So let’s have a look back at the roots of K-Pop and the route it has taken to get to where it is. We will start in the 90’s and end with latest batch of rookie artists K-Pop has to offer.
Korea had popular music before the 90’s, of course, and was being some what influenced by outside music, but it wasn’t really till the 1990’s that we began to see the more recognizable K-Pop format we have all come to know and love. It was during this time that American popular music such as Rap, Rock and Techno began to appear in Korean music on a regular basis.
1992 saw the birth of the group Seo Taiji & Boys, who are considered by many as the starting point for today’s K-Pop genre. Seo Taiji & Boys debuted through a talent show with the song “Nan Arayo,” and despite the lowest ranking from the jury on the show, their song became very successful with the public. Even today it is a popular song to be covered by other idol groups for special showcases and often sung at noraebang.
Teen Top cover of “Nan Arayo”
Following their success, Hip Hop and R&B performers like Yoo Seungjun, Jinusean, 1TYM and Drunken Tiger saw their own popularity rise.
Up to the mid-90’s, most groups were managed by small companies who only had one or two artists. This changed in 1995 when we saw the creation of the entertainment company, the first being SM Entertainment. By the end of the 90’s other companies like YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, DSP Entertainment and FNC Music were all producing musical talent.
These companies found their artists through auditions, contests or “cast off the street,” and then proceeded to train these individuals for months if not years in things like dancing, singing, variety, emceeing and acting.
Nowadays SM, JYP and YG are considered “The Big 3” for entertainment companies, and the majority of their artists are extremely successful.
SM Entertainment was the first company to use this training process, and in fact produced the group that is considered the very first K-Pop idol boy band, H.O.T, in 1995. H.O.T successfully turned mainstream Korean music into something that the younger generation wanted to listen to. Considering at the time of their debut the five members of H.O.T were teenagers themselves, it’s no surprise they appealed so highly to their peers.
Following their debut idol groups like Sechs Kies, S.E.S, Fin.K.L, Baby V.O.X, Shinhwa, g.o.d and Fly To The Sky all made their debut and saw their popularity skyrocket. All of these followed the same format of training and targeting the younger teenage generation. I will add that Shinhwa is considered the longest running K-Pop group. They have never disbanded and have consistently released albums in their 16 years of performing. Fly To The Sky recently made a comeback as did g.o.d.
Shinhwa – “This Love”
Fly To The Sky – “You, You, You”
g.o.d – “The Lone Duckling”
We now reach the 21st century and K-Pop is finally starting to make itself felt outside of South Korea. It is the beginning of what we now call the “Hallyu Wave“. K-Pop first become popular in other Asian countries through chances like Baby V.O.X’s single, “Coincidence“, being promoted during the 2002 World Cup, and also SM Entertainment’s reigning queen of K-Pop, BoA, being sent to Japan to study Japanese in order to break into the market shortly after her Korean debut in 2000.
Rain is another forerunner for the Hallyu wave, , and while BoA was topping the Oricon Music Chart in Japan, Rain was in China selling out a 40,000 seat concert in Beijing. Rain is also the first K-Pop music artist to perform at the coveted Japanese concert arena Tokyo Dome. He sold out his 40,000 seat concert in 2007 in just two days.
Since the mid-2000’s a very large portion of the East Asian music market has come to be dominated by K-Pop. From Japan to China, Thailand to Singapore, if you want to find a common subject to talk about, try K-Pop.
Debuting in 2003 and probably having one of the biggest impacts on the Hallyu wave is TVXQ. Straight from the start their popularity was confirmed by their debut single “Hug” winning on music shows, and their subsequent singles topping chart after chart. Immediately SM Entertainment had the group making Mandarin versions of their hits and started to prepare the group for a Japanese debut.
TVXQ also hold the honor of being the first Korean artists to hold a concert in Malaysia. As well, their 2008 release “Mirotic” saw over 4 million downloads worldwide, making it, even now, the most successful single of their career. Continuing to spread the Hallyu wave, TVXQ were the first Korean group to attend the Japanese New Year Eve’s music festival ‘Kōhaku Uta Gassen,” a feat which is considered the highlight of their Japanese career. Probably one of their most important success’ for the Hallyu wave is the fact that they were the first Korean group to perform at the Tokyo Dome for their 2009 concert tour.
