You may not have heard of it at all, but no one listens to it just once. That is what they say about K-Music. Addictive melodies, romantic lyrics, and the spicing-up effects and perfect dance movements of K-Music make you feel like you have received a gift filled with stories.
As such, Korean music goes beyond being just a piece of “music” that you listen to where melodies and instrumental sounds make a simple mixture; it has a more profound meaning as “general art” that combines bountiful visual contents and colorful performances. Let’s look at how the artists and K-Music have caught the eyes of the world with the most “Korean” music across generations and genres including traditional music, dance, ballad, hip-hop, trot (known for its use of repetitive rhythm and vocal inflections), and opera from the standpoint of the publishing industry.
Globally fanatic K-MUSIC: How to Be a Prepared Talent
Korean music has stepped into the limelight around the world. BoA, the “queen of K-pop”, hit first place in the Japanese Oricon Chart, which is referred to as one of the top three music charts in the world at the age of 16, signaling the start of the great Hallyu (Korean Wave) across Asia. Also, PSY, who is best known as the artist with grade B sense of art, had brought about the horse-riding dance fever across Asia and Europe after entering the US Billboard along with having a massive hit on YouTube. Meanwhile, the globally popular idol group BTS has and its ARMY (the name of the group’s fan club) in almost every part of the world beyond Asia and the United States are re-writing the history of “the first in Korea” every time they release a new album, raising the reputation of their country.
<Who? K-Pop> series (BoA, IU, BTS Editions), <Our Show Will Continue>
However, these K-pop stars supplied with outstanding vocal skills and perfect dance moves have also had tough times to get to where they are today. The series <Who? K-Pop (Dasan Kids)> features the struggles and hardships the stars have gone through in their journey to becoming singers since they were young. The first star of the series is indeed BoA, the number one artist that took K-Pop to the global stage. BoA found her dream at an early age of 15 and is the singer that has achieved the greatest number of “first” records in her career. The book covers the entire lifetime effort of BoA from her debut in Korea to the times when she swept the J-Pop market and performed in the US. The series currently has four volumes: BoA, TWICE, BTS, and IU.
<Our Show Will Continue (Woozoo Books)> is an interview collection of 8 K-pop stars, including J-Hope of BTS, Chan-Hee of SF9, Chae-Yoon of IZ*ONE, and YooA of OH MY GIRL. While the <Who? K-Pop> series is a life story of top-class artists, <Our Show Will Continue> takes a deeper look at the emotions, passions, and values these stars have in their life as K-Pop stars, making readers feel an indirect connection with them.
The Birth Story of K-MUSIC: Supporters with a Midas Touch
Hundreds of K-Music covers are uploaded on YouTube, the biggest video platform, every day. People across the world exhibit love for K-Music in various ways ranging from covering famous K-Pop performances and recording cheerful trot videos and ballad videos that require extraordinary singing skills. Yet, all these accomplishments of K-Music across the world could not have been possible without the supporters behind the scenes. Composers that write exciting melodies, lyricists that write heart-melting lyrics that listeners can relate themselves to, and producers that are in charge of the songs’ concept and the overall production process are the hidden contributors that have turned the pain of creation into art, making artists shine brighter on stage.
<It Was You that Taught Me the Seasons>, <Writing Lyrics by Kim Eana>
Yoon Jong-Shin, who is a singer and a music producer who often shows up in TV shows, is also a composer and a lyricist that has given birth to various hit songs with his calm ballads and lyrical words. Through <It Was You that Taught Me the Seasons (Munhakdongne)>, he shares the episodes and backgrounds of 40 songs he chose among around 400 of his songs along with the lyrics.
<Writing Lyrics by Kim Eana (Munhakdongne)> is more like a practical book for those that dream of becoming a lyricist or joining the music industry. Kim Eana, the writer of the book, has written sentimental but trendy lyrics for songs of different genres such as Brown-Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra”, IU’s “Good Day”, Lee Sun-Hee’s “Meet Him Among Them”, Cho Yong-Pil’s “Walking Along With You”, Park Hyo-Shin’s “Breath”, Yoo Sanseul (Yoo Jae-Seok)’s “Redevelopment of Love”, and Lim Young-Woong’s “Trust in Me”. The book includes her life as a lyricist, her know-how, terminology used by lyricists, and the difference between reading the texts and listening to the texts. It is also good for understanding the flow of K-Music.
<Real Composer, Lyricist, Producer>, <Idol’s Studio>
<Real Compose, Lyricist, Producer (Gana Pub.)> is a book that the best K-Pop composers, lyricists, and producers who made music for idol groups such as EXO, VIXX, Block B, AOA, and Girls’ Generation-TTS wrote together with the editing team of MODU, a teen magazine. Divided into two parts, the first part talks about their stories, how to become a composer, and answers to the most frequently asked questions from teenagers, and the second part provides information about colleges, majors, apt personalities, values, and skills for teenagers that dream of becoming a musician.
