Kpop News
The future of kpop
by | December 25, 2007 | 36 Comments

The “Oricon Comet” Younha

The Korean pop music industry, like the recording industry worldwide, has been in a constant downward slide in recent years. The reasons for that are all the usual suspects: General sales slump for the CD market, rise of digital media, and, oh yeah, suckiness of the product.

Personally, I think kpop is both worse and better now than it’s been in years. It all depends on how you define “kpop,” I guess. What’s typically seen as kpop is the stuff you see on those live music shows, the girl- and boy-band pop groups, the idol stars, the overchoreographed dances, the lip-synching Barbie dolls. But the industry has diversified — there are so many niches now, subgenres, pockets of creativity — and while “mainstream pop” used to be all there was, now there are alternatives. So does kpop suck these days? Some of it really, really does. But some of it really, really doesn’t.

The following takes a look at the mainstream market and finds hope for the future of popular music.

2007 showed a different side than what the music industry has seen for the past few years. Up through last year, the state of affairs looked dark as things declined with no bottom in sight, but this year, there were singers whose successful hits shined a bit of light. Here, we take a look at a few of the praiseworthy singers who’ve enabled the pop music industry to look once more to a hopeful future. …


Younha – “한 우산 아래” (under one umbrella) [ zShare download ]

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In 2007 a number of idols, that is to say young pop singers, banged out the hits. There were frequent comments that this was a revival of the pop-idol era. But watching those pretty-looking youngsters with a thorough lack of musicality, who relied solely on their star appeal, raised doubts as to whether this so-called revival of the idol-star era was a good thing for the music industry.

But in the midst of this situation, one such idol group, Big Bang, offered respite with their self-composed and self-written song “Lie.” Although they’re young singers, their music’s creativity and ability to captivate the attention of the public make the “idol era” seem less bleak.

Big Bang – “다음날” (The next day) [ zShare download ]

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Lim Jeong Hee, Younha


There were quite a few reports for a while that Lim Jeong Hee would be entering the U.S. pop market. For those who are familiar with the U.S. music industry, making an event of a singer’s departure for the States could be seen as nothing more than mere meaningless PR. Speaking in soccer terms, it’s similar to a player with minor-league training clamoring to enter the big leagues in Europe.

However, Lim Jeong Hee was different. She’d entered into a contract with a leading figure in the U.S. pop market, hip-hop artist Big Boi of OutKast. To be sure, she hasn’t yet started recording, and until she does, she’ll have to overcome the language barrier, among other issues. But with her contract with Outkast, Lim Jeong Hee has the potential to be the first Korean singer to enter into Billboard’s main charts.

Lim Jeong Hee – “이별선언” (Farewell declaration) [ zShare download ]

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In the past few years, there haven’t been many singers who’ve shot to prominence in the pop music world soon after their debuts. Although there have been a few here and there, they’ve succeeded more as a result of huge marketing pushes and strategic planning than they have from singing skills and appeal. Such singers lack the charisma needed to be called a star singer.

In this current climate, one young woman took the stage in early 2007 with a flash of charisma. The young singer Younha had cute looks, but she had a voice that could overwhelm audiences with its power and appeal. She wasn’t “made,” but rather came into prominence naturally, with her clear voice and appearance. The future for this mighty new figure can be seen in her appealing music.


Park Jin Young, Toy


No, it’s not the Wonder Girls, it’s Park Jin Young. Sorry to the hard-working young ladies of Wonder Girls, but the “Tell Me Sensation” must be credited entirely to Park Jin Young. He’s the one who produced the melody that hooked the nation and marketed the Tell Me Dance that swept the internet.

Actually, Park Jin Young deserves praise for bringing the nation a widespread hit for the first time in a long while. The last nationwide phenomenon, Lee Hyori’s “10 Minutes” in 2003, had long faded, and he revived the landscape. Park Jin Young has brought the “power of pop music” back to life, and allowed us to dream of a revival in the pop music world.

