Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pop Music Disappointments, and K-Pop

The Korean saw this some time ago:  12 Extremely Disappointing Facts about Popular Music. Just to give a few samples:
  • Flo Rida's “Low” has sold 8 million copies – the same as The Beatles' “Hey Jude”
  • Creed has sold more records in the US than Jimi Hendrix
  • Katy Perry holds the same record as Michael Jackson for most number one singles from an album
The Korean found this to be pretty illustrative of what matters in K-Pop also. No one in his right mind would claim that "Low" is just as significant as "Hey Jude," or Katy Perry is better than Michael Jackson somehow, because the history of Anglophonic pop music is very well known. Yet if an alien landed on Earth tomorrow and studied the Earth's biggest pop stars by simply relying on album sales, she may come to the ghastly erroneous conclusion that puts Creed on the same plane as Hendrix.

The same goes to K-pop. Non-Korean fans of K-pop may well be an alien who just landed on Earth, because the full history of the pop music in Korea is not yet available in English. But know this: Korean pop music is much, much bigger than the pretty faces that are being pushed by media companies with hot stock prices. As there was the Beatles before Michael Jackson, and Elvis before the Beatles, there was Seo Taiji before Dongbangshinki, and Shin Joong-Hyeon before Seo Taiji, with countless other talented artists in between who shaped the course of Korean pop music.

The Korean hopes to have an opportunity to have a full exposition on the history of pop music in Korea in the near future. In the meantime, let's try to have some perspective as we enjoy the music.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I've seen this list before, and I hate it.

    The world's population has grown significantly since our Hendrix and Beatles days, which I think would have an impact on those record sale comparisons. And the ways we consume music today is drastically different from how we consumed it 10, 20, or 50 years ago. You can click a button to purchase a single or album now. And so many people pirate music now, which again, changes the number of sales. The list is invalid in my opinion.

    Yes, people need a little more perspective when it comes to music. "Hey Jude" is certainly lyrically better than "Low" and "Tik Tok," but the general public is currently attracted to simple club beats that make them dance, not insightful rock lyrics that make them think. Isn't that pop music?

  2. Just keep in mind with growing human population some of the statistics you have posted will be biased to what message you are trying to convey about good music in the 60s and 70s, and pop music in the 21st century.

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  4. I become in love with Korean pop culture through DBSK........but, I'm really happy with this post. After "knowing" DBSK, I looked for H.O.T. and afterwards for Seo Taiji...For sure I can't compare his popularity or his styles, but I guess that even if an alien come to earth today, he'll realize that even DBSK has the largest fanclub in the world, they aren't most famous than Elvis...


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