Client: i-D (2018)
It’s not just the technological and cultural timing easing K-Pop into the west, it’s the artistic. K-Pop is never just about one element of performance, it’s a package — the videos range from kooky and cute to dark and epic, the choreography is razor sharp, the songs are complex, catchy productions, and live shows are meticulously planned spectacles. Whatever your thoughts on Michael Jackson, there’s a simple reason why so many Korean artists (despite most being born well after his heyday) cite him as their hero — he remains the ultimate performer; a thrilling, global pop phenomenon whose career transcended race and language. It’s exactly what a modern idol spends years of their life training to achieve.
‘Global’ was 2018’s keyword; the industry’s decision-makers seemed more interested where they fitted into the world beyond Asia than they had in years. BTS and their label Big Hit Entertainment had proved enormous international success was obtainable, and so other labels retrieved their western ambitions from the shelf and cautiously ventured forth. There was a pivot towards more ready-subbed content (a task usually taken on by fans), international collaborations, English versions of singles (some strategic, like NCT 127 below), others merely as album bonuses, like GOT7), and longer and bigger tours, though the latter was primarily by boy groups.