Over the past decade, Korean Popular music, which is commonly known as the K-Pop, has been enjoying enormous success around the world.
Especially in the Asian countries, K-Pop artists are regarded as the trend setters who spearhead the trends in music, fashion, and even life style, that making direct impacts on what is being sold in the market.
However, is it really true? Is K-Pop really influential in the Asian countries? Isn’t it just a widespread buzz among teenagers?
There are floods of stats and figures from the media about the success of K-Pop in Asia, but the phenomena seemed unreal and abstract even for a Korean myself.
Hence, before I begin with the upcoming series on the K-Pop and the Asian music industry, I wanted to clarify the current stage, the actual truth of the K-Pop in the Asian markets.
The methodology was somehow subjective and old-school; I have been looking into the recent single releases in Asia one by one, and tried to analyze if they have gotten any influences from the K-Pop. The reason why I have done this is to figure out if the K-Pop is a long-term industry level impact (production and distribution changes in different Asian countries), or just a one-time fandom thing (international fans digging for exotic foreign music from Korea).
The result was amazing. I have found numbers of cases that seem to be having direct influences from the K-Pop, arguably implying that it is more than just a widespread fandom.
Again, the analysis is subjective and based on my personal insights, and I am not claiming that K-Pop is superior.
Rather, I am implying that K-Pop also stems from various influences from the American, European, and Japanese sounds, and it is now simply Korea’s turn to give back what they have received from the other countries.
From this perspective, I was hoping that this posting does not sound like a statement, because it is not, but rather understood as my opinion that still needs to be discussed by global music fans. So please feel free to share your opinions, and I would be so much glad if you find any of my ideas fun, inspiring, or useful.
So, starting from Japan. Although Japan is well known for its highly successful J-Pop scene, and its former influences on Korean popular music back in the 80s and 90s, Japanese would not have settled for what they already have.
While skimming through the latest J-Pops, I had a notion that some of the productions are like experimentation of blending K-Pop references and Japan’s own style of music.
For instance, J Soul Brothers strongly reminded me of EXO and BIGBANG, the two mega success K-Pop boy bands in Asia.
[JAP] J Soul Brothers – J.S.B Dream (Uploaded: May 6, 2015 / 26,115,767 views on the YouTube)
[KOR] EXO – Overdose (Uploaded: May 6, 2014 / 169,168,513 views on the YouTube)
[KOR] BIGBANG – Fantastic Baby (Uploaded: March 26, 2012 / 352,938,113 views on the YouTube)
Juice=Juice also seemed like an interesting case that illustrates the influence of K-Pop girl bands in Japan. Although the sound and vibe is more kawaii (cute in Japanese) way, the visual and the concept seemed heavily influenced by the K-Pop’s Red Velvet.
[JAP] Juice=Juice – Vivid Midnight (Uploaded: April 9, 2018 / 588,984 views on the YouTube)
[KOR] Red Velvet – Russian Roulette (Uploaded: September 6, 2016 / 115,834,565 views on the YouTube)
[KOR] Red Velvet – Rookie (Uploaded: January 31, 2017 / 53,177,290 views on the YouTube)
Chinese music industry has been rapidly growing along with its economy, and K-Pop has certainly been their priority benchmark. Unlike Japan, China is more deliberately referencing K-Pop for their music industry systems and the actual productions.
One of the latest cases is the Produce 101 series in Korea, where the famous K-Pop TV show had been quickly reproduced by the Chinese industry for their domestic market. You may notice from the clips that both the Korean and Chinese versions are much identical.
[CHN] Idol Producer Theme Song – Ei Ei (Uploaded: January 16, 2018 / 393,202 views on the YouTube)
[KOR] Produce 101 season 2 Theme Song – Pick Me (Uploaded: March 9, 2017 / 15,734,229 views on the YouTube)
[South East Asia]
SEA is a big and diversified markets, with a huge base of K-Pop fans. For instance in Vietnam, you may find some of the direct K-Pop influences. There are boy bands such as the Zero 9 and UNI5 that resembles the concept of K-Pop artists, such as the NCT 127 and GOT7.
[VNM] Zero 9 – Pom (Uploaded: March 30, 2018 / 7,752,487 views on the YouTube)
[KOR] NCT 127 – Cherry Bomb (Uploaded: June 14, 2017 / 42,420,317 views on the YouTube)
[VNM] UNI5 – VÌ EM LÀ OXY (Uploaded: April 21, 2018 / 5,169,453 views on the YouTube)
[KOR] GOT7 – Never Ever (Uploaded: March 12, 2017 / 107,923,477 views on the YouTube)
Looking at the Taiwan Hip-hop scene and Thailand indie scene, it does not necessarily seem as the K-Pop influences, but still can you sense the similarities in trends.
Firstly, the Taiwanese Hip-hop single Beat Up reminds of many of the Jay Park’s American urban + oriental vibe mixed sounds. Jay Park is one of the big influences in the Asian Hip-hop scene, and is widely recognized for being the first Asian artist to sign a record deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation.
[TWN] Various Artists – Beat Up (Uploaded: March 16, 2018 / 401,243 views on the YouTube)
[KOR] Jay Park – Ain’t No Party like an AOMG Party (Uploaded: July 12, 2016 / 3,906,080 views on the YouTube)
[KOR] Woodie Gochild (ft. Jay Park & Dok2) – Let’s Get It (Uploaded: December 15, 2017 / 4,741,372 views on the YouTube)
It is also intriguing to see how the Asian hipsters love the two similar bands from Thailand and Korea, Phum Viphurit and hyukoh, for their retro sounds and visuals. While hyukoh is big in SEA, Phum Viphurit also did a tour in Korea recently. It is fascinating that the two scenes are mutually influencing each other.
[THI] Phum Viphurit – Long Gone (Uploaded: June 1, 2017 / 4,663,185 views on the YouTube)
[KOR] hyukoh – Comes and Goes (Uploaded: May 27, 2015 / 16,687,028 views on the YouTube)
As we have walked through, the traces of K-Pop in the Asian markets are quite noticeable these days. It may not last forever, but certainly K-Pop is the current trend going on in the region. So, why not start from Korea to understand the Asian markets?
Step by step, you will be surprised by how the every single bit of different cultural contexts come together and make the Asian music scene as the way it is today.
By Saeyong Dominic Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org)