Brightest stars of the 2020s: K-pop sets foot in America

Yejin Heo, Staff Writer

Whether it’s Korean skincare products in the cosmetics industry or Korean dramas on Netflix, Hallyu, the South Korean wave which describes the global popularization of Korean culture, has exploded globally in the last 10 years. At the heart of the Hallyu wave is the ever-growing popularity of K-pop, known for its blend of catchy melodies, synchronized choreography and high production value. The popularity of K-pop has piqued the interest of many American artists, leading to the production of many international artist collaborations.


Since their 2016 debut, Blackpink, which consists of members Lisa, Rosé, Jennie and Jisoo, became the first girl group to top the Billboard Artist 100 chart, has held the record for biggest music video debut in YouTube history and was the first female K-pop group to perform at Coachella in 2019. Recently coming out with an original Netflix documentary “Blackpink: Light up the Sky,” Blinks, which is the Blackpink fandom name, get a more intimate look into the South Korean girl group’s successes and hardships.

Over the years, Blackpink has collaborated with many American artists, the most recent being with Selena Gomez in which they released their highly anticipated collaboration single titled “Ice Cream” for the group’s first complete album. Blackpink has also been featured in a song called “Sour Candy” in Lady Gaga’s album, Chromatica. The girl group also collaborated with Dua Lipa in her album, Dua Lipa (Complete Edition), on a song called “Kiss and Make Up.”


BTS, which stands for “Bangtan Sonyeondan,” has been translated to “bulletproof boy scouts,” a name fit for the 7-member powerhouse. The group emerged from Big Hit, an underdog agency which granted the group creative freedom with their music and media presence. Because BTS is heavily involved in the writing, choreography and production of its music, they have gained credibility and popularity among fans, especially in America where many feel that many K-pop groups are more manufactured products than artists.

Their fandom group, called Army, is famous for being devoted fans, streaming the band’s songs and videos all day on as many accounts and devices as possible so their idols stay at the top of the music charts. BTS recently released an all-English single called “Dynamite,” which was nominated for the 2021 Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.


Twice’s viral hits are optimistic, cheerful and colorful in the songs’ melodies, members’ stage presence and choreography, establishing itself as one of the top K-pop groups by embracing a feminine, youthful image. Their fans, who are referred to as Once, support the group’s 9 members: Jihyo, Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung and Tzuyu.

With more than 10 albums and EPs dropped since their 2015 debut, Twice has constantly released new music in both Korean and Japanese at an ambitious rate even for K-pop, where groups usually release new music once or twice a year. The group also has almost unparalleled success in Japan as well, becoming the first K-pop girl group to host a dome tour in Japan, which attracted over 210,000 attendees in 2019.

Monsta X:

Shownu, Minhyuk, Kihyun, Hyungwon, Joohoney and I.M. make up the K-pop band Monsta X. They debuted in 2015, formed by the reality survival program “No.Mercy” by Starship Entertainment. Monsta X’s fanbase, called Monbebe, enjoy the group’s duality between their comedic reality show appearances and dark, sultry music video concepts. Their Japanese single “Spotlight” received an official gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of Japan. In February 2020, Monsta X’s first English album titled “All About Luv” ranked number 5 on the U.S. Billboard 200. They teamed up with DJ and producer Steve Aoki on the song “Play It Cool,” which appeared on their 2019 album “Take 2. We Are Here.” The music video incorporated traditional South Korean elements like fans, folding screens and Korean phrases throughout.

NCT 127:

NCT 127 is the second sub-unit of the group NCT and named after its formation in Seoul, where the number 127 represents the longitude coordinate of the city. The unit’s original line-up included Taeil, Taeyong, Yuta, Jaehyun, Winwin, Mark and Haechan, who started their U.S. promotion by becoming the first K-pop group to perform in the annual Rodeo Houston in Texas. As part of its global initiative, NCT 127 includes members from Canada, Japan, China, South Korea and the United States, transcending language barriers with their global fans, called NCTzens.

In 2019, Jason Derulo, Lay Zhang of EXO and NCT 127 collaborated to create the song “Let’s Shut up & Dance.” The 4-song EP titled “The Greatest Dancer,” which was inspired by and dedicated to Michael Jackson, featured intricate dance choreography and spotlighted underground street dancers and professionals from Ethiopia, Jamaica, South Korea, Los Angeles and London. In an interview about the collaboration, NCT 127 said, “This project is the perfect example of how music is a global language.”