Quick Takes: K-Pop in America


Korean Music Brings Something Fresh to the American Music Scene

The domination of K-pop music videos on YouTube has drawn attention to the spread of Korean music to the United States. According to TIME Magazine, the huge boost in views for Girls’ Generation’s “I Got a Boy” video is due largely to its huge viewership in the U.S. Some may be apprehensive to welcome the K-pop fad, but for the time being, it brings some fun and freshness to an industry populated with few Asian influences.

The “Hallyu” wave allows Asian pop music to significantly influence the American market for the first time. Outside of PSY, very few artists originally from Asia have become household names in the U.S. According to the New Yorker, the genre as a whole infuses several elements of music, including hip hop, Euro pop, and dubstep. Also, in contrast to American pop, many top K-pop acts are groups composed of several males or females who perform impressively complex dance routines in addition to singing.

Although many comments on Girls’ Generation’s “I Got a Boy” music video say something along the lines of “I don’t get why people like this if they can’t understand Korean,” people really can enjoy K-pop without understanding the lyrics. “Gangnam Style,” for example, became the 9th best selling song of 2012 in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan. Fans enjoy K-pop for the songs’ beats, the synchronized dance groups of up to 15 members and the bright and flashy videos.

As long as fans can find enjoyment in it, the introduction of the genre into the U.S. should not be overly criticized.

— BAHAR MOSHTAGHIAN 
Staff Writer

K-Pop Lacks the Orginality to Make a Permanent Impression in the U.S.

South Korean pop music is basking in international recognition — PSY’s “Gangnam Style” is the most viewed YouTube video of all time, and Girls’ Generation’s recent single “I Got a Boy” reached 25 million hits within two weeks of its release. However, K-pop simply models Western pop music and lacks the originality and diversity necessary to survive in the global market. Unless more support is shown toward independent artists, the Korean Wave is doomed to fail.

In an investigation of the K-pop industry in 2012, the international news channel Al Jazeera reported that corporations oversee many Korean artists under legal agreements that are tersely described as “slave contracts.” These businesses focus on creating idols rather than fostering creative artists — few of them even create their own music. While this has ensured them a place in the international spotlight, talent agencies’ intense supervision of artists’ lives subdues their ability to create their own genre-defying identities.

Americans do not yet respect Korean artists like they do entrepreneurial bands such as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones of the British Invasion. The Korean Wave’s success is more analogous to Bollywood’s “Slumdog Millionaire” — a foreign film that gained sudden worldwide attention but was quickly forgotten — than to the longevous British Invasion. Korea should shift its attention to independent artists who pioneer fashion and write their own music, so that the Korean Wave has the diversity necessary to last on the global stage.

— NICO HEMSLEY
Staff Writer

“Gangnam Style” Opened Up Doors for Other Korean Artists

One may be tired of hearing “Gangnam Style,” but its success is undeniable. The recent popularity of K-pop in America is comparable to the “British Invasion” that began with The Beatles’ 1963 release of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The rapid emergence of K-pop into American pop culture mimics the sudden recognition and exposure that British bands once capitalized upon. This “Hallyu” wave is not just a fad — the year 2013 will undoubtedly see many more Korean artists on U.S. music charts.

According to Google Korea, Korean music first established itself as a global trend in 2011. The K-pop blog Soompi reported that K-pop videos were viewed on YouTube 2.3 billion times worldwide in 2011, nearly three times that of 2010. Of those views, 240 million were from America. “Gangnam Style” from this past summer further opened up doors, acting like a gateway drug for K-pop in the U.S.  

According to the digital marketing company eMarketer, total revenues of the U.S. music industry amount to 39 percent of all music industry revenues worldwide. Foreign music artists are drawn to this economic dominance — cracking into the U.S. market means that they’ve made it big. PSY even pushed Justin Bieber out of the top YouTube spot, achieving a fame that other foreign artists can only dream of.

Just as hundreds of other British bands tried to follow in The Beatles’ footsteps, many Korean artists will surely be fighting to make a name for themselves in the U.S.

— MIA FLORIN-SEFTON 
Staff Writer

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$210
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$210
$500
Contributed
Our Goal