meta-scriptWhat's Next For K-Pop? A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future | GRAMMY.com
What's Next For K-Pop? A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future
(Back) Simon Jakops, Dom Rodriguez, Adrian McKinnon, Marion Van der wees (Front) Stray Kids, Twice

All images courtesy of Artist except Stray Kids (Jun Sato/WireImage via GettyImages) and Twice (JYP Entertainment).

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What's Next For K-Pop? A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future

K-pop evolves each year, but what makes it so enticing? And what awaits in the future? GRAMMY.com invited industry leaders, and members of TWICE and Stray Kids, to discuss K-pop's current state, biggest misconceptions, and celebrate its magic.

GRAMMYs/Jul 11, 2023 - 05:18 pm

K-pop recently entered its third decade since pioneers Seo Taiji and Boys upheaved South Korea with 1992’s nonconforming "Nan Arayo" — considered by many the inception of the industry. Propelled by the Hallyu (or Korean Wave, the phenomenon driving international growth and popularity to the country’s cultural exports), K-pop has evolved from a niche genre to a global scene whose influence is felt in music, fashion, business, tech, and many other fields.

Characterized by a strong visual focus, musical innovation that can include anything from reggae to EDM influences in a single song, knife-sharp choreographies, and devoted fandoms, K-pop’s reach outside of South Korea is nothing short of outstanding — if not expected. While mostly known for multi-member boy and girl groups (some with upwards to 10 singers), there are also plenty of soloists, duos, trios, and a few co-ed ensembles, ensuring that even the pickiest music listener can find something to enjoy.

Its idols — as K-pop artists are called — are inspirational, often skilled in singing, dancing, rapping, songwriting, and producing after years of arduous training. Many are fashion ambassadors to high fashion brands (such as BTSJimin for Dior), and several have ventured into acting, modeling, and designing their own collections. Idols remain in touch with global fans through tours, fan meetings, virtual fancalls and social media, including  K-pop-specific paid apps, like HYBE’s Weverse and DearU’s Bubble, where they can send direct messages to fans detailing their routines and heartfelt thoughts.

All those factors contribute to the worldwide growth of K-pop. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, eight of the top 10 global album sales in 2022 were by K-pop acts, including BTS, Stray Kids, and ENHYPEN. For the first quarter of 2023, Billboard reported that stocks from K-pop's largest companies — HYBE, SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment — have risen an average of 75.1 percent year to date, surpassing both Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, which each presented a decline. 

Ten years after PSY’s 2012 mania "Gangnam Style," K-pop has risen to the upper echelons of the music industry. A BTS music video nominated for A GRAMMY Award (last year’s "Yet to Come"); Fifty Fifty’s viral hit "Cupid" can be heard on the radio; BLACKPINK headlined Coachella and TWICE sold out Los Angeles' SoFI Stadium.  Each a feat that seemed impossible not too long ago.

Moving at breakneck speed, K-pop continues to present a new evolution of itself within each year. But what makes it so enticing? And what awaits in the future? GRAMMY.com invited several leaders and luminaries of the industry to discuss its current state, demystify some of its biggest misconceptions, and celebrate its magic.

Quotes from these interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

What do you think are the key elements to make a K-pop hit? Have these elements changed throughout the years?

Vince (singer/songwriter/producer under THEBLACKLABEL, an associate company to YG Entertainment): Being a Korean American living in Korea gave me cultural influences that are unique and diverse. With so many creatives from different backgrounds just like mine, I think we’ve been able to make songs that blend all those influences and resonate with not only the Korean audience, but the global audience too. Also, our emphasis on making the right visuals to provide a wholesome experience was a major key to success. I think this approach hasn’t changed and we will continue to do that moving forward.

Marion Van der wees (manager/A&R consultant at VDW Music Group, who placed songs for BTS, TXT, and more): Honestly, nowadays, nobody knows what a hit is. Lots of songs have gone viral in the most surprising ways. Fifty Fifty, who recently debuted, is now topping the global charts with their song "Cupid." However, the ideal recipe for a great K-pop song would be a catchy hook/chorus — which is usually in English so more people can sing it — and a danceable song that can bring on a choreography that is infectious enough so people want to learn them and make TikToks.

Nayeon (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): First, I think we were lucky enough to have amazing songs. "Luck" plays an important role when making a hit. Also, there has to be a concept, choreography, and additional content to support it. I don’t think these factors change with time drastically, but rather our attitudes and minds tend to change.

Adrian McKinnon (songwriter, producer): I think it's important to love what you're working on, period. In any career, there comes a point when a person can just phone in an idea, a letter, a proposal, etc. You may be able to get away with that once or twice, but if you get used to operating in that manner, don't be surprised if you get fewer and fewer calls over time. When you love what you do, you grow. When you float along half-assing your work, you're stagnant.

Wonderkid (songwriter/producer under BELIFT LAB, a label founded by CJ ENM and HYBE responsible for boy group ENHYPEN): It is difficult to make a public appeal solely through the power that a track holds. When the concept and plan go hand in hand with the track, it creates a synergistic effect.

There are definitely certain trends during certain periods, but it’s mostly a façade. At the core of high quality music (or art) in any era lies in the essence of "beauty." I think artists should always be humble when it comes to the beauty of art, which is the only definite signpost that connects the past, present, and future.

