Korean comedian/musician PSY's track "Gangnam Style" became a global viral hit over the summer and served as an example of the Hallyu, or Korean wave. This week, Schoolboy Records (the crew behind Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen) picked PSY up for releases in North America, the most high-profile deal for a Korean artist yet.
Until this year, Korean pop had a limited American presence among online scenesters and the Korean-American community.This generation of K-pop exists in a East-meets-West feedback loop with American Top 40, where Korean artists emulate American pop and American artists appropriate Korean culture for their videos. There's even a local group dedicated to the music, and this summer's A-Kon convention showed there's a market for K- and J-pop.
Here are a few artists to keep an eye on.
2NE1 Sharing PSY's South Korean label YG Entertainment, this quartet's defining trait is incorporating hip-hop influence with aggressive songwriting. Their videos' fashion and futuristic imagery calls to mind Black Eyed Peas, with whom they collaborated for an upcoming U.S. debut. Tracks like "Ugly" and "Can't Nobody" feature pop-framed social critique, calling to mind Pink and Nicki Minaj.
G-Dragon The frontman of Korean boy band Big Bang (another YGE project), G-Dragon's solo output represents the Korean pop take on Western male-oriented hip-hop. G-Dragon's music shows the curious duality among male pop stars, presenting macho postures (as in the video above for "One of a Kind") against cloying (and occasionally sour) seduction.
Girls' Generation As the highest grossing musical group in South Korea, Girls' Generation is the quintessential example of glitzy, plastic K-pop. In a bid to cross over into the States, all nine members performed on Late Night with David Letterman back in January. Bill Murray was there.
Wonder Girls Wonder Girls has been periodically cross-marketed to the U.S since 2009. They opened for the Jonas Brothers on their 2009 world tour and appeared on the roster for Disney's Jonas Records imprint, alongside Dallas' own Demi Lovato.The group also performed two years ago at House of Blues.
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BoA As the most successful female solo artist in South Korea. BoA's brand is aggressively marketed outside Korea by releasing different albums exclusively to labels in Japan, China and America. She sings in their market's language, too. Weezer covered her track "Meri Kuri" for the Japanese release of their Red Album in 2008. It's the most consequential thing Weezer did in recent years.
Super Junior If you thought keeping track of the nine members of Girls' Generation was disorienting, K-pop boy band Super Junior had thirteen guys at one point and field ten today. The Super Junior brand includes sub-groups like Super Junior-T and Super Junior-M.