Korea’s star management is highly systematic and organized that even people fly to Korea to learn. So while many people recognize that Korean idol stars have been the leaders of K-Pop, some mistakenly think that their music is made by their company from A to Z. Here, <Idol’s Studio (Wisdom House)> simply breaks down the misunderstanding that “idol music is spoon-fed by the company.” The book offers honest and sincere stories about the “work called music,” where artists including WOOZI of Seventeen, who is a sing-a-song writer, LE of EXID, Ravi of VIXX, and Bang Yong-Guk of B.A.P share the struggles they have experienced while making a piece of music for themselves.
“I would like to define lyricists as people
who make an ‘imaginary room for relaxation’ for people.
They are like a path-finder that helps people imagine,
giving them a hint for jumping into that vast ocean of imagination.
They provide listeners the space for imagination called ‘songs,’
and help them feel, experience, and enjoy the various emotions they have inside it.”
- From Yoon Jong-Shin’s <It Was You that Taught Me the Seasons> -
The Beautiful Voices of Classic Masters that Amazed the World
The 2002 FIFA World Cup is an unforgettable event in Korea’s sports history. It is because the World Cup was the first World Cup held in the 21st century and the first one to be held in Asia. It was also the first co-hosted World Cup in FIFA history. What’s more, it was a significant event for Koreans as their team defeated other strong countries, making its way to the semi-finals, showing the prowess of the country to the world and presenting hope and an overwhelming impression to the Korean citizens as they had become one cheering for the team.
Here, there was a song that took the already excited Koreans to the next level. It was “Champion” by Jo Sumi; the voice gifted from God. Jo Sumi, the Lyric Coloratura Soprano, went to Seoul National University, which is the top university in Korea with the highest score among the applicants, and studied further in Italy. She was a genius student as she graduated from the 5-year music academy in just 2 years. She was also the first Asian to win 6 international Concours from 1985 to 1986 and is called the first Asian “prima donna” that starred in the top 5 opera theaters in the world. In 1993, she won La Siola d’Oro (biannual award) in Italy for the first time as an Asian, and further became the winner of the Grammy Award, the Puccini Award, the Hong Nanpa Memorial Award, the Kim SuGeun Award for Performing Arts, the Grand Prize Winner of Women Dong-A, Order of Culture Merit in Korea, the Korean-Chinese Youth Academic Award, and the Overseas Korean Award.
The legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan said, “Her voice is the best gift God has given,” while the globally prominent conductor Zubin Mehta said, “Jo Sumi is the vocalist of the generation.” The book <Jo Sumi, a Dreaming Prima Donna (Changhae)> talks about her life of going beyond the border, achieving great success in Italy – the home of opera, and fulfilling further achievements in the US and Europe, not to mention the struggles, hardships, and success she experienced on that journey to become a vocalist.
<Jo Sumi, a Dreaming Prima Donna>, <Yiruma’s Little Room>
If there is BTS in K-Pop and Jo Sumi in opera that are beloved by the world, you don’t want to miss Yiruma, the master pianist. With his numerous masterpieces such as “Kiss The Rain,” “May Be,” “Passing By,” “River Flows In You,” and “Wait There,” he has established his unique musical world in various genres, including semi-classical that is a combination of classical and pop music, film OST, TV drama OST, and BGM for commercials with his beautiful piano melodies; he is a composer and a pianist that contributed to the popularization of classical music. He is often mistaken as a Japanese artist for his name, but his name Yiruma is a pure Korean name meaning “to achieve.” Beginning to learn how to play the piano at the age of 5 alongside his sister, Yiruma went over to the Purcell School in Britain when he turned 11. Since then, he has participated in all kinds of music festivals to have his potential as an artist recognized and even released an album with the world-renowned record label Decca Records. He has performed concerts around the world before the outbreak of the coronavirus, where all the seats would be sold out each time, and fans had to line up to get a ticket in front of the hall. Recently, “The Best Reminiscent 10th Anniversary,” a commemorative album marking the 10th year of his debut, appeared on the US Billboard Chart, climbing up the chart and ranked first in the classics category. The trend spread to YouTube, where he reached 100 million views. His book <Yiruma’s Little Room (Myungjin Books)> is a candid story of himself where he shares his experience about his failed love, studies abroad, and wandering days in Korea as if he is talking to his friend.
Today, K-Music is climbing up the high mountain called “the world” with its long-built know-how and skills. It sometimes tumbled over a small pebble and met a big rock blocking the road on the way, but it could prevail with the hard work of those in the industry. The good influence of Korean artists is also spreading across the world, just like the saying “the fans and their artists are alike.” Korean fans have shown a mature fan culture by donating or doing volunteer work with the name of the artist or the fan club on special days of the artists or when society needed help. In other words, the donations and relief goods from each fan have been sent to global organizations and once again shone spotlight to the name of the artist. In particular, the donation of quarantine goods by Korean fan clubs in the time of the pandemic has highlighted the good deeds of Korea’s artists and fans even more in the global community, further leading donations and campaigns. K-Music is growing day by day, and its artists have a lot more to show to the public. The music they will present us in the future is therefore highly anticipated.
Written by Lee Ji-Hyeon