TVXQ are also considered to have one of the largest fan-clubs in the world with a record breaking 800,000 members in “Cassiopeia,” their fan-club.
Due to the extreme popularity of TVXQ, not only in Japan but worldwide, entertainment companies back in Korea looked to further their own artists worldview and started making preparations for them to make debuts outside of Korea.
Due to the success of TVXQ, Japan has seen an influx of Korean groups like SS501, KARA, T-ara, SHINee, and 2PM, who were all just the tip of the iceberg. As well making their debut in Japan, many K-Pop have their songs picked to become the theme song or end song for anime’s. TVXQ have had the pleasure of being picked to do “One Piece” theme song. KARA sang for Naruto as has Secret just to name a couple.
TVXQ – “We Are” (One Piece)
KARA – “Butterfly” (Naruto)
Secret – “Twinkle Twinkle” (Naruto)
During this time we also saw the start of the creation of large scale groups. Super Junior debuted in 2005 and had a mind blowing 12 members. They would later increase this number by adding one more, making it 13 in total. Not only was Super Junior a super size group, but they also brought another new aspect to K-Pop, which was the use of foreign members. Super Junior introduced Hangeng, who was originally from China, as the first non Korean K-pop idol.
Super Junior has seen phenomenal success both in Korea and abroad. Though the concept of having so many members in one group at first was completely unthinkable, it has helped Super Junior branch out into many areas and has given them a broader appeal to their fans. By having members who were good at acting, emceeing, and variety, along with the typical amazing singers and dancers, Super Junior was given the chance to promote their group on a much larger scale.
You may have noticed something with the videos from each individual group. Prior to this time period, when a group debuted they tended to stick with one concept or genre. This was no longer the case. It seemed like each comeback a group was trying out some new concept or style, thereby giving the group the chance to appeal to a wider audience. Fans who liked Hip Hop, R&B, Techno or even Rock could find themselves all liking the one group.
It isn’t just about the music for K-Pop either. Influencing fashion with each new music video that drops K-Pop has become the go-to place for the hot new look. Probably two of the biggest influence in this trend would have to be Big Bang and 2NE1. Both known for their outrageous style both on and off the stage, the members of these YG groups both have incredible fashion sense and are not afraid to show it. Both have been known to work with fashion designer Jeremy Scott and have also had hands in designing their own clothes.
Now to delve into the more recent K-Pop culture. Within the last few years as the K-Pop export continues to expand it’s reach more and more groups make their debut every year. Some make it, some slip through the cracks but there are more than enough out there to satisfy the taste of any fan. Not only do you have all these amazing rookies to contend with but as well veteran performers continue to produce music and influence the genre. Both BoA and Rain have continued to release music as have TVXQ and Super Junior.
BoA – “Only One”
Rain – “La Song”
TVXQ – “Something”
Super Junior – “Sexy, Free & Single”
Most of the music videos I have shown you have been released prior to 2010 but the following MV’s are mostly for groups that have debuted since that and what you will probably notice is that almost all of them follow the path set out by their predecessors. Large groups, foreign members, flashy outfits, amazing choregraphy and music that isn’t afraid to take inspiration for everywhere. These groups have taken on every concept imaginable, cute, sexy, gothic, rock, dance the list goes on.
With performers like Girls Generation winning Best Video Of The Year at the YouTube awards and Psy‘s “Gangnam Style” going viral worldwide, K-Pop is breaking down the international barrier more and more everyday. International fans at one time did not get excited at the mention of a world tour by their favorite artist because we knew it actually only meant Asia. BUT that is slowly changing, with groups like Teen Top, Infinite, B.A.P, SHINee, and LED Apple taking their concert to the global level with performances not only in Asian countries but as well South America, North America, Europe and beyond. Fans are now being given a chance to see their idols live where as in the past it was only something most could only dream about.
Girls Generation – “I Got A Boy”
Psy – “Gangnam Style”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into the beginning of K-Pop and the path it has traveled. It is only a brief look in truth and the genre is much broader than I could possibly cover in one single article. If this is your first time looking into K-Pop I hope I’ve piqued your interest and that the next time you’re in the mood for something fun and colorful you give K-Pop a listen! If your a long time fan of K-Pop I hope I’ve given a little history lesson and taught you some new things about the genre you love.
Article by: Angelspatience
Edited by: KareBare
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