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Back to the Beginning of Kpop
Where did it start?
In recent years, Kpop has begun to become increasingly popular, not just in Asia, but around the world as well. It's interesting to see where this unique genre of music started and how it has developed into what it is today. Many people overlook the pioneers of Kpop; the groups that set the stage for today's music.
Though Kpop has influences dating back to even the 1800s, many would agree it's true beginning came in the 1990s. The year 1992 saw the debut of South Korea's first successful boy bad, Seo-Taiji and Boys. Consisting of members Seo Taiji, Lee Juno, and CEO and founder of major Kpop company YG Entertainment, Yang Hyun Suk, this band discovered midi technology and began using it to create a new kind of music. This new style included upbeat and catchy sounds, as well as dance and rap elements. It was met with huge and unexpected mainstream success. As they released their successive albums, they started incorporating some more rock and metal into their style. Though short-lived, as they retired in 1996, their success left a legacy that changed the Korean music scene completely.
Emergence of Idol Groups
Taiji and the new Kpop had significant appeal to teenagers, which led to the trend of idol groups. The year 1995 marks the debut of first idol-boy band H.O.T. This was also the year Lee Soo Man created SM Entertainment, one of the big three Kpop companies today. Many groups came about from 1997-2000. Starting in 1997 we had the debut of groups like NRG, Taesaja, Sechs Kies, and the first girl-groups S.E.S. and Baby V.O.X. In 1998-1999, Fin.K.L, Fly to the Sky, g.o.d. and legendary idol group Shinhwa debuted. Shinhwa is the longest-running idol group, who are still active today after 15 years.
Idol groups brought about the visual side of Kpop. In this genre of music, there is more of a focus on the whole performance rather than the just the music. Kpop is a combination of attractive visuals, catchy music, and intriguing dances, and this is why idol groups became popular.
Hip-Hop and R&B
Another significant part of Kpop in the 90s was hip-hop and R&B groups which saw significant success. The beginning of hip-hop in Kpop started with duo Deux, who debuted 1992 shortly after Seo Taiji. Deux can be labeled as the first authentic rappers in SK, and they set the standard for rap in the future. They set up the success for hip-hop in kpop. Other pioneers of the hip-hop movement include Jinusean, 1YTM, and Drunken Tiger.
The Korean wave, now termed the Hallyu, emerged and picked up around the turn of the millennium. When 2000 hit, Kpop started spreading globally. First, Korean pop music became popular around different countries in Asia. Slowly, but surely it's been making its way to western countries as well. Though many groups failed to break into the U.S. market, that is beginning to change, as we all can see with Psy's tremendous success with Gangnam style. Idol groups have growing fanbases all around the world, and they are beginning to tour worldwide. Almost all groups promote throughout Asia, and many have held concerts in the U.S., Europe, South America, and many other countries. Big Bang for example, has just finished up their world tour, and JYJ completed a South American Tour. The list of new-generation idol groups that have touched the world is a long one, but some of them are Big Bang, TVXQ, Shinee, Super Junior, Girls Generation, Kara, and 2NE1.
The Kpop you hear today is certainly very different and more diverse than it was in the 90s. It's that music though that has brought us here today. Today Kpop is a fusion of ballads, catchy dance music, some hip-hop, as well as fascinating visuals and energetic choreography. Without the emergence of these elements in the 90s, Kpop would not be where it is today. So if you get a chance, rewind the clock and take a look those groups that built the foundation for the music you love today.