Changbin (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): I think that keeping our style consistent while venturing into diverse sounds is part of what allows people to listen to our music. At first it was difficult because our color is very strong, but now we have a solid idea as to what direction we have to go in. [Editor's note: "Colors" are often used in reference to a group's charms, musical identity and appeal.]

HAN (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): Trends change very quickly these days, so while I do believe that there are certain sounds that are trending, I don’t necessarily believe that trends are what make a good song. The fact that Stray Kids’ music is always consistent is the reason why listeners are interested in us. A successful song should contain something familiar yet fresh.

Felix (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): I don’t believe we’ve found the key elements to make a K-pop hit yet, but we do have our own way of making our own music. We understand and can express our colors well.

Although K-pop reached unimaginable heights since its origins, it's still an industry that is often misunderstood. Why do you think it's so hard for people to appreciate the true value of K-pop?

Vince: I think idols get misunderstood because they have to present themselves in the media in a lot more diverse ways than a conventional artist would. Most of them are people that have been training to do music for years and are just like any other artist who go through the process of making music. A lot of times, for me, it was a cooperative effort in the studio with artists —  just like with any other writer and producer.

Shin Cho (Head of K-pop at Warner Music Asia): I simply see it as stereotypes, misunderstandings, and preferences from people who come from a different background. This occurs in many industries, not just music. 

One might think a self-producing singer/songwriter is a better artist than a K-pop group. Although the scene is continuously evolving, K-pop idols are more closely monitored and coached by talented and experienced professionals, compared to other genres. It’s an approach that has created its own successes, but I see why it’s a method that not many can agree on. 

McKinnon: I want to preface this answer with my belief that K-pop idols are some of the hardest-working people in show business. I've spoken to some of my idol friends about their daily routines. Let's just say they are very, very busy people.

I think it's multi-layered. People know that idols work within a system of creators, stylists, choreographers, taste-makers, and directors who, more often than not, put together all the ideas for them. I've heard of people challenging their authenticity because of this. I don't think this is fair, because systems like this exist outside of K-pop as well. It's also important to mention that there are many K-pop idols who have more hands-on with their projects.

Simon Jakops (CEO/Executive Producer at XGALX, responsible for girl group XG; former member of boy group DMTN): Being involved in the K-pop scene for over 10 years, I believe that idols are true artists. For the K-pop system, there is an element that is considered as important as talent, and it is "spirit." A true artist won’t lose the grit to walk their own path.

I have been in charge of producing and directing XG, a girl group with all-Japanese members currently active in Korea, for the past six years. It took five years for them to debut. Out of 1,300 applicants, only seven made their final debut. I believe K-pop stars' challenging spirit and dedication [to the process] are one of the most basic virtues an artist should have. And I hope that these qualities will be evaluated more properly.

Dom Rodriguez (SVP/Head of SM Entertainment USA): I often find myself comparing K-pop idols to professional athletes: people who work and strive for years and years to take raw talent and develop it to the highest level. When people take a moment to understand the dedication, commitment, and passion that goes into becoming a K-pop artist, they quickly learn how to appreciate that and any of those other thoughts they might have are put to rest.

Many media outlets spread harmful narratives about K-pop. Claims of it being a "factory system" or that it hides a "dark side" worse than any other field only flatten and dehumanize the very real humans behind it. What would you like to say about these misconceptions?

Vince: We have so many people trying to be "in the system" to become artists, but it’s really a select few that get to come and go through the training program. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t witnessed any dehumanizing process with the "system" at all.

Cho: Incubating and developing a K-pop artist is a massive investment. It’s a business that cannot be operated without real humans’ dedication and commitment. There were cases where "factory system" and "dark side" happened, but at least in this new K-pop era, no labels that carried over some of those bad practices have survived.

Wonderkid: To understand the misconceptions about the K-pop industry, you need to understand the situation in South Korea, both past and present. The word "factory system" brings an image of a cold factory full of machines churning out products without any passion. [If it were,] the public would see right through it and turn away immediately. If "factory system" pertains to "well-organized systems in place to do multiple tasks simultaneously," then I would agree with this specific concept.

Earlier this year, HYBE's Chairman Bang Si-hyuk said in an interview for CNN that "K-pop is not as hot in the market as you might perceive," and was concerned about its slowdown in growth. Is this something you are also experiencing in your work?

Van der wees: On the song side it’s the opposite. More than ever, competition is at its peak, in my opinion. A lot of people reach out to me to work in K-pop, and it feels like it's fast growing.

Wonderkid: As a producer, I may not be fully aware of the business side of the K-pop industry like Chairman Bang does, but I respect his insights and do not take his concerns lightly. I am constantly studying and playing with different musical genres and trends to keep K-pop up to the latest trend. Quality content will yield results and putting all of my effort into creating quality content is the most I can do.

Jakops: Rather paradoxically, Chairman Bang's quote proves the huge influence K-pop has in the current global music market. The most fearful moment could be when you are receiving the greatest love. As a producer myself, I always focus on "novelty." Whatever the element, I would like to propose an idea that has not been seen in the existing K-pop scene. Fans are also waiting for that kind of music. New sounds, new members, new visuals, whatever.

With the advent of AI, the music industry will likely experience changes. In what ways do you think AI will impact your work?

Vince: I am very fascinated by AI technology, and it will definitely impact the music industry and my work. Now that AI-generated voices can sing anything, I do think it is very dangerous, because I don’t think there are set laws regarding the ownership of voices and the ownership of rights to AI-generated intellectual properties. How we set the rules on these matters will shape how AI will impact the industry.

