K-pop—the abbreviation for Korean pop—is a musical genre originating from South Korea. Within the genre are various styles of music that range from ballad to hip hop to indie with the primary similarity being the Korean language.
Unless you’ve been living under a social rock the past year, you’ve heard of the Korean pop artist Psy and his explosive single “Gangnam Style.” You know, the one with the “Aaaaaay, sexy lady” and the “op-op-op-op-oppan gangnam style” —the only parts most listeners remember. We also can’t forget Hyuna and that’s only scratching the surface of K-pop.
I’ve recently been confronted by a Korean student who was born in the U.S. and could speak the language fluently. He asked me why I listened to K-pop: “It seems kind of weird to me that you aren’t Korean yet you enjoy listening to it. It’s all in Korean so you can’t understand what they’re saying.”
It took me a moment to respond because he had a point–I can’t understand Korean, but that doesn’t necessarily define music. Does it?
Lyrics can definitely play a role in the interpretation of emotion and possible back story of the singer, however music can be more than the translation of words alone. Like many songs here, sometimes the words don’t matter. Some songs are just dance instructions. 2NE1’s “Clap Your Hands” is hardly different from Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie” in that respect.
With that in mind, K-pop and its “invasion” into more foreign soil shouldn’t be looked at in a negative light.
People tend to attack change for sociological reasons.There are many variables involved in a song including the tune that usually gets stuck in your head, the thumping bass that get your feet tapping, the melodic vocalizing by the singer—all of which can be found in a K-pop song.
For those who haven’t already hopped onto the K-pop train, it may seem a little weird at first but you can find a K-pop subgenre that fits you like a glove.
They have their boy bands—like Super Junior and SHINee—and girl bands—like Girl’s Generation (they’ve been on Live! with Kelly and David Letterman!) and Brown Eyed Girls—reminding us of Backstreet Boys and The Pussycat Dolls with their dance-pop that made us dance along. Not to mention their occasional R&B that connected with us on a deeper, emotional level.
The group Big Bang takes on hip hop proving that Asians can rap. Continuing this subgenre of K-pop is 2NE1, a group that Big Bang introduced in 2009 with their single “Lollipop.” These artists have proven more flexible than their American counterparts The Cataracts and Dev.
Big Bang and 2NE1 show stylistic and lyrical flexiblity. 2NE1 is fluent in English and often makes translations that magically fit the same beats in their originally Korean songs. If you like rap or want an introduction to K-pop that is simpler to understand.
There are indie and ballad single artists like Ailee and Juniel who sing directly from the heart and have a deeper emotional touch than others. At times, they’ve been known to step out and appeal to other audiences by covering American songs in English.
K-pop deserves its time in the spotlight. Other than the language, there’s hardly any difference to American pop. So why not try a band or two?