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Lately, American music can be described in one word: baroque. The simple eight notes Pachelbel’s melody can be found in many popular songs, such as Avril Lavigne’s “Skater Boy” or Aerosmith’s “Crying.”
Radios today play popular songs that include two main themes: a dancing rhythm and some guy trying to seduce a girl. Artists including Usher, Lil Wayne, Taio Cruz, and Flo-Rida have engaging songs with upbeat rhythms, perfect for dancing. However, when listening to the lyrics, the same songs are just like the rest, talking about sexual exploitations of women. There is no creativity or uniqueness. Enter Korean Wave.
Korean Wave, aka Hallyu, refers to the spread of Korean culture across the globe from Europe to Latin America, entertaining society through movies, music, and food. Though North American Hallyu is fairly recent, Koreans are no strangers in Hollywood. In fact, many Hollywood producers have been requesting Korean and Korean-Americans to star in their movies. In May 2009, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, starring Korean actor Daniel Henney, appeared in theaters. Later in the summer, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was released in August, starring Byeong-Heon Lee. Finally in November, actor and singer Rain was the lead role in Ninja Assassin.
Aside from film entertainment, Hallyu has also impacted music. The three top entertainment agencies in Korea, SM, JYP, and YG have produced many popular artists. Artists such as Wonder Girls, Big Bang, Super Junior, and 2PM have made swept various music charts in the US. In fact, in 2009, Wonder Girls were the first Korean singers to place on US Billboard’s Hot 100 charts with their song “Nobody.” Hallyu has not gone unnoticed by US music producers. Korean artists are collaborating with many well-known producers including Kayne West, Teddy Riley, DJ Diplo, Rodney Jerkins, and Will.i.am.
Why exactly is K-pop so popular? For one thing, the music is addicting and fresh. Each artist has their own unique style of music, from girly to eye-catching, shirt ripping. The lyrics have more meaning than “getting the girl.” There are many genres from ballads to hip hop to rock. Korean artists sing with feelings, pouring into their music, about love, heartbreak, friendship, and happiness. However, there is more to just music that makes k-pop entertaining. There are variety shows that the artists appear as guests as well as dramas and movies. The entertainment companies select individuals who have raw talent and individuality that can be shaped to not only become singers but also radio show hosts, actors, dancers, and models.
With the Korean Wave hitting the US, one would think there would be more artists trying to make a break in the American music market and yet only a handful have attempted. The earliest artist to debut in US was Se7en, in March 2008 with his single “Girls” featuring Lil Kim. Shortly after, Queen of K-pop BoA debuted in October 2008 with her hit single “Eat You Up.” The summer of 2009 was a major moment in K-pop when Wonder Girls were chosen to be one of the opening acts for the Jonas Brothers World Tour. In 2011, the trio JYJ is headlining their second world tour hitting major cities including Los Angeles, New York City, and San Jose.
Besides touring the US, there have been several artists that have made a different splash: US iTunes Chart. Between 2010 and 2011 there have been four major artists to make a mark on iTunes Chart. In March 2010, music group Epik High became the first Korean to debut #1 in the Hip-hop album chart with their album Epilogue beating out performers such as Ludacris, Kayne West, Jay-Z, Beastie Boys, and Black Eyed Peas. Four months later, solo artist Taeyang placed #3, becoming the first Korean artist to place under R&B/Soul album category. Continuing to September, 2NE1’s new album To Anyone debuted #2, beating previous artist. The shocking news is that this group did not have any overseas promotions! Lastly, in February of 2011, Big Bang made a record in the top 10 based solely on their pre-orders. Not only that but they are the only non-English language album to ever chart in the top 100.
I guess what I am trying to say is the K-pop genre is vibrant and continue to make their way to the US market. With fans all over the world, the US is no exception. As Hallyu continues to spread across the globe, expect to see more Korean artists making indents in the US market. The music is fun, great workout songs, and is more relatable. For those who are interested in this genre, a few artists to look into are TVXQ, Super Junior, Big Bang, SNSD, and Epik High.
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