Discovering the World of K-Pop Music

I have been lucky to have been blessed with a pair of pretty cool kids who can enjoy a variety of different music and movie genres without being too uptight or “too cool” about it. Recently, however, my 19-year-old has been growing into her own adulthood by venturing off in musical sub-genres and sub-sub-genres. This includes K-Pop (South Korean based popular music) boy bands.

Hey, I thought I was still cool. I’ve been to punk rock concerts as recently as two years ago, and was general manager of my college radio station when I was in grad school. I share a freakin’ birthday with Gerard Way, for lord’s sake (okay, not the actual year, but still). I’ve also memorized enough rap, hip-hop and pop punk lyrics to both embarrass and impress my kids with, although they won’t admit to the later.

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This past week I listened to the new song “Butter,” by one of the most famous groups in K-Pop today: BTS. I really liked this catchy feel-good song that gave me flashbacks of the late 80s and early 90s fun pop sounds.

As of today, BTS’s video for “Butter” has had more than 270 million views, and is YouTube’s biggest video premier ever, with 3.9 million concurrent views on the day it premiered on May 21. They also just broke a few Amazon sales records, and a list of other music records I don’t have near enough space to list. They are the first K-Pop group to make Billboard’s Top 100 and to be nominated for a Grammy, so they are doing pretty well for themselves.

Now, I tell you all this because I felt I was getting pretty much into the K-Pop fold by getting into one of their songs.

Not according to daughter who let me know I’m still way, way behind on my K-Pop knowledge.

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She said there are so many other great K-Pop groups I “just have to hear.” After purchasing some McDonald’s chicken nuggets with special BTS hot chili sauce (that is currently available at a Mickey D’s near you), she gave me a specially curated list of her four favorite K-Pop “boy bands” and songs that I will now share with you. BTS is not one of them.

What all these videos have in common, love them or hate them, is they are high-energy, fantastically choreographed, and make it nearly impossible to not want to get up an dance. Plus, they have a ton of American fans.

“Sorry, Sorry” by Super Junior (2009)

These guys were known as the “King of Hallyu Wave” since they contributed to what is know as the Korean Wave, a rise in popularity among K-Drama and K-Pop. My daughter told me this was one of her favorites in middle school, and many members of this and other K-Pop groups were also actors and stars of some K-Dramas she enjoyed. I also learned my daughter memorized this song for a class all on her own for a school contest. How did I not know this?

“Nillili Mambo” by Block B (2012)

Here’s my own personal favorite of her picks, as this video is a little edgier hip-hop, rock and pop punk. Block B has been part of some controversy in their country for “inappropriate” content, and from what I’ve seen they and other K-Pop groups like Monstra X are really keen on making their videos resemble gritty action and heist films.

“Hero” by Monstra X (2015)

This band was formed as the result of a reality show, and have a pretty polished EDM and hip-hop sound. These guys have caught the attention of the Japanese audience as well, and are the first Korean group to perform at the annual Jingle Ball event for iHeartRadio.

“Fantastic Baby” by Big Bang (2012)

This emo and goth tinged video is from a group who has gained the moniker “Kings of K-Pop.” In their native South Korea, 18 of their songs have reached Number One, and they are the first Korean band to be named on Forbes “Celebrity 100” list in 2016 as well as its “30 Under 30” list just a year later. The production quality on this one is through the roof, and you’ll feel like you’re coming out of an all night rave after this.

Whether or not any of these bands strike your fancy, you gotta admit K-Pop has some excellent showmanship, some addictively fun tunes, and most of all, some very, very avid fans.

2 comments on “Discovering the World of K-Pop Music

  1. The Mgmt. says:

    Had to jump in and give a listen. Can definitely see the appeal. Not gonna lie. Not my personal jam… but groups like this are gonna get massive play on spotify etc. To say its formulaic may be the understatement of the year. But still.. Kpop is a force of nature. Here’s hoping it will push new artists to do new and different things. Wherever there’s a hugely popular movement? The cool kids will invent something to counter it. Let’s see what they come up with.

  2. Lisa Kay says:

    They do have that standard formula they follow for sure like the western boy bands of the 90s, but I was stunned at how massive a following these guys have, and how into them my daughter (who usually loves heavy metal, punk and 40s style swing) got into them.
    There is a dark side to KPop, sadly, as we often see about suicides and depression among these artists, and the compulsory military service many go through might end a career quickly.
    Still, amazing to see the size and audience range this reaches.

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