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Pop Culture

A Beginner’s guide to K-pop

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Tired of the same old music? Playlists starting to look a little stale? Well look no further, let me introduce you to the world of K-pop.

What is K-pop?

What is K-pop you may ask?

Korean Pop, (K-pop), is a genre of popular music originating in South Korea. It has been influenced by many styles and genres from around the world, such as, rock, jazz, hip hop, R&B, reggae, electronic dance, folk, country, and classical on top of its traditional Korean music roots. 

K-pop began in the early 90’s, through SM Entertainment, which is now one of the biggest entertainment companies in South Korea. Many people credit “Seo Taiji and Boys” for the first K-pop group.They were made up of 3 young men, Seo Taiji, Yang Hyun-suk, and Lee Juno. Billboard reported that the band’s first three albums sold over 1.6 million copies, with the fourth album nearing two million copies, making all four one of the best-selling albums in South Korea.

What Is A K-pop “Idol”?

When you start to explore the world of K-pop, the word “Idol” comes up a lot. An “idol” in K-pop fandom culture essentially means a celebrity working in the field of K-pop.They are either a member of a group or a solo act.This is a little different from a korean singer. 

Idols tend to be under contract to an entertainment company in order to be trained by that company. Idols tend to sell themselves (their personality, their image, their life, etc). They also tend to be a generalist, and are trained in the arts of singing, acting, and dancing.

A korean singer is just a singer. Korean singers tend to sign a contract after they debut. Korean singers tend to just sell their work, not their image. Korean singers tend to be specialists, and they usually can not dance or act.

What Are K-pop Idol Groups?

Now on to a big part of K-pop, K-pop groups. Just a fair warning, there are many of them and they all have a lot of parts. All K-pop groups have these positions: the leader,the vocalists, the rappers,the visuals,and the maknae.

The Leader- In most K-pop groups, a leader is designated.This person is usually the oldest member in the group or the person who has trained for the longest period of time.The leader is there to support and take care of the members and represent them as a group.They are usually the most mature.

The Vocalists- Vocalists are a big part of k-pop groups.There are 3 types. 

Lim Jaebeom Is The Main Vocalist Of Got7

  • The Main Vocalist-The Main Vocalist is usually the member with the best singing technique.The Main vocalist usually gets lots of singing lines and usually sings the chorus.
  • The Lead Vocalist-The Lead Vocalist is usually the member with the 2nd best singing technique. He/she usually sings before the Main Vocalist.
  • The Sub Vocalist-The Sub Vocalist and supports the Main and Lead Vocalists. They usually get fewer singing lines.
  • The Rappers – Rappers are also a big part of K-pop groups.There are 3 types.

J-Hope Is The Sub Rapper Of BTS

  • The Main Rapper-The Main Rapper gets most of the rapping parts and it’s supposed to be the one with the best rapping skills.
  • The Lead Rapper- The Lead Rapper is supposed to be the 2nd best to the Main Rapper. He/she usually begins the rapping parts.
  • The Sub Rapper- The Sub Rapper is supposed to be better than non rapping members but not as good as the Lead or Main rappers.

The Dancers-Dancers are essentially a big part of K-pop groups.There are 2 types.

BLACKPINK’s Rose And Lisa Are Main and Lead Dancers

  • The Main Dancer-The Main Dancer is usually the member with the greatest dancing skills. The Main Dancer usually gets solo dancing parts.
  • The Lead Dancer-The Lead Dancer is usually the 2nd best dancer in the group. When the group dances together, he/she will often dance in the front.

The Visuals-The visual is the member who is considered most attractive by the ideal set of beauty standards for KPop idols, and are likely to be hired often to endorse products and appear in commercials and ads. 

Huening Kai Is The Visual Of His Group TXT

The Face of The Group- The Face of The Group is usually mistaken with the visual, because their main role is to bring public attention to the group. While the Visual is usually the most good looking member, “the Face” of the group. is the band’s representative who usually gets invited to variety shows or who represents the band in different public events, and most of the time is the most popular member.

EXO’s Oh Sehun Is The Face Of His Group

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The Center- Usually a certain member is placed in the middle of the group during promotions, photoshoots, video shoots, etc. Be it because of their good-looks, or because of their dancing talent, or because of their popularity. A particular member is always placed in the center, getting the most attention.

EXO’s Kai Is The Center Of His Group

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The Maknae-The Maknae is the youngest member of the band. The maknae is usually associated with being cute and shy, but not always.

Chou Tzuyu Is The Maknae Of TWICE

So now you’re caught up! You now know way more about K-pop than before we started. What is K-pop? What is an “idol”? These were few of many common questions that arose when trendsetting BTS made their first international award show in 2017.

In a major move for international artists, BTS not only graced the red carpet of the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, they also snagged the win for top social artist, winning the cheers from the likes Ansel Elgort and Miley Cyrus.

Since then, BTS has adorned the cover of Time Magazine, broken 13 Guinness World Records, and obtained a Grammy Nomination.

How in such little time has BTS taken over the western music industry and changed their genre of K-pop? To understand that, you need to know a little about BTS.

BTS, also known as the Bangtan Boys, is a seven-member South Korean boy band.They are a group formed under Big Hit Entertainment in 2010 and debuted in 2013.The group is composed of Jin, RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and jungkook. Although originally they were a hip hop group, their musical style has evolved to include a wide range of genres.

