“What is this?” was the question on everyone’s mind when Gangnam Style took North America by storm last year. With its hilarious video, Psy’s signature horse dance, and the catchy beat, Gangnam Style holds the crown of most viewed video on YouTube ever with over 1.7 billion views, surpassing Western artists like Justin Bieber and Rihanna. Gangnam Style also widened the door to K-Pop’s entry into the international music scene.
K-Pop stands for Korean Pop, and as its name suggests, it is the Korean equivalent of North America’s popular “mainstream” music. The Hallyu Wave, or Korean Wave, refers to K-Pop’s surge in popularity around the globe. Despite language barriers, K-Pop is on the rise in Asia, Europe, and North America.
So why has K-Pop gained so many followers in recent years? Here are four features that make K-Pop stand out.
1. Attractive idols and lots of them
In North America, most artists are either soloists or in a band. While solo idols do exist in Korea, idol groups are the norm. Imagine a world dominated by One Direction and the Spice Girls. Four to twelve attractive, well-built men or women with model-like figures croon your favourite song to you. With such a large group of idols, it will be hard to pick your favourite, so why not fawn over all of them? With perfect teeth and milky smooth skin, idols are irresistible.
2. Sexy, cute, fierce
Each idol group tends to portray their own unique image, depending on which demographic the group is targeting. For example, Girl’s Generation started with a cute and innocent look before evolving into a more mature and sexy image. Typically, the idol groups’ main audience is of the opposite sex, but they don’t always aim for teens. Groups like Boyfriend and Shinee are known as noona-killers (noona is a term a man uses to address a woman that is older than him) because their target audiences are older women. Naughty, tough, or sweet, there is already a K-Pop group tailored to your tastes.
3. Point choreography
Just like Psy’s Gangnam Style, 90 percent of all K-Pop songs are packaged with unique choreography. In fact, some of the most famous K-Pop songs are known for the synchronicity of the dancers. The current hit song in the K-Pop world right now is Crayon Pop’s “Bar Bar Bar”, because of its fun, jumping dance. My personal favourite dance from this summer is from Dal Shabet’s “Be Ambitious”. The choreography includes the most addictive magnetic skirt dance, which you will most likely attempt to replicate with your towel or lab coat. Don’t worry, I won’t judge.
4. English Phrases and A Catchy Beat
Another trend in K-Pop in recent years is the use of English phrases in their songs to attract more international audiences. So even if you don’t understand Korean, which I don’t, there are still signature English phrases in songs that will be stuck in your head all day. Even if it’s one line of English, it serves as a hook, line, and sinker. Combined with insanely catchy beats, you’ll be nodding along to K-Pop in no time.
I started my love affair with K-Pop in 2009 when I happened to stumble upon Girl’s Generation’s “Gee”. Since my first year at McGill, the only music that I listen to is K-Pop, and the people around me are subjected to it as well. Admittedly it took a year or two, but my friends are now much more aware of K-Pop, and have asked me on occasion what new songs are out. Here’s a playlist I put together so you can give K-pop a chance: