Thanks to Seoul megastars BTS, 2017 was the year K-pop finally broke in the United States. BTS made their American television debut that spring on the Billboard Music Awards, snagging the title of Top Social Artist – and breaking Justin Bieber’s six-year winning streak. In November, the band returned to perform at the 2017 American Music Awards, paying additional visits to Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden on their late night TV run. Their 2017 EP Love Yourself: Her has now spent 27 weeks on the Billboard 200 – the first K-pop release ever to do so – and their singles “DNA” and “MIC Drop (Remix),” the group’s collaboration with Steve Aoki and Desiigner, were both certified gold. Their next full-length album, due May 18th, has already topped Amazon’s sales chart with preorders alone.
For most American viewers, BTS was their first taste of K-pop since Psy’s viral 2012 hit, “Gangnam Style.” But while the seven-member boy group are nothing like Psy, they feel familiar in different ways: their carefully coordinated outfits and dance moves made some nostalgic for One Direction, or even the boy band golden era of the Nineties. But beneath BTS’ glossy surface lies an elaborate and deliberate infrastructure. Music, lyrics, and production – all of which the members have a hand in – work in tandem with wardrobe, visuals and meticulously crafted narratives to create an interactive experience for fans on social media. While the detective work is par for the course for long-time followers, it’s a crafty way to keep newer fans hooked.
And BTS isn’t the only Korean act gliding into the American consciousness with smooth moves and tresses. The captivating spectacle that is K-pop – conceptual staging, powerful choreography, crazy-catchy melodies, and dynamic performers – has captivated listeners around the globe. After his departure from boy group 2PM, Seattle-born singer-rapper Jay Park hustled hard and started his own label before signing to Roc Nation last year. And at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Korean hip-hop queen CL and boy group EXO closed out the games with high-octane performances. While K-pop idols may just be starting to gain traction in the general public United States, their fandoms are powerful enough to sell out arena tours in mere minutes. Here are 10 more acts on the rise.