Korean Pop Music, or K-pop as it is commonly known, is currently Asia's hottest music industry. Many of these artists and musical groups have branched out of South Korea and have become popular in many countries around the world. Fans all over the world have been captivated by K-pop stars' good looks, amazing dance moves, and catchy tunes.
The music is created by young stars with high style, the latest looks, dance skills, and an ability to synthesize the music of the moment of the West whether it is done as Korean rap, Korean soul, Korean rhythm and blues, or Korean middle of the road music. Contemporary Korean music and pop stars are so popular, Asians have designated a word to reflect this fact. Hallyu, or Korean Wave, is the word noting how influential Korean culture has become in Asia.
K-pop is similar to American pop music, with R&B, dance, and hip-hop being very popular genres in the 2000s. However, unlike American pop music, which had most of its boy bands and girl groups either break up or informally disband, bubblegum pop is still very popular in South Korea. Groups such as TVXQ, Super Junior, Wonder Girls, and Big Bang continue to be top sellers in K-pop, and artists like Ahyoomee and LPG have released novelty songs, to varying degrees of success. However, the 2000s has seen the rise of R&B vocal groups, such as SG Wannabe, Davichi and SeeYa having success with their albums. Ballads are also very popular, as 2006 has seen the release of ballad singles by non-ballad artists, including Shinhwa and Baek Ji Young. In addition, trot music has made a comeback in mainstream K-pop as well, mostly due to the success of Jang Yoon Jung and Park Hyun Bin. The year 2007 was marked with the release of numerous girl and boy bands, though only a few managed to top the charts. Despite new bands debuting, physical sales for CDs have become increasingly low, due to the stagnation of the K-pop industry. The highest selling album of 2007 did not even reach the 200,000 mark with only 190,998 copies sold.
The beginning of 2008 saw the rise of electronica dominance in the K-pop scene, influenced by the release of Big Bang's mini-album Always, which heavily featured the genre. Other artists also followed the trend, such as Jewelry for their song "One More Time" and Brown Eyed Girls for "L.O.V.E." Even artists that release music in other genres have released electronica-influenced albums to suit the current trends, including Epik High, Gummy, Clazziquai, and Lee Seung-cheol.
The debut of the group Seo Taiji and Boys in 1992 marked a turning point in South Korean popular music, as the group incorporated elements of American popular musical genres such as rap, rock, and techno into its music, which brought a decrease in the popularity of trot. The tremendous success of Seo Taiji and Boys in South Korea and other experimental groups, such as Panic, set the trend for the present generation of K-pop groups and artists. Dance-oriented acts became dominant in the South Korean popular music scene of the early 90s including the legendary hip hop duo Deux. The mid-90's marked the emergence of teen idol groups, creating a different trend in the music scenes. Groups such as H.O.T., Sechs Kies, Shinhwa, S.E.S., g.o.d. and Fin.K.L became extremely popular, having strong fanbases and high-selling albums (with some groups having a "million seller", an album selling over one million copies). Starting with the break-up of Sechs Kies in 2000, however, most of these groups have since disbanded. Although some artists have continued their successes in the following decade, new groups have since taken their places.
Currently, in the 2000s, pop groups are still very popular although there has been an emergence of South Korean R&B and Hip-Hop: artists such as MC Mong, 1TYM, Rain, Big Bang and Epik High have proven successful. Underground artists such as Drunken Tiger, Tasha (Yoon Mi Rae) have also helped hip-Hop become mainstream. Recently, rock music has become noticed by the public, with acts such as the Yoon Do Hyun Band and Seo Taiji gaining national recognition. In addition, there are also popular techno/dance artists such as Lee Jung Hyun, Kim Hyun Jung, and Yoo Seung Jun, whom all had very long careers while remaining firmly entrenched in their genre of music. Just as well, ballads and R&B have remained popular, as singers such as Baek Ji Young and KCM, in addition to SG Wannabe, have continued their success for many years.
There are also many artists who have had international success as well. BoA has become the highest-selling international artist from South Korea, due to her strength in the J-pop market, this was in part due to Lee Soo Man's adaptation of the Blue Ocean Strategy. Since then, artists such as Rain and Se7en have also released albums outside of South Korea, becoming well-known throughout Eastern Asia. Rain has also had his international Rainy Day 2005 Tour, having tour dates at Madison Square Garden, the first South Korean star to do so. He has been recently featured two Hollywood films, Speed Racer and Ninja Assassin. He has also been voted the #1 influentail person in the world in 2007 by TIME Magazine
Kim Bum Soo is the first South Korean artist to reach the U.S. Billboard chart and ranked as 51 on the Hot 100 chart in 2001. After that, solo female artist, mink and Korean-American group, S.Blush also reached the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play charts, where they ranked #1 in 2006 and #2 in 2007 respectively. Skull, a Korean reggae artist from YG Entertainment also ranked as #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales and #14 Hot Singles Sales in 2007. Se7en who is also from YG Entertainment, BoA from SM Entertainment and Rain from JYP Entertainment are all currently concentrating on their U.S. debuts. Although Wonder Girls became first K-pop artist to have a song reach the Billboard Hot there has yet to be a prominent, successful K-pop artist in the American music industry