Van der wees: If AI starts writing songs and labels want to go that route, we will be in trouble. But we are humans and we connect deeper on a human level, a.k.a imperfection. Collaborations between writers, producers, and artists are such a fun process that will hopefully never go away.

Cho: I think AI could enhance and open up new opportunities in different areas of the music industry. On my marketing team, for example, we have started to encourage utilizing ChatGPT in administrative works, translations, and supporting creative problems. I believe that AI technology can potentially become a new day-to-day ritual, like using the Internet and social media.

Wonderkid: AI can be a good tool for first-level reference, where you don't need to go through complicated, emotional steps, and I look forward to seeing how it develops to be a creative tool. However, as someone who works in the industry, I don't think it's had a significant impact yet. 

I think creators and the public alike read and love "subconscious messages" embedded in art, but there is no "subconsciousness" in an AI's work. It looks good on the surface, but we recognize what is missing in half a second. I think of it as falling in love with a robot: it may someday be possible, but it would take a very, very long time.

Jakops: The rise of AI represents a paradigm shift in the music industry. AI can not only create melodies, write lyrics, or compose entire works, but it can also spot trends and influence creative direction through data analysis. You can see that they are already trying to introduce it into some fields, such as writing lyrics. It will also help redefine the way artists connect with their fans and deliver personalized experiences across multiple channels. 

I think AI will serve as an opportunity for human nature, originality, and creativity to stand out more. The challenge will be striking the right balance between harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence and maintaining the human element in music.

Although not every group can be an unprecedented phenomenon on a global scale, more and more K-pop acts have seen steady success promoting overseas, like TWICE becoming the first girl group from any country to sell out L.A.'s SoFi Stadium this year. Do you think it's essential for a group to chase global appeal?

Van der wees: I'm a big world advocate. It's more entertaining to chase global appeal, but not everybody has the budget for it. If labels see the potential for global success and have the financial support, they should definitely do it. There are a few groups, like ATEEZ, who actually have a bigger fan base outside of South Korea.

McKinnon: I think it's important for business, sure. With Bang Si-hyuk's notion that "K-pop is not as hot in the market as you might perceive," and from my experience of hearing some fans not liking the idea of their favorite idols globalizing, there may be a bit of a tug-of-war. In my opinion, K-pop groups going global will benefit the whole music industry.

Jakops: It is true that XG started their activities in the K-pop scene, where idol artists are most active, but in reality, the music that XG develops is called "XPOP." It contains the desire to develop music and activities that can be shared with people around the world, not limited to groups that express the musical characteristics of a single country.

Rodriguez: At this point, the genre is global. There are so many fans all over the world who love K-pop, and our acts have truly reached that global level. Because that appetite is there, as an artist, you would want to try to reach as many fans as possible. With all of the platforms available, you can reach millions of people at once with the push of a button and, if and when you can, show up to meet your fans in person across the globe.

K-pop is an extremely prolific market. How do you make sure your work stands out and maintains high levels of quality?

Van der wees: My writers love challenging melodies, lyrics, production, and strive for better each time. We deliver as great of demos as possible, and then it's in the label's hand to decide what they prefer and finalize the song with their in-house team. We sometimes won't even know a song will be released until a few days before the release date.

Momo (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): I'd like to know the answer to that as well. In my case, I try my best to pull off the concept of each song. Also, our members work hard to synchronize our choreography in a short amount of time.

Dahyun (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): We try to maintain TWICE’s identity, but also change it up a little bit to show different sides of us.

McKinnon: Be great. Take time to do it right. Be great. Utilize your network wisely. Be great. Maintain a positive attitude but be true to yourself. Be great. Don't be selfish. Be great.

Jakops: In the fierce market competition, the basis for establishing XG's unique identity is the character of each member who has been with me for more than five years. Music is an industry where people are more important than systems. I have been concentrating on the idea that discovering each member's character and bringing them to life can be our most important weapon. 

I emphasize teamwork; our team gathers ideas every day on how to make the next project bigger and better than the previous one. It requires a lot of time and effort, but it's no exaggeration to say that it's our everything. The only way to get better at something is to practice consistently.

Bang Chan (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): A lot of thought goes into the process, for sure. It’s pressuring to know that there are a lot of people out there expecting something big from us. However, enjoying that process and producing something new that people haven’t seen yet makes everything more fun and reduces the burden on our shoulders.

Lee Know (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): We continuously seek inspiration from everyday life. We also workout all the time to increase our stamina, which is something that really helps us pull through.

Some K-pop labels apply a "try everything and see what sticks" method for their artists. Do you think that having a solid identity is crucial for success?

Van der wees: There is a strategy behind everything. I think concepts are what make K-pop, K-pop. Some bands might have specific identities but it doesn’t stop them from having variety in their releases. Labels even create sub-groups nowadays to expand their sound and outreach. Each group has its specificity and there is a bit of everything for everybody. 

Cho: There are two ways to look at this. A negative way of looking is that there is no strategy and plan. A more positive way is that there is a flexibility in trying different things, even if they are outside of one’s comfort zone. Enhancing the mindset of the latter, and finding better solutions on the former, I feel like the K-pop industry can find a good balance to reach success.

