Introduction to K-pop: The coolest thing you never knew.

Imagine a music video with the highest production value, flashiest of outfits, craziest of hairstyles, and a unique, impressive style of music to go with it.

Welcome to the world of Korean pop music, or usually abbreviated to ‘K-pop’: seen as bizarre to many, an addiction to others, and an escape from the overplayed, repetitive music of mainstream radio.

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BTS (also known as Bangtan Boys or Bulletproof Boyscouts), one of the biggest selling K-pop groups of 2016.

With fans spread over the globe constantly fixated on their favorite boy groups and girl groups, let’s look into how a group of Indian students got hooked onto this crazy sensation.

‘Where it all began…’

“I was introduced to K-pop by coming across a suggestion on YouTube, it had Girl’s Generation’s The Boys and that’s where it all began,” says Payal Joshi, a first year BSc Biotechnology student at Manipal University Dubai. Girls Generation – one of the biggest names in K-pop – an 8-member girl group, is a fan-favorite and their concerts bring in over 550,000 spectators. Their music is bubble-gum pop, with bits of EDM-thrown in their hit singles.

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Girls’ Generation during the promotions for their 2014 mini-album, Mr.Mr. (Top left) Taeyeon, Yoona, Hyoyeon, Jessica (ex-member), Tiffany. (Bottom left) Sooyoung, Sunny, Seohyun and Yuri.

Another fan, Divya Devarajan, was introduced to K-pop ‘through Japanese pop music or J-pop’. “I knew kpop existed as I was exposed to it from a very long time ago, says Divya, “but I only began to like it after listening to artists like DBSK and Taeyang from Big Bang.”

DBSK and Big Bang are groups that one could say, built the foundation of the second generation K-pop. Divya, a second year BCOM student believes these artists were more than enough for her to give K-pop a try.

‘Annyeong haseyo!’ (Hello in Korean)

The first thing that comes into any one’s mind when the music is of a different language is, ‘how do you understand what they’re saying?’ 

Second year Media & Communication student, Amala Biju owes all her basic Korean speaking skills to subtitled Korean shows on Youtube. “It’s fun at the end of the day, you’re learning an entirely new language,” she adds, “especially when the people you really admire speak it.”

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(From right) Amala and me with posters of popular K-pop stars, BTS (Bangtan Boys) and of Chinese idol, Kris Wu.

If one were to take any piece of Korean music, it’s highly likely that you’d find bits and pieces of English words thrown around amidst the largely present Korean lyrics. These help the listener to, ‘know what the song is going to be about so it actually helps in connecting with the music even if its a different language,’ states Payal.

‘Formulated to succeed’

With hundreds of groups being debuted on a yearly basis, it’s difficult to not be attached to at least a single group, or not be fascinated by a group of people going bizarro nuts over the catchiest tunes you’d ever hear.

“Its like its formulated to succeed, I think it can be attributed to both – the music videos and the music itself,” says Divya.

Another Media & Communication student, Arjun Krishna Prasad states, “their choreography is the best part about the videos.” K-pop members undergo years of training under huge entertainment companies, to polish their dancing and singing skills. Some even undergo language training in English, Chinese and Japanese to communicate better with fans and so on.

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Big Bang during their promotion for their 2012 hit, Fantastic Baby. (From left) Daesung, Seungri, Taeyang, G-Dragon (leader) and T.O.P

‘Isn’t it weird?’

“My family found it quite weird,” says Payal,  “but then they even think me listening to Caucasians is weird, so I did not pay much attention to that.” She laughs it off. “Most of my friends were already into K-pop, so we usually would discuss our favorite groups and songs.”

“I was called ‘weird’ many times for not listening to music that was considered ‘mainstream’,” recalls Divya.  She remembers being ‘sidelined and left out.’ But things worked out, as she, “found other friends who loved and enjoyed K-pop just as much as I did and it worked out just great.” 
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Divya Devarajan, with her BTS inspired sweatshirt, and EXO’s album.
Despite being seen as an outcast for liking something that was extraordinary and different, students like Payal and Divya were stubborn on their likes of Korean pop music and the variety it offered. Much like the music itself, they stood out and enjoyed the fun it brought along, and the friendships that were born out of it.
Korean pop music is far from any other conventional type of music, and it’s most certainly here to stay.
PS. Click here to watch a video on  Introduction to K-pop: First timers and fans.
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