East Meets West On The Pop Charts

Oct 11 2012 @ 8:55am

John Seabrook marks the rise of K-Pop:

K-pop is an East-West mash-up. The performers are mostly Korean, and their mesmerizing synchronized dance moves, accompanied by a complex telegraphy of winks and hand gestures, have an Asian flavor, but the music sounds Western: hip-hop verses, Euro-pop choruses, rapping, and dubstep breaks. K-pop has become a fixture of pop charts not only in Korea but throughout Asia, including Japan—the world’s second-biggest music market, after the U.S.—and Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. South Korea, a country of less than fifty million, somehow figured out how to make pop hits for more than a billion and a half other Asians, contributing two billion dollars a year to Korea’s economy, according to the BBC. K-pop concerts in Hong Kong and on mainland China are already lucrative, and no country is better positioned to sell recorded music in China, a potentially enormous market, should its endemic piracy be stamped out. Yet, despite K-pop’s prominence in Asia, until recently few in the United States had heard of it.

He spotlights Girls Generation, seen above:

The agencies recruit twelve-to-nineteen-year-olds from around the world, through both open auditions and a network of scouts. Girls’ Generation, the dominant girl group in recent years, has two members, Tiffany and Jessica, who were born and reared in California. (Native English- or Chinese-speaking boys and girls, usually of Korean origin, are highly prized.) Tiffany, who was born in San Francisco and grew up in Los Angeles, was recruited at fifteen, while auditioning for a talent show, and brought to Seoul, where she trained in the idol-making system.