What is K-pop? The biggest hits this summer

December 24, 2012

When even the President of the United States is re-enacting your dance moves, you've made it big, and that is exactly what happened to PSY this summer when Gangnam Style became a global phenomenon.

It signaled the point when the world stood up and took notice of the South Korean artist and the style of music he represented, and opened people's eyes to K-pop.

K-pop, or Korean Pop, is a fusion of dance, electronica, electropop, hip-hop and R&B that originated in South Korea but has spread across Asia (and now the rest of the world).

Exponents of the genre have attracted a fanatical following in recent years, though western audiences could be forgiven for not being entirely au fait with K-pop until this year.

The movement has largely been driven by the internet, particularly since the mid-noughties when adoption of the internet skyrocketed and YouTube gave every wannabe artist in the world a platform to showcase their abilities.

Though instant stardom is not guaranteed, the internet has played a major role in the spread of the Korean Wave (which describes the rise of Korean music and entertainment business) and has unearthed many new stars.

Undoubtedly the biggest of these is PSY, but he is not the only one to enjoy significant success in the charts.

PSY - Gangnam Style

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The most famous K-pop song in history has made a star out of the man who recorded it, launched an iconic dance move and topped the charts in countries across the world.

Despite having released five albums prior to his latest one, it was not until the self-titled PSY 6 (Six Rules), Part 1 that PSY truly broke into the mainstream.

 The third track, Gangnam Style, became a YouTube sensation, quickly racking up records for most likes, most views in a week and - on November 24th - most views in YouTube history, overtaking Justin Bieber's Baby.

It went to number one in 27 countries, including Australia, the UK, Germany and PSY's native South Korea, and was assured its place in history when US President Barack Obama revealed he was to privately perform Gangnam Style for his wife Michelle.

Scooping gongs at the American Music Awards, MTV Europe Music Awards and Mnet Asian Music Awards, Gangnam Style was not only the biggest K-pop song of the summer, but the biggest K-pop hit ever.

2NE1 – I Am the Best

The Korean equivalent of the Spice Girls, 2NE1 – pronounced either "to anyone" or "twenty one" - are unlike other K-pop girl groups, in that they deliver attitude in great measures.

Their debut US album has been produced by Will.i.am, which guarantees exposure in the US, and if the tracks are anything like I Am the Best, a hip-hop infused electro hit is on the cards.

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Big Bang - Fantastic Baby

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If 2NE1 are the Spice Girls, then Big Bang are the K-pop equivalent of One Direction, with a fanatical following and some of the most-viewed YouTube hits ever.

Each member of the five-strong group has his own unique look, while their musical stylings – ranging from R&B and hip-hop to electro and pop - are just as diverse.

Massive not only in Japan and South Korea but also in Europe, where they were named best worldwide act in the Asia-Pacific category at last year's MTV Europe Music Awards, Big Bang look set to explode.

2PM – Without U

Having the bodies to match their voices, this male ensemble combines the harmonies of Westlife or Boyz II Men with edgy rap that truly sets them apart from their K-pop contemporaries.

With members hailing from South Korea, the US and Thailand, they have a truly international feel, and are currently enjoying a global tour that is bringing their music - and the sensation that is K-pop – to the masses.

Now PSY has well and truly opened the door for K-pop artists to take over the global music scene, who do you expect to become the next big thing?

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