by Kristina Vakhman
Korean pop (K-Pop) music continues to trend in the United States, with BTS’s music video for the song “DNA” topping charts on Youtube and iTunes. The groups success highlights the continued globalization of music and a diversification of the music industry.
BTS’s album “Love Yourself: Her” dropped on Sept. 18. The music video for “DNA” amassed approximately 21 million views in 24 hours, breaking the record for the most viewed K-Pop video in that timeframe. The album was No.1 on iTunes in 72 countries upon release, including the U.S. BTS’ sales smashed the record for the most pre-ordered K-Pop album, with over 1 million copies sold prior to the official release date.
The band made history earlier this year when they became the first K-Pop band to win a Billboard Music Top Social Artist Award, beating out pop superstars like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, becoming the first act to surpass 300 million votes in a fan-voted award.
BTS’ success both in South Korea and internationally is just one part of the monumental, worldwide phenomenon of music transcending borders and language barriers to seep into foreign spotlights. While there’s no denying that international artists have made their way into the global market before with overwhelmingly positive outcomes, English has generally been a required ingredient, or at least a preference, for success. It is easier to appeal to a wider audience with English, as people are more comfortable enjoying something that has a sense of familiarity, even if it is a language.
Over the last several years, non-English music has gained international audiences with the help of Internet-based platforms like YouTube and iTunes. One of the most notable and ‘trendiest’ songs of the last decade to come from overseas was Korean artist PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” which held the spot of the most-viewed video on YouTube for almost five years. It currently has over 2.9 billion views.
“Gangnam Style” was eventually surpassed by Wiz Khalifa’s and Charlie Puth’s video for “See You Again”. However, it wasn’t a month before “Despacito” by Puerto Rican artist, Luis Fonsi, soared to the top of YouTube’s most-viewed videos list. The hit single boasts nearly four billion views. The song itself has broken the record for the most weeks at No. 1 for a primarily non-English song on the Billboard Hot 100, and the video is now the most streamed music video ever.
This shift of listeners and watchers exploring musical content that doesn’t necessarily resemble what they’ve been exposed to their entire lives, is likely to continue. “Despacito” proceeds with inflating its enormous view count on YouTube. BTS is a group who could easily become a household name here in the States with how much recognition they’ve been receiving in the music community, as evident by their newest album’s success and the willingness of U.S. artists to collaborate with them.
The next “Despacito” could be another non-English work that has been imported from an overseas label for foreign listeners to groove to. Not understanding a single word shouldn’t deter individuals from appreciating the beat, rhythm, visuals or the effort.
Like other forms of art, comprehension isn’t a necessity. That is why painters do not tell those who look at their masterpieces how they should interpret it. More and more of the world’s audience is beginning to realize that, hence why they are discovering how beautifully diverse music can be.