Sana (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): In my opinion, regardless of a solid concept or sound identity, making music that the artist wants and enjoys is the most important. The fact that the artists themselves enjoy their music will be the biggest charm to people.

Chaeyoung (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): When you're a rookie group you can try different concepts and music, and naturally you’ll find your own team color. The longer I have been in TWICE, I have realized that. I wish people will be able to listen to a song and say, "That sounds like TWICE!"

Jakops: I firmly believe that only when all the direction of training, the selection of music, the crafting process, the visual works, and marketing activities are carried out with a solid, definite concept, the results that the public will love can come out.

Hyunjin (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): I think that once you find your own style, the identity of the group as a whole becomes much clearer, making it easier to win the hearts of fans. Diverse concepts and styles within this boundary will make everything less repetitive, adding to the uniqueness of the group.

I.N (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): I wouldn’t say this is the only way to success. I believe the most important thing is consistently working on improving your abilities. Without personal improvement, it will be difficult to succeed on larger scales.

Rodriguez: Every new project begins with the music. Music drives creativity. The instrumentation, the tempo, the lyrics, the concept of the song, this is what drives the vision. So, for us, it’s not "throwing something at the wall," but rather a creative process that brings a vision to life, which is then executed musically and visually and brought to the masses.

Why do you think there is such a focus in finding "the next generation" of K-pop, even though many artists thrive through multiple of them?

Mina (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): Each generation has their own trends and characteristics, so I think people divide them because they want to remember and cherish each specific generation by their own color. For "the next generation" people will want to do the same.

Jihyo (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): We would love to see everyone enjoying our music without too much focus on which generation it is.

Rodriguez: One view of looking at the generations of music is looking at an artist from their debut through various points of their career. From a company perspective, we are always looking at artists’ development, which is something that U.S. labels often don’t do anymore. We invest in talent, we invest in people, and we give them an opportunity to become the best they can be and achieve their dreams in the hopes that they will become leaders of that next generation.

Where do you think K-pop is headed in the next few years?

Jeongyeon (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): Nowadays, all K-pop acts are beautiful and talented, so I think it would be great if we could see more music and concepts that suit their age.

Tzuyu (singer/songwriter, TWICE member): I'd like to see more collaborations between artists, because I think it's a very unexpected, fun element.

Vince: We don’t call pop music from America "American pop", we just call it "pop." I think music is going to lose its regional borders and music from anywhere will eventually be able to be called just "pop" as long as it’s a hit record. The lines will be blurred and, eventually, names like K-pop, Latin Pop, Afropop will just become "pop."

Cho: K-pop is at a crucial time for the next evolution. It’s hard to predict what’s next, but what I suspect to see is "k-Pop," where "K" is less emphasized than "pop." There will be more hybrid formats of music coming out, and I hope that the K-pop industry can be a leader in this field.

Wonderkid: K-pop will maintain its appeal because it’s on a solid foundation that has been built up over a long period of time. K-pop has been developed in Korea, but will be adopted in multiple countries. It is already happening, young listeners around the world will aspire to be K-pop artists as they grow up. Not all of them will be able to audition and train in Korea, and each country will develop their own versions of K-pop. That will give birth to new music and culture, just as hip hop and rock have influenced the music industry across the globe.

Seungmin (singer/songwriter, Stray Kids member): I do hope that we, Stray Kids, will be at the forefront, leading the way. It’s difficult to imagine what it would be like as the world is changing at a very fast rate, but I’m looking forward to seeing a more futuristic side of K-pop.

Rodriguez: As excited as I am about the many successes that we have had within SM, and the many successes the genre has been able to celebrate in recent years, I firmly believe that we are just getting started. We are at a place where everybody knows that K-pop is here to stay as an important part of pop culture. I know we will continue to see more and more artists from this genre influencing the culture of music globally.

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Megan Thee Stallion (Center) and (from L to R:) J-Hope, Jin, Jungkook, V, RM, Suga, and Jimin of BTS attend the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 03, 2022.

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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9 Essential K-Pop/Western Collabs: From BTS And Megan Thee Stallion, To IVE And Saweetie

From Jungkook and Usher's tribute to their shared musical idol, to BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez' sugary sweet collab, K-pop and Western artists of all genres are joining forces to create killer hits.

GRAMMYs/Feb 27, 2024 - 02:12 pm

It’s impossible to ignore the growing global popularity of K-pop. Although Korean pop has been around for decades, the genre's meteoric worldwide success over the past 10 years is reminiscent of Beatlemania and the early 2000s American boy band craze. With a steady increase year-over-year in album sales and K-pop groups touring the U.S. and Europe, interest in K-pop shows no signs of slowing down.

Initially launched in South Korea as a music subgenre with Western pop, R&B and hip-hop influences in the '90s, the K-pop industry is valued at around $10 billion.

Given the worldwide appetite for K-pop, several Western musicians are keen to partner with K-pop acts crossing over into more international markets, often with songs sung partially or entirely in English. While K-pop artists do not need Western artists to be successful — BTS sold out London’s Wembley stadium in under 90 minutes back in 2019, and BLACKPINK made Coachella history twice with performances in 2019 and 2023 — K-pop's massive fanbase and multi-genre influence make it an ideal collaboration for everyone from rappers and singers to electronic DJs.

But don’t take our word for it. Here are nine of the most iconic K-Pop/Western collaborations (not in any order; they are all great songs!).

