You may have noticed a little group called BTS? Or say Blackpink? These days they are present on almost all charts and lists all over the world. Or how about Twice, NCT, EXO or Momoland? There’s layers to K-pop you could only dream of and there’s much to tap into.
To say that K-pop is a new phenomenon, would be a mistake and seriously take away from the acts that came before the chart toppers of today, like PSY who broke records all over the world and if you haven’t heard of him, you must have been living under a rock! And of course there’s 2ne1, Big Bang and G-dragon (my personal favorite) who did a collaboration with Missy Elliott and was the most followed K-pop artist on social media with 13 million followers, until Lisa of Blackpink stole the spotlight a few weeks ago with now 20 million followers and counting. So why has K-pop started growing exponentially the last few years? After diving into the genre for about a year, attending the concerts I could get tickets to like blackpink, Monsta X, momoland, giant pink and Jang Jane, this is what I’ve deduced. It comes down to 3 simple things, the holy trinity of happiness – something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to.
Something to do – First of all, K-pop never leaves you idle. There’s always something to dive into, whether it’s new music, music videos, live streams, choreography to learn, related or recommended literature, easter egg hunts, fan fiction, or an endless stream of compilations of performances, gameshow participations and/interviews. Also the concerts are never a passive spectator sport, in fact, you are kinda expected to participate. This can be through singing, wielding a lightstick, shouting fan chants, choreography or participating in waves etc. The activities are endless! And it’s what makes it so much fun and what creates a community where every voice counts. When it comes to k-pop, as a fan, you feel like you matter. Because what would a k-pop concert even look like if the audience didn’t participate? There’s also inside jokes that go around between the artists and the audience, so knowing your artists really lifts the experience. (Still remembering when the fans roared to RM’s question in fake love: “why you sad?” and you could hear the fans yelling “I don’t know, na molla!” well into the neighboring state!” It’s a thing now…) So if you should enter a korean fandom, get ready for a wide variety of fun activities.
Someone to love – Let’s be honest, when there’s a lot of people in a group, you should be able to find someone to connect to! They also do subgroups within the main group and target different audiences with different sound styles. Some are more on the vocals, while others to rap, they switch between several genres and often within the same song! Members are always designed an “area of expertise” whether it’s “the rapper”, “the maknae” (the youngest), “the dancer”, “the visuals” and so on… They show their personalities through interview sheets, their “parts” in the group, on personal live streams, and often solo performances that showcase their personal talents outside the group. Fans often have a “bias” which is their favorite in the group, or a “bias wrecker”, and even an “ultimate”. The most hardcore fans go to extreme lengths to show their bias their love. There’s even fan-cams directed on one particular group member that follows that member exclusively during performances.
Something to look forward to – K-pop knows how to tease an audience (I’ve even experienced loving the tease more than the end product!) Sometimes weeks in advance we are informed that something is coming. It can be a video clip, an audio clip, pictures, live chats and so much more. Part of this tease technology is to always leave your audience wanting more by giving away a small piece that links together with a bigger picture. EP’s are very popular in K-pop because it allows for a release with few songs and quick releases with little wait time. These EP’s are often put together and repackaged when they’re complete, and this keeps the buzz going even when there’s not really anything new coming. The biggest artists often releases several versions of the same song, it can be a rock remix or a japanese version or english version of the korean song. The steady flow of material is almost like an illusion that we buy hook, line and sinker. And of course, on top of it all the music has great hooks and drops and the videos play with colors and themes that changes with releases so that the curiosity of what’s to come is always present. (I mean, we wouldn’t care if it wasn’t good would we?!!)
And there it is, the recipe for success! Keep your audience engaged at all times, feed them with a constant stream of material to keep them hooked and remember to show love on social media, the largest k-pop artists (hell, all the artists in the world!) have social media that their fans can feel connected through. And of course, if you’re a die hard and you feel like you’ve managed to sift through all there is of your favorite artists, there’s always that korean language you can start learning to translate all those lyrics!
Am I missing something? Comment and let me know, add on, tell me your favorite groups, shout out your bias, write it in Korean if you want!