Korean Music Scene: Where do You Start?

For most people not familiar with Korean music, they think Korean Pop (K-pop). K-pop is an umbrella term for mainstream Korean music, but is usually associated with boy bands and girl groups filled with catchy, upbeat music, synchronized choreography and hints of English words that you wonder why it’s even there in the first place.

Beyond all of that, the musical landscape in South Korea is much wider with some well-known groups domestically, but not internationally especially for Korean Indie (K-Indie), independently produced Korean music. Additionally, like I said before, K-pop is an umbrella term. K-pop includes hip-hop, rap, acoustic, electronic and so much more.

With so much to choose from, where should you start? Well here’s a few to check out!

A group that has not only grown musically, but also in popularity is BTS (Bangtan Boys). A wonderful mixture of hip-hop and contemporary R&B, the members of BTS have artfully told stories through their albums taking inspiration from literature and artists that paved the way of the international presence of Korean music.

BTS’s latest Extended Play (EP) released in September of this year, “Love Yourself: Her” is much more of an electro-pop/hip-hop hybrid (personal favorite is “Pied Piper”). For more hip-hop and contemporary R&B, check out their second album from last year, “Wings” featuring a solo from each member.

Want some hip-hop and rap? The well-crafted lyrics and great beats of Epik High is a great start. The members of Epik High have a tendency to combine different styles of hip hop and collaborate with a variety of other artists. Their 2014 release, “Shoebox” is dynamic: from the violin intro of “Encore” to the bitter frustration of “We Fight Ourselves” featuring Younha to the harder beats and arrogance of “Born Haters.”

The sibling duo, Akdong Musician features a creative and clever lyricist and composer, Chan Hyuk Lee and his younger sister filled with soul, Su Hyun Lee, are 21 and 18-years-old respectively and already making a name for themselves. Their music is filled with folk pop and soul. Their first studio album, “Play” will give spring vibes with songs like “200%” and “Anyway” or will bring a somber tone with “Melted.”

Akdong Musician’s song catalog so far can easily be categorized according to what seasonal vibe it sends your way. Overall, the duo is for those who want something dynamic: between the sounds of strings, a soulful voice, spring-like acoustics and even (because of their latest EP, “Summer Episode”) a bit of electronics.

Those are just three of the many artists out there! A great way to discover more artists is checking out the artists they collaborate with. If there is a particular genre (for example, R&B) that you want to check out for the Korean music scene, tell us by emailing us at pacificaneditors@pacific.edu.

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