Many people listen to or at least have heard of the newest music sensation sweeping, not only America but the globe, that is Korean pop, also known as K-pop.
K-pop became increasingly more popular after the K-pop boy band BTS or Bangtan Sonyeondan won the Billboard Music Award for Top Social Artist, according to Billboard, beating out artists like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Shawn Mendes.
International student and junior Nayeon Lee said it was a surprise BTS was the group that helped spread K-pop because in Korea, they were seen as just another boy group.
“Well that’s a big question for me as well because when BTS first came out in Korea, everyone thought it was just another boy group that’s going to fade away soon,” Lee said. “No one thought they would become this big. It’s actually a surprise for everyone.”
While BTS was not the first K-pop sensation to make it to an American main stage with predecessors like Girl’s Generation and PSY, they have kept the K-pop presence alive with many of their title tracks breaking into various Billboard charts.
With BTS on the rise, other well-known groups like NCT and Got7 have followed suit with more appearances in American media like Vanity Fair along with live performances at news stations.
With Hallyu or the Korean wave, spreading, the Korean entertainment industry has gained more traction from those looking for a change in their music. This wave has reached not only the coasts of the U.S. but also a bit of the Midwest.
Lee said it’s amazing so many people have opened up to K-pop, especially in the Midwest.
“It’s quite amazing, you know, especially in the Midwest, where there isn’t much diversity,” Lee said. “But seeing closed minded people singing in Korean and like something that is from my culture, it just feels good and makes me proud. It makes me think that it opened those people’s minds.”
Lee’s both proud and shocked about how far K-pop has come.
“Proud because they (the bands) are representing Korea. Korea is a super small country and people from other countries think we are part of China or Japan. But ever since K-pop became super popular, not only in the U.S. but all over the world, I feel like it is giving people more of an idea about Korea and promoting Korea,” Lee said. “Shocked because like what I said, it’s a small country and now it is just globally famous. Also, I always thought Korean style music would not fit in any other country, but apparently I was wrong.”
Lee said there are still subtle differences she sees between how Americans and Koreans view K-pop.
“K-pop in the U.S., I feel like they look more into the artistic side, like performing, singing and styles of songs more than their appearance,” Lee said.
In Korea, the styles are different from the Western world and have fast turnover rates, according to The Telegraph. With so many fashion trends going in and out of style, K-pop idols are typically at the forefront of trends along with the usual actors and celebrities.
In such a fashion heavy society, where going out in leggings and a hoodie is looked at as being sloppy, many fans of K-pop will look to idols as both artists and fashion statements.
While some fans are attracted to the top-notch looks and fashion-forward clothes, many stay for the interpersonal relationship they develop with a band.
Freshman Eleanor Georgi, who listens to 97 different K-pop bands, explained what keeps her invested in the music genre.
“It’s really personal with K-pop because once One Direction broke up, I was really sad and I needed something to fill my heart with love again,” Georgi said. “I think of Western music and Maroon 5… I know Adam Levine but I don’t know any of the other members. But with K-pop, you think of a group and then you can remember this member and this member. It’s more intimate, I think. It’s more like you get the music but you also get the experience.”
For the fans of K-pop, the experience can include dance performances, live video chats with artists and the possibility of meeting them at a hi-touch, also known as a meet and greet after their concert.
Even without getting into the world of K-pop, many people simply enjoy listening to various songs.
Senior Eli Stanley has been into K-pop since he was a sophomore in high school and listens to about two songs daily.
“K-pop is just an addition to my library of genres that I enjoy listening to,” Stanley said. “It can really pump me up if I’m looking for something rhythmic.”
As K-pop continues its trend up, more fans will appear with an adamant interest in Korea which Stanley hopes will help invite people to better understand different cultures.
“I’m not really sure the influence it (K-pop) will have on the future of music,” Stanley said. “I will assume it to have the same kind of impact as our pop music, but maybe people will use the music as a bridge to look into the cultures that bred the music.”