Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Welcome to K-Pop!

By John Hill

With the overnight sensation from South Korea named PSY threatening to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, people are now hearing about K-pop, or Korean pop. While a large chunk of the world’s population has heard of K-pop acts like Super Junior and 2NE1, there has been limited success for K-pop in the US until now. Intrigued? Then check out some of our favorite current K-pop acts (all singles are available on iTunes in the US except “Dazzling Girl”).

Wonder Girls “Like Money” (featuring Akon)

While PSY may be the first K-pop artist to make the US top 10, he was not the first to make the Billboard Hot 100. That distinction goes to Wonder Girls, who reached #76 in 2009 with “Nobody.” These five ladies have done their homework over the past few years, touring the US multiple times and releasing several singles in English, including the infectious “Two Different Tears.” Their latest single “Like Money” features American singer Akon and has a BeyoncĂ© “Single Ladies” groove that has garnered them some attention on pop stations in the US as well as a tour of smaller US venues.

TVXQ “Catch Me”

One cornerstone of K-pop groups is the precise choreography that accompanies many of their single releases. With the advent of English boy bands not dancing like their predecessors (see The Wanted, One Direction), many of the industry’s top choreographers have traveled to South Korea to work with pop groups that still believe a tight dance routine will excite their fans. K-pop duo TVXQ and top choreographer Tony Testa bring a more Euro-oriented sound to their debut US single “Catch Me,” and the video (above) harkens back to the old days of Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync when boy bands were not afraid to work up a sweat on stage. “Catch Me” may be a bit too high energy to get played on pop radio, but I wouldn’t count these guys out.

SHINee “Dazzling Girl”
Another interesting trait of K-pop groups is that they often record songs in Japanese to break on to the lucrative J-pop charts in Japan. Such is the case with five-man boy band SHINee, who released their latest Japanese single “Dazzling Girl” and the video that accompanies the song earlier this month. Also note that most K-pop (and J-pop) songs also have a few English lyrics scattered in…even PSY has the words “style” and “sexy lady” in “Gangnam Style.” If you want to check out SHINee at their K-pop best, also look into “Lucifer” and “Sherlock.”

Girls’ Generation “The Boys”
American viewers got an eyeful on The Late Show with David Letterman January 31, 2012 when nine-woman K-pop group Girls’ Generation performed their debut US single “The Boys.” While the ladies didn’t chart “The Boys” here in America, their album of the same name has been a huge seller back home in South Korea. Don’t think that this will be the last American single because they most likely will give it another go now that there is more interest in K-pop.

BONUS: PSY doing the “Single Ladies” dance
I love PSY. It is very clear from the limited contact Americans have had with this guy that he does not really take himself seriously, which instantly endears him to me. But if you think the “Gangnam Style” dance was just a fluke, check out the video below of PSY learning the “Single Ladies” dance in 2011 to rock the crowd. PSY may not be built for speed, but he makes up for it in sheer effort and pure abandon.

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