For those who do not know, K-pop is music that originates in South Korea. Within K-pop, there are all different kinds of subgenres like rock, R&B and pop. K-pop started to gain recognition outside South Korea around the 1990s and early 2000s. As of today, there are four main generations of K-pop, each generation becoming bigger than the next. In fact, in 2020, K-pop experienced a 44.8-percent growth and positioned itself as the fastest-growing major market of the year. Not only is K-pop growing in importance to South Korea itself, but it’s also becoming important to young adults in the U.S.
The most known K-pop group also happens to be the most popular boy K-pop group in the U.S., BTS. BTS is a group that was formed under Big Hit Entertainment in 2010 and officially debuted in 2013 with eight members. BTS started to gain popularity in South Korea with their album Wings in 2016, which sold one million copies. Once they released their album Love Yourself: Tear in 2018, they topped the U.S. Billboard 200 and become of the few groups to earn four U.S. number-one albums in less than two years.
Despite their popularity in the U.S., BTS only has two fully English songs, “Butter” and “Dynamite.” Surprisingly, when it comes to the difference in popularity between the United States and South Korea, BTS ranks around the same, meaning BTS is just as popular in the United States as they are in South Korea.
The most popular girl K-pop group goes by the name Blackpink. Blackpink debuted under YG Entertainment in 2016 with four members. Quickly after they debuted, they charted at number one and two on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales, making them the fastest group to achieve this and the third Korean artist to hold the top two positions simultaneously. Around 2018 is when they started gaining popularity in the U.S. with their single “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” which debuted at number 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 39 on the U.S. Streaming Songs chart, which made them the first K-pop girl group to enter.
Recently, Blackpink has collaborated with Dua Lipa, Selena Gomez and Lady Gaga. However, even in these songs, the group still performs in Korean. None of Blackpink’s discography is fully English. Similar to BTS, Blackpink’s popularity in South Korea versus the United States is equal.
Unfortunately, even with their popularity, K-pop groups still face normalized racism in the U.S. Especially with the recent coronavirus spread, many K-pop groups that visit the U.S. have been subject to racist jokes and comments from various talk show hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel.
The reason why K-pop is spreading so fast worldwide and in the United States especially is that there is something for everyone. If you are more musically inclined, then you can focus on the vocals and dances that go on. Each member of every group is given roles whether they are a vocalist, rapper, dancer and/or more. It is easy to distinguish between them, giving everyone a chance to find their niche within the group. If you are more inclined to focus on the storyline of things, then there’s something for you too, since almost all the music videos of a certain artist follow a storyline about the artists themselves.
One of the main reasons why my roommates and I listen to K-pop is because it’s not in English, making it great study time music. The songs are catchy enough to keep us in good moods and energetic enough to do our work but it’s impossible to really sing along because we don’t know Korean.
One of the biggest reasons why K-pop is starting to gain more popularity recently is because people feel like they can express their interests more openly and freely nowadays. Even ten years ago, expressing interest in something like this would have been seen as weird or strange, but now people are finding comfort in their interests. Part of the reason why is that K-pop groups are especially good at fan interactions. K-pop groups do live videos where they talk to fans and have them ask questions or make food together, some have weekly videos where they will do a variety of show-type games like trivia. These aspects are what is causing K-pop to surge into the United States and college campuses.