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K-Pop

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Rain

Rain

Photo by Scott Gries / Getty Images

Origins of K-Pop:

K-Pop, a short term for Korean pop music, is considered to have its primary contemporary origins in the early 1990s. Key artists began incorporating Western pop music styles into their work to generate major hits at home in South Korea. Seo Tai-ji and his group Seo Tai-ji & Boys debuted in 1992 with music that included influence from rap and techno. The Korean hip hop duo Deux became popular around the same time. These helped begin a movement that would become known as the Korean Wave, or Hallyu, as Korean pop culture began to spread internationally.

Manufactured Pop Music In Korea:

As Western influences grew in Korean pop, the concept of the manufactured pop band took root as well. The corporation S.M.Entertainment was launched in 1995. Lee Soo Man, founder of the corporation, surveyed teenage girls to find out what they wanted to see, and he soon began launching musical acts in response. S.M. Entertainment's first two acts were the boy band H.O.T. and the girl group S.E.S. As K-pop has expanded, S.M. Entertainment has created such acts as TVXQ, Super Junior, SHINee, and Girl's Generation. Other music corporations have since proliferated. Among the most successful are YG Entertainment, DSP Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment.

Rain and BoA:

By 2006 efforts were underway to expand the popularity of Korean pop to the US market. One of the top solo performers of all time in South Korea is the R&B singer Rain. Exposure in People and Time magazines began to spread the word to American audiences. Highly publicized concerts in New York City and Las Vegas were sold out. Rain also performed in American films, but he made little headway on pop charts in the US.

Female singer BoA had four consecutive #1 albums at home in South Korea when her single "Eat You Up" was released in 2008 in the US. The song landed in the top 10 on the dance chart in the US, and it paved the way for the self-titled album BoA in 2009. The album only reached #127 in the US but it did top the Heatseekers chart.

Top K-Pop Artists:

This list is not complete but provides a representative sample.

  • 2NE1
  • BIGBANG
  • BoA
  • Deux
  • Fin.K.L
  • Girls' Generation
  • Rain
  • SHINee
  • Shinhwa
  • Super Junior
  • Seo Tai-Ji
  • TVXQ
  • Wonder Girls

K-Pop Expands Internationally:

Despite the muted success of BoA and Rain in the US, the international spread of K-Pop has begun to accelerate. Recent estimates indicate that the Korean wave could be responsible for as much as $3.8 billion worth of cultural exports in 2011 from South Korea. Korean pop music plays a primary role in the Korean wave. The boy band TVXQ are cited in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world's largest fan club and being the world's most photographed celebrities.

In 2009 the Wonder Girls became the first K-Pop recording act to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US. Their single "Nobody" rose to #76. In 2011 BIGBANG's EP Tonight became the first K-Pop music to enter the top 10 of the iTunes album chart in the US and it reached #3 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.

Increasingly Western artists, songwriters, and producers have shown an interest in the K-Pop market. will.i.am incorporated Korean elements in his music video for the song "Check It Out" with Nicki Minaj. UK newspaper The Guardian has reported on the extensive involvement of Universal Music's Pelle Lidell with the K-Pop market.

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