What is this… KPOP you speak of?
Kpop, or Korean pop music, comes from the magical land of South Korea, a place of hiking, bibimbap, Samsung everything, soju, cute oppas and more.
Kpop is not just music or pop music as we understand it in the West. It’s a powerhouse production experience. Everything from:
On point vocals
And promotion, promotion, promotion…
It involves years of training and big musical productions that while nascent in the mainstream U.S. scene, have been taking over the world in Asia and reached as far as Europe and Latin America.
I got into Kpop one random morning in 2011 when I got out of class early, my roommate was out and I was feeling adventurous but didn’t feel like going outside – it’s way too hot here in Florida to NOT be a couch potato.
So in the spirit of staying in with my computer – one of my favorite hobbies – I decided to google that good old friend of mine: JPOP. (My relationship with Jpop is one of deep anime feels and merits its own space in this blog, but later.)
In my search for Jpop, however, I accidentally stumbled upon Kpop and remembering that one video I had seen once upon a time in high school, I fell down a rabbit hole of endless videos, dance practices, performances, bossass ladies, fabulous dudes and SO MUCH MUSIC.
Needless to say, I have spent the better half of the last 6 years in the company of my Koreans baes and queens. No regrets there.
Now, I could list the thousands of reasons why everyone should listen to Kpop: because it’s impeccably made and full of flawless performances, because it combines interesting mixes of sounds and melodies in one genre, or simply because it’s fun and COOL AF. Instead I’ve decided to compile a list of Kpop songs and music videos that I think would impress and surprise non-Kpoppers out there.
So, if you have a tiny inclination, are mildly interested or just have time to kill waiting for your tea to brew, here is a list of some songs and videos I think are totally awesome.
1. DAT DANCING THOUGH: BTS – Dope
BTS, or Bangtan Boys, debuted in 2013 and have since taken over the Kpop scene with their bad boy look and hip hop concepts. (Those bad boy charms though.. *swoon*). BTS are known for their tougher style and musical attitude, heavily influenced by hip hop and even rock elements. I chose this video because it showcases the amazing danceability and edginess in Kpop and because it’s one of my favorites. I’ve seen it and forced my friends to watch it a hundred times. It’s just THAT good. When I was in Korea, my girl students and I would fangirl over them on a daily basis much to the annoyance of my 5th grade boys. They were such haters. But c’mon, HOW can you not fangirl? They are super talented, coordinated and beautiful.
2. Vocals, Vocals, Vocals: Luna – Free Somebody
I’m OBSESSED with this song! It came out over a month ago and it’s pure Kpop gold. Everything from its cool blend of electro-house music to its powerful, dreamy vocals simply SLAYS. The funky beat and surreal visual art in the music video only add to its alternative, retro appeal. Just listen to it!
Luna is the main vocalist of girl group f(x) and this is her first solo album.
3. My Cutie Cherry Pies: GFRIEND – Rough
This song holds a special place in my heart because it is one of the last songs I listened to before leaving Korea. Also, my friend Nathalie – gracious host and YouTube sensation extraordinaire (check out her channel, yo) – and I spent a good two weeks trying to learn the lyrics and dance. Due to my total lack of dancing coordination and my awkward flailing limbs, I was not very successful and have yet to achieve even the simplest of moves. Why do you do this to me, genes?!
Regardless, this is a great song. GFRIEND may seem like a bunch of cutesy school girls, but with their strong and powerful dance moves and energetic beats and melodies, their songs transform into the theme music for an anime about badass magical girls breaking hearts and fighting to save the galaxy from evil while acing their exams. Also, #THEFRIENDSHIP is real!!!
4. PERFORMANCE KINGS: SHINee – Evil
SHINee is THE boy group! And it’s not just because they are my ALL TIME faves and are perfect and beautiful in every single way. (I admit I maaaaay be slightly biased, but I don’t care.) The boys of SHINee are performance GODS, on point with everything from concepts, choreographies and vocals in every comeback. I struggled for hours, and I mean HOURS, trying to decide which music video to post here, but finally decided a live performance would actually be the perfect way to show their epicness.
SHINee is a group that has been around the block, debuting in 2008 and having one of the strongest debut singles out there. Since then, they have just been killing it. KILLING IT. They are known for their intricate dances, their R&B sounds and are considered perhaps the best live dancers and vocalists in Kpop. I mean, look at this video! They’re dancing with blindfolds for crying out loud! What EVEN?!
Also, shout out to Jonghyun, the ultimate bae. ❤
5. BOSSASS LADIES: 4MINUTE – Crazy
4MINUTE is a group that evolved in style through the years and, in my opinion, made some of their best music before breaking up this year in what I am calling the KPOPCALYPSE of 2016. They are no longer with us, but their hardcore and badass attitudes live on.
I chose this song because of its energizing beats and awesome synths and basslines. I also just love their “taking names and giving no excuses” attitudes. Oh my god, #GOALS.
6. Reggae Vibessssss: Wonder Girls – Why So Lonely
I have the biggest crush on the Wonder Girls. BIGGEST. And this comeback is definitely my favorite from them. Like SHINee, they have been around the block, debuting in 2007, and one of the farthest reaching groups having collaborated with many artists abroad. Their roster of members has changed over the years, but with the return of Sunmi and their new musical instruments concept, these 4 are not just a girl group but an actual band. They are amazing.
Also, who would have thought reggae and Kpop could mix so well??
7. THE Summer Bop: Sistar – Shake It
I love this song. It’s probably the most “pop” out of all the songs on this list. I wanted to include it to show the range and cheerfully vibrant colors of Kpop. It’s a song by Sistar, a four member girl group, and it was released June of last year, becoming one of the catchiest songs of the summer. It’s rainbows of fun that make you want to take over the world one booty shake at a time.
8. Going Dark!: EXO – Monster
SM Entertainment might be the devil incarnate, but they do produce catchy AF songs. This one is a song off EXO’s latest album and it’s AWESOME. EXO like BTS is a boy group that has reached mega-popularity in Korea and a favorite of my 6th grade girls. It debuted as a 12 members group, but following a series of conflicts and dramatic exits now sits at 9 members.
I like many of EXO’s songs, but this one is particularly fantastic. I love the darker concept and more aggressive choreography. They are definitely #GETTINGIT.
9. WHAT EVEN?!: Big Bang – Bang Bang Bang
Big Bang is one of the most established and famous groups in Korea and the rest of Asia, and a MUST LISTEN for anyone at least slightly intrigued by Kpop. Their irreverent and out-of-control videos and T.O.P.’s deep voice just do it for me every time. This song was one of the biggest hits when I was living in Korea in 2015. My students would come into class, throw themselves dramatically on the floor and yell “BANG BANG BANG” everyday for a good month. They are weird AF, but I love them.
BONUS. The Story: 2NE1 – Come Back Home
I chose this music video not only because it’s one of my favorite 2NE1’s songs, but also because of its beautiful cinematography and storyline. It’s set in a dystopian future in which people are estranged from each other and addicted to virtual reality. It’s a really cool video and the ladies of 2NE1 are nothing short of flawless. As opposed to GFRIEND, 2NE1’s concepts feature more urban dance pop influences and their look is based on a more rebellious brand of femininity.
Also, I’m obsessed with CL, the leader of the group, who is currently working on her American debut.
So that concludes my first ever Kpop post. I couldn’t contain myself! I missed so many of my babies though, so I might make more posts.
I hope that if you were interested in Kpop or at least in listening to different music and watching unique videos, this helped you out.
Have a wonderful day and safe Kpopping!