Beyond Gangnam Style: An Intro To Kpop

18 Sep

Gangnam Style. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. PSY is getting tons of press in America, which is fantastic, but I don’t think people realize that Gangnam Style isn’t a one-hit-wonder kind of deal. PSY is superfamous, and this is his schtick, completely. Watch the video for Right Now and see if you notice anything in common with the Gangnam Style video. Oh? They’re THE SAME? The same level of AWESOME, for sure, but the same premise nonetheless. The thing that makes Gangnam Style different is the  social commentary (that takes it to a whole ‘nother level of cool), but that’s completely lost on the casual American listener. I mean, I only know about Gangnam and its chichi-ness because I watch a shit ton of kdramas.

Basically my point is this: Gangnam Style is doing a great job of bringing kpop to the American masses, but this trend will pass, along with kpop being played on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show. BUT I’m here to tell you that kpop is awesome and should not be ignored as a fleeting novelty. Do you like cheesy, dance-y pop songs? You will LOVE kpop. LOVE IT. And I’m here to give you a little intro into The Kpop Universe. Once Gangnam Style is a distant memory, you’ll still be rocking out to some of the best pop music in the world. And who knows, when the next kpop phenomenon goes viral, you’ll get to be one of the early adopters that rolls their eyes and says, “DUH.”

Disclaimer: This is my personal list of my favorite kpop songs, and songs that I think are a good into to kpop in general. This is by no means meant to be a “Best Kpop Songs Ever” list. It’s totally, absolutely subjective. Disagree? Have your own playlist that is superior to mine? Awesome. I’m always looking for a new jam, so leave me a comment and we’ll get all High Fidelity, Kpop-Style.

Brown Eyed Girls – Abracadabra

Brown Eyed Girls and T-ara are my top two kpop girl groups, and BEG is actually on this list twice. That being said, I really think anyone would agree Abracadabra is one of the best kpop songs of all time. It’s sooooo catchy. It’s like musical crack. Try to listen to this song just once. YOU CAN’T. And the dance is pretty epic. Rumor has it (Not a rumor. It actually happened) that a Korean gold medalist did the Abracadabra dance on the podium at the Beijing Olympics.

Girls’ Generation – Genie

Guys, we’ve talked about my love of this song before, so I won’t give you my full-blown spiel about how this song is fantastic. This is the only kpop song I was familiar with before I started actually listening to kpop on the reg, so maybe that’s why it has a special place in my heart. The song is great, and the dance is iconic. Something you should know about kpop fandom: The dance moves are as big as the song itself. Those who know/love the song know the dances to go with them. You’ll see them referenced in dramas all the time. That’s how I got into kpop actually – I was sick of watching dramas and not knowing all the pop culture references. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s making sure I know every last bit of trivia about any given TV show. Useful, no? No. Well… sometimes.

CNBlue – Intuition

CNBlue are a boy band that isn’t really a boy band. They don’t dance, they play their own instruments, and they write their own songs. They’re also all attractive. You know how in a band (especially a non-dancing, instrument playing band) there’s always that one guy that you’re kind of like, “eh” about? CNBLue doesn’t really have that. I mean, how do you expect me to choose between Jonghyun and Jungshin? Can’t. Unless Jungshin is wearing his hair in that bob, but I pretend that never happened. Oh! I’m supposed to talk about the song, aren’t I?  Well, this song is good. (How’s that for a review?) CNBlue has a very distinct sound, which I like. It sets them apart and makes them more than just another band of pretty boys. They’re is like the Maroon5 of Korea (I have no idea if that’s true, but it could be. I think they’re similar, musically). Anyway, this is probably my favorite in the CNBlue oeuvre.

Big Bang and 2NE1 – Lollipop

Fun Fact: This song is actually a commercial for a cellphone. But, marketing aside, it’s a great song – probably in my top 5 favorite kpop songs of all time. I will never get tired of listening to this. In my car I usually listen to my iPod of shuffle, and when Lollipop comes on I go, “Ohhhhh shit!” crank it up, and rock out. This video is also a great example of how visually nutso kpop videos can be. And I mean that in the best Willy-Wonka acid-trippy kind of way. My favorite part of this video is how the normally stoic and shy TOP is all into it and acting goofy. He’s also looking pretty good, too. Fun Fact #2: Did you know that TOP looks like the Goblin King? True story.

T-ara – Roly Poly

Prepare yourself: This music video is loooooong. It has a whole backstory where Geum Jan Di‘s mom is reminiscing about her younger days, when she was in T-ara and they performed the greatest kpop dance of all time in a discotheque. At least that’s what I gather, as a non-Korean speaker. (They even turned the story into a musical. Believe it.) Skip to the actual music music video at the 4:25 mark, but be prepared for it to stop for some more chatter, then start again. The main point is, Roly Poly is a great song – one of T-ara’s best in my opinion – but the dance is what really makes it stand out. Seriously. The Roly Poly dance is epic. I’d perform it on an Olympic podium in a heartbeat.

SHINee – Lucifer

I’m gonna go ahead and make another completely subjective, but in my opinion completely, objectively true statement: SHINee are the best dancers in kpop. AND they can sing. They support my belief, that I won’t rant on about here, that kpop idols are more hardworking and more talented (because of all the hard work and training) than artists from the US. Watch SHINee perform and Beiber and whoever will look like chumps. It’s hard to tell in music videos, but watch this vid of SHINee performing the dance from Sherlock straight through – I dare you to not be amazed. Actually, Sherlock was a VERY close runner up for this list. In fact, I still can’t choose, so here’s Sherlock too.

Brown Eyed Girls – Sixth Sense

This song is, and I know I use this word a lot but in this case it’s totally true, epic. If the Brown Eyed Girls catalog was turned into a musical, this would be the jaws-on-the-floor, show-stopping number. It’s just, like, KAPOW. I know I’m not doing the best job of describing this song. Just listen to it. It’s one of my all time faves. I’d actually recommend listening to the song without watching the MV to get the full-on epic experience. The video is awesome, but I think it distracts from the greatness of the song.

I had to stop myself at this point. There are so many more songs I want to throw at you. So many that this post is now a TWO PARTER. Oh you know that’s right.  Come back Thursday for even more kpop goodness.


2 Responses to “Beyond Gangnam Style: An Intro To Kpop”

  1. grjane December 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    I love that PSY is representing Korea, but what got me hooked on k-pop is watching k-dramas for the first time about a month ago (Boys Over Flowers via Netflix). I found out that Kim Hyun Joong’s first career is leader of SS501, so I checked out his music and started a new addiction. 🙂 I love his solo stuff (Kiss Kiss, U), and bought music from KHJ and Lunafly (my faves are Super Hero and You Got Something I Need). Loving k-pop!


    • Sarah January 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      I think BoF is the perfect Kdrama gateway drug. The article I wrote on DramaFever was actually first published on my personal blog, and it’s unedited there. Here’s a link if you want to read a bit more. I talk about SS501 a little. At that time I knew nothing about kpop or kdramas, so I didn’t know that idols are in dramas all the time! It’s funny looking back now that I know so much – like how I thought “flower boy” was slang for gay. Oy!

      Here’s a link to my original blog post on BoF:


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