6 Bold Predictions for 2012
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Everywhere you look, K-pop seems to be exploding in popularity. Much as Korean movies took the world by storm a decade ago, today K-pop is finding fans beyond Asia, in the United States, Europe, and more.
In 2011 alone, Billboard magazine started a K-pop chart, there were K-pop concerts in Paris, Barcelona, Brazil, and Berlin -- in addition to several shows in the United States.
I’ve had random French (and drunk) hipsters stop me in the streets of Paris, upon hearing my friends and me speaking in Korean, to blurt out suddenly how much they love Rain. I’ve heard FinkL songs in sleepy Spanish restaurants.
No doubt about it, K-pop is on a major upswing around the world. And while no one knows what tomorrow will bring, I will bravely try to make some
wild guesses predictions about what 2012 will hold for K-pop.
Photo:Getty Let's start with
#6 ¿Como Se Dice K-pop?
#6 ¿Como Se Dice K-pop?
There are already many Kpop idols who speak Japanese, English, and Chinese (and, of course, there’s Nichkhun of 2pm, who is Thai). Being able to communicate with fans is a vital element to building a fan base in new countries.
So what is the next most logical language to tackle for the international spread of K-pop? Spanish!
JYJ already had a concert in Spain in October 2011, and Korean classes in Barcelona are more popular than ever. Adding Spanish to an idol group gives them not only Spain, but a good chunk of Latin and South America. That’s a lot of potential fans.
Note: United Cube stars Beast, 4Minute, and G.NA performed in Brazil December 2011, and Tiger JK of Drunken Tiger has apparently been taking some Portuguese lessons, after developing quite a following in that country… so Português is not far behind Español.)
(Photo: Brazilian fans scream as Beast performs at the United Cube show. Credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images) Next #5 IU Leads the Way
#5 IU Leads the Way
Pop stars often get criticized for their lack of creative involvement with the songwriting and production process. Singer/actress IU, on the other hand, may be young, but already is contributing significantly to her own music, contributing to six tracks on her sophomore album, which was released in November.
While the more control-heavy management companies will undoubtedly continue, I think audiences are ready for the more personal and exciting style that singer-songwriters can bring. So expect to discover more K-pop stars taking control of their own music and destinies, adding their songwriting prowess to the creation process.
Next #4 American Editors Will “Get It”
#4 American Editors Will “Get It”
Getting on the charts has always been a tricky business, anywhere in the world. No chart is “pure,” relying instead on a wide range of data, from sales to radio play to expert opinion.
None of these areas on American or European charts are very friendly to K-pop (or, indeed, to international, non-traditional music in general). But increasingly, the chart-makers are beginning to factor in new media, like Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. And in the new media, K-pop shines.
For example, Super Junior was the No. 7 trending topic on all of Twitter in 2011. Once you have numbers that mainstream editors can see and understand (and, sadly, monetize), they are far more likely to pay attention. MTV Iggy apparently gets it already. And Billboard has a dedicated K-pop chart.
Starting in 2012, you are going to see Western editors begin to understand that K-pop is not just a “weird” fad, but part of a much larger shift in pop culture.
Next #3 Indie Meets Pop
#3 Indie Meets Pop
K-pop isn’t the only Korean genre making noise these days. The indie scene is increasingly catching on, with Korean bands playing top festivals all over the world.
And just like in the American music scene, recording and rubbing elbows with indie musicians is a great way for pop stars to gain some artistic credibility (after all, when Justin Timberlake went solo, he made a point of hanging out with bands like the Pixies and White Stripes).
In the past, Kpop artists have looked to Western pop and hiphop stars to prove their mettle, but now, with Kpop some of the hottest, slickest stuff on the planet, look for Kpop to turn to its surging domestic rock scene for hot new sounds.
Tablo is probably too big a name to be considered “indie,” but he’s also been able to build his reputation for doing things his own way. And now that Tablo is working on his debut album with YG Family, both stand to benefit greatly from the team-up.
Moon Hee-joon has been interested for years in working closer with indie acts. Byul.org (the electro artist/design collective, not the female pop singer) led a dozen avant garde artists in strange but exciting re-interpretations of BoA songs last year.
Other acts have picked up much acclaim in recent years – the retro-rock of Chang Kiha and the Faces, pounding post-rock power of Apollo 18, reggae-funk of Windy City, or bad-girl craziness of Juck Juck Grunzie are just four interesting options that could find a fruitful union (if unconventional) with K-pop.
Next #2 More Wonder Girls
#2 More Wonder Girls
The Internet has changed a lot of what makes a hit, opening the gates to more influences and ideas than ever before – but despite those changes, there’s still no exposure like television. And with the Wonder Girls’ special coming to Teen Nick in February, expect to hear a lot more from these JYP Entertainment stars in the coming year.
Watch the Wonder Girls' Special trailer:
Next #1 K-pop Talent Show Bubble Pops
#1 K-pop Talent Show Bubble Pops
Talent shows are not exactly new in Korea – they were the hottest thing on Korean TV way back in 1977 when MBC’s College Song Festival inspired countless knockoffs and spinoffs, and Seo Taiji & Boys made a memorable (if rather bizarre) debut on MBC in 1994.
But not until the success of Mnet’s Superstar K in 2009 did American Idol-esque programs explode in popularity -- on terrestrial networks, cable TV, online, and who knows where else -- with thousands of non-Koreans around the world applying for a precious spot. When Ashton Kutcher jumps into the fray (tweeting about that famous Adele cover ) you know something just hit critical mass.
Nearly 2 million people auditioned for season 3 or Superstar K – but what goes up must come down, and that cliché is perhaps truer in uber-trendy Korea than anywhere in the world.
So I boldly predict that market has reached full saturation, and by the end of 2012 the talent audition show will be on its way out. Besides, who needs a TV show when you have the Internet?
Photo: The newest talent show to air, SBS TV's "K-Pop Star"
features a judging panel consisting of (from right to left) JYP Entertainment founder, Park Jin Young, YG Entertainment founder, Yang Hyun Suk, and one of SM Entertainment‘s most successful stars, BoA. "K-Pop Star" aired on December 4, 2011. More Lists