The Rise of K-Pop
The perfect antidote to how stale Western popular culture has been: enter the Eastern takeover.
The past couple of years has seen the crumbling of the many facades which have been the backbone of the global power that is the American pop culture industry. It’s a ripple effect of the things that have come to light about what life is actually like in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” so it is not only evident in celebrities as individuals but fans who care would have noticed this in every fraction. Thus leading to a gradual decline in global interest in U.S pop culture and people are looking at other industries to be captivated by.
A similar sequence of events occurred in the late 90’s when U.S pop culture took over the global spotlight from U.K pop culture and so the time has come again to pass the baton to the next pop culture force and authority. Who is best positioned to takeover, you ask? South Korea.
For the past 2 decades or so, instead of begging the west for the crumbs they call representation, South Korea has been developing their own pop culture industry (aptly known as k-pop) into a force to be reckoned with. There are millions of loyal fans from South Korea, China and Japan already and now their biggest stars are gaining fans who don’t mind reading subtitles the world over due to their constantly ahead of the curve fashions, catchy EDM-infused music, insanely dramatic tv series and over the top visuals. They basically have everything the US pop culture has just spoken in Korean and a lot more creative use of technology.
You are probably getting sucked in by the K-Pop vortex without even realizing as over the past 6 years there has been a growing presence of k-pop celebrities in Western media, mainly using fashion as a gateway in. Like rapper and singer CL (formerly of recently disbanded extremely popular girl group 2NE1) has been seen rubbing shoulders with Jeremy Scott and is the latest to try infiltrate mainstream music working with the likes of Diplo and Scooter Braun. Or G-Dragon (leader of the biggest boy band over there, Big Bang) who is currently making a name for himself as a fashion icon of sorts being one of Chanel’s ambassadors and starring in various editorials for trend setting magazines such as Dazed & Confused. He also just got a shoutout via twitter from British Fashion Council certified fashion icon himself, Jaden Smith.
This pull is also evident in the latest fashion trends. Seoul Fashion Week street style is becoming increasingly popular and therefore influential. Trends like the upgraded return of fishnets and outer ‘corsets’ can partly be attributed to the Seoul-based fashionistas spotted wearing them by fashion’s elite over a year ago. Some may argue that the world has always taken cues from Asia in fashion, which is true, but due to the power of the internet it has never been with such quick a reaction rate.
Many must have been hoping that Africa would be the next pop culture power but honestly, we do not have the range as yet. Even though we have made great progress we still do not have conducive infrastructure due to the realities of the many obstacles that the creative industries of the continent are still fighting to overcome. In the meantime what our beloved continent can do is take a few notes. K-pop (and just East Asian countries in general) are notorious for one thing: focusing on utilizing their resources to mainly benefit their own country and develop their own industries. This is why their industries are next to impenetrable. If we want to be next, we must take note of that.
Post / Tsego ‘Red’ Mosiane
Images / Vogue/ Paper Magazine / Dazed & Confused