Fans in the United States are snapping up tickets to hear artists named GOT7, HyunA, and B1A4.
The reason? A growing obsession with Korean pop music, commonly known as K-pop. More than pop, the music’s roots are in American hip-hop and rhythm and blues. But its high-tech flair and stylized videos are distinctively South Korean.
“You don’t have to be Korean to enjoy Korean culture,” said Suk-Young Kim, a K-pop expert at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Korean culture is dynamic, exciting, and there’s something for everyone.”
The U.S. is now the third-most-popular destination for Korean pop groups touring outside their country, according to music industry news outlet Billboard.
A new style
Many Americans, like K-pop fans everywhere, first got hooked after hearing “Gangnam Style,” the single by the South Korean artist Psy in 2012. (The over-the-top, danceable romp through a trendy Seoul district is still YouTube’s most watched video, with nearly 3 billion views.)
Making U.S. history
Today, one of the hottest K-pop groups is a boy band called BTS, an acronym for Bangtan Sonyeondan, which roughly translates in English to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts.” The group made history at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards on May 21 in Las Vegas — beating out artists such as Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Shawn Mendes — by winning the award for Top Social Artist, the first Korean group to do so.
BTS generated buzz beyond its award, thanks to its members’ dapper suits. Vogue magazine named it the best dressed group.
— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) May 22, 2017
Billboard estimates that 100 groups debut each year in South Korea, aiming to make their way in the K-pop world. Many of the bands are all-female. American fans are captivated by groups such as Girls’ Generation, the first South Korean girl group with more than 100 million YouTube views on five separate titles.
Paul Han, co-founder of website Allkpop.com, told CNN that, “K-pop fans in the U.S. used to say, ‘I wish I could go to Korea to attend their concert,’ but now since a lot of K-pop artists are now having concerts in New York and LA, it’s more like, ‘I wish I lived closer to those cities’ or ‘I wish they would come to my city.”