Being into K-pop has never been popular, and unfortunately we have to thank PSY for that. His "Gangnam Style" put a label on K-pop that was not accurate to what this genre of music actually is like. So what is it like then? Well, let me explain.
K-pop, or "Korean pop", is most famous for its boy groups and girl groups. The groups are (in most cases) put together by large entertainment companies and they usually exist out of 4-21 members. Yes, twenty one. The thing is that each member has his/her own function within the group, and that's what makes it work. You have lead singers, lead dancers, lead rappers and visuals (aka the faces of the group) all in one group. Before we go into too much detail, let's look at how these groups are formed.
South-Korean kids go to these huge entertainment companies from a very young age to audition. This audition can be for singing, dancing, acting, modelling... you name it. Once you've been selected, you start training. Training as in practicing for many, many hours a day while keeping up with a very strict diet. If you're lucky, you get chosen to be put in a group at the age of 15-25. Some only have to train for 2 years, others train for more that 5. It all depends on luck, I guess. I'm telling you this because this is all part of the bigger picture. This is all part of the global success.
What makes K-pop so great and so popular is the fact that each member of these groups seems like a wonder child. They are all beautiful, they sound like angels and they can dance, too. Their synchronised dancing could easily be part of one of those "oddly satisfying" videos on YouTube. There's a reason why TV-shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With The Stars" are popular. People enjoy synchronisation and coordination and these groups clearly have that.
So you have the synchronised dancing, but then there's the singing. Obviously, this is still the most important part of a performance and yet, almost every artist in Hollywood will have a handful of videos with bad vocal performances haunting them. It happens all the time, but not with singers in South-Korea. You very rarely find videos of K-pop artists singing poorly. This is also a reason why people enjoy watching this more than American or European artists, because they know they won't be disappointed when going to a live concert.
Another thing that you start noticing when you dive deeper into this music genre, is that a lot of effort is put into their performances. I always thought that people like Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé knew how to put up a show but compared to this, they almost look like amateurs. Don't get me wrong, the artists that I've mentioned just know are extremely talented and there is a good reason for their fame, all I'm saying is that Korean groups always go one step beyond what's expected of them and the crowds that they attract show the results of that.
Not only is their dancing perfectly in sync, they also didn't miss a single note while doing all of that. People notice that. Fans notice that. But then there's this other thing that you might have noticed. Almost every song I've showed you by now has rap in it. But, that's not pop music? Technically, you're right, but.. Including multiple genres into your songs also attracts more people, which is a very clever way of working.
Lastly, all of these songs have some English lyrics in them. This means that any person who speaks English can at least understand some of the lyrics. Often, these artists also sing in Mandarin and/or Japanese and sometimes they even cover songs in Spanish or French. This results in even more inclusivity, which also creates a bigger audience. (Disclaimer: this doesn't mean that they actually speak any of these languages in real life.)
So, to conclude: you have crazy talented singers with killer dance moves who can put up an incredible show that American artists dream of, while singing different genres in at least 2 languages. That's a whole lot more than PSY made you think K-pop was, right? And it does pay off, if you look at the global success that these boys and girls have made over the years. The boy group "BTS" recently won a Billboard award for 'Top Social Artist'. They were the first Korean group to receive an American award like this, and I'm sure they were not the last. My only hope right now is that "our" music industry in the Americas and in Europe will start taking notes from these boys and girls, because South-Korea is on a much higher level than us right now.
About the Creator
I'm a 24-year-old currently based in Belgium. I mostly write about travel hacks and TV-shows. If you like what you read, consider giving a small tip to fund my travels so I can keep giving you travel hacks. ;)