K-pop has taken the world by storm since it gained popularity all over the world. With bands like BTS, Blackpink, and Big Bang, K-pop has expanded its reach from Korea to around the world. If you want to understand K-pop, it is a planned fusion of various genres from around the world with Korean music culture. This has turned into a glamorized, glitzy, artificial reality.

K-pop is unique, but not a genre in its own right. He takes his form by taking a little bit of everything and making a new form of music by merging it with Korean culture. Since its inception in 1992, K-pop has gone through many stages, and today it is a global phenomenon. In this article, we will discuss how this unusual genre became so successful in today’s world.

The beginning

Beginning
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Korean pop music is unique and unusual in that it dates back to April 11, 1992, the day it began. K-Pop is the result of an audition that failed on a reality show. K-Pop finds its roots in the famous band Seo Taiji and the boys. Seo Taiji was a member of the metal band Sinawe, which was an inspiration for Korean rock music in the 1980s.

Seo Taiji broke away from the group and turned to hip-hop. He hired two dancers: Yang Hyun-suk (currently known as YG) and Lee Juno, who are now known as “The Boys”. Together they were known as Taiji and the Boys. The group performed their “Nan Arayo” which was not well received by the judges. Also, the song received the lowest score of the day.

It seemed that Korea was not yet ready for such music. The only music that was considered music at all was dream music, which was a mixture of Korean, Japanese, and American music sung in a ballad style.

The group was criticized by the judges. But outside the stadium, things looked very different. The song Nan Arayo made it to number 17 on the Korean music list within a few days and was a national phenomenon. This showed that people wanted to avoid the old traditional music and wanted something new for a change. The song became the very first of its kind as it showed a fusion between American and Korean cultures.

Every society has a set of practices and norms. They are the standards by which people balance what is acceptable and what is not. If you’re not a sociological foreigner, going along with society might be right up your alley. However, Seo Taiji was able to challenge the musical norms of society and was able to establish himself as a pioneer of a new musical genre. He broke out of the structured environment and created his own path.

The group disbanded in 1996. At that time, the entertainment industry aimed to create the next big K-pop group after Seo Taiji and the Boys. The competition was fierce, and three popular entertainment agencies came out on top:

  • SM Entertainment was founded in 1995.
  • JYP entertainment industry established in 1997
  • YG Entertainment, which was created by none other than Yang Hyun-suk of Seo Taiji and Boys.

Modernization

Modernization
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Modern pop culture began right after Seo Taiji and the Boys disbanded in 1996 with the rise of the boy band H.O.T. Because of their success, many other groups were inspired to form new bands. Moreover, Asia was in financial crisis in 1997. The entertainment industry needed a new audience and, more importantly, a new market to survive. In doing so, just like Japan, they made the move to modernize K-pop.

The modern K-Pop

Modern K Pop
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Modern K-pop is bizarre in its approach and structure. The groups didn’t get to the front because they met at school and did a startup that somehow became successful. K-Pop groups are pre-planned and tailor-made to suit the audience.

Each member is selected on the basis of very specific characteristics. Most of them are physical, such as facial features, feminine appearance, tall height, slim body and the like. After they assemble the group, they go through extensive linguistic and physical training that is often perceived as offensive.

Lee Soo-Man of the SM entertainment industry pioneered this training method for K-pop stars. As such, they must undergo rigorous training that is almost as scheduled as army training.

The Neo-K-Pop

Neo K-Pop
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Neo-K-pop was the era that skyrocketed in mid-2017 and is known as the Korean Wave or Hallyu. The promotion of social media also played a crucial role in spreading K-pop to other countries. Various artists made lively and colorful attention-grabbing videos with modern music and attractive dance moves.

The beginning of the 21st century marked the decline of K-pop in the 90s. Back in 2003, the entertainment industry was on the verge of seeking new and innovative ideas to present modern music to the public. Thus was born the second generation of K-pop music.

Bands like Wonder Girls, Super Junior, and Generation made their successful debuts, which skyrocketed the popularity of K-pop as a unique genre in the outside world. In 2012, we saw the “Gangnam Style” of Psy’s electro-pop. The song “Gangnam Style,” named after the Gangnam district in Seoul, became a worldwide hit. Everyone from politicians to businessmen to singers imitated the Gangnam Dance. Gangnam Style was the very first video to reach one billion views.

