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K-pop splashes into the west

By Michelle Mullins
On January 15, 2012

There is a giant wave of entertainment growing in the far east country of South Korea, and it is getting ready to wash over the entire west this upcoming year. Korean pop music, mostly referred to as K-pop, is all the rage in South Korea, and has been steadily on the incline for the past 13 years. After an enormous success in multiple Asian countries such as Singapore, China, Vietnam and even Japan, this wave of K-pop has decided to finally reach out west. Three girl groups in South Korea are at the forefront of this movement thus far, and are poised to make multiple splashes throughout the year.

Similar to American music in the mid-90s, K-pop is filled with plenty of boy and girl groups. K-pop songs are filled with synthesizers, electric bass and catchy beats. Most of the music is either dance or "synthpop," but hip-hop and rap are also starting to take over the charts in South Korea. Along with their fast beats are tons of other entertainment values such as powerful voices, extremely talented dancing, and they do not look too shabby either.

The Wonder Girls

One of the most successful girl groups that are riding the wave into the west is The Wonder Girls. The Wonder Girls are a pop group that formed in 2007, but did not start their American exploration until 2009. Their hit single "Nobody" ended up on the Billboard's Hot 100 in October 2009, making them the first South Korean group to ever land on the charts. From there, they were taken under the Jonas Brothers' wings and opened for them in a total of 45 concerts.  The Wonder Girls then began their own tour and graced cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago in a 20-show tour the following year. Like any group, there are occasional change-ups in members due various issues, but while touring in America in 2009, Sunye (22), Yeeun (22), Sohee (19), Sunmi (19) and Yubin (23) were the members of the group. Now, Sunye leads the group, while Yeeun is the lead vocalist, Yubin is the main rapper, Sohee is the main dancer and Hyerim (19) contributes to lead vocals and rapping. Sunmi was the lead vocalist until she postponed her time with The Wonder Girls to further her education. They plan to have a single drop simultaneously with their Nickelodeon film, "Wonder Girls at the Apollo," scheduled for release Feb. 2 on TeenNick.

2NE1

From the old to the new, this hip-hop rookie group has made a huge name for themselves in the past two years; they go by the name of 2NE1.  Destiny's Child meets South Korea is the best way to explain the fierce presence that this girl group radiates. Although they only began performing together in 2009, they are quickly being spotted by American eyes. The Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am has taken huge interest and has recorded 10 songs with 2NE1. Last year, 2NE1 rocked it out with their hit single "I Am the Best" which holds the second most views for a K-pop song on YouTube in 2011. The dynamic quartet is led by feisty CL (21) who also has a fierce tongue that allows her to be the main rapper. Park Bom (27) is the powerhouse main vocalist of this group. Sandara (27) is the quirky vocalist and does most of the promoting and modeling, and Minzy (17) is quick on her feet which makes her the main dancer. With growing anticipation, will.i.am recently tweeted, "This [2NE1] is coming out crazy…" making fans excited for their plans this year.

Girls' Generation

Dominating the Korean girl group phenomenon is Girls' Generation. This nine-member bubblegum pop group has been going strong since 2007. Their song "Gee," which came out in 2009, has over 62 million views on YouTube and the numbers keep growing. Their world tour from 2010 to 2011 with their company SM Entertainment, traveled to America twice and ended the tour in a sold out Madison Square Garden in New York City. In November 2011, the group collaborated with Teddy Riley, who has also produced songs for Michael Jackson. Together they created the song "The Boys" which at one point was the third most watched music video on YouTube. The following month, it landed number 1 on the Billboard's K-Pop Hot 100. A maxi single was released with 8 remixes of the song, one of which featured Snoop Dogg, while another repackaged version of this album for Japanese audiences featured a remix with DEV and The Cataracs. Girls' Generation's current American label is Interscope making them label mates with Lady Gaga and Far East Movement. This group of nine is led by Taeyeon (22), Jessica (22), Sunny (22), Tiffany (22), Hyoyeon (22), Yuri (22), Sooyoung( 21), Yoona (21) and Seohyun (20). A special edition of "The Boys" is available January 17th.

With videos topping over 62 million views on YouTube, the Internet has played a huge role in the popularity increase that has surrounded these three groups and various others debuting and rising in South Korea.  They have started to become noticed by magazines, websites and celebrities such as blogger Perez Hilton, "Vampire Diaries" actresses Nina Dobrev, SPIN Magazine and MTV Style. Their impact has even caused Billboard to make a K-pop list and YouTube to put a K-pop option in the music category. So, strap that bathing suit up tight, these groups will certainly be making a splash in 2012.


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