Usher and Jungkook - "Standing Next to You (Usher Remix)" (2024)

The maknae (the youngest member of the group) of global K-pop superstars BTS and the King of R&B are both having banner years: Jungkook released his debut solo album, and Usher just performed at the Super Bowl

The Bangtan Boys have cited Usher as a significant influence (even singing a callback to his 2001 hit "U Got It Bad" in their No. 1 song, "Butter"), so BTS fans were delighted when the Jungkook tapped Usher for a remix of "Standing Next to You." The song marks the fourth single from his Billboard 200 chart-topping debut album, Golden

Both singers count Michael Jackson as a major influence. In their collaboration video, Usher and Jungkook pay tribute to the King of Pop as they slide, pop, and lock across the slick floor of an abandoned warehouse. 

John Legend and Wendy of Red Velvet - "Written in the Stars" (2018)

R&B singer/pianist John Legend was the perfect choice for an R&B ballad with Wendy, the main vocalist of K-pop quintet Red Velvet. The final song on the five-track SM Station x 0, a digital music project, "Written in the Stars," is a beautiful, mid-tempo love song. A bit of a departure from K-pop’s typical upbeat sound, Wendy and Legend are in perfect harmony over a warm yet melancholic rhythm.

As Red Velvet’s main vocalist, Wendy was the ideal voice for this collaboration. Additionally, she split her childhood between Canada and the U.S., and has been comfortable singing in English since Red Velvet debuted in 2014. This wasn't her first collab with a Western artist: In 2017, she released an English-language version of the pop ballad "Vente Pa’Ca" with Ricky Martin

BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez - "Ice Cream" (2020)

A powerhouse debut single, BLACKPINK collaborated with pop royalty Selena Gomez on the massive 2020 hit "Ice Cream."

An electropop-bubblegum fusion filled with dairy double entendres, "Ice Cream" was an enormous success for both Gomez and the BLACKPINK girls. The track peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has racked up nearly 900 million YouTube views to date. 

Written by a consortium of hitmakers, including Ariana Grande and BLACKPINK’s longtime songwriter and producer Teddy Park (a former K-pop idol himself), "Ice Cream" shows that YG Entertainment’s golden foursome and Gomez were the correct partnership for this track. The pop-trap bop marked the first time a K-pop girl group broke the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and immediately solidified BLACKPINK as global superstars. 

Snoop Dogg and Monsta X - "How We Do" (2022)

West Coast rap godfather Snoop Dogg has quietly become one of the go-to Western acts for K-pop collabs, working with Psy, BTS, Girls’ Generation and 2NE1. K-pop is the Dogg Father's "guilty pleasure," and he performed at the Mnet Asian Music Awards with Dr. Dre in 2011. Without Snoop's love of K-pop, the world might not have gotten this fun and energetic collaboration with Snoop and Monsta X, a five-member boy group under Starship Entertainment.

The song appears in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge On The Run in a dance segment where Snoop, decked out in a pink and purple Western suit, is accompanied by zombie dancers. Though we do not see the members of Monsta X, their harmonious crooning is the perfect accent to Snoop Dogg’s trademark casual West Coast flow.

BTS and Steven Aoki - "MIC Drop (Steve Aoki remix)" (2017)

No K-pop list is complete with a nod to the magnificent seven, and "MIC Drop" is one of their catchiest Western collabs to date. 

"Mic Drop" is quintessential BTS: a nod to hip-hop with a heavy bass line and fun choreography. While the original version of "MIC Drop" is excellent, the remix with EDM superstar DJ Steve Aoki and rapper Desiigner cracked the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 — the first of many hits for the Bulletproof Boy Scouts. 

Released at a time when BTS were just starting their ascent to chart-topping Western dominance, the track's boastful lyrics and tension-building electro-trap production offered an excellent introduction to the group that would soon become international superstars. 

JYJ, Kanye West and Malik Yusef - "Ayyy Girl" (2010)

A truly deep K-pop cut, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who know that Kanye West collaborated with a first-generation K-pop group over 13 years ago. Released as the lead single on JYJ’s English-language album The Beginning, West’s signature bravado and wordplay are on full display over a track that sounds like the Neptunes produced it.

The song garnered attention in the U.S., but after a string of bad luck (including a severely delayed U.S. visa process and issues with their management company, SM Entertainment), JYJ could not capitalize on their American success. The group continued to see success in Korea and Japan in the early 2010s but never made a splash in the Western market again.

IVE and Saweetie - "All Night" (2024)

A reimagining of Icona Pop’s 2013 song of the same name, "All Night," sees fourth-generation K-pop girl group IVE partner with rap’s resident glamor girl Saweetie for a funky, electronic-infused pop song that’s perfect for dancing from dusk till dawn. 

"All Night" is the first English song for the Starship Entertainment-backed group. Interestingly, none of the members of IVE have individual lines in the song, choosing instead to sing the lyrics in a six-part harmony. This choice is exciting but fun, giving listeners the feeling that they are more than welcome to sing along. 

The girl group embarked on their first 24-date world tour in January 2024, with stops in the U.S., Asia, Europe and South America. Given their quest for global dominance, there’s a good chance "All Night" won’t be IVE's last English-language release.

