K-pop goes global: Blackpink, BTS, NCT 127, EXO’s Lay team up with Western artists

Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi
Sep 29, 2018 02:39 PM IST

Cross-cultural collaborations with the likes of Nicki Minaj, Dua Lipa, and Jason Derulo are slowly pushing K-pop artists into the mainstream.

At a recent concert in Berlin, K-pop star Chanyeol (member of the boy group EXO) sang the classic rock ballad Wind of Change, originally by German band Scorpions. As images of fall of the Berlin Wall played on the screen behind him, it seemed symbolic of how South Korea’s music industry is slowly but steadily breaking down geographical, cultural, and language barriers and prejudices.

Dua Lipa and K-pop girl group Black Pink have teamed up for a new song, Kiss and Make Up, which will be a part of Lipa’s upcoming album(Photo collage: Instagram/blackpinkofficial & dualipa)
Dua Lipa and K-pop girl group Black Pink have teamed up for a new song, Kiss and Make Up, which will be a part of Lipa’s upcoming album(Photo collage: Instagram/blackpinkofficial & dualipa)

Need proof? One of the biggest global ambassadors of K-pop, BTS was recently invited to the Grammy Museum (USA) for a discussion about the evolution of their music with Scott Goldman, Grammy Museum’s artistic director. This event happened just weeks after their latest song, Idol, featuring American rapper Nicki Minaj, was released. Fast forward to last week and GOT7, another popular K-pop group, released their latest album (Present: You), which contains a song entirely in Spanish!

READ | A bit of Bollywood in K-pop music industry

Collaborations with Western artists, or even performances in the West, are not a new phenomenon in K-pop though. K-pop legends G-Dragon and CL teamed up with Skrillex as far back as 2014. The Black Eyed Peas performed with CL at the 2011 MAMAs (a South Korean music awards). Several K-pop acts have held concerts in North America, South America, and Europe in this decade.

However, the last few years have noticed exponential growth in the exposure Korean musicians, especially third generation K-pop acts, get worldwide, thanks to social media.

Billboard’s social charts have been featuring K-Pop acts quite frequently. The fans’ zealous streaming ensures that K-Pop music videos boast of impressive YouTube views. Here’s an example: BTS smashed YouTube viewing records with their ‘Idol’ video with over 56 million views in 24 hours, a feat held by Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do video.

A still from BTS’ music video for the song Idol, featuring Nicki Minaj (Youtube/ibighit)
A still from BTS’ music video for the song Idol, featuring Nicki Minaj (Youtube/ibighit)

BTS also won Top Social Artist at the 2017 and 2018 Billboard Music Awards, dethroning Justin Bieber who had been ruling social media charts for six years. The group has also been frequently appearing on popular American talk shows, such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, and Good Morning America.

LDN Noise, London-based songwriting and record producing duo, told Billboard, “The profile of K-pop is being raised around the world through the incredible international fan base — songs are charting and gaining more views than ever before so artists, labels, and songwriters discover the scene and want to be a part of it.”

The world is opening up

K-pop’s impact can even be seen beyond social media. A contender for the title of biggest boy group in the world, EXO enthralled audiences at the Winter Olympics closing ceremony this year. The recent Asian Games invited Super Junior and iKon to perform in their closing ceremony. The inclusion of the first-ever K-pop song, Power by EXO, in the Dubai Fountain’s playlist (a major tourist highlight), this year, was a nod to the attraction of the genre even in the Gulf. The American Music Awards (AMA) 2017 and Billboard Music Awards (BBMA) 2018 also featured performances by BTS.

K-pop group EXO performed at this year’s Winter Olympics (Twitter/Olympics)
K-pop group EXO performed at this year’s Winter Olympics (Twitter/Olympics)

Acknowledging the popularity of Korean music, a large number of mainstream Western artists, including Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, and Troye Sivan, have shown interest in Korean musicians. In an interview last year, Lorde said, “I think there are a lot of amazing artists in Korea. I particularly like former 2NE1 member, CL. I’d love to collaborate with her.”

Look out for these upcoming collaborations:

Black Pink X Dua Lipa: The English pop singer and the K-Pop quartet have teamed up for a new song, Kiss and Make Up, which will be a part of Dua Lipa’s upcoming album, scheduled to release in October this year.

NCT 127 X Lay X Jason Derulo: An interesting collaboration between Jason Derulo, K-Pop group NCT 127, and EXO’s Lay is in the offing. Let’s Shut Up and Dance will be a tribute to the King of Pop Michael Jackson, and does not have an official release date.

BTS X Shawn Mendes: In an interview in June, the Canadian singer-songwriter promised that he was working on a collaboration with BTS. “It’ll happen. Promise,” said the soloist, who had met the group at AMA 2017, where they discussed a potential collaboration on camera.

While you wait for these to arrive, why don’t you give these collaborations a listen?

Lo Siento (Super Junior and Leslie Grace): Lo Siento merged K-pop and Latin music in a unique way, containing lyrics in Spanish, Korean, and English. The dance track was one of the biggest collaborations of this year and even featured the Latin pop star.

Mic Drop Remix (BTS and Steve Aoki): Originally a part of BTS’ Love Yourself: Her, Mic Drop was remixed by Steve Aoki in 2017. The remix spent 10 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and made BTS the first Korean group to have a gold-certified song in the US.

BTS with DJ and musician Steve Aoki (centre) (Twitter/steveaoki)
BTS with DJ and musician Steve Aoki (centre) (Twitter/steveaoki)

If You’re Over Me Remix (Years & Years with SHINee’s Key): The latest remix of the British pop band’s number had the K-pop singer, Key, singing in English as well as Korean. The foot-tapping number, which talks about the push and pull between lovers, will have you listening to it on repeat.

Freal Luv (Far East Movement, Tinashe, EXO’s Chanyeol, and Marshmello): This one’s an EDM number that will get you grooving. The melodious vocals and powerful raps enhance its psychedelic vibe.

Idol (BTS and Nicki Minaj): BTS released an alternate music video of their latest song, featuring Nicki Minaj. The hit track with a catchy beat and trippy video sent fans on both sides of the world in a frenzy.

Vente Pa’ Ca (Ricky Martin and Red Velvet’s Wendy): The Puerto Rican singer collaborated with Wendy for the English version of his successful Spanish song. While Martin also released another version of the song with Delta Goodrem at the same time, the views for Wendy’s version were four times the other.

Dirty Vibe (Skrillex, G-Dragon, and CL): The EDM luminary roped in CL and G-Dragon to deliver a song that’s one wild ride, with trippy beats and a sick rap.

Skrillex, CL, G-Dragon (Photo collage: Instagram/skrillex, chaelincl & xxxibgdrgn)
Skrillex, CL, G-Dragon (Photo collage: Instagram/skrillex, chaelincl & xxxibgdrgn)

Double Dip (Far East Movement, Soulja Boy, and Loco): Another collaboration by the hip-hop EDM group, this dance number brought together rappers Loco and Soulja Boy (of Crank That fame).

Temple (MIA and G-Dragon): British rapper MIA and G-Dragon merged their uniquely individual styles for this fierce and hypnotic trap piece. K-pop star G-Dragon can be heard rapping in both English and Korean in this.

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    Farozan Akhtar is a content producer at Hindustan Times. She writes about books, music, K-pop and other Hallyu-related subjects for the daily Entertainment & Lifestyle supplement, HT City.

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