You might have seen it around. Energetic music, great dance moves, armies of screaming youngsters singing along to songs in a language you may not understand. Welcome to the world of Kpop. What is Kpop anyway? And how do they get so big and famous today?
Kpop stands for Korean Popular Music, a form of popular music originating in South Korea, and is the front face of South Korean culture. The music often involves influences from many genres, such as R&B, hip-hop, and traditional Korean music. Kpop could also include dressing styles and T.V. entertainment.
This article discusses Kpop, its origins, and what makes it so different and attractive to many. It will also discuss its sound signatures and some examples of Kpop stars for you to check out.
What Is Kpop?
K-Pop, a type of modern South Korean music, stands for Korean Popular Music. It usually involves energetic music, performed by a group, often in high choreographed dances. K-Pop is part of the Hallyu or South Korean popular culture.
Korean popular music, also known as K-pop, is a prominent type of music that originated in South Korea. You may also relate K-pop to fashion, television, and certain lifestyle practices.
K-Pop can be seen as part of the “Korean Wave,” also known as Hallyu. Hallyu refers to Korean pop culture and Korean T.V. series, music, and movies across Asia and the world.
K-pop songs have various musical influences, including hip-hop, electronic dance music, jazz, and rock. They are performed by ensembles ranging in size from four to twenty-one members. K-pop performers may include Korean and non-Korean nationals.
Aspiring K-pop stars practice together intensively, acquiring dance choreography and other abilities until they are ready to perform live for the first time. Kpop stars can amass worldwide followings and can pull in fans in large numbers for their performances, rivaling even popular western artists.
Many point to the formation of modern K-Pop to the HipHop boy band Seo Taiji and Boys in 1992. Their attempts to fuse with different styles and genres of music from around the world helps to shape South Korea’s music scene, preparing it for the eventual explosion of K-Pop.
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How Did Kpop Develop?
K-pop developed mainly in the late 80s when South Korea experienced significant freedom in culture. Seo Taiji and the Boys band introduced the initial formula of K-Pop, with the late 90s seeing an infusion of J-Pop and growing popularity within South Korea. K-Pop then went international in the 2000s.
Modern K-pop may have its roots in 1987 When South Korea transitioned into a democracy after years of being under autocratic rulers. Democracy brings freedom, which allows many aspects of South Korean society to develop freely, including its music.
This leads to experimentation and attempts to modernize the music scene by infusing elements of Western music such as Rap, HipHop, Rock, and Jazz into modern Korean sounds.
Kpop’s development to its current form may be broken down into several stages:
Seo Taiji and the Boys Era
This boy band may be K-Pop’s Godfather, spearheading the concept before anyone else. The boyband shot into prominence in South Korea in the 1990s with the breakout single, “I Know,” which topped the Korean music charts for 17 weeks.
The band’s sound combined American New Jack Swing with modern pop, eclipsing the slower ballads prominent in the country at the time.
The band then amassed a sizable fan base. It influenced a wave of bands with a similar style, giving rise to Idol Culture. Idol culture could be explained as ‘fandom,’ where fans follow popular musical performers (also known as Idols) in Japan and Korea.
Late 90s explosion.
This period witnessed the formation and growth of K-pop music and structure in Korea and the adaptation of some elements of J-Pop (Japanese Popular Music).
Many companies noticed Seo Taiji’s and the Boys’ success and soon attempted to replicate the same model. They began recruiting young performers for intensive idol training to meet the need for new talent. This talent recruitment system follows a similar system popular in Japan at that time.
This period witnessed the formation, rise and popularity of bands such as H.O.T., g.o.d., Baby Vox, Fin. K.L., and Sechs Kies.
K-pop Goes Worldwide.
K-pop continued to expand in the 2000s, with bands such as Big Bang, who debuted in 2006 and received widespread critical acclaim. With their song’ Nobody,’ bands such as Wonder Girls were the first Korean bands to achieve international fame.
Over the last decade, K-pop has grown in popularity among mainstream Western audiences, primarily due to the tremendous success of B.T.S. (short for Bangtan Boys), a popular boy band formed in 2010.
The boy band was the first in the genre to play at the American Music Awards in 2017, which exposed them to millions of Western viewers.
