Chances are if you ask someone out west if they know K-pop, at this point they’ll be able to reel in a few heavy hitters. BTS? Sure! “Dynamite” slapped. Blackpink? Know them too. But for many, this is where awareness dries up. It’s just. We are spoiled with the most popular cultural offerings brought to us in our own language, and even when they are not, we assume it won’t be long before someone chooses to remake them in a way that we can understand. Non-English music in particular struggled to break through as a mainstream standard, with most crossovers like “the ketchup song” Where “Gangnam Style” falling into the category of ‘novelties’ reserved for the last dregs of a wedding DJ set or a weak politician’s attempt to revive his public image on a reality TV show.
K-pop has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity over the past decade, but where its hype may have previously felt appended to a microcosm of millions of YouTube views, bands and solo artists are now selling stadiums and arenas in the United States and Europe. From the 90s with bands like Seo Taeiji and the boys and HOT, the industry has evolved at a rapid pace ever since, debuting bands and soloists with concepts, musical styles, release schedules, and yes, in many cases, many members. More of an umbrella term than a pure genre, K-pop encompasses everything from pure pop to hip hop, R&B, ballads and EDM.
His presence is unmissable at this point, and perhaps you’ve stumbled upon a music video on YouTube or a fancam attached to an unrelated comment on Twitter. Maybe your interest has been piqued, but you don’t even know where to start. We understand that thirty years is a long time to catch up. So, for anyone curious, we’ve compiled a list of 15 songs that you can use as your gateway to the vast world that K-pop has to offer. From girls to boys, and sultry R&B to deafening noise, whatever your flavor, we’ve got you covered.