The game-changers from a decade of K-pop
No other genre of music has changed the music industry more than K-pop this decade. From BTS to Blackpink, Monsta X to Exo, these are the bands that helped make it a global phenomenon and raised the bar for pop groups across the globe
If you’d mentioned K-pop to anyone in the West in the first half of this decade, there was every chance they’d have looked at you blankly. South Korea’s boy and girl pop groups were beloved by millions for videos that ranged from the sublime to the surreal and their bold combination of genres – from hip-hop to Latin to EDM – but beyond Asia, they were little known.
“Gangnam Style” changed K-pop’s global status in 2012, but the shift in Western perception from one-off novelty record to bonafide pop juggernaut rests on the shoulders of BTS’s American breakthrough in 2017. This year alone, they sold four million copies of their latest album, Map Of The Soul: Persona, and earned more from their tours than The Rolling Stones or Metallica.
Blackpink, NCT, SuperM, Stray Kids and Monsta X have also been selling out arenas across Europe and the US; with language no longer an obstacle in the age of social media and multilingual fandoms, K-pop has finally found its feet outside Asia. As a new decade sits on the horizon, we look back at ten years of milestones and game-changing moments that led to K-pop standing tall on the world stage.
2011, the year of the girl group: ‘I Am The Best’ by 2NE1
In 2011, women owned K-pop. The disco of T-Ara’s “Roly Poly” dominated the charts, HyunA’s solo single “Bubble Pop!” took the 4Minute member to new heights, Girls’ Generation got sexy with “The Boys” and Brown Eyed Girls unleashed their anarchist diva on “Sixth Sense”. But three years into their career, 2NE1 would become legends with “I Am The Best”, an anthemic ode to self confidence. From the chanted title refrain to a video that was as slick as the clothes were over-the-top, 2NE1’s big sound and outré look not only brought K-pop to the curious attention of the Western fashion and music media but became a visual blueprint for the genre’s feisty “girl crush” concept.
Source: GQ Magazine UK
*irrelevant parts omitted