However, the American market was not ready to accept such a unique form of music holistically. Many agencies tried to make songs that met the needs of the international market. Bands like Wonder Girls tried to collaborate with the Jonas brothers, but people weren’t used to that kind of music, and it proved to be a futile effort.

Fortunately, BTS was named Top Social Artists of 2017 at the Billboard Musical Awards. They were the first group ever to win the prestigious award at the BBMA show. Her song went off the charts at Billboard and within a month BTS was #1 on the Hot 200 chart.

BTS’s win for the 2017 Billboard Top Social Artist gave Korean music the impetus to conquer not only America, but the entire world. This popularity has attracted more audiences for Korean conventions held around the world. Kcon was launched in 2012 by DG media company Koreaboo to gain a fan base outside of Korea and spread Korean culture.

Congresses

Conventions
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KCon organized several events where fans could meet their favorite artists. They got four idol groups to perform in Irvine California for the very first time and about 20,000 people gathered to see them. These numbers continued to grow as Kcon expanded into other states. They celebrated their success in New Jersey, Japan, France, Australia, Thailand and Mexico.

Through these conventions, many of the famous groups like BTS, Monsta X, and Got7 were able to expand their reach around the world.

The idol culture

The Idol Culture
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K-pop is dominated by the so-called idols. American singers and artists are known and forgotten because of their efforts and people’s fondness for them. Korean bands, however, are planned and structured through a very careful process of selection and review. Unlike the American industry, Korean agencies are looking for artists who will benefit them in the long run and shape the face of their brand.

Education

Idols are selected by audition and then subjected to intense training that is brutal and almost insane. It’s almost like being recruited for the army. At the age of 10, they begin to prepare children for auditions, and after selection, they begin training. Training is hectic and energy draining, and that is partly why they are recruited at such a young age.

They are trained by professionals under very strict supervision. Idols are expected to work out and sing in the evening and go to school in the morning. Training provides very little time for anything else, and even getting enough sleep is difficult. They live in a sort of dormitory, where they are brought together to understand each other and form the necessary bonds.

In addition to regular singing and dancing training, they are also trained in several languages such as English, Japanese, Chinese, etc., as they are expected to perform abroad. If the idol can keep up, they have prospects for a successful debut. If not, they are simply left behind.

An artist is expected to look good in almost every way. Many young people who want to become idols are forced to follow strict diet plans and rigorous training. As with most Koreans, plastic surgery is the first option to get the look. Even after going through all of this, it’s not guaranteed that they will make an official debut. You can compare Kyuhyun who just trained for three months and made his debut to EXO who had to train for seven years.

Just like that, some leave due to extreme pressure and strict routine. Some just don’t find they can keep up with the group.

Idol line up

As mentioned earlier, K-pop artists are better known as idols or idol groups. In an idol group, there are several predefined positions for each member to use for their marketing.

  • The first is the “leader”, who is often the oldest and most experienced of all. He is the mouth of the group and has to do most of the talking to the public. You can also call him the spokesman of the group.
  • The rapper, as evident from the name, raps and projects the western part of the group.
  • Then comes the singer, who does all kinds of singing, including lead and backing vocals.
  • The face or visual of the group is the eye candy of the group. It is often the most attractive look that appeals to the eyes of the audience. He is usually the most popular member of the group and usually appears in television shows, commercials and concerts.
  • The center is the member who often appears in magazine ads and photo shoots. He is often the face of the group, and his position can change based on his popularity and talent.
  • The last is Maknae, which means “the young ones.” This is the youngest member of the group, which is a representation of the childlike innocence of the group.

Conclusion

The Korean music industry has increasingly turned into a reality-based competition for survival, with emerging groups constantly churning out new idols. K-Pop is a unique blend of music from many genres with a Western twist and a touch of Korean culture. Many people find it unusual because it is literally institutionalized music due to the way idol culture works. Nonetheless, he never ceases to amaze and gain more and more audience.