Updated: Jul 26, 2021
I first became aware of K-Pop in 2012 when Psy dropped the song GANGNAM STYLE(강남스타일) shattering the record of views at the time (sitting at 4.1 billion views as of this post) and claiming the spot as the most watched video on YouTube for 5 years straight. Like most American's I had no idea what he was saying and had to track down a translation of the song (and being disappointed when I did). It definitely sounded catchy but was a one off for me. Over the last year or two however I have become increasingly aware of the term "K-Pop" and the growing influence of bands like BTS and BlackPink.
Recently John, my buddy Steve's brother posted a "Takeover Tuesday" video that touched on this topic and my lack of background piqued my interested in the hopes I could learn more about an emerging and unavoidable trend. I've since learned that this relatively new music style was born in Korea (the "K" in K-Pop) in 1987 when the government reformed and restrictions were loosed. Before then all media was heavily censored including music but suddenly TV stations were able to broadcast a wide array of options including American music.
Televised talent shows became popular and in 1992 a trio of artists going by the name Seo Taiji and Boys burst onto the seen winning the grand prize at the Seoul Music Awards. They had a distinctly Western hip hop sound, dressed like Americans and rapped like Americans but with a uniquely Korean message. The whole nation fell in love and K-Pop was born. Nobody had seen anything like it and while the government didn't approve of their messages of reform and tried to censor their lyric they obliterated the charts in Korea.
Eventually they caved and acknowledge "Hallyu" which is Chinese for "Korean Wave". The Korean government created a department dedicated to K-Pop within their ministry of culture. Whole schools were setup as incubators to foster artist and use the young talent that emerged as a global influencers representing the nation. Now here we are in 2021 seeing the success of that effort with things like commercials for McDonald's, Coke and luxury cars.
John came to visit us in KC this weekend and per his request we visited a local Korean Gift store that, as you would expect, had a ton of K-Pop paraphernalia. We browsed and picked out a few things like chopsticks and jewelry for the girls but it was more an opportunity to observe. I still favor rock and country personally but I think it's safe to say K-Pop here is there to stay.