K-POP: 5 Bands Looking to Smash UK/US Charts
If you take a look at the music charts today, it’s rare to see a Top 10 that isn’t filled with glossy American popstars who just want to dance on the floor/party rock/put their hands up/raise their glass (I could keep on going) so sometimes it’s healthy to take a look at things from the other side of the world. Over in South Korea, China and Japan it is very rare for any of the artists we take for granted to dominate the charts considering these countries are each filled with their own pop culture. Cracking the east Asian market is the equivalent of British musicians trying to crack America – near on impossible. You may think ‘What’s the point? I’ve never heard of any of these people and the only ones listening to them are those crazy asian kids who stay on chatrooms all day’ but with a higher company revenue rate from digital sales that the USA plus South Korea becoming a huge base for homegrown talent (currently the 11th biggest music market in the world and gaining fast) as well as interest from American producers, it won’t be long before the Popstars of East Asia become the Popstars of the World.
K-Pop or Korean Pop as is its full name, is perhaps the biggest musical genre in the Asian markets and it’s startling to see how pop music is made here not to mention how good it is. Largely girlbands and boybands, they’re trained from a very young age and nurtured in terms of singing, style and dance so when they do hit the big time they’re fully fledged triple threats (plus many of them can pop-rap quite convincingly too). The girls generally fit one of two moulds – girly or sexy (but not in a ‘look-little-girls-i’m-a-hooker’ kinda way) – whilst the guys tend to be highly androgynous (which definitely isn’t in the USA or UK mainstream mindset when it comes to male representation) and all of the videos are extreme high-gloss affairs with dynamite dance routines which would have bands like The Saturdays or One Direction quivering in fear. Most try to break into the Japanese market and sing whole albums in Japanese as well as their native Korean plus the ability to sing in english now the Western markets are in their sights. Fan culture is a huge huge thing in K-Pop and has been for years before everyone over here cottoned on to it – no, Lady GaGa’s Little Monsters weren’t the first big fan group with their own identity you silly sausage. GaGa is in fact one of the few to crack this market because she gets it; what some here feel is OTT and attention-seeking is totally normal for fans of K-Pop. With that in mind, let me give you a head’s up – here’s three girlbands and two boybands big in K-Pop you could very well be hearing more of in the future:
-Parts that are not related to 2NE1 is omitted-
The multi-award winning 2NE1 are the hot ticket right now in K-Pop. A blend of all the different shades of girlband – they’re girly cute, hip-hop tough and R&B sassy all in the space of the same video – these four girls have already had ten number ones in the Korean charts in the space of the last three years and are on the cusp of an American breakthrough under Will.I.Am’s management and production which could see them be the first major breakthrough for K-Pop. In my eyes that partnership makes total sense as the girls’ delivery, especially in spoken-rap-esque sections, sounds incredibly similar to the Black Eyed Peas and Fergie’s solo stuff. Scream (the most recent single in Japan) flits from Hi-NRG pop pre-choruses to rap sections and an extremely good early Destiny’s Child-lite groove breakdown, I Am The Best is femme-pop empowerment at its best which nabs the ‘Woo Yeah’ drum line from Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s It Takes Two (which BEP sampled for Rock That Body) and Can’t Nobody is auto-tune squizzey beats with a fierce attitude and a infectious refrain. Style is a huge thing for 2NE1; top-end fashion designer Jeremy Scott is good friends with the band and his clothes can frequently be seen in their music videos (he works extensively in the realm of Pop Art surreal kookiness masterminding the infamous air steward PVC dress for Britney Spears – Toxic as well as outfits for Katy Perry, Lady GaGa and M.I.A.). Literally on the brink of releasing their first English-speaking single, aptly entitled Take The World On according to industry insiders, 2NE1 have major support behind them so it may not be long before K-Pop will be wanting them back before they get totally adopted into the USA or UK music scenes.