Last March, I found myself speeding down I-94 toward Chicago with my roommate on a Wednesday afternoon. After finishing a midterm at 1:30 p.m., we bolted out of the city as soon as possible. Five days previously, we bought tickets on an impulse to see the seven-member Korean boy group BTS live at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. We made it to the venue thirty minutes before the concert started and left immediately following the conclusion of the show. After driving through the night, we made it back just in time for my roommate’s biochemistry midterm the next morning.
Before BTS, I had only listened to Korean pop music, better known as K-pop, casually as the result of a few friends who would recommend me artists and songs. However, I fell in love with BTS’ music, and since then, I’ve been hooked.
I’m not alone in getting caught up in the growing BTS and K-pop hype. BTS has amassed a number of accolades from American music awards, placing on the Billboard 200 album chart, placing on the Billboard Hot 100 with their new album’s title song “DNA,” and winning top social artist at the Billboard Music Awards this past May.
K-pop’s pop cultural impact is further evident both on campus and in the Twin Cities as a whole. The Minnesota K-pop Dance Crew is a campus-based performance team that performs covers of K-pop hits and competes both nationally and internationally. This September, MKDC hosted the 4th annual Minnesota K-pop Festival, which brought over 1,000 people to Northrop for an evening of K-pop and high power dance covers. K-pop artists and entertainment companies are taking notice of the Twin Cities as well — just this past month, the co-ed group K.A.R.D performed at the State Theater downtown to an audience (including me) simply thankful for the fact that they had come to Minneapolis.
As K-pop becomes more and more mainstream in the United States and abroad, I encourage everyone listen to Korean artists. K-pop, as a genre, is playing a large role internationally in reviving the art of the music video and the physical album. It presents a new way to engage with music and, if you’re interested, to engage with a vibrant community of people who like the same artists and music as you do.
To those who don’t speak Korean and are worried about a language barrier impairing your listening experience, take a moment to step back from denotation and simply absorb the flow of the artist’s voice and the music itself. After that, look up the lyric translations. I guarantee that you’ll gain a better appreciation for the song in the end after having to seek out meaning.
I encourage everyone to give K-pop artists a listen. While you may not end up driving 12 hours round trip for a concert, hopefully you’ll still find your own favorites and new musical experiences.