How does K-pop rock the USUK music market?

02/02/2024 03:56 , tác giả: Kiều Oanh

Since more than 10 years ago, "breaking into America" has been the dream of major players in the Korean music entertainment industry such as YG, SM, or JYP. And after over 10 years, it can be said that this dream is being realized with the success of the Korean entertainment industry following a series of remarkable achievements by iconic groups such as BTS, Blackpink, and most recently, Newjeans, who are gradually making waves.

What makes the Korean K-pop entertainment industry so appealing in the USUK music market?

1. K-pop and the dream of "breaking into America"

1.1. The boom period of the K-pop market

The Korean K-pop entertainment industry truly began to gain fame in Asian countries around 2008. The second-generation K-pop groups started to stir up the K-pop music scene with hits such as DBSK's "Mirotic," T-ara's super hit "Bo peep bo peep," or SNSD's "Oh!"... However, before firmly establishing their position in the charts in some Asian countries at that time, the dream of "breaking into America" by major K-pop players existed since the era of the "pop queen" BoA.

Sm Entertainment wishs to break into America by the BoA's album - Soure: Internet

It is said that BoA herself was the savior of the struggling SM Entertainment at the brink of bankruptcy in the early 2000s. BoA's albums spectacularly saved the company. Her seemingly final album turned out to be a massive success. SM Entertainment easily dominated the entire J-pop market - a dream of the groups of that time wanting to "set foot in". However, perhaps because of this success, SM decided to sabotage BoA's peak period by pushing her to start breaking into America. And it was this decision that led to the failure of an album that had once rescued SM in an instant.

1.2. The dashed dreams of "breaking into America" in K-pop

After the failure of SM, in 2008, the super hit "Nobody" by Wonder Girls from JYP took over the Asian media and successfully attracted the international market with its extremely catchy and successful song and viral dance moves. And naturally, the dream of "breaking into America" in K-pop was once again ignited strongly. JYP focused on promoting Wonder Girls to the American market. As a result, K-pop suffered another failure, not only failing to establish a reputation in the American market but also witnessing a significant decline in Wonder Girls' reputation in Korea.

And "breaking into America" of Wonder Girls is unsuccessful - Source: Internet

2. Why did K-pop abandon the dream of breaking into America for a long time?

Korean lyrics and concepts that don't match the USUK market taste are the two main reasons for the failure of K-pop's American dream.

2.1. Lyrics in K-pop songs

The first reason for this painful fall lies in the lyrics of the songs. During that period, K-pop song lyrics consisted of 100% Korean, so when attacking the USUK market, many were surprised by the "strange" music genre they had never heard before. Due to the language difference, many people were only impressed by the melodies of K-pop. However, it only lasted for a while, and then faded into obscurity, no longer being noticed as initially.

2.2. Concepts of K-pop music videos

In the early stages, K-pop began to attack the American market when Korea was extremely fond of cute concepts. Almost 100% of the music groups presented innocent, pure images along with cute music styles to Korean audiences. However, this approach did not succeed with audiences in the USUK market. Therefore, it is understandable that songs that were expected to bring new achievements to K-pop turned out to be painful setbacks for the Korean entertainment industry.

3. K-pop and the first successful footprint in the USUK market


3.1. The K-pop super hit "Gangnam Style"

After a period of touching the USUK market, 2012 was the year when the K-pop effect exploded, helping K-pop regain hope for "breaking into America" with the super hit "Gangnam Style" by PSY. Although this super hit was not purely in English, the magnitude of this major K-pop hit made its debut on the famous Billboard charts of the USUK market at position 80. The reason for the success of this massive hit can be attributed to its memorable, catchy melody, which resonated in most countries, especially with its fun dance moves that attracted attention both in the Asian market and internationally. From here, hope for the American dream once again arose strongly.

A super hit "Gangnam Style" of PSY is debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart - Source: Internet 

3.2. Realizing the dream of "breaking into America" in K-pop

Following the success of PSY's Gangnam Style, K-pop successively witnessed the triumphs of BTS, Blackpink, and NewJeans on the prestigious USUK Billboard HOT 100 chart. And the K-pop wave has gradually invaded the USUK market successfully.

Not stopping at the Billboard music charts, K-pop is proving its success by realizing the dream of "breaking into America," as seen with Blackpink's appearance as guests at the 2019 Coachella music festival or BTS being the first K-pop group to appear and perform at the Grammy Awards, as well as their appearances on popular talk shows like Ella’s Show and the Carpool Karaoke series with James Corden... This shows that the K-pop wave's allure has firmly established a certain position in the hearts of audiences in this market.


BTS and Blackpink make fans proud of high chart on the America market - Source: Internet

4.The success of K-pop in the USUK market

4.1. Englishification

No longer just Korean-language songs, many K-pop groups today incorporate English into their lyrics to cater to the listening preferences of the USUK market. This makes it easier to access English-speaking audiences and allows international fans to fully understand the lyrics during Korean music group concerts.

4.2. Renewing concepts

The cute concepts of K-pop are gradually being replaced by concepts with a girl crush, Y2K vibe. And these concepts are easily accessible to audiences, with strong, teen-pop elements that appeal to many fans.

Nowadays, a variety of concepts in K-pop music - Source: Internet

4.3. Music beats

Lastly, we cannot forget the music beats of K-pop songs that are bringing a new taste to music lovers. Remembering the 2019 Coachella music festival, Blackpink completely revamped all the beats in their hit songs to treat international audiences to the true essence of an outdoor music party. This truly elevates the audience's emotions to new heights.


The entertainment industry in South Korea is growing stronger day by day, and many Korean entertainment companies are embracing the dream of dominating the American market, as evidenced by the success of BTS, Blackpink, Newjeans, and other groups.