A Westerner’s Guide to the World of K-Pop

As K-Pop is popping up in the West, the phenomenon could use some breaking down. Here’s some things to know about the lively music scene coming out of Korea. One thing that really separates K-Pop from American pop is their unique concepts.

Call it a Comeback

Every time a group or artist releases a new album they call it a “comeback.” For each comeback, each group goes through a full-blown transformation which includes: sporting a new hair-do, decking out in trendy fashion styles, and releasing a new video to tie the new vision together.

Killer Choreography

Besides just the video and visuals aspect, each group preforms a flawlessly choreographed dance each time they go on stage. The dance often becomes a commodity for fans because no matter the level of difficulty, legions of admirers will learn the dance. The number of K-Pop covers and dance compilations—even the group’s dance practice videos—seem to be endless.

Here are some of the most popular dance practices to date: BLACKPINK - '뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU) , MOMOLAND(모모랜드) - "BAAM" , EXO 엑소 '전야 (前夜) (The Eve)'.

K-pop isn’t just about Aegyo & Oppa

While most K-Pop hits are upbeat, playful, and fun, a number of songs address issues like mental health, female independence, and the dangers of social media. Some noted songs include: AGUST D The Last 마지막, CLC _ No, SUNMI(선미) _ 누아르(Noir).

Being a “Stan” is a Full-time Job

K-Pop enthusiasts are some of the most ride-or-die fans that the music world has ever seen, which is why many have compared BTS’ star power to the likes of the Beatles. Being a fan comes with the responsibility of memorizing fan chants, constantly streaming MV (music videos) to help break records, and buying lots and lots of merchandise. Fans are so dedicated to the groups that in turn the groups give a lot back to their fans. Each group has a nickname for their fans. For example: BTS calls their fans ARMY, TWICE goes with ONCE, and BLACKPINK has the BLINKS. These fan groups make them all feel a part of something collective and subsequently more connected with the group.

Self-Promotion is Part of the Act

Unlike a lot of musical artists who prefer to stay private, K-Pop groups are actively promoting their music. During every comeback, they go on Korean variety shows that allow each member’s personality to shine (which is important as some groups have 10+ members). They also often act as hosts for other music programs. The group members use social media tools like Twitter, Instagram, and Vlive to stay connected with fans and answer their questions (often translated into dozens of languages). The vigorous promotion and interaction with fans worldwide creates an important sense of intimacy that goes beyond the music.