Completely unknown 10 years ago in Europe and America; K-Pop is coming in full force. In 2011, Koreans were the first Asians to fill both the Madison Garden in New York and the Zenith in Paris. How such a musical movement manage to gain so much importance in so little time and with so little press coverage?
K-Pop (short for Korean Pop) has been already famous in Asia for while. Following the first Hallyu (Korean Wave) driven by TV dramas, Korean stars have reached the top of Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese and Southeast Asian countries charts. A quick look at the YouTube views numbers of the biggest names of the K-Pop will give you a feel of the importance of the wave. Bands like 2NE1, Super Junior or SHINee have nothing to be ashamed of Madonna or Lady Gaga’s YouTube video’s crazy figures.
The movement has progressively started to be noticed in the west. In 2009, the rap band Epik High had sold out major venues in the US and was teasing huge artists such as Kanye West and Jay-Z in the iTunes chart.
In 2010, artist Jay Park have hit N°1 on the R&B / Soul iTunes charts in the USA, Canada and Denmark.
In 2011, the biggest K-Pop bands tour all together for the first time in Europe. Promoters were taken by surprise. “Le Zenith” the biggest French venue is sold out in a matter of hours! This is causing such stir in the European K-Pop community that they organised a Facebook flash mob demanding… a new concert. Relying only on sales figures, the music industry people did not expect that.
The press recently started to cover these bands in the west but this is very new phenomenon. The success of all these bands is mainly due to the social media, fan clubs and hardcore fans acting as evangelists.
The non-presence of the press completely strengthened and boosted the word of mouth effect, which remains the most effective marketing strategy, as it has no equal in credibility.
But the music from this discreet Asian country became so unmissable that the US Billboard started a K-Pop chart.
In Asia, where K-Pop is a lot more popular, the story is very different. This success has been preceded by the Korean drama boom. Their culture has a whole became popular again in Asia. For thousands of years, Chinese who were dominating the continent has often described Korean art as more spontaneous. Pottery, dance, singing, poetry and painting were already so much sought-after that Japanese were well known for kidnapping their artists.
Back in the XXI century, the style of these first new stars is not very original and might remind western the “boys bands” from the 90s but in a lot more trained. All these highly manufactured artists are going through an almost military training that last for years. But the recent success of the Korean music has seen the development of so different bands that people start to reconsider the word K-Pop. A lot of new sub-genre names such as K-Rock, K-Metal, K-Rap and K-Electronica have flourished. The independent music scene has also been looking at this unexpected musical explosion for while. The genius Electro-Hip Hop-Tropical Bass producer Diplo, who did a fruitful collaboration with the Korean GP & TOP, cherish the Korean Hip Hop scene and wrote “the styling is sooooo much better then US rap its really sad”
But the movement will need a lot more consistency if it wants to last. J-Pop and Japanese music did not manage to bring Asian music popular in the world. Only DJ Kush and DJ Kentaro managed to get a temporary indie label support and can be remembered by the Electro-Hip Hop fans and a few artists in the electronica and experimental scene. But mainstream artists haven’t managed to keep the world’s attention apart in the Asian continent where some are still popular.
Like British pop or Jamaican reggae, any musical trend needs an ideology and new values to conquer the world and make history. Through dramas and music, Korean already showed the rest of Asia their vision of a modern society very different from the one coming from Japan. In 2012, Korean will probably have to choose their president between two female candidates. For the Nippon neighbours, a similar scenario in their country is just pure science fiction. Most of the Japanese women are still housewives or can’t expect something better than a PA or secretary position. Also, men seem to have no complex about machismo and are less afraid of showing their feminine side. This is particularly efficient with the teenager market or housewives in need of romance.
This explains in part the huge success of Korean culture in Asia. But for western people, all this isn’t really original and what is attracting them is more the fresh feel of this culture, which seems to be new to them. We can guess that more will be needed to keep this interest alive. The Korean author’s cinema already proved himself to be one of the most successful in the world by collecting prizes around the world in film festivals. Busan film festival is already the biggest and most respected one in Asia so we can only hope a same bright future for the Korean music industry.
– Hip hop :
T.O.P. – Turn It Up
Simon D. (사이먼디) – Cheerz (짠해)
Leessang 리쌍 ft. ALI- 내가 웃는게 아니야.. (I’m Not Laughing)
G-Dragon & TOP – Knock Out (뻑이가요)
– Pure K-Pop
2NE1 – I Am The Best 내가 제일 잘 나가
Super Junior (슈퍼주니어) – No Other (너 같은 사람 또 없어)
– More K-Pop with a funny twist
PSY – Right Now
UV – Itaewon Freedom (이태원 프리덤)
– Jazz Pop Electro
CasKer – Missing
Windy City – Silky Silky Love Song
Freakhouze – World In Your Eyes
Crying Nut – 서커스 매직 유랑단
– Neo Metal – Rock
Guckkasten (국카스텐) – Manicure (매니큐어)
Crash – Crashday