By Hadia Chaudhry
The 21st century is now the time where western fans of East Asian music are seeing their idols represented in western media. While Asian pop music, especially Korean, has garnered massive amounts of popularity worldwide, it is only now becoming more prominent on the American music scene.
Korean pop music, or K-pop, is the most popular genre of Korean music. K-pop draws inspiration from a number of popular genres, such as Western pop, rock, hip hop, R&B, reggae, jazz, and electronic dance.
The international exposure of K-pop began with artist BoA, referred to as the “Queen of K-pop,” and TVXQ, a duo known as the “Kings of K-pop,” who introduced the genre to Japanese audiences, leading to continued popularity on a global scale all over Asia, North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
The rise of K-pop in the western world began in 2006 with artist Rain holding sold-out concerts in New York and Las Vegas for his first world tour, “Rain’s Coming World Tour”. All-girl group Wonder Girls became the first Korean group to debut on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart at number 76.
They even performed the opening act for the Jonas Brothers’ tour in 2009. In 2012, Girl’s Generation, also an all-girl group, became the first Korean act to perform on US national television to promote their album “The Boys,” which is their first album to be released in the United States.
2017 marked a huge milestone for K-pop when BTS, an all-boy group, won the category for Top Social artists at the Billboard Music Awards. They also became the first K-pop group to ever perform at the American Music Awards.
The song “DNA” from their fifth EP “Love Yourself: Her,” became their first entrance to the Billboard Hot 100, only the second Korean act to do so. They even beat Wonder Girls by coming in at number 67. The music video for “DNA” became one of the most viewed K-pop music videos, gaining over 20 million views on YouTube within 24 hours.
The international success of Asian artists is not limited to Korean artists. Japanese artists are making some waves in the visual kei scene as well.
Visual kei is a style of music classified by elaborate hairstyles, flashy and ornate costumes, and makeup of varying intensity. It is a common misconception that visual kei is a genre of music when, truthfully, the genre it falls under is usually any sub-genre of rock, such as punk rock and heavy metal. The style itself has gained popularity in quite a few western regions, such as Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, Brazil, Poland, and Russia, and even the U.S., although not on as grand a scale as K-pop.
Groups such as X Japan and Luna Sea developed the visual kei genre in the 1980s by incorporating aspects reminiscent of American glam rock and hard rock bands, such as David Bowie and Kiss. The style did not gain immediate popularity in the same way that K-pop did due to its androgynous appearance and, in some cases, slightly disturbing visuals. But groups with a more mellowed look, such as X Japan themselves, along with Dir En Grey and the GazettE, are more popular.
X Japan has the largest international fan base out of all the visual kei bands. Having had two major performances in America, one at Lollapalooza and the other at Madison Square Garden, X Japan is set to make their debut at Coachella and perform on April 14 and April 21.
Asian music is being represented more in the media nowadays. Looking at the progress the genre and styles have made, it seems that the music will only continue to gain a greater following with more exposure to foreign audiences.