It is no longer surprising that K-pop has become a genre. The US Billboard, which used to be just an overseas music chart, has now become an awards ceremony that most people have heard of at least once. It’s thanks to BTS, who has been at the top of the significant charts for the 11th week. Blackpink has dozens of music videos with billions of views. He is on par with Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey, but it is hard to feel it.
There are many factors for the success of BTS, but the main point will be the same: a good melody, a universal message, and good timing. To gain significant popularity, you need a song with a great melody that anyone can listen to. You need to have the skills and personality to support it, and you need to expand ‘word of mouth’ and other fandoms.
Activities that promote singers to non-fans are called ‘sales.’ The fan club ARMY used a ‘message’ called ‘Love Yourself’ as a sales weapon. Previously, there was ‘Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa.’ The story of children who have been hurt by clumsiness and fall in love only when they grow up will be comparable to the accounts of boys and girls around the world. Songs with universally valid narratives and messages that everyone can sympathize with are bound to be loved regardless of age, and this is why 90% of songs in the world are love stories.
In the early 2000s, when SM Entertainment laid the foundation for overseas expansion with BoA and TVXQ, idols mostly only sang single-shot images. Each album was independent. It looks like the water was pulled up in the form of digging puddles here and there without opening the river. The external concept often led the message. However, recently, many groups have combined three or four albums to draw a single theme. The news that was only an ‘image’ is heading towards a sustainable ‘future.’
Moreover, the popular songs of the MZ generation, who are accustomed to revealing individual values and beliefs individually and confidently speaking out what they think is right, refuse to be trapped in the ‘neutral’ façade of idols anymore. In this trend, climate and gender, which became significant issues for teenagers, the leading age group of idol fandoms, appeared in idol group songs. The group ONF’s song ‘Walking into the Earth’ wittily solves the situation of not traveling due to the COVID-19 condition and delivers a direct message, ‘Earth, you too, rest, beautiful planet, don’t get sick. Stay C and LOOΠΔ presented eco-friendly content and were well received by many fans.
Fan club activities, which were downgraded to ‘fans’ in the past, are being used to discuss a better world, such as gender and climate in the MZ generation. Recently, a global climate platform has also emerged that embraces K-pop fans around the world. ‘Kpop4Planet’ is an environmental platform created to exert the tremendous influence K-pop artists and fandoms have been pursuing in the climate field. Launched in March, it has continued its activities, such as creating a forest named after a star or raising money to help victims of climate disasters.
In an interview with several foreign media outlets, Nurul Sarifa, an Indonesian K-pop fan and operator of the K-Pop for Planet platform, said, “I don’t want my peers and me to be the last generation to enjoy K-pop. We will bring together K-pop fans, idols, and entertainment companies from all over the world to make a difference.”
As the K-Pop market expands, fans want to go beyond their handsome looks and outstanding singing skills to immerse themselves in the emotions generated by the message that penetrates them. Rather than consuming idols as externally polished products, they want to be them and understand them. This is a big difference from the previous 1st to 3rd generation idols and fan clubs.
MZ generation idols and fan clubs reject consuming singers and consuming fans. I want to be a singer in action, a fan in action. Convincing the global fandom to make a better world through fan club activities has become another task and vision for the current K-pop idol market. Following ‘Love Yourself,’ I hope that more singers can grow with their fans with messages across countries, races, and genders.