February 2018

Seoul Music

K-pop is making waves in American pop music unlike any other international genre.

National Standards: 7-9, 11

Prepare: Have the class read Seoul Music (page 32 of the student edition). The article discusses the success of k-pop group BTS, and the many factors behind what has fueled the music’s impact on America.

Key points in the article:

  • In 2017, BTS broke several records: They became the first Korean artist to perform on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, the first Korean group to break Billboard‘s Top 40, and were 2017’s most re-tweeted celebrity.
  • In the 1990s, Seo Taiji and Boys set the template for modern k-pop by introducing dance music with rap.
  • The power of k-pop is a surprise given how South Korea struggled in the wake of the Cold War in the mid-19th century, but is largely due to government support.
  • BTS is set apart from other k-pop groups in that their production company gives them creative control over their production and songwriting.

Begin: Discuss with students the factors surrounding the success of k-pop. Topics may include:

  • If BTS’s success is directly correlated to the members’ creative freedom
  • How the South Korean government prioritizes “cultural exports” like k-pop groups
  • How South Korea has developed one of the world’s leading economies by imitating other countries’ products and developing their own versions (cars, electronics, musical style)

Develop: Play the following video of the Steve Aoki Remix of BTS’s “Mic Drop”:

Which characteristics of the group’s style were described in the article?

  • Blend of dance music and rap
  • Lyrics in both Korean and English
  • High quality group choreography and production

Expand: Now play the following video of “Trust Me” by K.A.R.D.:

K.A.R.D. is one of k-pop’s few co-ed groups. How does the style of this song compare from BTS’s?

  • It incorporates female vocals
  • The song is a slow ballad compared to the upbeat tempo of “Mic Drop”
  • It’s similar in that there’s group choreography, high quality production, and rap