Crazy For K-Pop: A Snapshot Look At The Phenomenon Taking Over The World

Helen Payne 15 April 2019

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a craze going on. A global frenzy for Korean pop music, or, as the kids are calling it these days, K-Pop. There’s a seemingly infinite number of K-Pop groups around at the moment, with millions of loyal fans all over the globe — the most obsessive of which are called Sasaengs. They're known for their extreme behaviour, with some breaking into group member’s houses, carrying secret recording devices, crashing weddings, that sort of thing. 

The million-dollar movement is gathering freight train momentum and does not show signs of slowing down any time soon, with a constant stream of expensive music videos and explosive live performances fuelling the hysteria.

K-Pop as we know it came to fruition in the early 1990s, thanks in part to the hugely successful Seo Taji and Boys — which included Yang Hyun-suk, who went on to form one of the scene’s biggest agencies, YG Entertainment. Since then, the more-industry-than-genre phenomenon has continued to grow, with acts breaking through international markets at an impressive rate. In 2002, a young female artist named BoA hit the number one spot not only in Korea, but in Japan too. It spread like wildfire across the rest of Asia, and is currently taking the rest of the world by storm.

The majority of K-Pop acts are formed by their country’s giant entertainment agencies, who hand-pick a selection of so-called ‘idols’ for their new project. They are rigorously trained from a young age to become perfectly polished pop stars — complete with shining personalities, playful banter and suave choreography — cultivated and ready to storm their way across the world for massive stadium dates.

Getting into K-Pop could take hours, days or even weeks. So we’ve put together a snapshot history of two of the biggest groups headed to the UK in 2019, as well as some names that should be on your radar. Think of it as a K-Pop crib sheet, or the best slice (with the most icing) of the K-Pop cake.

BTS

BTS are one of, if not the biggest boy band in the world right now, since the indefinite hiatus of One Direction in 2016 (*sniff*). The Bangtan Boys built themselves a global following after conquering their home country, Japan and the US — becoming the most successful K-Pop act in US history — and now the UK too, selling out massive dates at Wembley Stadium in June. They also helped to double their management company Big Hit Entertainment's profits in 2018. Phew.

The group, formed of RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook, were put together by Big Hit in 2013 and debuted that year with their first single album ‘2 Cool 4 Skool’—FYI, in Korea a singles album means a collection of one or more singles with a physical release, rather than a full- length album. They followed this up with the ‘O!RUL8,2?.’ EP and ‘Skool Luv Affair’ in 2014, with the latter marking the first time BTS landed on Billboard’s World Albums Chart.

BTS continued their widespread prominence with subsequent albums and EPs, 'Dark & Wild' in 2014 and 'The Most Beautiful Moment in Life’ series, which entered the Billboard 200 chart and won various awards. They then moved on to the ‘Love Yourself’ Trilogy: with ‘Her’ dropping in 2017, while ‘Tear’ and ‘Answer’ followed in 2018, amid other releases, including the Japanese language ‘Face Yourself’.

Their seventh album, 'Map of the Soul: Persona' arrived on April 12, and on the same day they dropped the video for cut Boy With Luv featuring Halsey. YouTube have confirmed it’s the most viewed 24 hour debut in their history — the count currently stands at over 130 million views.

BTS are admired around the globe for standing apart from the K-Pop industrial machine. Big Hit have changed the way they treat their stars. The septet produce, compose and write lyrics themselves, drawing from a plethora of academic influences, from Nietzsche and Orwell to Ursula K Le Guin and Haruki Murakami. They encourage their fans to get reading and educate themselves, instead of watching endless videos online (I think the YouTube record above proves they may not be following all of their idols’ advice).

They've also used their massive influence and status to help others, donating large sums of food and money to charities around the world —  now it makes sense that their name translates to Bulletproof Boy Scouts, Bangtan Sonyeondan in Korean — and promote body positivity, as well as gender and sexuality politics. Due to their support of the latter and their uncustomary creative freedom, a few years ago the group announced their name would take on another meaning, Beyond The Scene. They truly are on another level.

Need even more proof of the group’s global success? A mention on the Simpsons. Now THAT’S fame.

BLACKPINK

BLACKPINK are flying the flag for the ladies of K-Pop. 2019 has already seen them release new EP ‘Kill This Love’ and break records — until recently the EP’s title track held the YouTube record for the most viewed 24 hour debut, overtaking Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next. But, as mentioned above, it was recently usurped by BTS.

