In Defense of K-Pop

BTS, the most widely renown K-pop group around the world currently, performs on the ‘Today’ Show at Rockefeller Plaza.

Photo courtesy of Wireimage.

BTS, the most widely renown K-pop group around the world currently, performs on the ‘Today’ Show at Rockefeller Plaza.

Henry Diep, Staff Writer

One of the greatest feelings in the world has to be putting a friend onto a song or music artist whom they’ve never listened to before—and they end up actually liking it. For me personally, K-Pop is a genre of music that I’ve consistently tried putting people onto (most of the time to no avail) because there is a slight negative stigma behind the genre within certain music fan bases and groups. I think people would like it if they just gave it the time of day.

From talking with my friends who don’t listen to and thus don’t even dislike K-Pop, it appears that many people perceive K-Pop—based purely on what they’ve been exposed to about the genre on a surface level—to be too corny, flamboyant/over-the-top and pop-y, or lacking substance and quality. But K-Pop isn’t really a “genre” in the traditional sense; it’s not a genre like how country or R&B music can be considered a genre.

K-Pop is a broad, all-encompassing term used by Western audiences to classify much of the music that comes from Korea. Because of this, significant differentiations in genre and music style within the “K-Pop genre” aren’t highlighted, so actual genres such as rap, rock, R&B, and more are all lumped together under the same term. A lot of K-Pop groups share nothing in common musically but are still seen within the same vein of music because of this false labeling.

For this reason, I feel like a lot of people get the wrong idea about K-Pop. Right now, groups such as BTS and Blackpink are the biggest names in the K-Pop industry, and people who dislike their songs assume that the rest of K-Pop music will sound similar or have a similar style because it’s all that they’ve exposed to from the “genre.” In actuality, K-Pop is an extremely broad and versatile genre and these two groups are not representative of the rest of K-Pop music.

Additionally, a lot of the undeserved hate surrounding K-Pop (speaking purely from a music standpoint, because some of the hate aimed toward the K-Pop industry’s mistreatment of their idols and questionable business practices is actually deserved, but that’s an entirely different topic) stems from the sometimes toxic media presence and behavior of some K-Pop fandoms online. While I do understand the negative sentiment toward some of these fandoms, it’s unfair to judge an entire genre of music or an artist before actually listening to them just because of their fan base.

K-Pop isn’t my most favorite genre of music by any means, but I do think it gets unfairly judged and perceived. Because of how versatile and broad of a genre it is, I think there’s something in K-Pop for a lot of people if they give it an opportunity. From bubblegum pop groups like Girls’ Generation to hip-hop/rap-inspired pop groups like BIGBANG to rock-pop groups like Day6 to solo R&B artists like DEAN, K-Pop has a vast variety of music styles and artists.

Personally, I’ve been exposed to K-Pop ever since I was a little kid: around the time of the late 2000s. My older siblings were into it at the time and I remember disliking it initially because I couldn’t understand the words, which is a common complaint I often hear about Korean and foreign music in general. However, as soon as I learned to just enjoy the music sonically and get over not being able to understand all of the words, I came to enjoy K-Pop and it opened my ears up to a whole new world of music.

However, that isn’t to say that K-Pop is for everyone; not everyone enjoys that style of music or listening to lyrics they can’t understand, and that’s alright. That being said, however, I’d like to share some of my personal favorite K-Pop songs in the hopes that I can put some people onto an entire industry of music teeming with hits that they’ve never been exposed to before.

Note: A big reason why I got into K-Pop in the first place is because my family took a trip to Vietnam back in 2009. and I was exposed to it there due to how popular K-Pop is in many different Asian countries outside of just South Korea. This explains why a lot of the songs in my list of personal favorites come from that late 2000s to early 2010s era of K-Pop music, which is just something to keep in mind because this list isn’t necessarily representative of today’s K-Pop.

Song recommendations (in no particular order):

  • Lies by BIGBANG
  • Can’t Love You Anymore (ft. OhHyuk) by IU
  • Fight the Bad Feeling by T-MAX
  • Wedding Dress by Taeyang
  • Did It or Not? by Block B
  • Untitled, 2014 by G-DRAGON
  • seoul (prod. HONNE) by RM
  • With You by The Rose
  • Blue by BIGBANG
  • Sorry by The Rose
  • She’s In the Rain by The Rose
  • It’s You by Super Junior
  • Ma Boy 2 (ft. Hyorin of SISTAR19) by Electroboyz
  • Genie by Girls’ Generation
  • Spring Day by BTS
  • What 2 Do (ft. Crush and Jeff Bernat) by DEAN
  • Based on a True Story (ft. HEIZE) by Epik High
  • Lovedrunk (ft. Crush) by Epik High
  • Stand by U by DBSK
  • Why Did I Fall In Love with You by DBSK
  • Stand by Me by SHINee