K-pop is an abbreviation of Korean Pop or Popular Music. It is a genre consisting of electronic, hip hop, pop, rock, and R&B.
It has been the dominant music force in South East Asia for some time but has more recently made a big splash with Western Society.
So how did it originate? How it is different from its Western counterpart and will it be able to sustain its initial global impact? After all, one remembers that J-pop (Japanese Music) was for a time very popular in the West but failed to retain its initial high level of popularity.
Firstly, we need to understand the origins of K-pop Groups and Soloist and how they differ so greatly from the West. In the Western music industry, band members usually know each other before they form a group. They perform gigs together, enter talent contests and if popular enough they make recordings. Solo performers follow a similar pattern.
In Korea it is completely different. The music industry has become a central focus of planning by the Korean government to manage social change and regulate the development and behavior of youth and the general population. This tactic is often referred to as the ‘soft power’ policy. This unprecedented financial backing from government is to help export its industry to China, Japan, South East Asia and ultimately globally. Global consumption of its music helps Korea to achieve its Economic and Political aim of manipulating foreign nations to buy and favour Korean products and ideas.
In Korea, artists undergo many years of training before being put together by a management company. The three major companies in Korea are SM, JYP, and YG. These companies control the artists careers. Korea made use of high production of values from the beginning of K-pop and had available budgets rivalling those of USA. In the early days many tops us choreographers, producers and consultants were flown to Korea.
K-pop involves a creative use of costumes and colour in the production of music videos. The songs and videos tell a story and the artists are trained in the art of self-expression: the song tend to have catchy sing along lyrics. The choreography in K-pop is very challenging and involves a lot of sing and dance routines which require plenty of hard work and practice.
K-pop artists undergo long and intensive training which in many cases involve a great diversity involving singing and acting.
Many of the K-pop groups are multilingual and have sub groups. The best example of this is the very successful group EXO. They have a sub group EXO-K who sing in Korean and a sub group EXO-M who sing in Chinese Mandarin.
Much of the success of K-pop is due to the use of Social Media. Word of mouth coverage by fan clubs and hardcore fans is more powerful than any press coverage. The coverage of this Korean genre is so unmissable that US Billboard started a K-pop Chart and K-Rock, K-Metal, K-Rap and K-Electronica are also very popular.
So, will this K-pop craze last? J-pop failed to make Japanese music universally popular. Any type of music needs its own trend and ideology to achieve worldwide success, such as that achieved by Jamaican Reggae or British Pop.
K-pop is popular because its culture has a freshness and new feel to it. More will be needed to sustain this popularity.
However, given the resources behind it, K-pop is far more likely to sustain its level of success than was the case with J-pop.
Korean music should also gain great confidence from the success of Korean cinema which is far and away the most popular in Asia and has won prizes all around the world. The Busan film festival is internationally acclaimed. So, if we are writing a similar article to this in 20 years from now, We believe that its central focus will be on the continued world wide success of the K-pop phenomenon!
Featured Image Source: EXO, @weareoneEXO, Jan.17,2018, www.twitter.com