Lee Gyu-tak, professor at Korea George Mason college
entered at 2020.03.03 03:10
“Isn’t K-Pop all dance music?” “They all feel similar.”
These are the comments I hear every time I lecture about Korean popular music. In all honesty, it was hard to disagree with these statements up to about a decade ago. However, the situation changed in the 2010s, when K-Pop began to reach audiences outside of east Asia, achieving a world-wide popularity. Dance is still the mainstay, but it is not everything that K-Pop has to offer. IU, who debuted with light dance music but has since broadened her musical horizons with Ballad, Folk and even Jazz tracks, as well as BTS, who grew into the biggest boy band in the world by pulling diverse elements from Dance, Hip-hop, electronica and rock, are stand-out examples.
Whenever I am told that “K-Pop all feels similar”, I mention the 7-member girl group “Dreamcatcher”. While the group, who made their debut in 2017, is not well known domestically, they were met with much attention overseas, earning the number 3 spot on Billboard’s “K-Pop rookie of the year” list on the year of their debut. They have since continued to expand their fanbase. Their international fans cover their dance choreographies which are notoriously difficult, and rearrange their music to play it on instruments.
The one element that makes the group, who released their first studio album recently, stand out is their music. Their music is rock and metal, genres which are far from the mainstream not just in Korea, but overseas as well. Other girl groups generally fall into either the bubbly, cutesy pure image or the so-called ‘girl crush’ image, strong and confident. In this landscape, the dark, dream-like atmosphere Dreamcatcher sets forth feels very unique. Their image blends with their intense rock music, delivering a stirring energy previously unseen in K-Pop. Due to this fact, rock and metal fans who do not like idol music often confess that they ended up “liking an idol girl group for the first time in their lives” after listening to their music. As one can see here, K-Pop has grown and matured both as an industry and as a music genre. Dreamcatcher, who is broadening the musical horizons of K-Pop, is good proof of that.
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