Now that we’ve seen the massive popularity of K-Pop in Europe, following the success of last week’s “SM Town Live World Tour Concert in Paris,” the whole industry is scrambling to find out which artist would make the biggest splash in the European market.
SM’s live concert itself had historical meanings for being the first-ever full concert held by a Korean entertainment agency on European soil. Also, an array of activities surrounding the SM concert in Paris reflected K-Pop’s growing presence in the European region. About a month prior to the concert, a massive flash mob event was organized by local French fans to appeal for another concert, as tickets to the first and only scheduled event were all sold out in less than 15 minutes. SM eventually budged and added an additional concert which also sold out in a matter of a few minutes. Extensive press coverage was provided for both concerts, where five of SM’s most popular artists—DBSK, Super Junior, SNSD, f(x), and SHINee—put on a show for the ages in front of more than 14,000 fans.
But despite such explosive fanfare, K-Pop is still considered a novelty in many parts of Europe. Compared to Hollywood stars or other Western singers, or even Japan’s manga culture, K-Pop perhaps has a smaller following in Europe, albeit growing at a rapid pace. In order to expedite this growth, many entertainment agencies are expected to follow suit and plan for something similar to what SM did in Paris last week.
So, in order to help the industry do a better assessment of K-Pop’s presence in Europe, Soompi has put together a list of celebrities that are deemed most popular and appealing to European fans. If you have other ideas or disagree with the list, please feel free to speak up because it could possibly influence the way agencies map out their plan in European markets—your voice matters!
Here goes the list (in random order):
2NE1 is by far one of the most versatile and talented groups in today’s K-Pop. From rap and hip-hop to slow R&B, the four member girl group is basically capable of singing any type of genre to near perfection. Even with very little TV promotions, compared to other mainstream artists, 2NE1 has been able to sustain popularity in Korea and beyond— for instance, the 2NE1 dance cover contest running in partnership between YG Entertainment and Soompi has received tons of entries so far from all over the world. Furthermore, Will.I.Am, the star producer/rapper of Black Eyed Peas has recently visited Korea to plan for future collaborations with YG and 2NE1. He’s often expressed his fascination with the group through various interviews and Tweets, describing them as someone “special” and a potential “super star across many countries.”
2NE1’s versatility and top-notch talent, plus their colorful fashion sense, make them a top candidate to make strides in Europe. Also, language barrier won’t be a problem as the girls are capable of speaking six different languages: French, English, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.
Super Junior perhaps enjoys the most international acclaim from this list. The 13 member boy band’s popularity in Asia has been exponential, particularly in the Chinese and Southeast Asian market. For example, they’ve maintained the #1 spot on a top Taiwanese music chart for over a year and have received countless awards across the whole region, including “Favorite Artist from Korea” at the MTV Asia Awards. But it’s been noted that their popularity in non-Asian markets, such as Latin America and Europe are also growing. After being featured in CNN’s “Talk Asia” program as the top figures of the K-Pop wave, all members from Super Junior were picked as “The Sexiest Men in the World” by a magazine in Peru. They were also chosen as Korea’s best pop group in a survey in Brazil and appeared in a publication specifically designed for them in Iran. Spain’s TV Azteca said Super Junior was picked as the most popular Korean singer in their survey, while England’s BBC recognized the group as an iconic figure leading the Hallyu wave.
Such recognitions led to the group winning the “Must-Follow Personality” at the 2010 Mashable Awards, one of the fastest growing awards in the world organized by the social media giant. Also in a recent poll by “Visit Korea,” Super Junior was picked as the #1 K-Pop star foreign fans would like to travel with in Korea.
Big Bang is arguably the hottest band in Korea right now and their presence overseas continues to grow as well. Similar to other idol bands, they have a huge following in other parts of Asia, especially in Japan. Originally starting out as a hip-hop inspired band, Big Bang is particularly gaining recognition from fellow hip-hop musicians worldwide. U.S. rapper Flo Rida has admitted to being a fan of G-Dragon as he even invited G-Dragon as a special guest for his concert in Korea. American DJ/Producer Diplo, who’s previously worked with Kid Cudi, Snoop Dogg, and Bruno Mars, lauded GD & T.O.P as “rapper rappers” with “crazy flow,” adding they have a rapping style far superior to that of American musicians. In a recent poll in Japan, fans went as far to pick G-Dragon as a better rapper than Eminem.
But Big Bang’s musical style has changed to incorporate a lot of different musical genres including electronic and rock, and fan response has been higher than ever. Plus they are choreographed by Shaun Evaristo, one of the most renowned dancers in the world, giving fans more reasons to follow their acts. Last February, Soompi and YGE ran a joint “Big Bang Contest” where more than 900 contestants from 30 different countries, many of which were from Europe, participated. TIME magazine once described Big Bang as the “most promising” Korean musician to advance into Japan, and we see no reason why they won’t succeed in the European market as well.
Girls’ Generation (SNSD) is widely considered the most popular girl group ever in K-Pop history. Their every move is closely being watched as the most representative pop icon from Korea. They are credited in large part for initiating the current K-Pop wave led by idol bands, and thus have a huge influence in many parts of the industry. They recently ventured into Japan and has seen explosive popularity too, once again cementing their position as the top girl group in K-Pop. Recently during a Japanese TV show, Canadian singer Avril Lavigne even expressed her interest in working together with them, and if that ever becomes true, there’s no doubt we’ll see SNSD signs plastered all over Europe. The sensational girl group’s venture into the global market has just begun and we’re anticipating much larger success in the coming future.
The talented singer/rapper Jay Park is one of the leading solo musicians in K-Pop. After his controversial fallout from 2PM in 2009, he took nearly a two year hiatus from K-Pop. However, his YouTube videos and cover tracks have been sensational online and fan support for him just continues to grow. He finally made a successful comeback this year with his first full solo album and there’s no question this talented singer will eventually one day advance into other markets. It’s been reported that U.S. producer Teddy Riley has teamed up with Jay Park last year and worked on tracks with Snoop Dogg, T-Pain, and Krayzie Bone already. His fluent English will only help his venture into European markets and we see huge success coming for this young man.
Just a few years ago, DBSK would have easily topped this chart. Their popularity in Asia and beyond was out of control as they were the undisputed largest K-Pop boy band at the moment. But the unfortunate contract dispute happened and shrunk the originally five-member group to a duo. Their fan base naturally took a hit and some questioned if Yunho and Chang Min would be able to sustain DBSK’s popularity. It turns out it didn’t matter as the duo carried the group to another megahit album and continued to impress fans with their powerful on-stage performances. They may have downsized but their popularity and influence continues to expand globally, and it won’t be an exception in the European market.