4 minute read

KPOP in America

A language spoken fluently across the world: pop music. Transcending native tongues and uniting people, pop music has celebrated and uplifted different cultures over the decades, with Selena’s Latinx anthems charting on the Billboards in 1995 and more recently the acclaimed “Despacito.”

Similar to the timeline of the Latinx breakthrough, Korean pop, more commonly known as K-POP, first charted on the Billboards in 2009 followed by the infamous ‘Gangnam Style’ dance trend in 2012 before falling dormant in the US until recently. And it’s back with authenticity this time and here to stay with 30+ Korean acts touring the country this year alone. Today, K-pop’s American and worldwide breakthrough means dozens of world and North American tours making stops in our country like NCT 127’s NEO City Tour and BLACKPINK playing Coachella.

Primarily focusing on their culture, sharp choreography and the artistry behind the directing, aesthetics and special effects, a fundamental component of K-pop is the extravagant and grandiose capacity of music videos, which lends to the idols’ professionally and celebrity image that magnetizes fans.

How and where did this sudden western and worldwide domination of K-pop start? Naturally with the hardworking artists themselves: training, recording, practicing and performing for years and presenting themselves humbly and with respect. That authenticity is what drives the fans connections to these artists, and success without fans is like x without x — it just doesn’t happen.

With BTS winning Billboard’s fan-voted Top Social Award 3 years in a row since 2017, something is to be said for the group seemingly being everywhere on the internet, the charts, award shows and now breaking into American radio play and music stands. BTS are making numbers, breaking walls and shattering the glass ceiling of what western and global pop music looks like with no bundles, no discounts and no repackaging and deluxe albums all while singing in Korean due to both their talents and support from their passionate fanbase. The fans’ love of the group and their music is what has soared them into the western market and has them remaining here to stay. Honored and recognized along with their CEO and Executive Producer to join the members of the Grammy’s Recording Academy, BTS and their ranging talents of composing, writing, singing and performing landed them

96the high honor given to those permitted to vote for the yearly Grammy Awards and cementing that K-pop is here to stay for a very long time.

In the period of quick growth, the worldwide K-pop breakthrough accelerated and now thrives on this partnership between the artists and the fans. As the popularity and integration of the internet in our daily lives grows, there’s a new wave of digital evolution in the fandom makeup, the operation fandoms and how they interact that is unlike the One Direction update account days where scraping for every last piece of information was the norm. K-pop artists, labels and management companies authentically stick close to their country’s celebrated cultural roots by presenting the majority of songs and content in a language unfamiliar to a world other than Korea, which is quite unlike popular boyband and girl group eras of the past. They are the new era; no more comparisons to any groups or artists of the past any longer. They are simply them, unique to their own selves and the music industry.

The distinct qualities of this current K-pop wave are something different, a new budding anomaly possessing an endless future of success and growth. The intelligence and skill of K-pop fans particularly shine as they create new methods and practices of what it means to be a part of a fandom. And the fangirls, fanboys and fans are right; they’re the first to know what’s trending, and they have the most passion behind it, in turn fueling their social skills online. Running an update or fan account online proves successful in more ways than one, like delivering

fresh content to open ears while also gaining professional digital and creative skills like social media marketing, design and Photoshop — all qualified abilities beneficial to the so-called adult world (which to mention, the age of K-pop fans across the board are uniquely all-encompassing from little ones to grandparents, another unique feature where one does not have to feel aged-shamed but rather celebrated for the years they have lived). Important to this generation of K-pop fandoms are translation accounts who aid in breaking the language barriers with live content translations across Twitter for physical content, live streams and interviews and YouTube for scheduled video interviews, which are all delivered as an influx of content daily as opposed to our late 2000s MySpace Jonas Brothers’ era where few but far posts from the band were released. The vastness and variety of fan accounts grow daily from your classic meme accounts ran by fans to chart update accounts presumably ran by bots (and sometimes real humans, too) who track specific elements from the Billboard chart status of songs to YouTube music video views.

Something different is happening in the music industry with K-pop; something this generation of fans will grow up telling their family, friends, their future kids, and maybe even their grandkids about. The first major groups to cross barriers of a characterized language, the ones who honorably present themselves as role models for truly anyone and those who will remain in our hearts forever as we grow in appreciation for exploring unfamiliar cultures previously unknown to us now feel like home.