This might be one of the most difficult tasks for a westerner moving to Korea. Then again, it might be one of the easiest.
K-Pop has a very unique sound and that is this: the most pop-tastic pop music you have ever heard with either the cuteness or the sexiness turned up to 11. Most of the time bands will one day be so cute that you should probably see a dentist after listening to one of their songs. However, the next day they will be so sexy that you are in serious need of a new pair of underwear. The best example of this huge switch, in my mind, is 동방신기 (DongBangShinKi, but their English-friendly band name is TVXQ). Here's what they looked like just three years ago:
And here they are now:
If that's not sexy, nothing is.
Now, I have to say, I resisted the lure of K-Pop for a very long time after moving here. I thought it was stupid. The videos are ludicrously cheesy and over the top. Most of the female singers are plastic surgeried to the point that they are barely recognizable as human and the man are either waif-like effeminate pixies or so hot that it's more than a little unbelievable. The songs are EXTREMELY catchy, they will be in your head for days on end. I DARE YOU to listen to a halfway decent K-Pop song and not have it playing adnausium in your brain for at least a few hours (if not DAYS). I first started listening to K-Pop because my reward system in my classroom is that they get to choose a music video to watch if we finish the lesson with time to spare. They would almost always select a K-Pop video, most of the time all of my classes would select the same "flavor of the week" video, so K-Pop became almost punishment for me.
When did the tables turn? Well, I'm not ashamed to admit that it's when I saw this video:
The song was "Lucifer" by 샤이니 (SHINee). I don't know what it was about that song but it was the first one that I was completely ok with having stuck in my head, it even made me smile. The guys in this group are not the hottest, they're not the best singers, but they are THE best dancers in K-Pop and I will seriously throw down with anyone who says different. My new found enjoyment of K-Pop was cemented when I saw their next video:
I'm posting the dance-only version because the actual music video is... laughably stupid, but the dance is INCREDIBLE! Since the new school year started so many K-Pop songs have come out that I do not mind at all having to listen to over and over.
And then there came this song, and I am IN LOVE with it, especially when you translate the lyrics:
So yes, K-Pop might not be for everyone, actually, it's probably not for everyone, but I can tell you that, since I learned to enjoy it rather than just tolerate it my life in Korea has gotten much easier.
You see, in Korea, every store is constantly blasting K-Pop at an obnoxiously high volume. They have speakers not only in the store, but also facing out onto the sidewalk. Every make-up, cell phone, 노래방(noraebang, karaoke parlors), and discount store (these 4 types of stores make up 90% of the storefronts in Seoul) is blaring out all the latest K-Pop hits. You will hear these songs, and you will hear them often, there's no avoiding it. If you learn to enjoy it, to briefly dance to your favorite hit as you pass by the third LGU+ store in as many city blocks, the more you will enjoy your time here.
You don't need to become a super-fan. I like K-Pop but only have one album on my iPod (Big Bang's latest album "Alive," but I have a feeling that I may soon have more. Also, K-Pop is not the only Korean music available. There's some amazing rock, r&b, independent, and even hard rock bands out there.
I'm going to try and feature at least one song a week: most likely the song that my girls are making me play non-stop, but we'll see how well that goes. ^^ Until next time: keep your ears and you mind open!