By NYLA JAFRI
Music is known to be the universal language of mankind, but everyone has different tastes. Some prefer screamo, while others prefer One Direction. A fairly new style is taking over the world now with this generation called K-pop, which stands for Korean pop music. This is where male and female groups or soloists debut and hope to become successful with their music.
As of now, some people debate on whether there have been three or five generations of K-pop. However, most agree that there have been three and that each generation has not been divided by a concept, but rather by the decade. Seo Taiji and Boys is the group responsible for starting K-pop and the first generation which existed from the mid-1990s until 2002. Due to a lack of digital music providers, groups’ physical sales numbers were extremely high and many sales are still unrivaled. Unfortunately they suffered unfair contacts and no international exposure which was not helped by how limited technology was at the time.
The second generation is when K-pop started to become famous and was known as the golden age of K-pop by many. This generation lasted from 2003 to 2011 and many groups are still famous today. This is also when the soloist era began. Idols were on many Korean shows and gained international fans through translators like Cassiopeia. However, international exposure was still limited due to websites like YouTube still gaining popularity.
The third generation is from 2012 to the present. This group has had the best international exposure with the best technology. They also continue the tactics of the second generation by being on many programs–even American programs. As hundreds of groups debut each year, it is harder to stand out in this generation of K-pop. But the ones who are selected receive extreme fame and wealth.
These K-pop idols do not all become successful, however. Many of these groups and soloists start off by auditioning at local auditioning centers by singing, modeling or dancing. One is even located in Los Angeles. Prospective stars go through many of these auditions and if they pass, the final audition is in Korea. If they pass all the auditions, they officially become trainees and dance and sing almost 10 hours every day while attending a minimal amount of school. A low percentage of these trainees then debut and the rest is up to the public and how much publicity they receive. Only the best of the best really succeed and if they do not, they often try to earn money by acting until they become successful through more exposure or eventually end up disbanding.
K-pop is a hit or miss for many, but the people who do succeed produce songs and receive millions of dollars in the process. Also, their songs are often the topic of many discussions, and many playlists contain at least one K-pop song. The Redlands East Valley Korean club excitedly proclaimed that they are “thrilled that many people even internationally listen to K-pop. Many people are also learning the Korean language as a result of this.” President Obama also mentioned this fact at the Asian Leadership Conference last year. He laughed happily as he stated that “American youth are studying Korean to understand SHINee. Similarly, I heard SHINee really liked America’s In-N-Out burgers.”
Like all music genres, there are many people who do not understand why anyone who would enjoy it and there are others who happily share their music to anyone willing to listen. No matter what one’s option is, it is fun to see how different cultures mix and what the reaction is. K-pop entertainment companies are known to produce many music videos, each different from the last. As Eugene from Buzzfeed said, “I think K-pop videos tend to be one of three Cs. You’re either cool, cute, or crazy. But the best K-pop videos intend to be a mixture of all three.”
Music is still changing and it will probably be different as time goes by, which raises the question: what new genre will replace K-pop as an international favorite?