A Beginner’s Guide to K-pop: Guest Post By My Daughter, Nora

by Nora J., 12

K-pop, or Korean popular music, is a growing phenomenon, and everyone’s probably seen it somewhere before, regardless of whether they recognized it or not. A combination of eye-catching choreography, strategically placed English words, and colorful music videos sets the industry up for global success. The Pyeongchang Olympics may have introduced some to the genre, but even that, in my opinion,  wasn’t the best K-pop has to offer. For those people who are confused about the concept or just want more information, here’s a quick guide to what I think are the best groups for beginning K-pop fans to listen to.

K-pop: A Brief History

In the early ’90s, Korean music started to become more Western and take on the vibe it has now. That was the First Generation, and lasted to about 2000. During the Second Generation, K-pop started to become more recognized world-wide, and became more rap and hip-hop-influenced. It lasted until about 2012. We are currently in the Third Generation, where dancing is more important and highly focused on.

Though most huge Second Generation bands, such as f(x), SNSD, 2ne1, and Big Bang are disbanded, many groups follow the concepts they used to have, and the style of Third Generation bands is quite similar to that of Second Generation bands. Many people believe that we are entering the Fourth Generation, due to a rise in the number of solo artists.

The K-pop Lifestyle

K-pop stars, or “idols,” as they are known, audition at a young age. Entertainment companies hold global auditions in Thailand, China, Canada, and the U.S, among other places. If they are accepted, trainees move to the headquarters of their company, where they learn to sing, dance, and act. They train anywhere from one to ten years.

Once they debut, if they debut at all, they’re busy until they retire. Foreign idols only get to see their families once a year, and Korean idols don’t get to see theirs much more often. They hold fan-meets, perform concerts, go to awards ceremonies, and live in cramped dorms with their band mates. All-in-all, it’s life on camera for a long time.

Bands Everyone Should Know

Honorable mentions: CLC, Weki Meki, Nu’est, Twice, and CL

BLACKPINK

This four-member girl group consists of Lisa, Rosé, Jennie, and Jisoo. They debuted in August 2016, and have risen to fame incredibly quickly, mostly due to their January 2017 song “As If It’s Your Last” (Korean: Maji Mak Cho Rom), which was featured on the Justice League soundtrack. They’re great dancers, in my opinion the best female dancers in K-pop, as well as great vocalists. Two members, Lisa and Rosé, aren’t even from Korea! I think their talent is best showcased in “Playing With Fire,” so take a look at it below.

 

BTS

Words cannot describe BTS’ popularity. Everyone seems to either listen to them or have a friend who listens to them. BTS (Korean: Bangtan Sonyeondan), is a boy band that consists of seven members: J-Hope, RM, Jin, Jungkook, Jimin, V, and Suga. They are known for their incredible dance skill, as seen below:

 

 

and their singing, especially rapping. Four members can rap. They performed at the AMA’s in November, the first K-pop group to do so, and were guests on the Ellen DeGeneres show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Their hit song “Mic Drop,” with Steve Aoki and Desiigner, was a huge hit. But they really hit it out of the park with “DNA,” which they performed on numerous occasions in the U.S.

 

Chungha

Kim Chungha is a 22-year-old solo artist who was born in Korea, but lived for eight years in Dallas, Texas. She studied dance for seven years and in 2016 participated in girl group survival show “Produce 101,” where trainee girls from various different companies competed to be voted into a temporary 11-member girl group. She was ranked fourth and subsequently placed in I.O.I., which was active from May 2016 to January 2017. After I.O.I., she debuted with the single “Why Don’t You Know.” Her latest single, “Rollercoaster,” has quite the colorful music video. Try not to be blinded.

 

Seventeen

This boy group has 13 members, but that doesn’t stop them from being one of the best dance groups in K-pop. Under Pledis Entertainment, it would be a surprise if they weren’t. Aside from their dance skill, they possess great voices as well. They hail from all over the globe, two members from China, one from Canada, and another from the U.S. They write, compose and choreograph many of their songs, making them a rather unique group. They gained some fan base in the U.S., but still not enough people are aware of their talent. They have a more EDM (electronic dance music) vibe than many other groups, as seen below in “Don’t Wanna Cry.”

