for Korean pop or Korean popular music, hence originating in Korea or South Korea to be specific. K-pop is basically a musical genre that consists of an assortment of other genres such as electronic, hip-hop, rock and R&B music. Although the contemporary form of K-pop music emerged during the 1990s, the advent of this music phenomenon goes way back. Modern-day K-pop has been the result of decade-long cultural blending that started in the 1950s.
South Korea experienced the Western culture which had been brought in by none other than American and European music enthusiasts and artists at the time of the Korean War. In the decades that followed, South Korea picked up from the greatest musicians of all times such as Marilyn Monroe and other popular names in American pop culture. The initial concept began with the creation of girl groups, which is again an idea that South Korean borrowed from the legendary Andrew Sisters and The Ronettes.
So, yes, the history of K-pop is vast, decades old and an idea that has found inspiration from the leading names in the global music industry, especially American pop culture.
Contemporary K-pop is nothing less than an audio-visual treat for teenagers, young adults, and the young-at-heart music enthusiasts. K-pop has grown as a popular subculture on a global level. Thanks to the internet, especially YouTube, K-pop has gained acclaim and an enormous fan following from people across the globe and still continues to rise in popularity on the global stage.
Music does not require an understanding of the language that it speaks. Music is said to be a universal language for all. Hence, it can be used to communicate across cultural and linguistic boundaries without having to understand the culture or language of the place from where it originates. Hence, the ability to understand or speak Korean is not a prerequisite for listening to K-pop, which is evidenced by the numerous fans it has around the world.
It’s music like any other form. Most people did not understand the lyrics to the popular song ‘Work’ by Rihanna and Drake, but it still secured a place amongst the Billboard Hot 100 song list.
While credit should be given to the internet for making the K-pop culture a universal phenomenon, there are still a few obvious factors that have led to K-pop being recognized and enjoyed around the world. Those of you who have seen the ‘Gangnam Style’ video song that went viral in 2012 can understand how Korean pop culture has a unique style of engaging the global audience. A few of the dominant factors for K-pop’s popularity are as follows:
This is probably the awe factor in any K-pop music video or live performance that has managed to win millions of hearts worldwide. The use of artsy and color-coordinated costumes, vibrant yet confident makeup and playful effects and creativity enable K-pop artists to stand out, allowing for greater appeal and interest from people of all age groups.
Nobody does better choreography than K-pop artists. Any K-pop performance is nothing less than a treat owing to the perfectly synced dance routines along with addictive melodies that are presented by inspiring professionals in Korea. These singers receive year-long training sessions to perfect every dance move and capture every beat while dancing and singing simultaneously. It’s not an exaggeration to say that every K-pop performance is art.
Moreover, a few K-pop artists have mastered an array of different languages to acquire a wider coverage for their art and performance. For instance, high concept groups such as EXO promote music in Korean, and the same song is translated into other languages such as Mandarin. Hence, it is no wonder EXO is the highest charting Korean performer on the Billboard 200. Big Bang’s ‘Fantastic Baby’ is yet another great example of K-pop offering songs in languages other than their native.
Furthermore, the K-pop culture has been the eye candy during the 2018 Olympics held in PyeongChang, South Korea. The closing ceremony that was held on February 9, 2018, had a bunch of K-pop artists and bands perform in unity to present the diverse Korean culture to the world.
The famous Olympics featured renowned names such as EXO and CL (Lee Chae-rin) that awed the audience and had them wanting to see more of their mesmerizing performances. EXO’s performance at the Olympics had been a milestone and a perfect fit for the occasion as they performed many multilingual songs in Korean, Japanese and Mandarin for the audiences. Truly, the closing ceremony of the 2018 Olympics had been a visual delight for all K-pop fans and even for the general audience.
It is, thus, not a surprise that K-pop has acquired acclaim from the global audience and continues to do so even today. South Korean artists have made it to the Billboard Hot 100 chart roughly more than 8 times since the greatest hit of all times, ‘Nobody’ by the Wonder Girls, back in 2009. Moreover, the export of K-pop has enabled the Korean music industry to become a billion-dollar industry.
A few of the most famous and renowned K-pop groups comprise of H.O.T, Super Junior, SES, Girls’ Generation, Shinhwa, KARA, Turbo, Big Bang, Baby V.O.X, BTS, Apink and Twice. South Korea produces around 60 bands on an annual basis, clearly indicating the many K-pop bands that it has yet to release for the global audience in years to come.
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