YouTube's most-watched Korean pop music video, Girls' Generation's "Gee," has earned 74,000,000 American views alone, even though most mainstream U.S. music fans have never heard of it. The song and video – a calculated, colorful, choreographed affair that sees the nine-member girl group smiling and winking for the camera in flirty outfits as they change formations and soloists without a hitch – epitomize how Korean pop music (K-Pop for short) has been able to break language barriers and captivate a passionate U.S. audience. More recently, acts have begun turning the interest into profitable American tour stops and announcing plans to officially release music stateside. And as if to officially christen the genre's U.S. crossover potential as an internet phenomenon, Google will host a multi-act K-Pop concert at their California headquarters on May 21st, which will be livestreamed on their YouTube Presents channel.
In the past, popular Korean acts (like BoA and Se7en) made unsuccessful American debuts likely due to the fact that they were molded by American record labels to be presented in a way they saw best to break into the notoriously difficult market.
Yet K-pop has garnered a strong following without the help of any major American backing. K-Pop is a mixture of trendy Western music and high-energy Japanese pop (J-Pop), which preys on listeners' heads with repeated hooks, sometimes in English. It embraces genre fusion with both singing and rap, and emphasizes performance and strong visuals.
Never very racy, K-pop could easily slide into America's Top 40 market if correctly targeted at children and teenagers. The following are the 10 acts most likely to successfully crossover to America – as long as they're allowed to keep the same sounds and concepts that made them popular in Asia.
By Jeff Benjamin