How the Korean Music Industry and an Off-Broadway Musical Inspired “KPOP” on Broadway

The new musical looks behind the curtain of the competitive and world famous world of K-pop.

If you are a fan of Korean pop groups such as BTS or Blackpink, then KPOP on Broadway is a must-see musical this season. The show is set in the ultra-competitive world of the Korean pop music industry, centering on fictional K-pop stars performing their first concert in America in hopes of gaining worldwide fame.

The pressure to succeed is high, and the characters’ struggles mirror the real-life career journeys — the highs and lows — of real-life K-pop artists, as the music genre has recently exploded into the global mainstream. But good KPOP examines the unique challenges of K-pop fame, there is also a lot of fun to be had, because KPOP features original and upbeat K-pop music, energetic choreography, and an almost all-Asian cast led by real K-pop stars.

Below, learn even more about the influences that inspired this new chart-topping Broadway musical, including the Korean music industry and the writers’ past stage and screen projects.

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KPOP on Broadway is based on the real world phenomenon of K-pop.

Technically, K-pop simply means “Korean pop,” and South Korean pop music has been around for decades. These days, however, the term mostly refers to the music of K-pop-specific “idols,” an industry term that came into popular use in the 1990s.

“Idols” are boy groups, girl groups, and solo K-pop artists whose agencies and/or record labels carefully curate their musical style and public persona. They are trained in singing, dancing, languages, and more, they attract a large international fan base.

The rise of MTV in America in the 1990s and the international success of boy bands such as New Kids on the Block actually gave way to K-pop idol culture. Korean entertainment moguls wanted to create a similar star system in the Asian market, but it’s no wonder K-pop finally made the jump to the American stage.

K-pop artists were performing here and there in America in the early 2000s, but the phenomenon really gained popularity in the United States in the 2010s. The song “Gangnam Style”, which became an internet craze in 2012, is an early example of K-pop entering the mainstream. Boy group BTS ushered in the latest wave of K-pop popularity in the latter half of the 2010s, winning Grammy Awards and becoming the first K-pop group with a No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts.

The KPOP The Broadway musical takes place in the middle of this wave, focusing on fictional idols whose label seeks to launch their careers in the United States. Adding to the authenticity, the KPOP the cast features real-life K-pop idols who have had similar career trajectories. They include Luna (formerly of girl group f(x)), Bo Hyung Kim (formerly of SPICA and one half of duo KEEMBO), Min Young Lee (formerly of Miss A), and Kevin Woo (formerly of U-KISS).

Learn more about K-pop stars in the KPOP musical.

KPOP is the first Broadway musical about Korean culture.

KPOP isn’t the first Broadway show centered on Asian characters; Miss Saigon and The king and me are decades-old examples, though these have non-Asian creative teams behind them. More recently, in 2015, Allegiance became the first Broadway musical with Asian creators and a predominantly Asian cast, making it a more authentic staging of the Asian experience. KPOP also features a predominantly Asian cast and writing team, and is the first Broadway musical specifically celebrating Korean culture.

But KPOP still has universal appeal. K-pop music is influenced by several musical genres that you may already listen to, such as hip hop, R&B, jazz, disco, rock, country, and folk in addition to traditional Korean. Plus, the story of rising music stars trying to make it big will delight american idol Where The voice fans, while making them discover something new.

Luna, who plays fictional solo artist MwE, told that she hopes KPOP introduces viewers unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the Korean pop industry to an essential part of the country’s culture.

“I wish people would want to listen to more K-pop and learn more about Korean culture,” she said. “It’s not just a monolith, it’s a collection of diverse voices, diverse artists, and diverse genres in the world of K-pop. I would like audiences to see the dreams of young artists come together. materialize on stage.”

KPOP is the idea of ​​a writer of Girls.

The KPOP the musical also has a connection to a popular American property. Jason Kim first conceptualized the show; he is a playwright and screenwriter who worked on the hit HBO series Girls. As KPOPthis show focuses on young people pursuing their ambitions and dealing with the challenges that come with it.

KPOP allowed Kim to take this theme and apply it closer to home. He was born in Seoul and moved to the United States when he was 10 years old. Korean pop music was the soundtrack of his formative years. In creating the musical, Kim wanted to explore Asian American identity.

“I really wanted to use what K-pop meant to me as a way to talk about how I felt about myself and the culture in general,” he told NPR. “The narrative of the show feels like a narrative to me that a lot of people go through when they start to think about identity. And for me, that narrative has been, ‘Oh, there’s something different about me’ What can I do to investigate this? And how can I “fix” this to become something different, something – someone – else? isn’t going anywhere. And I have to accept it for what it is.

KPOP is loosely based on an Off-Broadway musical.

A KPOP The musical premiered on Broadway in 2017, with book by Kim and music and lyrics by Helen Park and Max Vernon. (The songs were in Korean and English.)

The musical was originally immersive. Audiences explored two different levels of a fictional K-pop factory where future pop stars are formed. The show featured multiple simultaneous narratives in which the various singers discovered their signature sound and what they wanted to say to the world through their music. KPOP also posed a larger question: Even though K-pop is a billion-dollar industry in Korea, why haven’t any stars broken into the United States?

When this question was posed to the public in 2017, Kim recalled, the answers ranged from “”because you’re weird” or “because you’re too ‘stylish,'” whatever that means, to “because of systemic racism “.”

This original KPOP The production won acclaim for its catchy songs and unique presentation, selling out and winning the Off-Broadway Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical. But despite the praise, the show needed a revamp to be staged in a Broadway theater. Now the show is no longer immersive and there is a singular plot: a group of K-pop superstars are preparing for a special one-night-only concert, their American debut. Behind-the-scenes issues arise.

Park said the musical was also slightly different thematically. K-pop has enjoyed mainstream success in the United States in the five years since the Off-Broadway musical premiered, so the musical is no longer about how hostile America is to Asian music artists.

Now, “it’s really about finding your voice,” Park told Maestra. “When you’re in the K-pop machine, it’s confusing sometimes, what you are and what you do, the limits — sometimes it’s hard to find yourself and find what you want. [Now]this show is more about this journey rather than [in the 2017 version] cross from Korea to America.

This shift in focus meant that Park and Vernon had to write several new songs for the Broadway show. But for Park, who was also born in Korea and at one point wanted to work in the Korean music industry, KPOP was a way to reconnect with his roots. With KPOPPark will be the first Asian American woman to have a Broadway musical.

“It’s so crazy to me that something like K-pop [the genre] is so universal,” she said. “A lot of songs on our show, half of the lyrics are in Korean. But so many people feel the emotions that came from the melody, the harmony and the situation in the story. And it was emotional for people , even when they didn’t 100% understand the lyrics. That was the power of music, it really transcends language.

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