JYP – “너의 뒤에서” (Behind you). I don’t have any recent Park Jin Young songs, so here’s one of his earliest hits, from 1994. If you were a fan of the old Lee Jung Jae drama “Feelings,” you might recognize this as one of the prominent love themes played in the latter half of the drama.
[ Download ]

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TOY (aka Yoo Hee Yeol)

Before Toy’s sixth album came out, it was accepted that “The age of CD sales is over” and “1990s singers are singers of the past.” But with his first album in six years, Yoo Hee Yeol’s sixth album proved those beliefs wrong…

It also showed the possibility for the pop music market, led by teens and twentysomethings, to return to the older age groups in their thirties and forties as well.

Toy – “Christmas Card” (MERRY CHRISTMAS!) [ zShare download ]

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Via Osen


36 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. snoopy

    I don’t know very much about kpop, but through dramas’ osts (and your daily music posts) I’ve discovered that indeed there are very interesting music in korea. I especially like all the indie-electro-pop genre, my favorite is Fanny Fink.

  2. ...

    same as snoopy. I don’t really listen to kpop in particular but what i hear from the drama osts i like and some of my korean friends like to play kpop and usually its quite good (but that could be also because she’s got a gd taste in music).

  3. Kristen

    I really think Big Bang deserves this recognition because they have stepped out of the usual kpop box this year. I also admire the fact that they write (well, Jiyong does) their own songs and don’t usually lip-sync.

    I haven’t heard too much of Younha myself, but from what I have, she has a different “flavor” than many people out there. For that, I applaud her.

  4. Jessica

    There’s a Korean reggae singer Skull (Cho Sung-jin) whose song “Boom Di Boom Di” was in the Billboard Top 5.

  5. g35733

    I love how Toy, Younha, and Lim Jeong Hee are on the list, and even JYP I understand, but I’m not entirely sure Big Bang deserves to be on the Top 5. Yes, Jiyong writes most of their songs, but there’s been a lot of talk about how they steal melodies from other artists. I’m sure BB should be within the top 10 or 15, but top 5? They’ve still got some work to do.

    This is my personal opinion. BB fans, don’t shoot me. I love these boys, too. I just think they’re capable of so much more than what they’re doing now.

  6. Jo

    JYP?! well….I guess.
    Younha deserved to be on that list though

  7. Tiki

    I think Big Bang totally deserves it. The boys have grown a LOT since last year, and they’ve been working extremely hard. Haha, I’m so proud of them. =D

    And Younha’s awesome, too! I love her voice… =]

  8. ybee

    Pretty accurate list, I would say. Younha stands out to me and just blew me away this year. Even though she was popular in Japan, I feel like she just popped up out of the woodworks with her piano in tow. Big Bang definitely deserves a bit of respect as well to reach out of their “Americanized hiphop” genre with their new mini-album, which was mostly penned by G-Dragon (amazing talent, long music career ahead of him). As for JYP, well, he sure is standing the test of time, especially when battling against the likes of kkotminam boybands. Still waiting for “J-Lim” to make her mark in North American market!

    Merry Christmas, Javabeans! Love your opinions and can’t wait to read more in the new year! 🙂

  9. Veronica

    I realize that nobody cares about my opinion on pop music, and it’s going to lead to a lot of TL;DR, but what the hell, here I go.

    I’m an Indie girl at heart, honestly. I used to pride myself on the fact that I only listened to bands my friends had never heard of before. But for some reason I developed this weird affinity for kpop which, frankly, baffles me. I KNOW it’s shitty, manufactured music. I have been in heated arguments with friends in the past about how bad their taste in music is, and then I turn around and listen to this crap. It’s gotten to the point where I listen to Super Junior as much as I listen to Sufjan Stevens. I think it’s like a fast food addiction–it’s bad for you, but it makes you feel good for a while. And that made it sound more like a crack addiction. Um.

