The class is open for spring 2020 registration.
As K-pop gains popularity, Webster gains a new class that gives students a different perspective on music. Although the K-pop class did not have enough students signed up last year, it will run this Spring 2020. With bands like EXO, BLACKPINK and BTS making international headlines, students have fostered a love for the culture surrounding K-pop.
Webster junior Riley Tishuma wanted to sign up for the class in the past.
“When it got cancelled, I was frustrated,” Tishuma said. “It was a class I really looked forward to and I was really excited to see what the class offered.” Tishuma listens to K-pop artists like VIXX and Red Velvet. She said she felt drawn to the sound and personalities of the people in those groups.
“I feel that partially its international popularity is part of the spread of multicultural music just in general, such as people liking Spanish, Italian and French [music],” Tishuma said.
According to BBC, K-pop originates from South Korea and involves a lot of industrial support in order to make certain groups succeed. Much like American culture involving boy bands, K-pop draws a huge fan base and has names to refer to fans of certain bands. As recognition of the genre grows, so does the support at Webster.
Emily Hofer is a sophomore who was first exposed to K-pop through “Gangnam Style” in 2012. Hofer later became an avid listener of K-pop through bands like BTS. She visited Chicago to see BTS and continues to indulge in other K-pop groups, including BLACKPINK.
“I first started liking BTS because of their dancing and their music, but the more I started watching their music videos and listening to them, I found they have really cute personalities too,” Hofer said.“I like them as people as well as their music and performance.”
Hofer also noted the types of lingo used by K-pop fans and how the lingo makes fans feel more involved.
“Fans in Korea on the internet are known as ‘Netizen’,” Hofer said. “BLACKPINK fans are known as ‘Blinks’, and BTS fans are called ‘Army’.”
Discussion of K-pop does not stop with the students. Professor Travis Lewis is an ethnomusicologist. He studies music from the cultural and social perspective of the artists who make it. He often discusses the culture of K-pop and decided to teach the topic as a Global Citizenship Program cultural studies culture in the spring semester of 2020.
Lewis noted on what the popularity of K-pop means for the world of music. This rise in popularity represents a shift in the music that this region of the world listens to. It also reveals a decrease in American dominance in the global music industry, according to Lewis.
“You’re seeing a reverse cultural flow where American and European groups are, in a sense, copying what they are doing,” Lewis said. “The same thing is happening in China and Taiwan. It is a very interesting time to look at that music and notice the lessening of American dominance.”
As with any industry, there are some cons to the way K-pop operates. According to Lewis, the K-pop industry heavily relies on big corporations to back the music groups it produces. For example, BTS relies on the support of Big Hit Entertainment so anything the company wants them to do they have to do it. There is pressure put on the members of groups to appease their employers thus they go through extensive training for singing and dancing. Their image heavily reflects onto the corporations backing them.
“One of the problematic things with Korean popular music is there’s not a healthy source of music groups associated with the commercial industry,” Lewis said. “In the United States, we have a very healthy multi-tiered underground music scene that isn’t reliant on major labels, even though we do have some major labels.”
Lewis aims to reveal the lessening of American cultural dominance in his K-Pop course. He said he wishes to enlighten students on why it is such an important time to study music, especially K-Pop.
The class will run the Spring 2020 semester.