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What is K-Pop? The South Korean Pop Music That Has Taken Over the US

And no, this isn’t your average PSY viral video.

Jessica Watson

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The K-pop group BTS, also know as Bangtan Boys, made history by being the first Korean boy band to have a No. 1 album in the U.S. The group was also the most tweeted about celebrities of 2017. BTS was the first debut at number one, however other K-pops artists and groups such as G-Dragon, Girls’ Generation, and 2NE1 have all placed in the Billboard 200.

The sudden rise of K-pop happened in the late 1990s, but in 2012, PSY’s song “Gangnam Style,” took the US by storm and reached number two on the Billboard charts. The popular song has reached 2.6 billion views on Youtube since its release. Since then, Korean Pop music, also known as K-pop, has continued to be a cultural phenomenon.

So what is K-pop exactly?

The genre of Korean pop music is said to be no different when compared to western pop music. It has taken influence from western music with the upbeat tunes, friendly lyrics, and catchy hooks all while sung in Korean. The music videos for these songs often have a big-budget that show girl or boy bands doing elaborate choreography.

K-pop groups usually consist of 7 to 13 members. Members must first go through an audition process before they are able to become a part of a girl or boy band. Once picked, they will go through years of extensive training in dancing, singing, acting, dieting and modeling to make sure they become the most perfect and polished stars before making their debut.

The growth of K-pop music stems from their fans on social media. Fans range from teenagers to young adults, gaining recent media exposure from award shows like the American Music Awards and The Billboard awards. The popularity of K-pop has started the second “Korean Wave” dating back to the 1990s when the US became engrossed with South Korean culture.

During the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, the athletes marched in The Parade of Nations to a selection of K-pop hits, such as Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby,” the first K-pop song that swept America. Even in the closing ceremony, two famous K-pop stars, CL and Exo performed. Both artists have had success in the US by cracking into Billboards Hot 100.

Though K-pop has become immensely popular in America, it has also sparked racist rhetoric. Some find it hard to believe that Asian bands have become so popular, despite knowing how to speak English. The racist comments towards K-pop signify why K-pop is important to the music industry and how the industry lacked any talented Asian artist.

Despite the negativity, K-pop is continuing to flourish. Popular K-pop boyband BTS made their debut at the Billboard Music Awards receiving praise from celebrities such as John Cena, Tyra Banks, and John Legend. Its safe to say that K-pop is making its mark on the music industry and isn’t going anywhere for awhile.

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I attend the University of Alabama Birmingham and I am also a writer for a college women's magazine called Her Campus UAB. One of the proudest moments of my life was volunteering for Project Homeless in Birmingham. One thing I can't live without is Nextflix and one of my favorite shows is Stranger Things. When I am not watching Netflix, I like studying astrology and online shopping.

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