BTS and Megan Thee Stallion - "Butter (Remix)" (2021)

BTS’ "Butter" had already spent three weeks atop the Billboard charts and was declared the "song of the summer" when the group’s label announced Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion as the guest star for the song’s remix in late August 2021. The GRAMMY-nominated septet is no stranger to collaborating with Western musicians, having worked with Halsey, Jason Derulo, and Coldplay

Though only slightly altered from the original (Megan’s verse was added in place of the song’s second original verse, along with several ad-libs), the remix was praised by both fans and critics alike, catapulting the song’s return back to the No. 1. Although the collaborators did not release a new music video featuring the group and the self-proclaimed "Hot Girl Coach," three members of BTS’ "dance line" (members J-Hope, Jungkook and Jimin) released a specially choreographed dance video. Additionally, Megan was a surprise guest during BTS’ record-breaking Permission to Dance LA concert in November of the same year.

LE SSERAFIM and Niles Rodgers - "Unforgiven" (2023)

GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Nile Rodgers' first foray into K-pop was a partnership with LE SSERAFIM, a fourth-gen girl group from the same parent company behind BTS. "Unforgiven" was released earlier this year as the lead single from the group’s debut album of the same name. 

A darker take on the familiar K-pop formula with A Western feel and look (the young quintuplet dons cowboy hats, boots and bolo ties in the song’s accompanying music video), "Unforgiven" is about rebellion and being a fierce, strong and independent risk taker. That riskiness drew Rodgers' ear. 

"It seems like a lot of the K-pop that I'm hearing lately, the…chord changes are a lot more interesting than what's been happening [in other music fields] over the last few years," he told GRAMMY.com in 2023. "I come from a jazz background, so to hear chord changes like that is really cool. They’re not afraid, which is great to me."

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TWICE Reflect On Milestone Moments & Latest 'With YOU-th' EP
TWICE

Photo: JYP Entertainment

interview

TWICE Reflect On Milestone Moments & Latest 'With YOU-th' EP

The nine members of K-pop girl group TWICE spoke to GRAMMY.com about their new EP 'With YOU-th,' released today, and their ability to navigate the choppy waters of life and stardom over their nearly decade-long journey together.

GRAMMYs/Feb 23, 2024 - 03:14 pm

In the music video for "I Got You," K-pop girl group TWICE are stranded at a tempestuous sea. Their ship waders and wobbles, thunder roars outside, but the nine members are safe and sound in the cabin — lying on cozy pillows and having a good time, they know all storms are temporary.

"I Got You" precedes TWICE’s thirteenth EP, With YOU-th, out Feb. 23, and the video mirrors their journey together so far. 

TWICE members Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Jihyo, Momo, Sana, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung and Tzuyu made their debut in Oct. 2015, after being selected through JYP Entertainment’s survival show "Sixteen." Almost a decade later, the group is now one of K-pop’s most influential, beloved names. They've even made history by becoming the first K-pop group to win a Breakthrough Award at the 2023 Billboard Women in Music Awards, and the first girl group and Asian female act to sell out Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium last year.

Achieving their level of success didn’t come easy. In songs like "Feel Special" and "One In a Million," they've openly shared the dedication and resilience it took to make it this far. They highlight the importance of unity and their special connection, both with each other and their fan base known as ONCE.

With YOU-th celebrates all that. It’s a journey navigating toward the calm after the storm, and a statement on the importance of friendship, love, and just having someone who can say "No matter what, you got me/ I got you/ And I wouldn’t want it any other way."

Ahead of the release, the nine members of TWICE (and a special appearance by Momo’s Norwich Terrier, Boo) chatted with GRAMMY.com over Zoom about their new album, the most significant moments in their career so far, and how they see themselves today.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Explore The Sounds Of K-Pop

Reflecting On The Present While Creating With YOU-Th

Nayeon: With YOU-th is meaningful in a way that it tells our story and reflects who we are at this moment.

Sana: Our [lead single], "One Spark," was supposed to be in one of our previous albums, but it didn't make it. [When] we chose it to be the single for this album, and we wanted to make it even better than it already was. We changed arrangements and the parts that we sang, and we also re-recorded the song to make it as perfect as possible.

Dahyun: The song that I wrote the lyrics for, "You Get Me," is a sequel to our pre-release single, "I Got You." The story continues in that there's a connection between the two songs. I also wrote lyrics for another song, but it didn't make it in this album and I'm hoping that it'll make it in the next album.

Experiencing An Unbelievable Debut — And Global Success

Jeongyeon: The first moment that really stuck with me was during the [2015 survival show] "Sixteen," where TWICE members were decided. Another moment was when we released our first single, "Like OOH-AHH." I cried a lot on that day.

Another moment [that I remember well] was the first time we topped the Korean music charts with [2016’s] "Cheer Up." It happened on May 5. I remember it very clearly.

Tzuyu: During the years that I was a trainee, some of the members were already chosen to debut [with TWICE], and I was not one of them. Whenever I watched them during monthly evaluations, I would always think about how perfect they are and how good they are. I never thought that I would be one of the members. The fact that I made it into TWICE and that it lasted so far is still really unbelievable for me.

Dahyun: When we first visited a broadcast station to perform on stage as TWICE, that was really memorable. I remember being so nervous in front of the fans. And I remember our first concert where I cried a lot.

Blinking Twice, Nearly 10 Years Have Flown By 

Jihyo: I sometimes look up our old concert videos on the internet, and when I watch them, I am impressed by how much improvement we made, and also how young we were and how hard we worked.

