HomeDigital TrendsFrom Gangnam to the U.S.: The Rise of K-pop in the American...

From Gangnam to the U.S.: The Rise of K-pop in the American Music Scene

BlackPink From Their Netflix Film ‘Light up the Sky.’ Photo Courtesy of NETFLIX/Netflix © 2020

Written by Marissa Rodriguez

“Oppa Gangnam style!” When those words come to mind, I’m sure that the first thing you want to do is get up and do that iconic horse-riding dance. This song released in July 2012 was a pop culture explosion, one that had not been seen before, at least not coming from Korea. The song, which pokes fun at the wild “lifestyle” of residents of the Gangnam district in Seoul, was wildly popular on YouTube, racking up 1 billion views by December of that year. It is currently sitting at about 4 billion. The song sat on the throne of the most viewed video on the platform until 2017. This was the first wave of K-pop’s popularity on the internet.

K-pop as a genre isn’t new. It has been around for about 30 years. The modern form of K-pop and idol culture started with Seo Taji and Boys, one of the earliest K-pop groups, formed in 1992. It was not until the 2010s that the genre took off and has experienced exponential growth to new heights, most notably expansion into and within the Western market.

One thing that sets K-pop apart is its use of genre-mixing, experimentation of song structure, and epic remixing. K-pop has been influenced by a diverse mix of genres, from tropical house, to rock, Latin pop, and everything in-between.

We can’t talk about Korean popular music’s impact in the Western market without talking about the trailblazers that are BTS. They have been together since 2013, and, since 2017, have been popular in the American music scene. In 2017, BTS had two songs appear on the Billboard Hot 100, a New Year’s Eve performance in Times Square, a huge performance at the American Music Awards, and a remix of their song MIC Drop done by Steve Aoki. During their career, they have broken endless records and have continued to prove that they are the biggest boy band in the world.  There’s no doubt BTS is here to stay.

2019’s Coachella saw another milestone for K-pop: Blackpink played the main stage, making history as the first all-girl K-pop group to do so. This was Blackpink’s first public full-length concert in America, and it was received incredibly well. In their Netflix documentary Blackpink: Light Up the Sky, even the girls were surprised to see so many people in the crowd for their set. Their set was even livestreamed on billboards in Times Square in New York City. With their song “Kill This Love,” Blackpink achieved the most viewed music video debut in YouTube history, the fastest video to hit 100 million views, and the biggest YouTube premiere of all time.

While 2020 was a scary and unprecedented year for almost everyone, BTS have continued to add accomplishments to their ever-growing list. The first is their first songs to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: beginning with their English-language smash hit Dynamite, and the first one ever in Korean, with their song Life Goes On. They also have been nominated for their first Grammy for pop duo/group performance for Dynamite at the 63rd annual Grammy awards in 2021.

One of the biggest signs that K-pop is here to stay is that popular American magazines like Seventeen and Teen Vogue feature K-pop idol groups on their YouTube channels. I must admit, this is my introduction to some artists I had previously not known. I am sure that can be said by many others. Some groups that I’ve seen featured in these videos are Tomorrow by Together (TXT), SuperM, NCT 127, Seventeen, Day6, Monsta X, GOT7, Red Velvet, and Stray Kids.

What the last decade has shown us about the world of international music popularity is that the material can come from anywhere. This surge of Korean music and music from other countries is not going anywhere anytime soon.


Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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