Since graduating from high school, K-pop has been a part of my life. The girls in my class spent weekends and after-school hours practicing the choreography and selecting whatever member they wanted to perform as they created cover videos of Girls Generation’s “I Got A Boy” and “The Boys.” Chanyeol, Baekhyun, and Kai, my three best pals, all connected through their common love of Blackpink, swooning and shrieking over their prejudices.
For much of my life as a teen, my iTunes library was a mishmash of genres: showtunes from my favorite musicals, the scores to Doctor Who and Harry Potter, Manila sound, sweeping Filipino ballads, the occasional Taylor Swift single, a lot of ’80s hits, and, of course, the aforementioned Girls Generation songs. I didn’t truly fall in love with music until my college years (thanks in large part to the arrival of Spotify). The K-pop business hadn’t yet grown to the size it is now when I was a senior in high school in 2011. Without a doubt, it was a giant at the time, or perhaps it was a behemoth in the making, but it is nothing, and I mean nothing.
As K-pop continues to draw fans from all around the world, it is becoming more and more difficult to ignore. Whether on purpose or not, I avoided K-pop performers for a long time because I believed the sound was so drastically different from the music I liked. As my musical preferences changed throughout college and most of my early adulthood, I discovered that I had to create and curate a musical DNA that reflected who I was. This included singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Sara Bareilles, pop princesses like Carly Rae Jepsen and Lizzo, ethereal, witchy folk like Florence + the Machine and Maggie Rogers, and an utter, unrepentant passion for Taylor Swift and show tunes.
I didn’t start dabbling in K-pop until quarantine, largely because of my job but also in part because I had run out of coping mechanisms (rewatching the same two seasons of my favourite shows was proving to be dull and unexciting) and in part because my best friend is currently experiencing a full-on BTS spiral. Before the release of “Dynamite,” I had never heard a BTS song, but BLACKPINK’s music had been so widely popular that it was hard to go a day without hearing even one of their songs.