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South Korea is one of the most named countries at the moment either because of its political news of agreements with its complicated neighbors, its great advance in technology or, most importantly, the impact that music has of that country globally. In these times it is easy to find a fan of these numerous groups with outgoing and incredibly synchronized choreographies when they carry a sticky melody. But how did Korea begin to have a reputation in the commercial music industry?
Before BTS, Twice and Blackpink there were groups that were the key to open the door to the global world, the first to be named is the group of the 90s Seo Taiji Boys. These boys made a significant difference in Korean music because, before them, Korea had a strict line with how the art that was produced in the country should be, were ballads or bright songs that positively influenced citizens, it was even normal to hear pride of being citizens of the country in the lyrics of the same songs. This was why the judges of the program where this group participated and debuted denied them the opportunity to win the program saying that their music would have no future. And what was different about it? His music was Hip Hop, a musical genre from the United States. For the judges it was ridiculous and incorrect that they will adopt a foreign style in their music, but for the audience, it was a very different story. They were something totally new, fresh and ‘unique.’ They like it so much that the criticism of the judges was totally silenced by the euphoria of the fans.
Then more groups began to imitate them because they were the trend of the moment, among them were groups like H.O.T. and years later 1TYM. Do you notice anything interesting? Yes, the names are easy for us (foreigners) to pronounce, it was another strategy to get the attention of the public outside of South Korea which began to have a small effect. Years later, more numerous groups would come who would come from renowned companies. It is easy for K-Pop listeners to be a fan, not only the artist, but the company behind them. SM, being the most influential together with JYP and YG, coined the groups or artists that would gradually open the door Super Junior and Girls Generation of SM marked a success to groups of more than 8 members, this I call a lot the attention of the girls.
The K-pop began to have a structure of large groups, positive music and an interesting genre mix. Using some phrases in English, and more recently, in Spanish, or using easy-to-pronounce words to make it easier to sing and be able to get into the listener’s head more easily. The gender changes in the same song -sometimes including 3 genres in just one song, as we see in the song I got a boy from GG- are so abrupt that for someone who is not accustomed, it may sound excessive, but for fans it is something very attractive. There is also the need for roles in the group including the lead singer, main dancer, rapper, the visual and even the Maknae -which is the name given to the minor of the group- with this it is intended that everyone has a role that comply. All this was the perfect structure to win the hearts of the young girls who were looking for something more than the typical Boy bands of America.
Then everything exploded.
Gangam Style sounded all over the world with just a few hours of going out, his crazy, burlesque and lively style was like an excellent energy endowment for the holidays. In a PSY interview, the creator of this K-Pop anthem, he mentioned that he himself did not give credit for what was happening, his companions Epik High of the YG agency were with him and they said ‘It’s crazy but it’s great’. In a video of the application Vlive Hanbin, former leader of iKON -a group that had PSY as a mentor- revealed that PSY had relieved him years after the resounding success since after Gangam Style felt a worldwide pressure to get another success it could move people with unknown words, but it don’t succeed because every time it was released a new song, was less successful than the previous one. In any case, Gangam Style became recognized worldwide, and for the people of Korea it is a sign of pride. In several programs such as Happy Together, Running Man, Weekly Idol among other very important continue to mention it continuously as a hymn.
After the success of Gangam Style groups such as EXO, 2in1, Big Bang, had a larger fan income to other years. Then came the survival programs like ‘Sixteen’ by JYP and ‘WIN Who Is Next’ by YG, they got more attention from other places especially in Japan and China, but the songs of the groups did not resonate on American radio stations like any song by another internationally famous artist. There were still places they didn’t reach and in some places they were still unknown.
The second outbreak was with the gradual rise of the BTS boys. Starting as a group of a JYP subsidiary, I had low-budget videos and a little more obscure styles. This group had a similarity with the veteran group ‘Seo Taiji Boys’ which was the use of problematic teenagers in their songs. They were nice guys who respected and showed admiration for their sunbaes like Big Bang -denomination given to people who have more experience in the company- began to gain the loyalty of their fans. His songs that marked most the growth of his success were: Dope, Fire and Blood Sweat and Tears respectively, and the last one would be on the Billboard charts along with American artists for several weeks. What also grew was the quality of his music and his videos which, according to fans, were an artistic work that told a story. Soon they began to break records being the most watched video in 24 hours being in constant rivalry with Blackpink to win that title. But they would establish their place as the maximum symbol of the current K-Pop thanks to the Billboard awards in 2017 when they broke the record in votes for best social artist with 300 million votes. Everyone knew BTS or at least heard his name. However, his music still did not reach the numbers to be considered close to the best artists in the world but that would change in the coming years.
Gradually the K-Pop industry has mixed with the international industry, it appears on radios in different countries, they have concerts all over the world, they compete with songs of high-level artists, and they even collaborate with these artists to be able to make a cultural exchange The Super Junior group is a great example of these as they have collaborated with Latin American artists such as the Reik group and have made covers of famous songs like Ahora te puedes marchar by Luis Miguel. Groups like KARD or Got7 even create songs in Spanish to reach more Latin fans that are a great way to grow in the market.
It is certain that the interaction between Korea and the world increased dramatically with this new musical wave. The K-Pop went from being closed to its patriotism to being able to connect with anyone around the world.
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