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There's More To K-Pop Than You Might Think: Youth Media Opinion

A women wearing headphones. She is facing away from the camera and looking out a window.

K-Pop, or Korean Pop, is a genre of music from east Asia that has been making its way into the American mainstream for the past decade. In this KUNR Youth Media opinion piece, Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology student Isabella LoConte explores how K-Pop is more than just catchy music.

Groups like EXID, SHINee, Wondergirl, and BIGBANG were big in the 2010s and cleared the way for newer K-Pop groups to take root in America. Today, K-Pop bands are breaking records and making history - BTS performed alongside Lil’ Nas X at the Grammys, BLACKPINK was the first K-Pop act to perform at Coachella, and Monsta X was even featured in the cartoon show ‘We Bare Bears’. It’s obvious that these bands and many others have been successful in America, but what about them draws so many fans?

On the surface, K-Pop seems like pretty standard pop music - a lot of young, attractive artists singing and dancing. It’s easy to look at these groups and write off their dedicated followers as nothing more than teenage fans, but it’s not the flashy music videos or the choreographies that make people fall in love with this genre.

While you can find plenty of standard love songs in K-Pop, people are really drawn to the bands who frame their music around the issues that impact them and their fanbase personally. Take the hottest boy band on the charts as an example - BTS.

BTS has been singing about mental health, academic struggles, and self-love ever since their debut. Their debut song, “No More Dream”, is about the pressure Korean students face to succeed and affirming to them that they don’t have to be #1 to be happy. BTS made their way to the top by connecting with their fanbase on a level that no one else has, and they never stopped writing about the issues that are important to them.

There are countless other K-Pop artists who have made a name for themselves by promoting similar messages, and it’s this aspect of K-Pop that draws such dedicated fans. People feel empowered by what these artists have to say and have learned that music transcends language.

I discovered K-Pop halfway through my freshman year, after a friend of mine introduced it to me. I was immediately drawn to the music. But [I] wasn’t sure why until the stresses of high school really started to weigh down on me. It was in these low moments that I realized why K-Pop was so appealing. The way these artists sang about issues that I was personally facing made it feel like somebody was beside me, ready to help before I even needed it.

Isabella LoConte is a student at the Academy for Arts, Careers and Technology and a reporter for KUNR’s youth media program, a special partnership with the Washoe County School District to train the next generation of journalists. Since the start of the pandemic, the program has only met remotely and students have not been reporting in the field in order to avoid the transmission of COVID-19.

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