The Cultural Importance of K-Pop

Warning: I’m about to geek out really hard on this post about my love for K-Pop.

For the last year or so I’ve been listening to music, watching Youtube videos and consuming media in a language I don’t understand – and I love every second of it.

I’ve always loved branching out in all areas of my life and consuming media outside of my cultural bubble here in the Midwest. I had heard about K-Pop through acts like PSY and his record-breaking song “Gangamn Style” in 2012. But it wasn’t until one day when I was watching a Buzzfeed video where people were reacting to Korean Pop, commonly referred to as K-Pop, music videos that I began to fully understand the enormous impact Korean music has around the world.

In the video,  “Call me Baby” by EXO was one of the featured songs people were reacting to. And I was completely enthralled. If you’ve never seen a K-Pop music video you are in for the ride of your life.

The amount of time, money and synchronized choreography was something I’ve have yet to seen in Western music. The video was a collection of what seemed like a million beautiful, well-dressed Korean men dancing their hearts out to a song I genuinely enjoyed. I played that song on rotation for weeks and it was the entrance into my journey into the world of K-Pop.

These past few months I’ve been obsessed with the K-Pop band BTS who have broken records as one of the most successful K-Pop groups to break America.

BTS, a seven-member group of Korean men in their mid-twenties, were the first K-Pop group to win a Billboard Music award in 2017 beating out acts like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez and were the most tweeted-about artist of 2017 on social media.

BTS-instrumental
BTS: J-Hope, Jin, RM, V, Jungkook, Jimin and Suga

That is unprecedented.

So, this begs the question: How does a K-Pop group like BTS that has only one member who speaks English, tap into the hearts of fans around the world?

One word: Their ARMY.

That is what their fans are called. Online they live up to their name with millions of dedicated fans who help translate their music videos, lyrics, interviews and tweets so fans around the world can enjoy their music.

My love for this genre of music has made me reflect on the importance of music to allow fans to get a outlook on a culture and country they may not have otherwise been interested in learning about. The cliche that music has no language is incredibly pertinent in the world of K-Pop.

It’s not uncommon for their fans to learn Korean, educate themselves on the culture and Korean way of life in an effort to better understand the members of their favorite band. It’s something you didn’t see many fans doing when other popular boybands like One Direction were at the height of their popularity.

Maybe it’s because the customs and culture of the U.K are more prevalent around the world. Regardless, international fans have been introduced to much more than the music of Korea – they are educating themselves about the culture and customs of a population that is wildly different than their own.

And thats a good thing. Branching outside of our cultural bubble is something we all need to do in order to expand our worldview and become more empathetic and understanding of people who are different than us. If listening to music in a different language is the entry point into an expansion of ones cultural awareness – I’m all for it.

 

 

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