K-pop: What’s the Big Deal?

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Alexander Popovhttps://unsplash.com/@5tep5

Selah Bamgbose '23, Staff Writer

You’ve probably heard of worldwide sensation, BTS, and associate that with a few other things you know about K-pop. But what a lot of people don’t know is that K-pop dates back decades. Korean music has been around forever, however up until 1992, the songs played the most in South Korea were mostly political. They were ballads about how great the country was, how much everyone loved the president, and so on. The song that held the top spot in the charts for years was the song Nakhwayasu, sung by a woman named Lee Jeong-suk. It’s lyrics went something like, “Oh Korea, my great republic, how I glorify your name. ” When Seo Taiji and the Boys came on the scene, however, the Korean music industry was changed forever. Seo Taji sang about the hardships of growing up and mixed it with b-boying. This new style appealed the most to young people. After growing up, listening to songs about how great their country was, this window into the minds of other young people was refreshing for them. Seo Taji and the boys first debuted on tv and quickly became popular throughout the country. Because of their revolutionary introduction to a new world of music, a huge gate was opened through which many other K-pop bands followed.

Their lyrics touch people with anxiety and depression, and talk about things that need to be talked about.”

— Emma Filliben, '23

Many people, at some point, have wondered what propelled  BTS to their great success around the world. One of the most significant components of their success is their lyrics. “Their lyrics touch people with anxiety and depression, and talk about things that need to be talked about.”-Emma Filliben, one of many BTS fans at GC. While western music is greatly influenced by sex, money, and drugs, BTS’ music promotes self-love and independence and gives many lost teens an outlet. Lyrics from their song N.O read, Adults tell me that hardships are only momentary, to endure a little more, to do it later. Everybody say NO! It can’t be any later. Don’t be trapped in someone else’s dream. Their lyrics encourage teens to take advantage of their youth and do what makes them happy. Most K-pop artists are fluent in English as well as Korean and sometimes Japanese, and by mixing English lyrics and Korean, K-pop makes its music accessible to people all around the world. BTS alone brings in about $3.6 billion a year for South Korea. Other groups such as Blackpink, SuperM, and NCT are also making their mark in western culture. The difference between girl groups and boy groups is the message. Like western music, most Korean girl groups sing about breaking up and moving on, like Blackpink’s Kill this Love. Because most K-pop groups write about things that Americans are used to, songs like this become very popular. However, their success is not all sunshine and rainbows.

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An unpleasant side to the industry is military service. In Korea, the law is that when an able-bodied man turns 28, he must serve in the South Korean military for 21 months. This means that while most K-pop bands have younger members, at least one will be affected by this law while the band is still together. Often, military service means the end of a band.

While many K-pop fans are saddened by these factors and what it means for their favorite K-pop idols, the industry is still going strong and inspiring people around the world, young and old.

If you haven’t already, take some time to take a listen to some k-pop groups.  You might find that you have a new musical genre favorite!