I mean this is one global phenomenon we just don’t get! But we want to understand it, so we’re taking a deep dive into the ‘Hallyu’ (a Korean word used to describe the 'Korean wave') world of K-Pop and all its glory.
First though, a little backstory.
Before K-Pop dynamited the whole globe, it actually started off with humble beginnings in 1996. As a matter of fact, the very first K-Pop band came about in that year. The group was assembled by music studio SM Entertainment’s founder Lee Soo-man. They were called H.O.T. and the group consisted of 5 members, who weren’t only singers, but dancers as well. They were one of the first boy bands who offered the world, something different and interesting: good-looking members, colorful clothing, and funky beats anyone could get down to.
Since H.O.T., bands began to sprout like mushrooms after a storm, one after another, with lots of different music. However, they all focused on one very basic aim: delivering good music, good singers, good dancers, good fashion and an all-round good repertoire. It was in 2009, when a group called the Wonder Girls went off the charts with their famous hit ‘Nobody’, that K-Pop began to gain more international traction. From there on out, other Korean bands like Super Junior, SHINee, Girls Generation, Big Bang, and even Korean singer Psy, stepped into the limelight.
Today, there are about 370 K-Pop bands to exist, the most popular being BTS. While there isn’t a completely accurate statistic to the number of K-Pop fans worldwide, as of July 2019, The Korea Foundation estimated the industry to have over 89 million fans spread across 113 countries!
It is definitely a huge number in such a short span of time. But, what is it that pulls people into the whirlpool of K-Pop? Here’s what we think.
1. They don’t sing and dance, they perform.
The thing about K-Pop is that every performance is an all or nothing moment. Making sure every instant is close to perfect, the members of any K-Pop band rehearse their lineup for at least a year, before actually displaying their act on stage or over a music video. With so many in-sync variations in choreography, no two performances are ever the same. Each song and performer assumes a new personality when performing, based on the theme of the song. As a matter of fact, even their outfits are pre-planned to match each other and the songs they perform.
2. Their songs hit just right.
From dance-able anthems to heart-wrenching ballads, Korean songs just slap in a way no other music really does. Besides almost always creating songs with some of the funkiest and addicting beats, South Korean music also explores multilingualism. Oftentimes, popular Korean songs are mashed up with a few English words or verses. This aspect very much appeals to those who don’t necessarily understand the Korean language. Some of them are also repackaged in Japanese, while others do covers of popular songs from other languages.
3. Their singers have out-of-this-world good looks.
We mean, we definitely know you’re lying if you say they don’t look like God specifically came down from heaven to sculpt their faces. Their flawless skin, perfect hair and always-spot-on fashion is most certainly another reason why people lose their minds. Whether it’s at the airport, home, rehearsals, on stage, or in videos, you can just never get a bad shot of any of these idols. From clothes to accessories and makeup, their effort to always look presentable wherever they are, we believe, play a very big role in making sure they always have a string of fans chasing after them.
4. Team work makes the dream work.
One of the other aspects that makes K-Pop stand out as a very prominent genre in today’s world, is the diversity they bring to the table. Although each group has a large number of members, each one has something unique of their own to showcase. Having group members from more than just one country, some sing, some dance, some rap, some do stunts, and they always work as one unit. Their high concept groups (two of the same group but in two different languages) also doubles their fanbase. On top of that, they are all jacks of all trades. Not only can they sing and dance, but a number of them are also actors, models, etc.
5. They love their fans and it shows.
Last but the most important of them all is that they care a lot about their fans. Of course, generally all artists do, but K-Pop idols go the extra mile to let their fans know that they matter to them. Having so many different means for their fans to connect to them, most K-Pop artist-fan experiences are highly interactive, and thrive on a more personal level. They are rather connected to their fans online. From talking about their daily routines when they go live on a specific app, to even having a short one-on-one chat with fans, they show them that they too are just ordinary people. Besides that, these artists also build relationships with their fans on special online video call concerts as well as live concerts.
To have so many near perfect aspects pre-packed into an entire entertainment segment, we think we’re starting to see just why people are obsessed with K-Pop. It’s like watching artists live solely for their fans, which makes it quite understandable just how far K-Pop fans are willing to go.
We’re not gonna lie, we’re not obsessed. But we will say we’re beginning to see the appeal.
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