 

Pristin

Pristin, who get their name from the words “prismatic” and “elastin,” are Seventeen’s sister group, also under Pledis Entertainment. Two members, Nayoung and Jieqiong, were, like Chungha, a part of I.O.I. before debuting. They specialize in dance, despite their rather large number of 10 members. Two members, Sungyeon and Yehana, write and compose their music, like Seventeen does. A very new rookie group, they debuted on March 21, 2017 with the track “Wee Woo.”

 

Red Velvet

Last but certainly not least is girl group Red Velvet. The band consists of five members: Yeri, Joy, Wendy, Seulgi, and Irene. Earlier this month, they performed in Pyongyang as part of a group of South Korean singers and dancers sent to the North Korean capitol. They are extremely popular in Korea, but relatively unknown in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Known for their classier, more R&B(Rhythm and Blues)-influenced style, they focus more on vocals, though they are quite good dancers. Their style is unique in part because their “rapping” is much more fluid and more like singing than anything else (no offense). Though they are trying to kill each other in “Russian Roulette,” (seen below) they are quite nice in real life.

 

*If boy groups are your preference, check out EXO, Nu’est, and NCT U.

Well, that’s that. These groups are my favorites and the ones I think are the most talented, though there are tons more out there for everyone. Hopefully this gave you a place to start looking. Happy trails!

 

 

 

“one of the best books [I] read this year”

Thanks to Goodreads reviewer Pam Foster for these words that made me feel like I’ve done what I set out to do with The Longest Night:

The tensions in this book are amazing – slow-growing, flaring at appropriate moments in the plot, almost all character-driven and all moving relentlessly to a climax that was surprising, understandable, just perfect. The time (1959-1961), place (Idaho Falls) and event (nuclear accident) were so well written that they became a character in and of themselves.
But it was the development of Nat, her husband Paul, co-workers Master Sergeant Richards, his wife Jeannie and Esrom that made this one of the best books read this year. Real people, real emotions – couldn’t put the book down and so sorry to have it end.

Debut Novels of 2016

“The Longest Night by Andria Williams – I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but Andria Williams’s debut novel is one I have thought about a lot this year. Maybe it’s because it’s from a different era than many historical fictions. Maybe it’s because of the imagining of the Sand Point nuclear meltdown. Or, maybe it’s because of the brilliant portrayal of a marriage in trouble. Whatever it is, The Longest Night is one of the books I have most recommended to friends this past year!” — Susie, ‘Novel Visits,’ “Ten Best Novels of 2016”

Literary Hub

An excerpt from The Longest Night (Nat’s first chapter) was featured on Literary Hub yesterday. Fun to be in such good company!

A sample:

paperback-coverPaul shook his head. “You didn’t know what was under the water there. What if you dove down and hit something and never came up, right here in front of your little girls?”

“I knew it would be fine,” she said. And while she’d never admit it to Paul, the relief of not striking anything—that moment of plunging into the water and feeling herself go down, down, unimpeded, the cold exploding past her face and neck and body until her own air pulled her up again— was part of the fun. It had to be a little scary to count for anything.

She remembered that swimming was a different thing for him than it was for her; he’d grown up poor and never learned to swim until he got to boot camp, practicing every night, he’d said, in a pond near Fort Dix. This was one of the few concrete details she had of his youth, and it was a curious, poignant image: thin teenage Paul easing himself into the shallow dark, thrashing quietly along the shoreline until he could glide two strokes alone, three, four. Even then he passed the entrance test by the skin of his teeth, just enough to fill a pair of boots destined for Korea. It was no wonder, really, that the mild risks Nat liked to take scared him: the long swims to clear her head, cliff jumping, diving. But he acted as if she were doing it just to spite him, when in fact it had nothing to do with him at all. Which maybe, from his perspective, was even worse.

What if you never came up? She always came up.