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Your k-pop crash course, from biases to BLACKPINK

BLACKPINK's overwhelming success proves how popular k-pop now is in the West, but what do all the special terms and lingos surrounding Korean pop music mean?  – Photo by BLACKPINK GLOBAL BLINK / Twitter

The Hallyu wave has become a tsunami in the past five years. The Hallyu wave, a term originating in China, literally translates to Korean wave and refers to the sudden surge in popularity that Korean culture has experienced over the past decade.

From skin care to k-dramas to fashion, k-culture is huge all around the world. One aspect of Korean culture that has accumulated a cult following (and arguably what started the Hallyu wave) is Korean pop music or k-pop.

The influx of a new culture brings more confusion for people outside the fandom. What is a bias? A maknae? What do fans mean when they say OT7? This article will help you understand what exactly k-pop stans talk about among themselves.

In every group, each member has a position. The main dancers/rappers/vocals are considered to have the strongest skill set of that particular skill in that group. For example, Momo of TWICE was given the official main dancer label due to her strong dance skills.

A bias typically refers to a fan’s favorite member of that group. In TWICE, my bias would be my favorite member, Jihyo.

In k-pop groups, the title of maknae is given to the youngest one in the group. In TWICE, Tzuyu is the youngest out of the nine members, thereby making her the maknae. An “ult” or ultimate bias/group refers to the fan’s favorite idol or group. My ult group is a five-member girl group under SM Entertainment, Red Velvet. My ult bias is, coincidentally, Seulgi from Red Velvet.

A term that gets used a lot amongst fan circles would be OT(number), which stands for one true (number). This is a term that refers to group unity. BTS has seven members, and oftentimes many ARMYs (BTS stans) refer to themselves as OT7, which means they enjoy and prefer the group when they are together. Not every fan of a group is as wholesome, as there are people known as “solo stans” who only are fans of X,Y or Z member in a group, or people who believe a group would be better off without a certain member.

There is other fandom-specific lingo, including fandom names, idol nicknames and more. BTS fans are called ARMY, TWICE fans are called ONCE and BLACKPINK’s are called BLINKS.

Every single group has a seemingly endless supply of fan content, and once you begin, you will never feel dissatisfied by the amount of content a group puts out. K-pop also encompasses a wide variety of genres, from pop to rock to even bossa nova.

Check out these personal recommendations for artists and some songs:

If you like variety, check out artists like Red Velvet, Loona, BoA, SHINee and BTS! Their discographies span a wide variety of genres and will leave you waiting for more content. Some of my favorite songs from them include "House of Cards" by BTS, "VALENTI" by BoA, "Kingdom Come" by Red Velvet, "View" by SHINee and "Heart Attack" by Chuu of LOONA.

If you are interested in performance and style, ONEUS, IVE, NewJeans, Stray Kids and BIGBANG are great for this. NewJeans’ recent debut, “Attention” infuses classic 2000s R&B with pop, and IVE’s “Love Dive” has a catchy dance-pop hook that will leave you singing it over and over again.

Stray Kids has long been hailed for its performance quality and incredible stage presence, and ONEUS is a newer group that has proven itself to be a formidable opponent in the very competitive fourth generation.

BIGBANG is a titan group and arguably one of the most successful k-pop groups ever. Its influence in music, fashion, and culture is undeniable. Some great songs from these groups are "Hype Boy" by NewJeans, "After LIKE" by IVE, "Maniac" by Stray Kids, "Sober" by BIGBANG and "A Song Written Easily" by ONEUS.

There are many many more talented groups and soloists I have not mentioned here, but k-pop has something for everyone. Whether you prefer more of a hip-hop sound like that of Seo Taiji and Boys, bubbly pop like that of OH MY GIRL or rock like that of Xdinary Heroes, k-pop will welcome you with open arms.

Go in with an open mind, and you might be surprised at what you like! I’ve been listening to k-pop for about a decade, and with the variety the genre brings, I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.


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