K-pop’s Popularity Continues to Rise

BTS at the 2019 Seoul Music Awards.  Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

BTS at the 2019 Seoul Music Awards. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


BTS, a South Korean boy band, has become the first group since the Beatles to send three albums to the the number one spot in America in less than a year. They also broke a YouTube record by gaining the most views in 24 hours. So why is South Korean music suddenly dominating the American music chart? 

Korean pop music, commonly referred to as K-pop, gained global recognition after the release of  “Gangnam Style” by PSY in July 2012. It became the most viewed video on YouTube and the first YouTube video to surpass one billion views.

During that time, Bigbang, Girls Generation, Super Junior, and many more K-pop groups were also gaining western recognition. They allowed other Korean artists and groups like BTS, Blackpink, and EXO to grow globally.       

But what makes K-pop so special? 

“K-pop music tends to focus more on harmony,” said Samiha Uddin ’21. “American music has more of the artist’s individual voice to it. In K-pop, everything seems to be homogeneous.”

Salma Marium ’21 said, “The idols [Korean artists] always dance when they sing. They have nice choreography.”

Patrice Reyes ’20 said, “K-pop artists have special choreography made to suit each song that the group or soloist will perform on stage. In each group, members can major in vocals, rapping, or dance.” 

In K-pop, merging singing, rapping, and dancing is a must.  

Of course, many people ask: Isn’t the language a huge barrier for those who don’t understand Korean?

“Yes, there is a language barrier,” said Tanjina Ullah ’21. “But come on, those billions of people who listened to ‘Despacito,’ did they all actually understand the lyrics? Also, with rap, many of us don’t even know what they’re saying half of the time. The language barrier is not really a big thing once you start listening to it.”

 K-pop is also known for conveying positive messages. BTS’s last album promoted loving yourself. They had a partnership with the Korean and Japanese Committee for UNICEF to open a campaign that would end the fear of violence for young people. 

“Even when the music videos look really colorful, their message from it is really deep and sometimes dark,” said Ullah. “A lot of artists in the industry share their struggles through their music, which a lot of people can relate to and take comfort from. I sometimes don’t read the English lyrics because I can’t handle how deep and sad it is. However, when I do, I always learn something because there’s always a message behind it.”

Reyes said, “In ten years, K-pop will probably stay the same as it is now. Nothing really changes other than the artists and music and the genre of music each artist produces. Maybe more artists will become as popular as BTS, EXO, Twice, or Blackpink in the future. All we can do now is look forward to it.”