K-Pop fans reflect on past popularity

photo courtesy to wired.com

Gangnam Style was one the most referenced and popular song. But what happened?


Four years ago, Gangnam Style became the most popular video on the internet, and still is, more than 2.5 billion views. Taylor Swift’s Blank Space, released two years later, comes up almost embarrassingly short at just over 1.4 billion views.

But whatever happened to Psy?

More importantly, what happened to K-Pop?

The phenomenon that was Gangnam Style brought universal attention to the world that was Korean pop music.

Names like Super Junior, SHINee, Jay Park and SNSD are household names in Korea, just as One Direction, Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj are in Canada and the U.S.

But unlike the way most American, Canadian and European artists are known worldwide, many people in the Western world are unfamiliar with Korean pop artists.

“My interest in K-Pop started in 2009, long before the ‘fad’ began with Gangnam Style,” Jacqueline Shadoff, a 20-year-old student, says. A friend, who asked her to film her doing a “cover” of a dance, introduced her to the genre. Shadoff became curious about other dances and started listening to more K-Pop.

The world of K-Pop is very different from American and European music.

Getting “discovered” is hard to do – most K-Pop idols will have to audition for their companies, being tested in both singing and dancing, and sometimes acting.

If chosen, they will go through years of rigorous training before being placed into a group of other candidates, and they can begin producing music.

Sometimes, groups are disbanded by the companies before they can release an album.

“It’s an intense process,” Claudia Lee, a 21-year-old student, recalls.

She tried out as a singer and dancer for the popular company SM Entertainment.

“Both the try outs and companies are really serious about this, and their standards are very high to reach.”

Lee had been in dance classes since she was 5 and a teacher in middle school awakened her love for music. She didn’t make it past the first audition.

While the industry is still alive and well in Korea and countries like Japan, China and Vietnam, it has become a quiet murmur in the loud buzz that is American music.

With the hit that was “Gangnam Style” and the sudden rise in popularity that other Korean-based groups and artists saw, some may find it strange that almost no one knows any other song than Psy’s viral hit.

“I honestly saw it [the decrease in popularity] coming because, K-Pop doesn’t really have its ‘place’ in Western culture because of the ignorance of many people refusing to listen to or play the music simply because it’s not in English,” Shadoff said.

“’Gangnam Style’ was truly the only K-Pop song that really blew up and that’s most likely because it came with a weird dance.”

Another fan, Thomas Rokov, 24, thought that it did a little bit more to gather fans in the community that was made up of K-Pop fans. “People organize conventions and gatherings every once in a while, and we saw a few more people after Gangnam Style came out.”

Rokov also believes that it’s beneficial to the other artists. “One of my friends saw Psy’s video, and now she’s a fan of Big Bang and IU. Although Psy may have been a fad and kind of silly, he brought recognition to other artists who really deserved it.”

Psy remains a popular singer in Korea and is still recording and producing music, including the hits “Gentleman” and his collaboration with Snoop Dogg, “Hangover”.

He released a new album called Chilijip PSY-da on December 1 of last year, including the single “Daddy”.