The emergence of South Korea’s interest in pop music began in the 90’s, having since evolved into a worldwide phenomenon that changed the landscape of music as a whole.
Now known as Kpop, the genre creates a mixture of all genres typically known for its infectious production and an extraordinary showing of musicality. What sets Kpop apart from US pop music is a very particular set of standards. For starters, all Kpop idols are heavily trained for years, undergoing constant choreography, vocal training and shared living space with potential group members.
The trainee process requires strict guidelines and if everything goes as planned, groups or artists receive a debut to introduce them to the world with a specific concept. Being a Kpop star requires a diligent approach from trainees and the art of music videos is taken to another level. It’s almost a guarantee that a Kpop video as well as the song itself follows an idea, traditionally crafted with bright and striking colors — that when merged with vocals and precise choreography, showcases undeniable talent.
Women in particular have played a groundbreaking role in the evolution of Kpop, with groups like Girls Generation and 2NE1 creating a launchpad for a global audience. The women in these groups were diversely gifted as dancers, singers, songwriters and performers, which would interest other audiences not familiar with Kpop, with songs like “Gee” and “Into the New World” solidifying their artistry and contagious energy.
As female-centric Kpop continued to bloom, others like the genre underdogs Crayon Pop delivered their own spin on overall presentation, elevating the individuality required to make a statement as an artist. Crayon Pop delivered songs such as “Doo Doom Chit” and “Bing Bing” demonstrating addictive creativity within the scope of an ever-evolving form of music. The popularity within the powerful fandoms has even caused a desire for a “subunit” or smaller group within a group, such as the still active Girl Generation Oh! GG, Crayon Pop’s iconic sister duo outing known as Strawberry Milk and After School’s Orange Caramel to gift fans with an assortment of vocal combinations.
We’ve more recently been introduced to artists like Blackpink and Itzy, gaining reputations in an era that’s receiving a surge in popularity. Social media has been a crucial component in the Kpop-boom, becoming a place for Kpop to become more accessible across all platforms (yes, those Twitter fancams make it impossible to miss.) Blackpink in particular has amassed several billion views for their videos and streaming numbers that are unattainable by most artists across the globe — even collaborating with Lady Gaga for a major pop music crossover event.
Solo artists have also come out of groups, with Wonder Girls alum Yubin recently creating her own label and unforgettable debut song “yaya (Me Time).” Girls Generation’s Tiffany has also branched out, moving back to the US to transition with a new sound after a decade in South Korea — like former Sistar member Hyloyn, who now focuses on her own exploration as a solo artist. Other Girls Generation members have gone solo or collaborated on songs with other major Kpop stars, like Sunny and former label-mate Henry on the smooth R&B driven track “U&I” uniting two sounds and cementing that as a group, these artists are remarkable, but as individuals we still have so much more to look forward to in their careers.
What makes all of these women so incredibly influential in Kpop is their true drive and dedication. These women radiate power not just as singers, but through dance, through their messages about compassion, their constant push to keep the platform growing, and support of one another throughout their respective careers. While fandoms can occasionally create an unhealthy space for artists that undeniably needs to be altered, the artists themselves are effortlessly lovable because they share their gift with the world, but also feel like humble, hard workers who you genuinely want to see succeed.
The appreciation for Kpop has no boundaries on age, as something that can either make you smile, dance, or even succumb to a wave of feels thanks to its truly magical effect. In just under three decades, Kpop has already proven to expand in ways that we couldn’t have predicted, and with so many gifted artists putting out music into the world, there’s a high possibility this is just the beginning.
Stream our ‘Queens of Kpop’ playlist with some of the legendary sounds of South Korea here!