    Really, I think it’s okay to enjoy shitty music as long as you understand fully how terrible it is. No, it’s not the pinnacle of the music industry. No, this music is not inspiring in any way shape or form. No, it’s not something new and inventive. It’s naive people who think pop music IS these things that bother me. As long as people are still being exposed to good music to balance out the manufactured stuff I am content to roll in my hypocrisy and enjoy both equally.

    Also, though, composing and playing their own instruments doesn’t make the songs good. I’ve tried SO MANY TIMES to like F.T.Island but I find their music tragically boring.

  10. 10 bjham

    sack the lot of them and bring back Jang Nara, retro 2002

  11. 11 azn gurl in the 213

    i love big bang….
    they stepped out side of the box…
    “Lie” was a big ass hit…
    whoo..whoo. i heart

  12. 12 wishing star

    thanks for the great article, and I thought Kpop was dead but now there’s a glimmer of hope…

  13. 13 merriwether

    Veronica, I think I’ve found my music twin in you!

  14. 14 F

    Big Bang & Younha, definitely. I love them.
    I might check out Lim Jeong Hee if I get the chance. I think JYP’s pretty talented. He’s the reason =X I listen to the Wonder Girls =X even though I am fully aware that they suck.

  15. 15 hjk

    Happy Lazy Day! Growing up, I never really listened to Korean music, mostly because it was filled with cheesy crap. I’m still not a big fan of kpop, but I do like a lot of the music that you’ve shared in your posts – I’m glad to see there’s diversification in the industry. Thanks, javabeans, for showing us that there actually is Korean music worth listening to.

  16. 16 shannon

    JYP is just a genius, hands down. I don’t think people realize that he is the man behind a lot of Kpop’s biggest hits. I’ve been listening to Kpop since 2000, and it’s just keeps getting better and better in my opinion. Maybe it’s because I don’t focus on the acts/artists that don’t interest me. Every year there are artists that I can’t wait to see perform (Chae Yeon, Hyori, Big Bang) and every year there are albums I play nonstop (Evan’s Hard To Breath , E.Sang’s All About Da Love). Just like Dramabeans stated, the industry is a lot more diversified now. You don’t have to listen to SNSD/Super Junior if you don’t want to! That’s the beauty of having so many different genres. I’m confident that Kpop’ s future is secure.

  17. 17 joyce

    i somewhat agree with veronica..
    i know a lot about music myself, and same with her, i say ft island is boring, a lot of times, they dont really play their instruments live, which for me is … and their songs i dont know.i live in country where you hear bands every freaking day, be it on the radio, tv, concert wherever, maybe that’s the reason why i excepted so much from ft island.
    the only one i listen to the whole year who made that list is younha..
    i love bigbang and all, but after hearing lies for 2 million times on music shows and everywhere else, it has annoyed me.
    younha on the other hand, i really enjoyed..
    she has such a powerful voice and she’s really musically-inclined
    lim jung hee, her voice is awesome, but there is something missing when she’s singing live on concerts
    toy.. i havent really heard anything from him
    and jyp… i would like him so much better as a producer than a singer

  18. 18 Marzy

    in that list.. its big bang and younha for me.if it’s kpop.
    both are really talented.
    i dont like them saying big bang’s lack of musicality.
    when if u watch their other stuff (youtube, behind the scenes etc) they are very musically inclined plus i like their sound and that they really rap and sing. i feel out of groups recently they stand out. not only cause they are lookers but cause they
    are good.
    i like younha’s songs. plus i think she is talented too. her voice.
    for me jyp is a better producer.
    i love all music. kpop or indie. hehhehe i love those artists featured on Que sera sera ost and CP.

  19. 19 Anonymous

    #18, they’re not saying Big Bang has a lack of musicality.. they said the OTHER bad bands have a lack of musicality, but Big Bang is the exception..

  20. 20 mei

    I’ve been a fan of Younha since her “Yubikiri” days! So I agree with you on her. Sadly though, JYP is pushing more for “Min” to debut first in the U.S. when I think that J.Lim is more deserving. Have you heard her English song “People Like You”?

