K-Pop Continues to Break Billboard Records Amid Global Fandom Surge

The global fandom for K-pop idols is accelerating rapidly, leading to significant achievements across various metrics. The Billboard charts, representing the world’s largest music market, the United States, are a prime example. In the past, it could take several years for K-pop acts to make it onto the Billboard main charts, but now, some groups are achieving this within a month of their debut. Experts believe that K-pop is transitioning through a period of growth, solidifying its place as mainstream global music. Cultural critic Kim noted, “BTS paved the way, and now newer K-pop artists are building on that foundation, establishing fan bases even before debut and spreading their music widely through platforms like TikTok and Reels.”

The Billboard 200, the main album chart, combines traditional album sales, streaming equivalent albums (SEA), and track equivalent albums (TEA) to rank album consumption. The more albums sold, the higher the rank.

BTS achieved their first Billboard 200 number one with ‘Love Yourself: Tear’ in 2018, five years after their debut. They first entered the Billboard 200 with ‘The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2’ in 2015, gradually expanding their U.S. fandom over three years. Among female K-pop artists, BLACKPINK topped the Billboard 200 with their second full-length album ‘Born Pink’ in 2022, six years after their debut.

However, the group that has drastically shortened this timeline is NewJeans. They reached the top of the Billboard 200 with their second EP ‘Get Up’ just one year after debut, beating BTS by four years and BLACKPINK by five years.

K-pop’s presence is also significant on the Billboard Hot 100, which ranks songs based on radio airplay, sales, and streaming in the U.S. Unlike the Billboard 200, which is influenced by album sales, the Hot 100 requires significant U.S. music consumption, posing a challenge for non-English K-pop songs. Currently, BTS and Stray Kids are the only K-pop boy groups to have entered the Hot 100.

BTS first entered the Hot 100 at 67th place with ‘DNA’ from ‘Love Yourself: Her’ in 2017, 51 months after their debut. They then released English tracks to appeal to the American market, securing their first number one with ‘Dynamite’ and achieving eight Hot 100 number ones.

The interval for K-pop artists entering the Hot 100 has been decreasing. BLACKPINK and LE SSERAFIM entered the chart 22 months after debut, NewJeans did so in five months with ‘Ditto’, and FIFTY FIFTY achieved it in four months with ‘Cupid’. The shortest period to Hot 100 entry is held by I-LAND, which entered with ‘Magnetic’ just one month after debut, ranking 91st. A K-pop agency representative noted, “Recently, sped-up versions of songs, 130-150% faster, have gained popularity on platforms like TikTok and Reels, aiding ‘Magnetic’ in its rapid Hot 100 entry.”

Experts view K-pop as now established in the global mainstream. Last year, K-pop streaming on Spotify hit a record high of 580 million. According to music market research firm Luminate, Korean songs were the second most consumed non-English music in the U.S. after Spanish. A K-pop agency representative stated, “K-pop is no longer just for niche fandoms but is widely favored by the general public. In the U.S., K-pop is already seen as its own genre.”

The future of K-pop may also be influenced by globally produced idols using the K-pop system. JYP Entertainment’s VCHA, produced with Republic Records, HYBE’s upcoming global girl group Katseye, and a new boy group from SM Entertainment in collaboration with UK’s Moon & Back, are expected to lead the next wave of K-pop success. Critic Kim added, “These well-produced groups, debuting with established fan bases, are likely to achieve even more significant results in the global music market.”

Source: edaily.co.kr

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