What Is K-Pop?

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Learning about K-Pop:

K-pop  is a musical genre originating in South Korea that is characterized by a wide variety of cool beats, catchy music and synchronized dance movements. It is a modern form of South Korean pop music covering mostly dance-pop, pop ballad, electronic, rock, hip-hop, R&B, etc.

Have you heard of “Gangnum Style” by Psy which became very viral and popular in US media, then you know little about Kpop already. In Asia however, when once thinks of Kpop, rather than Psy, much younger boys and girls group who are in their teens or 20’s comes to mind. K-pop started to take over J-pop (Japanese Popular Music Genre) in early 1990’s with Seo Taiji & Boys group.

K-pop industry have been getting popular outside of Korea, Asia and other countries thanks to sharing platform of youtube for video sharing. New kpop songs are uploaded on youtube right away to be shared with fans. Currently, the spread of K-pop to other regions of the world, via the Korean wave, is most clearly seen in parts of Latin America, Northeast India, the Middle East, North Africa, and immigrant enclaves of the Western world

Since the mid-2000s, the K-pop music market has experienced double digit growth rates. In the first half of 2012, it grossed over $3 Billion and was recognized by Time magazine as “South Korea’s Greatest Export”.

How K-pop is different from Other Asian Music Genre?

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Korean Popular Music or Kpop is generally known for following unique ways which differs from Mando-Pop, Canto-Pop and J-Pop.

  1. Focus and Audio and Video: K-pop has not only focus on audio or singing but also visual content. K-pop song has singing, rap, fusion of catchy beat, synthesized music, synchronized and sharp dance steps and colorful and sometimes out there crazy outfits that makes up a k-pop song. K-pop song as MV (Music Video) and Dance Version for the same song which makes them unique compared to other pop genre.
  2. All around Training of Singers: Korean music management agencies start recruiting kids starting from age 8-10. Singer BOA with SM entertainment is big example for it. These young kids trainee live in management company complex with tight and strict routine for school, music, dance choreography to learning Japanese, English and other foreign languages including acting, speaking and how to handle fans and journalists and reporters. Some of these routine is almost like factory churning out product and creates slave contract for young artists who do not know much better.
  3. Synchronized Dance Steps and movements: When performing K-pop music, multiple singers in a band, often made up of more than 3-9 members, switch their positions while singing and dancing by making prompt movements in synchrony without breaking a sync. The K-pop choreography often includes a hooking, repetitive dance that matches the characteristics of the lyrics of the song. You can see an example of this in-sync movement in DBSK dance version of song Mirotic, see below.
  4. Fast Distribution via the Youtube: As the South Korean music industry is comparatively small, songs are released onto national television and simultaneously uploaded onto YouTube to reach out to a worldwide audience.This is often preceded by a series of eagerly anticipated announcements and promotional activities referred to as a “comeback”, which are not comeback in US sense (it basically means next album or song), which altogether generates a significant amount of hype and excitement before the official release of songs and music videos.
  5. Support of government : The South Korean government has acknowledged that an increased interest in South Korean popular culture will benefit the country’s export sector. Government initiatives to expand the popularity of K-pop are mostly undertaken by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which is responsible for the establishment of dozens of Korean Cultural Centers worldwide. Embassies and consulates of South Korea have also participated in the planning and organization of K-pop concerts outside the country  and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regularly invites overseas K-pop fans to attend the annual K-Pop World Festival in South Korea. This is something unique to K-pop compared to other countries music pop scenes.
  6. Dedicated fanbase: I did not know how dedicated fans were in Asia until I saw, how fan supported DBSK members when has broken contract from SM entertainment to create JYJ and DBSK2 group. Fan activities include translating Korean song lyrics and publishing them in English and other languages.  It is common for fans to organize flash mobs at prominent public areas via Facebook, performing and dancing to the latest K-pop songs so that a concert would be held. Fans buy original CDs, attend and pays for concert, donates money and food as their favorite band or a band members and follow them around, support them in cafe forum of official fan group and so on.

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DBSK Mirotic Dance Version (Synchronized Dance Steps)

K-Pop Entertainment Agencies:

The three biggest agencies in terms of revenue are S.M. Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, often referred to as the “Big Three”, whose stocks are traded at the Korea Exchange.  They are responsible for recruiting, financing, training, marketing and publishing new artists as well as managing their activities and public relations.

  • SM Entertainment: Tts current roster of recording artists include Kangta, BoA, TVXQ, TRAX, The Grace, Super Junior, Zhang Liyin, Girls’ Generation, J-Min, Shinee, f(x), EXO and Henry, all of whom enjoy great success both domestically and internationally. It is also home to actors like Go Ara, Kim Min-jong, Kim Ha-neul, Lee Yeon-hee and Kim Ian among many other
  • YG Entertainment: Its current roster of recording artists are known to be some of the biggest K-pop acts internationally. Big Bang, 2NE1, Epik High, Lee Hi, and PSY have proved to be the front runners.
  • JYP Entertainment: Label’s current roster of recording artists include Wonder Girls, JOO, 2AM, 2PM, Miss A, JJ Project, Baek Ah Yeon, 15& and Lee Sunmi.

Ukiss: Neverland Dance Version

Notable K-Pop Moments:

Other recent milestones attained by K-pop bands and musicians include:

  • May 2007: Rain was the first K-pop music artist to perform at Japan’s biggest concert hall, the Tokyo Dome, in front of 40,000 fans. The show was sold out within two days after the tickets went on sale.
  • September 2010: SM Entertainment holds its first concert outside the Asian continent with the SMTown Live ’10 World Tour in Los Angeles.This precedes two sold-out concerts at the Zénith de Paris a few months later in France.
  • November 2011: BIGBANG faces off competition from the American pop icon Britney Spears and the German singer Lena Meyer-Landrut to clinch the 2011 MTV Europe Music Award for Best Worldwide Act.
  • December 2011: The total number of YouTube views generated by K-Pop videos in 2011 surpasses the 1 billion mark. It had tripled from 800 million in the previous year to more than 2.3 billion.
  • February 2012: Girls’ Generation’s appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman and Live! with Kelly on January 31, 2012, and February 1, 2012, in the United States where they performed remixes of the English version of “The Boys”, marked the first time that a Korean musical act has performed on each of the shows
  • November 2012: PSY’s “Gangnam Style” becomes the most viewed video on YouTube. After topping the record charts of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Where to Learn More About K-Pop?

In the United State, popular K-pop websites that talk about K-pop songs, artists and gossips, include:

  • Allkpop: Frequently visited by K-pop fans from English-speaking countries
  • Soompi: Largest and oldest K-pop website. In order to cater to international fans, Soompi has recently began to publish articles in extra languages such as Spanish, French and Portuguese.
  • Eatyourkimchi: Run by a Canadian couple residing in South Korea and portrays the country’s popular culture from a Westerner’s perspective.

Click here for K-Pop Music Albums

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