  21. 21 marcel

    not a kpop buff either… but as a korean-american & music lover it’s good to know the genre is alive & there are artists out there worth listening to… i usually favor indie groups too… loveholic is one of my favorite… but i appreciate all styles as they each have their merits…

  22. 22 hellaakon

    Well, I guess I’m in the minority that in addition to appreciating kdramas, I’m a fan of kmusic also. I think the list did list some of the more outstanding artists currently. I hope the trend is going to get back to having singers……well……sing. :/

  23. 23 royalpoohtato

    I like this article a lot. I’m more of a fan of Korean singers than actors/dramas. Korean songs was what brought me to the whole Korean wave. Being a ‘kpop’ fan for years, I had seen (or rather heard) how much korean music had changed… I always wondered why I’ve been listening to past Korean songs rather than new ones and then I realized it was because songs nowadays lack quality as that of previous top songs…

    I do agree that Big Bang and Younha are talented artists. They are the only new artists I’m listening to lately. It was great that Younha made a Korean album, ever since I heard Houki Boshi, I always wished she’d release a Korean album.

  24. 24 710

    azn gurl in the 213

    The melody for Lie was also taken from a Japanese artist.

  25. 25 879

    24,the melody for lie wasnt ‘taken’.
    Bigbang deserves top 5 in my opinion.They’ve definitely grown musically than from their first album.Their music is very much more matured now!and GD writes the nicest songs.

    ps javabeans;the next day,isnt actually a song by the whole of big bang,its one of their members’ (seung ri) solo song from their first album.I recommend that you try their 2nd mini-album songs like last farewell and those songs are the epitome of big bang 😀

  26. 26 rocketfuel

    maybe it’s time for the fall of corporate kpop and the rise of the korean underground and grass roots labels.

  27. 27 Marie

    I definitely agree with you on the number of broad descriptions that define kpop. There are singers that really wow me with their talent, especially Big Bang and Lim Jeong Hee. What I admire about Big Bang is that they are bordering between having pretty-boy-band-image and as an extreme package of talent. Although there’s been a lot of recent reports and speculations over which Korean singer has plans to make it big in the United States, with no offense intended, these plans usually seem to fade away. It’s certainly difficult for any singer from outside North America and England to become popular, since acceptance of diversity within artists must really be promoted. However, Lim Jeong Hee does have some chance, with her contract with Outkast, as her music is evidently leaning further away from the stereotypical Asian pop. As for Park Jin Young, his music is really, wow. He creates a totally different taste and style for music; somewhat revolutionary even haha. The future of Korean music, or any music of any nationality in general, depends on the enthusiasm and involvement of the artists, producers, as well as the public itself.

  28. 28 mai

    i like some of the choices presented. They all have strong vocals.

  29. 29 tealeaf

    I love Younha’s showmanship.

  30. 30 dadani

    Not to mention his big hit 여전히 아름다운지 (Ever beautiful, vocal by Kim Yeon Woo) in 2001, Toy’s 6th album (Thank you) is totally perfect, i love all the songs. I think Toy’s 크리스마스 카드-Christmas card (Vocal Kim hyung Joong) and Yoorisangja’s 12월의 로망스 (romance in december) are the two greatest x’mas songs this year. He’s a great DJ!

    Loveholic and Clazziquai should be in the list, they was supposed to deserve to high ranks, their music style is very unique indeed!

  31. 31 anastasia

    Actually I have observed quite sometime on Korean Music. Some which is very typical, some music is unique. I rather being skeptical and objective and judge not only their looks, hotness or style. I preferred TRUE talent. No copycat can attracted me, even if there are not so talented but rather develop their own music than they will gain my respect. Especially the issues of [b]plagiarism in music&melody. [/b]I really can’t accept that. No matter how creative and popular they are. Too westernized also didn’t attracted me no matter how interesting they presented it. I just have enough of all American music and MV.

    The thing that I loved most about Dbsk is their didn’t have to overdone anything. Of course I listen to other music, in previous in order to loved dbsk this much i observed a lot of Koreans music, singer and bands. They have talent of course. Some of them I just love their music but not their personality and lives. Some of them I adored their talents but not the originality of the music and how the presented it.