Sana: When we debuted, I thought our eighth anniversary would never come, but it happened so quickly. Our eighth anniversary fan meeting was so beautiful and we cherished it with our fans and all nine of us. That was such a precious moment. I'm just so grateful that we made it this far and all of us are healthy and happy. I think that's what matters the most.

Mina: Right before we signed the contracts again as a group [in 2022], we had a concert at Tokyo Dome. At this point, none of us knew what would happen, so we cried a lot and we were very anxious as well. That performance really stuck with me.

Twice Have Had To Overcome Hardships As A Team

Jihyo: Because everybody else talked about happy moments, I'm going to talk about the difficult times rather than the good times. I think the hardships made us solid as a team, and it really made me feel that I'm not alone in this. Whatever we go through, I'm not alone.

That feeling struck me hard when I released my solo album, [Zone]. I got so many cheers from the members and they helped me by doing all these challenges for Instagram. I really felt like difficult things are easier to overcome when we're together.

Every time when we're so busy and all of us are sensitive, it's much easier to get over yourself and think that you're not alone in this. All of the members are going through the same thing. That kind of thought really helps.

Remembering The "Glamor" Of Touring  

Momo: During our [last] tour, we would all get together in the hotel room and eat. For example, when we are in Japan, our favorite meal to eat together is udon noodles. And there was this one particular day that each of us got into the shower right after the concert, and the hot water didn't come out, so all of us in our respective bathrooms screamed at the same time. That was really funny.

Chaeyoung: Last year, during the promotions for "Set Me Free," we visited the United States for two weeks. Every day we had three or four [performance] schedules, and it made me feel like I was back to the newly-debuted times of our group. It was physically challenging, but we got over it, and it’s now a good memory. The most striking part was when we went to the Empire State, and they lit up the whole [Empire State] building with TWICE’s official colors.

Dahyun: There was also a concert in Japan where we performed on a big, round stage. I remember all of us members holding hands and circling around, and that somehow stuck with me. I also remember vividly the first time we got an award overseas, in America.

TWICE Want To Face The Future Together

Nayeon: In the last scene of the music video for "I Got You," we are sailing on a ship in the middle of the ocean. I thought that it was a reflection of where we are, career-wise and in our lives. Of course we had difficult times, but I think that going through all of it together solidified us as a group. I'm not going to say that we have a clear destination point now, but what matters is that we are together, and that is something very clear and solid.

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6 Takeaways From 'BTS Monuments: Beyond The Star'
BTS (from left): V, Suga, Jin, Jung Kook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope

PHOTO: AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN/FILMMAGIC

news

6 Takeaways From 'BTS Monuments: Beyond The Star'

In honor of BTS' 10th anniversary, Disney+ released 'BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star.' Two of the eight episode docuseries are available to stream; read on for a deeper look at the septet's history, accomplishments, and behind-the-scenes moments.

GRAMMYs/Dec 22, 2023 - 08:38 pm

Today, it’s hard to avoid BTS. You might have heard their GRAMMY-nominated singles "Dynamite" and "Butter" playing at a random store. Maybe you learned about another record they broke in the news. Or, you probably know at least one person in their passionate, loyal fanbase, also known as Army.

But before there was BTS, the international sensation, there was Kim Seok-jin (Jin), Min Yoon-gi (Suga), Jung Ho-seok (J-Hope), Kim Nam-joon (RM), Park Ji-min (Jimin), Kim Tae-hyung (V), and Jeon Jung-kook (Jung Kook), seven hopefuls from across South Korea with one dream and thousands of hours of dedication to their craft.

A decade ago, it might have seemed impossible for a group like BTS to be at the top in their home country — let alone one of the biggest groups on the planet. In Korea, it was only likely to become successful if you had one of the legacy names, such as SM Entertainment, backing you, and they came from the virtually unknown Big Hit Entertainment (now Big Hit Music under conglomerate HYBE).

Year after year, the septet defied odds, from winning Best New Artist at the esteemed Melon Music Awards in 2013 to earning Top Social Artist across the globe at the Billboard Music Awards consecutively between 2017 and 2021. They have amassed 26 Guinness World Records and became the first Korean act to receive multiple nods from the GRAMMYs.

In honor of their 10th anniversary as BTS, Disney+ released BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star. The docuseries offers a deeper look at the septet's massive accomplishments, tracing back to their initial auditions in 2010. The first two of eight episodes are available to stream now.

Below, discover everything we learned thus far about the icons in their latest docuseries, BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star.

The BTS Grind Never Stops

You see their flawless choreography, calculated facial expressions and glamorous outfits, but you never know the amount of preparation it takes to get there.

For example, BTS rehearsed the lead single, "Danger," from their debut studio album, Dark & Wild, until the wee hours of the morning for weeks. They then traveled to Los Angeles to promote the single and, despite Big Hit’s unstable financial state, implemented a huge budget to produce the music video. The goal was to win the television competition "SBS Inkigayo."

"As expected, we didn’t place first and left the charts in a day," RM remarks in the episode.

The intense training and dieting caused them to question if their slow traction was worth the battle. "To be honest, I didn’t think this was fun in the past," Jin tearfully mentioned in a 2013 fan meeting. "There were a lot of things they couldn’t get started because they weren’t sure what path we were on."