Now that you know the basics, let me introduce them one by one.                                                 

RM

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Kim Namjoon, better known by his stage name RM, is a South Korean rapper, songwriter, and record producer. He once used to go by the name Rap Monster, although he has said he has since outgrown that name.RM told Entertainment Tonight that “The name could symbolize many things. It could have more spectrums to it.” “Real Me.” was provided as a possible current meaning.

He takes on two major roles in the group; Main rapper and Leader. RM is considered to be the best rapper in BTS and one of the most skilled rappers in K-pop. As BTS has broken international barriers, and RM and Bts have collaborated with a number of american artists, such as:

Wale

Halsey

 

Steve Aoki

 

 

Jin

Kim Seok-jin, also known by his stage name Jin, is a South Korean singer, songwriter, and member of the South Korean boy band BTS. Jin was scouted for the group while in university and joined Big Hit Entertainment, eventually transitioning to a Korean idol. While in junior high school, Kim was scouted by South Korean K-pop agency SM Entertainment off the street, but he rejected the offer at the time.

Jin’s role in BTS is being a Sub Vocalist and Visual, and is also the oldest member. He definitely lives up to his title as visual, giving himself the nickname “Worldwide Handsome”. In 2019, he was ranked as the overall 13th most popular idol and 6th among girls aged 13–19 in South Korea, according to Gallup Korea.His Visuals speak for themselves:

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Suga

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Min Yoon-gi, better known by his stage names Suga and Agust D, is a South Korean rapper, songwriter, and record producer. At age 13, he became interested in rap after hearing “Reggae Muffin” by Stony Skunk, stating that it was different from anything he had ever heard before. After hearing Epik High, he decided to become a rapper. Before being signed, he was active under the name Gloss as an underground rapper.

Originally joining the company as a music producer, he later transitioned into Lead Rapper for BTS. Has collaborated and produced many songs with many artists, both Korean and American:

IU

Suran 

MAX

J-Hope

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Jung Ho-seok, better known by his stage name J-Hope, is a South Korean rapper, songwriter, and record producer.Before debuting with BTS, he was part of the underground dance team “Neuron”.With his skills in dance, he eventually gain interest in singing, and helping him to audition as an idol trainee. He later joined BTS as a dancer.

He released his first mixtape, Hope World, on March 1, a mixtape that “showcases exceptional creativity, genuine personality, and a cohesive sense of direction”, expressed by J-Hope in an interview with Time Magazine.In January 2020, J-hope was promoted along with the fellow BTS member RM to join with Suga as the full member of the Korea Music Copyright Association.

In 2019, J-Hope collaborated with Latin artist Becky G on single “Chicken Noodle Soup”.The track debuted at number 81 on the Billboard Hot 100, with 9.7 million streams and 11,000 downloads for the week ending October 4, making J-Hope the first member of BTS to chart on the Hot 100 as a solo artist outside of the group.

Jimin

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Park Ji-min, better known mononymously as Jimin, is a South Korean singer, songwriter, and dancer.

The group, Jimin holds the position of vocalist and dancer. Under BTS, he has released two solo tracks: “Lie” and “Serendipity”.

V

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Kim Tae-hyung, also known by his stage name V, is a South Korean singer, songwriter, and actor.In 2013,V became a trainee for Big Hit Entertainment. V has released two solo songs, “Stigma” and “Singularity”.The track made its UK radio debut on BBC radio on October 25. A month after its release, The Guardian added “Singularity” to its “Top 50 songs for the month of June 2018” playlist, and Billboard included it in their Critics’ list of the “Top 50 BTS songs” at number 28.

In 2016, V starred as a supporting role in a South Korean television series “Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth”.

Jungkook

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Jeon Jung-kook, better known mononymously as Jungkook, is a South Korean singer and songwriter. In 2011, Jungkook auditioned and he received casting offers from seven entertainment companies. He eventually chose to become a trainee under Big Hit Entertainment.

Jungkook has cited Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake and Usher among his musical inspirations.In 2017, Jungkook covered “2U”, a song by Justin Bieber and David Guetta.

This is just a summarized biography of BTS and their achievements.Their amount of success is shocking in regards to their origin.

BTS was formed and debuted under Big Hit Entertainment in 2013. At that time Big Hit Entertainment was small and unknown, and most importantly not a part of the “Big 3”.

The “Big 3” refers to the 3 major K-pop entertainment companies;SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment.This meant for a while BTS was the main source of income For Big Hit Entertainment. Now that BTS is a major success, they have made a name for their company. Because of this they have made it possible to sign new and youthful group to join their company, they are known as TXT.

 

To explain their appeal to a wide range audience, it isn’t just their looks and talent.It’s the honesty and realness.J-hope explains that the group aims to be the resistance against the bullets of prejudice that target their generation, striving hard to protect the values that they hold with pride, which explains their names BTS which translates to “bulletproof boy-scouts”.

They thoroughly showed this by speaking at the United Nations twice:

BTS has also made major contributions. BTS UNICEF “Love Myself” campaign raised over $1.4 million. Suga and J-Hope have donated $200,000 to the Korea Pediatric Cancer Foundation. BTS as a collective have donated over $100,000 to education. As of recently, BTS and Big Hit Entertainment donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter.

As of now, BTS is still topping the charts and continuing to gain thousands of listeners everyday. Largely this is due to the power of their fan base, ARMY ,which is incredibly dedicated and diverse.

“This is truly amazing,” V told CNN. “We are sincerely so grateful. You made our dream come true. Thanks to ARMY.”

With their continuation of talent and honesty through their music,with the help of ARMY of course,BTS has no choice but to continue to flourish.

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