    But Dbsk in my eyes is like a growing mountain. Yet to be grow. It is not perfect but it has everything that I loved and will become larger than now. It is moderate not overdone in everything. Didn’t have to expressed so much in sexual appeal yet their are sexy. Their Mv didn’t portrayed American culture so much. Their lyrics is pure.

    Furthermore, their music is always developing, personally I think it is not perfect yet, they are still some genres and creativity that still has to applied but as a mountain they are still growing. That is for sure. That is what actually after long observation I choose Dbsk and feel Dbsk has my heart. As a all rounder there are. In one. They can be accepted by different belief, religion, country and age. Their music of course is not perfect still have something that want them to add on flavor and uniqueness yet but there is something subtle there.

    Not to say others is not good, they also has their own path that make people loved them but for me the 5 of them has make my heart and life hard to control I rather didn’t have any other energy to put any other love inside. They has fully stated and deepen inside my heart. I like some others band song but I cant just fall in loved with it. I don’t know why.

    Music/Band: Clazziquai, ,My Aunt Mary[/b] and Loveholic. Their music just solid sexy and awesome. Their music has a sole identity and just plain excellent & creative.

    Boys Band: As a boy band they got everything. Still yet to be develop in some aspect not perfect of course but what make people heart them so much is they have their own identity. Still I see that there still has to try a new flavour in their mv and some of their tune but they gain my loved and respect.

    Like Veronica said: It is like fastfood.

    I’m different here. I always loved the maturity and difference view in your blog. But one thing for sure I love DBSK. It is not perfect yet it has everything.

    I didn’t want to be overrated also didn’t want to be underrated.

    BigBang: Erk. I don’t know why usually I love HipHop and R&B but they failed to impressed me and get me fall in loved with their music. They are extremely talented and creative but the issue involving plagiarism of melody and lyric bother me. As well aslo, whenever I hear their song I just cant get in me. It is something that I cant grab. I loved music so much and appericated good arts but I loved originality of art and hard works. When i see their mv they are cute and very unique but again cant impressed me.

  32. 32 amelia

    very nice:);):*

  33. 33 I Love Big Bang,I Love Korrea

    Big Bang are the Best.I Love Korrea xXx
    Omg G.Dragon is soo hot!! i love his smile and face
    Dae Sung is verry sexy he has a most wonderful voice i ever know
    wow i never see a hot body like Taeyang haz
    Seung Ri-I like his style
    and T.O.P he is a very good dancer
    you boys have all you need,to bee the best BAND EVER
    BIG BANG for 3v3r ,I LOVE YOU ALL

  34. 34 y

    i dont get why corporate kpop has to fall for the indies to rise. if it falls just imagine the amount of people out of jobs, all the mouths that are fed by the money it makes. they should both be able to survive side by side. i noticed a change in kpop blogs recently to promote their artists no matter what instead of the usual sarcastic jokes. maybe its cuz the international community is beginning to lose interest.

  35. 35 Stephanie

    I have been in LOVE with CP ost since it was out. It has its own unique blend of cute, light jazz, male-female vocal, relaxing theme that does not get stuck in your head but stuck in your heart. Sometimes I can’t even remember the melody that is why it is still refreshing everytime I hear it.
    Plastic flower is also pure genius…..and so on. I don’t have time to search for good songs but I am glad dramas intro these kind of songs instead of pop songs. US tv series usually uses pop songs and the under publicised ones are looked over.

  36. 36 JadeL

    I just read this article today, in 2012, 5 years after this article was posted. How do you feel about the turn around in popularity of Kpop in the US and the world? What about it’s quality? Do you think that even in quantity, the quality has improved as well?

    I only just recently discovered this whole new world that is the Korean wave through the dramas and my nieces’ OBSESSION with the music. I like a lot of the indie and a few of the more main stream songs you have posted. I am mostly a fan of the ballads introduced in the dramas.
    How would you write this article now, 5 years later?

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