K-pop Till You Drop: The Skinny on the Korean Boy and Girl Groups That Get Major Play in Koreatown
K-pop has become a worldwide phenomenon, and one of its great hubs is Los Angeles. Walk into any Koreatown club, dive, noraebang (karaoke bar) or, hell, even a bakery, and you'll hear the genre's famous slick jams and infectious dance beats. Importing elements of American R&B and hip-hop, as well as Euro dance beats, the strain's popularity surged in the new millennium after picking up steam in the Japanese and Chinese markets. Through YouTube, it has gained a strong foothold in the United States as well.
Like Japanese J-pop, the genre's star players often come from rigorous training camps, something like a cross between the old Hollywood studio system and a Battle Royale. Few cadets make it out, but the ones who attain stardom are worshipped as idols.
Here's the lowdown on five groups that are near-ubiquitous in their own country; you're also likely to hear all of them in Koreatown.
Synthesizing hip-hop with Top 40, this all-male fivesome is fronted by solo artist G-Dragon, who can rap, sing and break hearts. The group also includes expert dancer and singer Taeyang, who is something of the K-pop Justin Timberlake, in that his 2010 solo album also was a big hit. Then there's rapper (and actor) T.O.P., a pretty boy who nonetheless has a voice akin to DMX. Big Bang maintain a titan hold in South Korea and Japan, and won Best Worldwide Act at MTV's 2011 Europe Music Awards.