How K-Pop rose to popularity in the United States

Blackpink at Coachella in 2019 (From left to right: Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, Lisa). Blackpink was the first Korean act to perform at Coachella.

Instagram, @lalalalisa_m


Alex Wilson, Reporter

   Over the past few years, Korean pop music, better known as K-Pop, has made massive waves in the United States’ music industry. Popular groups such as BTS, Blackpink and TWICE have topped Apple Music and Billboard charts and held wildly successful concerts in the United States. The explosion of K-Pop’s popularity seemed to have been random as if another new fad that will die out. However, many Korean acts over the years have led to the K-Pop craze in the United States.

   In 2008, a girl group named Wonder Girls released their hit song “Nobody,” just when Korean music was beginning to branch outside of South Korea. When they released an English version of the song, it became the first-ever K-Pop song to reach the Billboard Hot 100.

   Along with Wonder Girls, another cornerstone girl group, Girls’ Generation (or SNSD), made waves with their hit song “Gee” in 2009. However, this song only boosted their success in the South Korean music scene, but it allowed them to branch out. In 2011, Girls’ Generation released their album titled The Boys under Interscope Records, marking their debut into the United States. They performed their title song of the same name on Late Show with David Letterman, as well as on Live! with Kelly. The extent of their fame in the U.S. seems to have ended there for the most part, however the group is still to this day considered a spearhead in K-Pop’s popularity in the United States, and is regarded as the “nation’s girl group” in South Korea.

   It was in 2012 that K-Pop was truly brought to the forefront of the United States’ music industry with the release of Psy’s mega-hit “Gangnam Style,” reaching number three on Billboard’s Hot 100 at its peak. In 2013, Psy became the first K-Pop act to perform at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, something another K-Pop act would not achieve until BTS in 2017. The impact of “Gangnam Style” is undeniable, with three million YouTube views and many knowing at least one part of the song’s choreography. K-Pop did not take off after this though; “Gangnam Style” was a special case, but nonetheless paved the way for other acts to rise to popularity in the United States.

   In 2016, China banned all Korean pop-culture content in its country as a result of a disagreement over the missile-system agreement between the U.S. and South Korea. Billboard suggests that this played a major part in K-Pop’s explosion in the United States, as it was not long after this until the now household-name boy group BTS met major popularity in Western media.

   In 2017, BTS released their first installment of a three-album series titled “Love Yourself.” The title track, “DNA,” was arguably their breakthrough. The music video is now the second-most viewed music video by a K-Pop group at 1.2 billion views on YouTube; Blackpink holds the number one spot with their single “DDU-DU DDU-DU” at 1.5 billion, the first music video by a K-Pop group to reach one billion views.

   BTS has broken many records with their explosion of popularity in the U.S., including being the first group in history to spend five weeks at the number one spot on Billboard’s Top 100, the first K-Pop act to win a Billboard Music Award, the first K-Pop group to perform at an American award show when they performed for the AMAs in 2017, the first K-Pop group to go gold, having the highest ever ranking K-Pop album on Billboard’s Hot 200 and many more.

   As previously mentioned, Blackpink is another K-Pop group that has taken the United State’s music scene by storm. Along with being the first K-Pop group to reach one billion views on a music video, Blackpink has also accomplished many impressive feats, such as being the first Korean act to perform at Coachella; having a music video being the fastest video in history to surpass two million likes; being the first Korean girl group to enter the top three on U.S. charts; and setting the record for fastest Korean girl group music video to reach forty million views. With just their most recent single “How You Like That,” Blackpink broke seventeen records with its release.

   Other popular groups TWICE and ITZY continue to develop K-Pop’s reach into the United States by releasing English versions of their hit songs “I Can’t Stop Me” and “Dalla Dalla,” respectively.

   K-Pop has made its mark in the U.S. music scene for over a decade now, and over the past few years has become a staple in music in the West. The impact of the most popular songs is felt to this day, making K-Pop just as legendary as American household names.