TOTUM

K-pop - A beginner’s guide

Understanding K-pop may seem a bit like exploring a new planet at first, but we are here to help. Who knows? You might just find yourself becoming a fan…

Chances are you’ve heard of K-pop from somewhere, whether you’ve discovered the colourful abyss of cinematic music videos or seen band names make headlines.

Oh! One more thing, K-pop is the abbreviation for Korean pop!

So what makes K-pop, K-pop? Let’s break it down…

I don’t know about you, but I find that lists always make everything better, so here’s one to get you started on the K-pop basics.

It’s All About The Visuals

In K-pop, the look is JUST as important as the music itself. Sometimes, watching a K-pop music video feels like watching a full-blown movie, with all its vivid colours, lavish sets, and members dressed head to toe in coordinated costumes, topped with a few extra layers of vibrant hair-dye.

Here’s three of the most aesthetic K-pop music videos to fill your needs for visual satisfaction:

BTS - ‘Blood, Sweat & Tears’

TWICE - ‘What is Love?’

SEVENTEEN - ‘CLAP’

Just head over to YouTube and enjoy!

Dance, dance, dance

You may have noticed that in all these videos there’s a whole lot of dancing. Dancing is an essential element of K-pop. It’s very pleasing to watch the carefully-crafted choreography, so catchy in fact that hundreds of talented fans learn these routines and post their dance covers online.

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Bands and Acronyms

BTS is just one of the many bands out there in the Korean music industry that uses an acronym as their name. Quite often, these acronyms serve bold messages, for example, BTS stands for ‘Beyond The Scenes’ A few other impressive names we should mention are:

  • AOA = ‘Ace of Angels’
  • EXID = ‘Exceed in Dreaming’
  • VIXX = ‘Voice Visual Value in excelsis’

Merchandise

When I was younger most of my friends owned some kind of One Direction merchandise, whether it be a t-shirt or a bracelet. Fast-forward a couple years and I find myself hunting for ANY K-pop merch. I didn’t know just how much giddy joy I would feel from holding a photocard of my favourite band member.

Seems a bit too dramatic? That’s what I thought… at first… Even when you buy a K-pop album it’ll usually come with a photobook, lyric book, sticker set, a mystery photocard, oh and the CD itself.

One key piece of merchandise that sets K-pop apart from everything else are the light-sticks. These wacky torches are designed specifically with each group’s colours and logo. At concerts, thousands of screaming fans will wave these glowing sticks in the air. Clever programming means they flash at certain points of songs or spell out messages across the audience!

Where Would K-pop Be Without The Fans?

Do you want to know the secret to K-pop’s success? The fans! They are responsible for all the retweets, song streaming, rapid You Tube view counts, merchandise purchases, fan-art, meme-sharing, and all-around love that spreads not only to their idols, but also to the fandom itself.

Terminology

Terminology, dun dun dun, that word sends me back to the endless hours of labelling and revising cell diagrams in biology at school.But you’ll be pleased to know that learning K-pop terminology isn’t as scary, or stressful! We’ll give you a few terms to start you off speaking K-pop!

  • Aegyo = the behavior of acting cute, which K-pop idols often seem to naturally possess.

  • All-kill = when an artists’ song or album reaches #1 on all legal music download sites

  • Bias = a fans’ favourite group member.

  • Big 3 = the three biggest K-pop labels responsible for producing the groups and artists we love.

  • Comeback = when a K-pop artist releases something new (no matter how long you have or haven’t waited).

  • Fan-Chant = A series of words chanted out by the audience at a concert.

  • Hallyu = the spread of K-pop and Korean culture around the world.

  • Maknae = The youngest member of the group.

  • Rookie = A newly debuted singer/ group.

Autumnal K-pop Playlist

Here’s a few K-pop song recommendations to get you in the Autumnal mood:

  • “Autumn Leaves” – BTS
  • “Pouring” – DAY6
  • "Starry Night” – MAMAMOO
  • “Moonwalker” – SEVENTEEN
  • “WHITE NIGHT” - TAEYANG
  • “Ride on the Wind” – K.A.R.D
  • “Blue Moon” – Hyolyn & CHANGMO
  • “Beautiful” – Wanna One
  • “Gravity & Moon” – NU’EST W
  • “Firework” – GOT7
  • “Hold the Moon” – FTISLAND (okay, I know this one would actually be classed as Japanese pop/ J-rock, which is a whole other magical genre in itself, but I just couldn’t resist)

So, there you go! Hopefully we’ve broken down K-pop enough for you so that you can begin to understand this new world. Stay K-popping!