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Music Monday: Is The K-Pop Industry Becoming Too Westernized?

If you’re at all familiar with K-Pop, you are probably aware that it takes many influences from the Western entertainment world. While this has been the case for a while now, Western trends in Asian entertainment have become more and more prominent over the past few years. Because of this Westernization and thus homogenization of the industry, it leads us to ask the question, has K-Pop lost its unique sound and style? And if so, what does that mean for the future of K-Pop?

Lets start by looking at some popular K-Pop music videos:

The first is by popular boy band, BTS, titled “I NEED U”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMdTd9e-LEI

You’ll notice that the song opens with a soft R&B sound, which then builds into an emotional rap from Jimin, layered with a heavy EDM procession. One thing that many K-Pop fans have noticed over the past few years is that EDM is becoming more and more popular, no matter what the artist’s original style was. Nowadays, K-Pop is no longer a pure “pop” sound, but it also incorporates house/electronic music, rap, and R&B. Another thing I noticed about K-Pop music videos recently is that they are beginning to stray away from the quintessential box-style dance MV and instead creating videos with a storyline.

You can see that very clearly here, in BAP’s One Shot music video:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=bap+one+shot

This is not to say that K-Pop is straying away from choreography, because I don’t think that will ever happen, but it seems that in many cases they leave the dancing for live performances. American music videos rarely incorporate dancing, instead choosing to focus on the message/storyline, and some of the more recent K-Pop MVs have been geared towards and marketed towards the West.

You’ve probably also noticed that K-Pop collaborations with Western producers and singers are becoming more frequent. For example, CL and G-Dragon collaborated with Skrillex in late 2014 with the song “Dirty Vibe.” Not only is this song a collaboration with a popular American house music producer, it is also an example of how electronic music is becoming more prevalent and integrated into mainstream Korean pop-culture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq-aVCUs2Q0

Some other popular K-Pop collaborations are Wonder Girls ft. Will. I. Am, Tablo ft. Joey Badass, G-Dragon ft. Missy Elliot, and Dean ft. Eric Bellinger.

You’ve probably also noticed that more and more caucasian actors and models are playing love interests in music videos. You can see this clearly in Taeyang and GD’s huge hit “Good Boy,” as well as Super Junior’s “Devil,” Gary’s “Shower Later,” and many other hit songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZRb1we80kM

It is also interesting to analyze beauty standards in the Korean entertainment industry and how those standards are becoming more aligned with the west. As you probably know plastic surgery has not only become normalized but actually expected from celebs in Korea. They change their “undesirable” monolids to double eyelids, and they add more prominent nose bridges for a more Western look.

Furthermore, if we take a look at the definition of success throughout Asia we can see that the East is going through a time of immense Westernization. Fame and success are defined by how popular you are in America, not just by how popular you are in your home country. The stars that have really “made it” are the ones who are playing shows in America, filming American movies, or collaborating with American musicians. I could go on and on about the Westernization of the East, but I guess my question has always been, what makes the West the most desirable market and why are we constantly trying to emulate them? Has the richness of Korean culture in the entertainment industry been diminished and is global media becoming homogenized as a result? I guess only time will be able to tell.

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