I don’t think BLACKPINK are too worried, though. At the time of writing, the group’s YouTube channel has upward of 23 million subscribers and their As If It’s Your Last single racked up over 568 million views. That’s over ten times the population of South Korea. Another of their tracks, Ddu-Du Ddu-Du, stands more than 758 million, the most watched K-Pop video on the site. That’s way over double the population of the US, and is indicative of the absolute madness that surrounds K-Pop’s popularity.

The rest of BLACKPINK’s year revolves around the In Your Area Tour, which will see them tackle enormous arena shows in the UK, North America, Europe and Australia. A huge trek like that might signify a band who’ve been around for years, with multiple albums under their belt, having cut their teeth at grimy clubs and on gruelling tours in shitty vans, before earning slots at 20,000 capacity venues. BLACKPINK formed in 2016 and have thirteen songs — lucky for some it seems.

Numbers play an important role for BLACKPINK. A killer four piece from South Korea made up of Jisoo, Jennie, Lisa, and Rosé, they were formed by YG Entertainment (one of the Big Three agencies) as the next big girl group to carry on the legacy set before them by 2NE1 in the early 2010s.

BLACKPINK drew significant attention with their 2016 single album ‘SQUARE ONE’, which launched the ridiculously catchy tracks Whistle and Boombayah. It secured the top two positions on the Billboard World Digital Songs chart, and they became the fastest act to take these spots and only the third Korean artist to do so, after the hugely influential Psy — remember Gangnam Style? Those were the days — and BigBang. The latter are incredibly popular on the scene, but are currently on hiatus due to three members carrying out their compulsory military service and the remaining member being part of what the national press called The Burning Sun Club Scandal.

The members of BLACKPINK also have their own solo careers, with YG founder Yang Hyun-suk confirming via Instagram each member is set to have their own single. The four women each have their own distinct personality and style, and fans will have what is known as a bias — their favourite member to whom they stay most loyal — so solo singles are expected to do extremely well. Jennie went first. Her debut track alone, imaginatively titled SOLO, hit shelves in November 2018. Rosé is up next, with the other two coming shortly.

ELSEWHERE ON THE SCENE

With four full-length albums under their belt, F(x) are recognised for their eclectic, experimental style and electro-pop sound. They were one of the first K-Pop groups to gain international attention, debuting in 2009 as a dance-based pop group.

SF9 are an award-winning group made up of nine members. They were formed by FNC Entertainment in 2016 and recently released their sixth mini album, ‘Narcissus’. They’ll support the record with UK, European and US tour dates this spring.

The exciting new eight-strong collective Ateez are another group to watch, having hosted an event for fans before any music was even released. Through a reality TV show they give fans an insight into their quest to become the perfect boy band.

Monsta X are Starship Entertainment’s first hip hop act, who debuted in 2015 with the ‘Trespass’ EP. Their rugged energy captures the hearts of fans at home in Korea and abroad.

EXO are a dance and hip hop-orientated group divided into two performance sub-groups: EXO-K, who focus on playing in South Korea. EXO-M, who specialise in performing in China to a Mandarin-speaking audience.

Inspired by the likes of En Vogue, Destiny’s Child and Gwen Stefani, Red Velvet are a rap-infused, R&B-influenced pop quintet who split their collective personality in two: their ‘Red’ side is bubbly, while their ‘Velvet’ side is more elegant.

Whet your whistle? Check out all the UK dates for K-Pop groups on tour in 2019 through Stereoboard.

BTS Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Sat June 01 2019 - LONDON Wembley Stadium
Sun June 02 2019 - LONDON Wembley Stadium

Sat May 04 2019 - PASADENA California - Rose Bowl (USA)
Sun May 05 2019 - PASADENA California - Rose Bowl (USA)
Sat May 11 2019 - CHICAGO Illinois - Soldier Field (USA)
Sun May 12 2019 - CHICAGO Illinois - Soldier Field (USA)
Sat May 18 2019 - EAST RUTHERFORD New Jersey - MetLife Stadium (USA)
Sun May 19 2019 - EAST RUTHERFORD New Jersey - MetLife Stadium (USA)

Fri June 07 2019 - PARIS STADE DE FRANCE (France)
Sat June 08 2019 - PARIS STADE DE FRANCE (France)

Click here to compare & buy BTS Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

  


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