Through their frustrations, BTS never gave up, and eventually, the perseverance led to their first mega-hits, "I Need U" and "Fire" in 2017. They obtained their desired results and still never decreased their work ethic, which skyrocketed their career to an even higher level. "We’ve always worked hard, whether there was a crisis or not," Jin explains.

Everyone Had Their Unique Strengths

What makes BTS a powerhouse is that each member had a clear-cut reason they joined, and as Suga notes, it took "countless" changes to perfect it into the current lineup.

According to HYBE chairman and the group’s creator, Bang Si-hyuk, he was impressed by RM’s "depth of character and base of knowledge"; Suga had a unique sarcastic, dark side; J-Hope was "the personification of diligence" and a strong dancer; Jin’s handsome features would easily attract a fandom; Jung Kook had "a lot" of potential; V was effortlessly charming; and Jimin was instantly talented and intrigued the team.

They’re More Than Colleagues — They’re Family

It’s common for manufactured groups not to bond beyond the stage. However, BTS see themselves more like family than co-workers.

Showing up for one another’s personal affairs was second nature. Without question, they watched Jung Kook enter high school, taking photos and teasing their younger brother, or maknae. The docuseries also flashes back to J-Hope’s surprise birthday party, where the six created a sentimental video of his family.

"I had found my place," J-Hope shares. "I believe that [joining BTS] was the most fateful moment of my life."

Being A K-Pop Idol Wasn’t Always Respected

For many aspiring musicians, especially those of Asian heritage, becoming an idol is the ultimate goal. You completely surrender to your art, spending nearly every waking hour doing what you love. If you’re lucky enough to debut at a company like HYBE, you will undoubtedly join the ranks of K-pop’s most influential. Better than anyone else, BTS knows that wasn’t always the case.

"There was a strong negative view of idols," Suga recounts of their breakthrough EP The Most Beautiful Moment in Life. "Nowadays, we are acknowledged for our achievements and performances overseas, but it was a really agonizing time for us back then. We had a lot of unreasonable controversies."

They became "desperate and spiteful," but because of the support from the Army, they overcame the rough patch and switched the narrative. As a thank you to their fans, they wrote "2! 3!" to say, "Let’s forget it all."

The United States Was A Turning Point In Their Career

By 2016, BTS knew they were stars in Korea. They performed in the biggest venue at the time, the Olympic Gymnastics Arena, with a capacity of 25,000 people. They won the Mnet Asian Music Awards' most coveted honor: Artist Of The Year.

"In a movie, the credits would start rolling. At that point, we’d done everything we could as Korean artists," Suga says with a laugh. So, what’s next? Conquer the rest of the world.

The following year, BTS performed at the Billboard Music Awards, certain that nothing would come of it. To their surprise, they won Top Social Artist, which had previously only been awarded to Justin Bieber.

"It was the start of raising people’s awareness of us as the group BTS," RM reveals. Things continued to snowball: they performed at the American Music Awards and dropped a remix with Steve Aoki.

By early 2022, BTS were making history. The group performed their smash hit "Butter" onstage at the 64th GRAMMY Awards.

They Believe In The Power Of Art

When the pandemic began in 2020, entertainment was the first sacrifice. "‘Concerts may never be held again. People are unable to gather,’" Suga recalls hearing on broadcasts. They began to wonder if there was a point in releasing music.

After two years of self-reflection and improvement, they knew COVID-19 could not be the end. Music gave them purpose. "That was the driving force," J-Hope says. "I wasn’t completely aware of how important music and dancing was to me. I realized that I shouldn’t take it all for granted."

The lockdown also showed them the impact Army had on their lives. They motivated them to keep going because they knew how much the band meant to their fans. They witnessed it constantly when they saw the fervent cheers and tears on tour. BTS has brought together millions of people. As Namjoon promises, "Art can change the world," and "Music transcends languages, nationalities and races."

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Global Spin Live: LE SSERAFIM Spends A "Perfect Night" With Fans On The GRAMMY Museum Stage
LE SSERAFIM

Photo: SOURCE MUSIC

video

Global Spin Live: LE SSERAFIM Spends A "Perfect Night" With Fans On The GRAMMY Museum Stage

K-pop quintet LE SSERAFIM hit the GRAMMY Museum stage for an energetic live performance of "Perfect Night," their latest English single.

GRAMMYs/Dec 19, 2023 - 06:00 pm

For the rising K-pop girl group LE SSERAFIM, their most “Perfect Night” might consist of partying with your closest friends from dusk to dawn. Or, in this case, spending an evening in Los Angeles with their loyal fanbase, FEARNOT.

In this episode of Global Spin Live, watch the quintet light up the GRAMMY Museum stage with a premiere performance of their latest single. They take turns at the center before quickly positioning into a new formation.

“I got all I need/ You know nothing else can beat/ The way that I feel when I'm dancin' with my girls,” they cheer in the chorus. “Perfect energy/ Yeah, we flawless, yeah, we free/ There's no better feelin' in the whole wide world.”

Released on Oct. 27, "Perfect Night" is LE SSERAFIM's first all-English track, co-written by member HUH YUNJIN. The group teamed up with the video game 'Overwatch 2' to create the animations for the music video; they later promoted the track at the gaming convention BlizzCon 2023.

Global Spin Live is held in conjunction with GRAMMY Museum and GRAMMY.com as a live extension of the popular online series Global Spin, showcasing Global Music artists. Press play on the video above to watch LE SSERAFIM's infectious performance of "Perfect Night," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Global Spin.

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