Have you ever snapped your fingers and tapped your toes to the beat of a K-pop song? Have you ever asked yourself why some of your friends just can’t help but buy concert tickets (despite the exorbitant prices) whenever their favorite K-pop band is in town?
In the ’90s, when people thought of boy bands, they pictured five semi-good looking young men from the UK or the United States singing catchy love tunes we all memorized the lyrics and dance steps of.
Nowadays, the K-pop phenomenon has changed the face of the boy band. In recent years, there has been a slight shift in the international musical landscape. Yes, Western music still dominates the airwaves, but the small country of South Korea has produced so many megastars in the music industry, that it merits some looking into.
So what is the big deal? What is it about K-pop that popular music from neighboring Asian countries does not have? According to Karen Castro, an events organizer and certified Filipino K-pop fan, K-pop music transcends age, gender, race, religion, and even language.
It doesn’t matter that when she attends K-pop concerts most of the audience members are people a lot younger than she is. “K-pop is for everybody. There’s no age limit to it,” she says.
“When I lost my job at a university in Manila, I didn’t get depressed at all. I would just listen to my favorite bands and I would instantly feel better. I found my happiness. I guess that’s one thing about K-pop music, it makes you happy,” she adds.
As a K-pop newbie, I had to do some research for this article. I watched music videos and some clips from variety shows, and I noticed one thing – K-pop singers know how to poke fun at themselves. They have enough cool factor that they are not afraid to look foolish.
Humor, I believe is one reason why they are very popular, aside from their signature sound, which is a mixture of R&B, techno, and ballad.
Another thing is fashion. Korean boy band members have their own signature look which is very much aligned to the uniqueness of Korean fashion. They know who they are and they own it. They are never unsure of themselves. Their handlers know how to market them, and market them they do.
It also does not hurt that they have the backing of the South Korean government. In an article by Kat Chow titled “How the South Korean Government Made K-Pop a Thing,” Euny Hong, author of The Birth of Korean Cool says, “It turns out that the Korean government treats its K-pop industry the way that the American government treats its automobile and banking industry, meaning that these are industries that have to be protected.”
The Korean government recognizes the importance of K-pop and the extent of its reach as a cultural by-product, along with Korean food, fashion, TV dramas, and even beauty products. This surge in popularity of anything Korean has also helped boost their tourism industry.
K-pop is here to stay. Members of bands like Highlight (formerly known as Beast), Big Bang, and SHINee may venture into other things in the future, but their music will live on. Other young bands will emerge and will have big shoes to fill, but fill them they must. For the sake of the music. For the sake of the fans.
By: Katy Concepcion-Wiggins
Photo credit: Around US Entertainment