How has ‘K-pop’ fever affected millions of Arabs?

Guys are learning Korean to translate songs for BTS and other groups

In the world of K-pop, there are no fans. This word will reduce the dimension of what fans of this art think of its stars or idols, as they call them. K-pop is a special case, so either you get obsessed and addicted to it, or you stick with those who don’t care. No middle ground here.

When “Psy” went public in 2012 with the song “Gangnam Style,” it sparked an unprecedented wave of interaction, racking up hundreds of millions of views. The timing was right with the explosion of digital broadcast platforms and social media pages. Everyone in the world danced to the song and sang it secretly or out loud, even if they didn’t understand any of its words.

“Gangnam Style” may have been an eye opener to Korean music, but everything that followed was different and surpassed in number and continuity.

Like a missile, K-pop groups launched from their home country of South Korea swept the globe at breakneck speed. In the Arab world, this modern art was an exceptional guest. It has been embraced by millions of teenagers and young adults, especially in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where K-pop is currently the most listened to of the new generation. Noting that more than 90% of K-pop music video views on YouTube come from outside of South Korea.

The main reasons for the Arab love for “K-pop”

– Attractive image and dance:

Just watch one of the music videos of BTS, the most famous K-pop group of all time, to get an idea of ​​the generosity of their output. Each video is a mini Hollywood movie in terms of special effects and colors. K-pop creators present a clean image that is full of bright colors at the same time, so color is one of the most important components of “K-pop” magic blending with dance. Every star has to be a professional dancer, spending hours practicing every day, or they’ll fail the exam to take the stage and sing in front of millions of people. K-pop singers have been known to enter academies that subject them to lessons, training and harsh diets, before leaving star projects.

– The elegance of the singers:

It’s not just modern and beautiful fashion, K-pop stars are influential in the fashion world and are now shaping it through their bold, sometimes bizarre looks. Recently, there has been an increase in stores selling clothing inspired by the “looks” of male and female stars.

K-pop fans aren’t just imitating their stars in clothes, some of them are looking for plastic surgeries that replicate those stars’ faces. It’s no surprise that a teenage girl visits a plastic surgeon and asks for the nose of “Jisoo” from the “Black Pink” team, or the eyes of “Irene” from “Red Velvet”!

Strange words and a melody that sticks in your mind:

It is a fleeting melody, which sticks to the memory and leaves it only with difficulty. It’s another ingredient in the magic mix of K-pop. The listener does not understand the meaning of the lyrics of the Korean song, but finds himself repeating what is necessary. Perhaps the strangeness of the words constitutes an additional factor of attraction for Arab youth.

However, K-pop fans, who are fanatical in their love for it, have shown unprecedented persistence in deciphering the mysteries and riddles. Some of them learned Korean and took on the task of translating songs into Arabic! And if you come across a group of young Korean-speaking women and men on an Arab street, don’t be surprised, and know that they are K-pop fans.

K-pop songs focus on themes of love, friendship, and sanity, as well as self-love and youthful issues…which all the more explains why teenagers are so attached to it.

Revive the image of the teams of the 90s

The love of Korean music is not limited to those under twenty. Fardwan, a young man in his thirties, has recently been drawn to K-pop. He tells Asharq Al-Awsat that bands like BTS, BLACKPINK, Stray Kids and Red Velvet remind him of the heyday of Backstreet Boys, NSYNC and Spice Girls. He says, “Their productions are huge, their music videos are distinctive, their shapes are beautiful, and there are standout phrases in their songs. They also remind me of anime or Japanese animation.

Clever marketing tactics and imaginary numbers

Barely 24 hours have passed since the release of BTS’s “Butter” music video, until it garnered 108 million views on YouTube! It’s very hard to crack K-pop numbers, whether on music streaming platforms or on social media.

Behind these millions and billions is a huge marketing machine that relies heavily on fan forums spread all over the world. Over time, these people turned into organized electronic armies, mobilizing to heavily market any new song, album, or gig. They have a remarkable presence on the Twitter platform, and they can’t stop seeing their favorite bands breaking records. We are talking about more than a billion views here, as is the case for one of the Black Pink videos, which has been viewed more than 1.870 million times on YouTube.

This unique musical phenomenon has prompted a large number of international stars to collaborate with K-pop groups and present joint works. Coldplay, for example, didn’t hesitate to record a song alongside BTS, as did Halsey. Lady Gaga, in turn, was drawn to Korean magic and performed a song with the group “Black Pink”.

BTS Army, more than a fan club

The day BTS took the stage at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh three years ago, “Adam H” was having the happiest moments of his life. “Adman H”, member of the BTS army in Saudi Arabia, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “it was a wonderful and unforgettable experience, like a dream… as if the love and energy of the universes met at this place and this time.”

He clarifies that the “BTS Army” is not a cyber army, contrary to popular belief. “It was BTS who called their fans A.RMY Adorable Representative MC for Youth,” and they are spread all over the world. The main goal of the BTS fan base in Saudi Arabia is to spread correct information about the group, in addition to supporting their songs, projects and events in Saudi Arabia and abroad.

The 25-year-old “H” who works in the graphic design field, became interested in BTS five years ago, and she does not see that the love of the team stops at a certain age, “there are committed fans who attend parties, even if they are over forty.” She speaks passionately about the Korean group: “BTS has transcended the boundaries of K-pop, broken its frames and passed it on to the world, through important concepts and touching stories that they tell in their songs. I love the way they communicate with their fans… they are seven members but they are really one family.

Asked about the language barrier, team leader Namjoon repeats, “Music always transcends language.” She added that the Arabic translation of the songs is released immediately, thanks to the efforts of those dedicated to the task. The BTS members responded in Arabic to the Riyadh party, addressing their fans with phrases such as “Hala, God,” “Thank you,” “I love you,” and “Sing along with us.”

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