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October 31, 2011

K-pop Finds a Champaign Audience

by The Centinal

By Faith Middleton

Champaign-Urbana is, without a doubt, a college town. With the popular University comes the wide-spread diversity of cultures, languages, ethnic groups and tastes. One such taste is the genre of “K-pop”, or Korean pop music.

Korean pop is deeply rooted in electropop, hip-hop and R&B. The most frequently used instruments are vocals, drums, drum pads, electric bass, keyboards, pianos, and synthesizers.

The genre of K-pop is said to have begun in the early 1990s with the debut of Seo Tai-ji & Boys, who incorporated aspects of techno and hip-hop into their music. These pioneers were followed by the founding of talent agencies; S.M. Entertainment was founded by Lee Soo Man in 1995.

The practice of talent scout and agencies is one held onto in current times. Coaches and agents train future debutantes in voice, dance, language and physical fitness. The coaches ensure that their clients are at their best in stage presence and are likely to succeed in the music industry.

“K-pop is a very unique form of music that is completely unheard of elsewhere,” Michael Park, Centennial Junior, said. “Also, K-pop is a type of music that obsesses over how catchy it is and how good-looking the singers are. Everyone likes catchy tunes and good-looking people with fancy dance moves.”

In order to extend an artist/group’s popularity and influence, they often sing in more than one language. For example, BIGBANG and Girls’ Generation targeted the Japanese audience by singing and giving interviews in Japenese. Many groups also sing in English, recording even whole songs in English.

“BIGBANG and 2ne1 [are my favorite groups] because they’re unique and unpredictable,” Annie Roh, Sophomore, said.

Perhaps the greatest factor in the spread of K-pop has been the internet. Even though American news and pop culture is generally centered around English-speaking artists, one may still listen to Korean pop on websites.  News also reaches foreign audiences quite easily through sites such as allkpop.com and mtvk.com.

Because of the high concentration of Korean students walking the halls of Centennial, many students of other nationalities are influenced by their peers’ musical preferences. Rachel Berner, a native of Champaign, expresses interest in the genre.

“I like the different language, and it’s really fun,” Rachel Berner, Sophomore, said. “It’s a different kind of pop [than usual].”

K-pop is similar to American techno and electronica. Many girl groups emphasize an upbeat mood, which can be found in American pop as well. However, there is much contrast between American pop and Korean pop.

Unlike American pop, young hopefuls in Korea must audition to even set foot in the music business. They go through several try-outs, and if one doesn’t make the cuts: back to training. Agents then form groups from these soon-to-be stars, ensuring that they each complement the others’ abilities. After a while of being in a group, members may launch solo careers, meanwhile staying a part of the band. Since some group members are more popular than others, this gives fans insight into individual artists’ creative potential.

When asked how K-pop differs from its American counterparts, Annie Roh stated, “It’s Korean.”

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