Current popular Korean bands include B.T.S., Blackpink, and E.X.O. These bands continue to spearhead K-Pop’s popularity and are set to dominate for the years to come.
What Makes K-Pop Different?
K-Pop music may have some noticeable differences, such as the prominence of large groups, highly choreographed dances, and the culture of K-Pop training. The music may also sound like modern Western music, but with elements of Korean Traditional Music.
When listening to K-Pop music, you may hear an infusion of Traditional Korean musical components with Western influences such as jazz, soul, hip hop, and funk. For example, the beats may come from hip hop. Still, the chord progression of the instruments may come from Traditional Korean Music.
Boy and girl bands are not uncommon in Western entertainment, such as the Backstreet Boys, Boyz-To-Men, and N’Sync. However, some K-pop bands may include much more than the typical 3-7 member set up.
For example, the N.C.T. (Neo Culture Technology) has a whopping 23 members. K-pop groups often feature a larger number of members to provide K-pop fans with a diverse range of idols to pick from.
Highly Choreographed Dances
These bands usually perform in groups, executing complicated dance moves that require extensive training. K-Pop fans also dedicate their time and energy to learning the dance moves and upload them online to pay homage to their idols.
Choreographers often collaborate with the bands to develop a one-of-a-kind routine that complements each song. This gives rise to signature moves for songs such as ‘Nobody’ by Wonder Girls.
K-Pop bands often start off as projects by entertainment companies. Aspiring pop idols are chosen by entertainment firms for intense training programs. They receive media training, learn choreography, work with vocal coaches, and practice live performances. These trainees often have to live on-site, experiencing training at an intensity not far different from athletes.
The trainees’ performances are occasionally videotaped and shared to showcase new potential. The entertainment agencies would then examine the trainees and form groups based on their distinct personalities, vocals, and performance abilities.
Trainees may spend years in the program improving their talents while waiting to be in a group. In fact, it may not be surprising that some trainees start from ages as young as six years old.
K-pop idols are recognized for their colorful and stylish clothing, ranging from streetwear to sophisticated, sleek black-and-white ensembles to themed outfits.
Many K-pop idols are placed in bands where they may showcase different styles so that fans may pick and choose an idol to adapt from.
As a result, many K-pop groups are fashion influences, influencing some of today’s fashions and trends for younger generations. Many K-Pop idols also endorsed skincare products, making South Korea one of the world’s largest cosmetics markets.
Who Are The Biggest Kpop Stars Today?
Today’s biggest K-Pop stars include Blackpink, Exo, B.T.S., Psy, and Girls Generation. These groups have either achieved worldwide fame, won international music awards, or in the case of Psy, the first YouTube video to surpass 1 billion views.
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Short for Bangtan Boys, this seven-member K-pop band debuted in 2013 and has since garnered global popularity. Their international career skyrocketed during a 2017 performance at the American Music Awards, which catapulted them to fame in the United States. Their famous hits include ‘”Savage Love,” “Life Goes On,” “Butter,” and “Permission to Dance.” They also have the record of being the quickest act to earn four U.S. number-one singles since Justin Timberlake.
BigBang debuted in 2006 and led the early rise of K-Pop to international audiences. Their members also had successful individual careers, such as Taeyang and G-Dragon. BigBang may have sold over 150 million digital and physical records worldwide ranking them among the best-selling boy bands worldwide. Their popular hits include ‘Bang Bang Bang,’ ‘Mic Drop,’ and ‘Dynamite.’
One of the few non-group acts to emerge from the K-Pop scene, you may recognize his great hit, the song ‘Gangnam Style. His lyrics often feature humor and satire, which at times courted controversy. The music video for Gangnam Style was the first YouTube video ever to surpass one billion views and is still in the top 10 of the most viewed videos on YouTube.
This girl band may just be the biggest name to ever come out of K-Pop. The band combines hip-hop, trap, and electronic dance music (E.D.M.) with lyrics, and manner, representing the group’s signature light and dark themes. BlackPink is the first girl band to own five Youtube music videos with a billion views and has also won multiple awards, both in and outside of South Korea.
Similar to the name, the group has seven members. It made its debut in January 2014 and became known for its dance moves, which often contain martial arts and street dancing elements. Their debut album is called ‘Got It?’ and reached number 2 on Gaon Album Chart and number one on Billboard’s World Albums Chart.