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Best of 2012

2012: The Year K-Pop Crossed Over

Brace yourselves. The 'Korean Wave' has officially hit the U.S.

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UPDATE » 15 Moments That Made K-Pop Ever Hotter in 2013

It's safe to say that the latter half of 2012 was dominated by a certain "horse dance." Psy galloped his way into our playlists (and hearts), and K-pop fans around the world rejoiced as the "Korean Wave" finally hit mainstream America.

But while "Gangnam Style" and its explosive popularity introduced many of us to South Korea's beats, the intricate world of K-pop remains largely unfamiliar territory. The industry's recent spotlight on Psy merely scratches the surface of a bigger music phenomenon, the history of which Fuse somehow condensed into a-minute-and-a-half back in March. While it's certainly true that Psy helped propel K-pop onto our radar, the rapper is by no means the industry's sole representative.

When it comes to crossing over into mainstream US media and bridging the gap between Korean and American entertainment, 2012 marked a year of noteworthy accomplishments made by a handful of other K-pop artists. We've compiled a list of this year's most significant crossover moments -- and trust us, after the big steps these artists have already taken, you won't want to sleep on K-pop in 2013. 

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January/February: Girls' Generation Brings "The Boys" Out

On Jan. 31, nine-member group Girls' Generation made their American television debut with an appearance on Late Show with David Letterman.

In front of Mr. Letterman, a wide-eyed Bill Murray, and millions of viewers tuned in via TV and live streams, the ladies delivered a flawless performance of "The Boys," the lead single off the group's international album of the same title.

Girls' Generation graced daytime TV the following morning with an equally impressive showing on Live! With Kelly and Michael, attaining a level of media exposure previously unseen by any K-pop artist.

These nine beauties have basically conquered all of Asia already, and with such positive feedback following their US debut, world domination is only inevitable.

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February: Wonder Girls Team Up with Nick Cannon & Nickelodeon

While the Wonder Girls aren't new to the American music scene (i.e. opened for The Jonas Brothers on the trio's 2009 tour and also totally adored by Perez HIlton), these veterans kicked off 2012 with an exclusive TeenNick movie collaboration, Wonder Girls at the Apollo.

A project headed by network chairman Nick Cannon, the one-hour special aired Feb. 2 and also starred Cannon's own group, School Gyrls. The premise of the movie? Two crews battling it out at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. Throw in some attitude and a catchy soundtrack, and we had ourselves a must-watch.

With a solid teen fanbase already under their belts, expect the Wonder Girls to continue making waves in 2013. They've already collaborated with Akon for "Like Money" -- the group's first official US album single that managed to chart at No. 22 on Billboard's Hot 100 -- and have plenty of experience performing in front of American crowds.

At this rate, we might just steal these glamorous ladies and keep them stateside forever.

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March: Big Bang Goes Global

Considering Big Bang's extended play, Alive, made our 40 Best Albums of 2012: Staff Picks list, it's essential that anyone who's interested in K-pop be aware of this powerhouse group. Perhaps the true heart and soul of the current K-pop industry, the R&B/hip hop based band turned heads after snagging "Best Worldwide Act" at last year's MTV European Music Awards (beating out Britney Spears!).

Big Bang's EMA win confirmed the group's international influence, so a follow-up, first-ever world tour seemed only appropriate. The BIGBANG Alive Galaxy Tour kicked off in Seoul this past March and spans 48 shows across 13 countries. These jet-setters stopped by our Fuse studio before their sold-out Nov. 9 show at Newark's Prudential Center to share their experiences performing in the US. They also tipped their hats to labelmate Psy for his crucial role in spreading the K-pop love to America.

Big Bang's currently up for "Best World Group" at this year's World Music Awards, and they face some stiff competition from the likes of Coldplay, Maroon 5, One Direction, and U2. If these fellas manage to beat out such big names, be prepared for a V.I.P. fanclub-induced internet explosion.

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July: 'Best New Band' 2NE1 Rocks the World

Producer-DJ Diplo had predicted 2NE1's victory in MTV Iggy's "Best New Band in the World" battle long before results came out last November. This fierce hip hop/electro-dance quartet had blown their competition out of the water, claiming a large majority of votes before holding their victory concert at Times Square's Best Buy Theater a month later.

2NE1 has taken the world by storm since the release of "Fire" in 2009, embarking on their first world tour a mere three years after debuting -- unheard of in K-pop. The ladies hit the road in July for their New Evolution tour, stopping in New Jersey to chat with Fuse about music styles and performing stateside.

2NE1 has also been working on some top secret material with will.i.am, who made a surprise appearance at the group's Los Angeles show. He's rumored to be helping 2NE1 drop a US album, so definitely be on the lookout!

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August: "Gangnam Style" Goes Viral

Once upon a time, there was a Korean rapper named Psy. He had released five albums, a new EP featuring lead single "Gangnam Style," and was very popular in his home country. He had not attempted to cross over into the US market, and he certainly had not foreseen his future status as a world star.

Until this happened.

"Gangnam Style" was posted to Youtube on July 15. By August, social media timelines were flooded with comments on the video's over-the-top portrayal of Seoul's Gangnam district. And before we knew it...

Psy. Was. Everywhere.

He appeared at this year's MTV VMAs. He was on Ellen, galloping in the presence of Britney Spears (which, of course, also went viral). He did Saturday Night Live. The guy even developed blood clots from his endless performances.

But the "Gangnam Style" craze only grew bigger, eventually leading to one of this year's most epic stage collaborations.

Thanks to Psy, the K-pop movement went from hiding in the shadows to moving front and center. And the best part of it all? No one saw it coming.

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October: KCON Emerges in Los Angeles

Anyone familiar with Comic Con knows just how crazy fan conventions can be -- and also how much media attention they usually draw.

Enter KCON, America's "first-ever large scale convention" dedicated solely to Korean pop culture and entertainment. This full-day event, held Oct. 13 in Los Angeles, featured meet and greets, fan activities and a star-studded concert. Nothing like KCON has ever been organized stateside before this year, so Fuse checked in with a few of its performers to hear their perspectives on spreading K-pop to the US.

KCON performer G.NA discussed how she has managed the crossover process since launching her career in Seoul.

We also spoke with "supergroup" VIXX and the joint Korean-Chinese boy band EXO-M, both of whom were clearly stoked to be performing in LA.

We're guessing (and hoping) that KCON 2013 will draw an even bigger, even more K-pop crazed crowd.

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December: Psy Hits One Billion Views

Rather than marking the end of the world, Dec. 21 became 'The Day Psy Hit One Billion YouTube Views.'

The rapper became the first artist ever to reach this internet milestone, thanks to "Gangnam Style" racking up over a billion views since its July 15 debut.

Now, all that's left is to eagerly await the mother of all collaborations -- and we're truly afraid for the internet when that day finally arrives.

NOW » 15 Moments That Made K-Pop Ever Hotter in 2013

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Apr 2: Basket-Bros

Currently on his 'The Man of the Woods' tourJustin Timberlake brought out a special guest for his Cleveland show. LeBron James surprised concertgoers by showing up alongside Timberlake and taking a shot on stage. On Friday, the singer was also seen cheering on LeBron during the Pelicans and Cavaliers game. James gave a shout out on Instagram, "My brother @justintimberlake showed up and showed out last night at the Q! One of the greatest to ever do it in my lifetime and still going strong."