Can a Song Qualify as K-pop Even If It Doesn’t Have Any Korean Lyrics?


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Jungkook’s Seven

Blackpink’s Pink Venom

New Jeans’ Super Shy

As the idol generation changes and the foreign market expands, the proportion of English lyrics in songs has increased. Many believe this is because English is the most widely used language globally, making it easier for foreigners to listen to. 

Here, there’s a debate emerging: Some argue that if the lyrics and music base are derived from American or British pop music, even if it’s produced and sung by Korean artists in Korea, it’s no longer K-pop but just pop music. 

On the other hand, some argue that K-pop is more about style than genre. If it exhibits the style of K-pop (could be in form of music videos to music concepts, makeup, choreography, etc.), regardless of lyrics, it can still be called K-pop. 

These are opinions that emerged during a discussion betewen me and my friends. I’m personally unsure about the English lyrics but I lean towards the latter opinion. I believe that regardless of lyrics, foreigners tend to perceive K-pop as Korean idols singing. 

However, according to the former opinion, within the global market, music genres often follow similar trends. Nowadays, idols tend to pursue styles influenced by foreign artists, so the only identity left for K-pop is the lyrics. If even that disappears, K-pop would just be Korean people singing pop. Some even question if classics like “Yesterday” by The Beatles was sung by Koreans, would it be considered K-pop? 

Honestly, I don’t know about idols that much, but after considering both opinions and doing some research, I’m curious about what others think.

-To non-fans, it just sounds like pop music.

-If a Korean idol sings it and I like the song, even if it’s in African language, it’s K-pop. I’ll attach ‘K’ to anything good.

-K-pop these days is too focused on foreign standards; not my cup of tea.

-If it’s made in Korea, it’s K-pop. What’s the problem?

-Technically, it’s K-pop, but it feels more like pop music than K-pop to me.

-It’s K-pop because Korea made it, but it feels like it’s imitating foreigners too much…

-If it’s made by K-pop industry workers, even if it’s a group without Koreans, it’s still considered K-pop.

-“Dynamite,” “Butter,” “Permission to Dance” – they’re all English songs. Does that mean BTS is a pop group? “My Universe” is a Coldplay song with Korean lyrics – does that make it K-pop? If it’s sung by Korean artists, then it’s K-pop, plain and simple.

-I think of it as Korean singers singing pop songs. If a Korean author writes a book in English, is it still considered a Korean book?

-If a Korean (or a group that debuted in Korea) sings a song in English (provided there’s a Korean version), then it’s K-pop. Otherwise, it’s just pop.

-K-pop isn’t originally categorized based on genre characteristics. K-pop encompasses all genres, but what are the distinctive genre characteristics of K-pop? If you had to specify, rather than being characterized by genre, K-pop tends to incorporate visual elements into music (such as flashy choreography, colorful music videos, etc.). So in that sense, Jungkook is very much K-pop. Firstly, Jungkook is a Korean singer, and he belongs to the pop genre, making him a K-pop artist.

-I just think it’s K-pop because it’s released by a Korean company with Korean artists.

-For it to be considered K-pop, it needs to meet these three criteria: debut in Korea, Korea as the base, and participation of Koreans. 

-The fact that this debate even exists is amusing. With K-pop dominating globally, rejecting something as not K-pop and insisting it’s pop seems pointless. Instead, if a song is a big hit worldwide, it’s better to call it simply pop, not limiting it to K-pop. Not being qualified as K-pop doesn’t mean it’s not K-pop; it can be recognized as both K-pop and just pop.

-Releasing albums localized for different countries is different from releasing songs in English. English is a global language; singing in English means targeting a global audience, not just the U.S. Releasing albums in Japanese, Chinese, or French is different from that. For me, K-pop = songs sung by Korean singers. Except for foreign groups with Korean members, if a group or solo artist with the majority being Korean sings, then it’s K-pop. So, songs made in the K-pop style by foreign groups with Korean producers and choreographers can not be considered as K-pop. The criterion for K-pop should be the people, not the language.

-But I found something interesting. Even though they release English songs, Google classifies BTS as K-pop and all the members as K-pop artists, but Jungkook is classified as a pop artist. I’m not sure what the criteria are, but anyway, Google automatically classifies Jungkook as a pop artist.

-It’s disappointing that more and more English lyrics are being used. They used to say many foreigners were learning Korean because of K-pop, but now K-pop songs tend to have more English lyrics.

-Seriously, if a Japanese singer suddenly releases a song in Korean, would it become K-pop?ㅋㅋㅋㅋ That’s really shortsighted and unreasonable logic.

-It’s K-pop, but lately, some songs hardly have any Korean in them, which is disappointing. Even lyrics that could easily be expressed in Korean are all in English… I don’t know why that is, but there’s just not enough Korean (And it’s not because I can’t speak English; I’m good at it.)