Turns out "Gangnam Style" wasn't a fluke.
Last year we declared 2012 to be the year K-pop crossed over, led mostly by Psy's international smash, which brought the Korean music scene to global consciousness. Some may have thought the hype would die down as soon as "Gangnam Style" trailed off the charts, but this year proved things are only getting hotter.
Not only did another Korean track race up international charts, but a slew of other important moments further solidified K-pop culture in the mainstream music world. From blazing east-meets-west collabos to high-profile award wins, the scene continued to show explosive growth. Check out these 15 key K-pop moments of 2013 and don't miss Fuse's 20-song Christmas playlist featuring our fave Korean stars right here.
Naysayers who thought Psy was destined to be a one-hit wonder can eat it! The K-pop King returned in April with "Gentleman," another high-energy, hip-hop-flavored track. With a ridiculous video accompanying it, "Gentleman" amassed more than 18 million views in its first day, setting a new record for most debut-day views on YouTube.
With strong single sales and radio play, "Gentleman" peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went Top 10 in the UK, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Mexico and many other countries.
Which pop act can beat out Beliebers, Directioners, Selanators, Lovatics and Smilers on a poll? That would be Girls' Generation, whose super-dedicated fans, known as Sones, who won the nine-member girl group Video of the Year at the first-ever YouTube Music Awards.
By watching and sharing Girls' Generation's "I Got a Boy" clip more than any other fanbase, Sones proved that K-pop fans are a global force to be reckoned with. In case you didn't contribute to one of the 80 million-plus views of "IGAB," check out the cute and colorful visual below.
will.i.am shone the international spotlight on girl group 2NE1 by featuring the quartet on his #willpower LP, which also boasted guest spots from Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears. Listen above to hear the group sing and rap in English, and check out leader CL dropping a few expletives on her fierce verse! #willpower debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 in April.
Last year, Los Angeles hosted the very-first convention dedicated to all things Korean pop culture. The inaugural KCON featured engaging panels, celebrity autograph sessions and a multi-artist concert to top the night off. For KCON 2013, the festival grew to two days with even more high-profile artists, including Missy Elliott, who collaborated on stage with singer/rapper G-Dragon. The concert was even filmed for a special broadcast in Korea.
BTW: KCON teased that the 2014 festival may expand to the East Coast in New York City.
While one can see K-pop fans' dedicated passion at concerts or by the millions of YouTube views K-pop videos rack up, it's not so easy for Korea's top acts to sell CDs in the U.S., mostly because fans would rather buy a digital copy on iTunes instead of importing physical copies.
But singer/rapper G-Dragon accomplished a rare feat, sending his Coup D'Etat, Pt. 1 EP to No. 182 on the Billboard 200 this fall. The EP boasted big-name collabos with Diplo, Baauer, Sky Ferreira and Missy Elliott on the standout "Niliria," which you can hear above.
After the British girl group Little Mix scored a hit in their native UK and America with "Wings," they set their sights on yet another market: Korea! The quartet recorded a Korean-language version of their upbeat pop single and scored a K-pop hit with the re-recorded version of their debut single.
While many Korean acts have tested the Western pop market waters with English singles (like Wonder Girls, Rain, Girls' Generation), rarely is the inverse seen with a Western act going Korean. Could this be the start of a trend?
When Justin Bieber took his Believe world tour to South Korea in October, he brought out an unexpected special guest performer: G-Dragon!
After the show, the typically-shirtless singer wrote on Twitter, "Korea, that was amazing. Thank u for the love. Shout out to my friend G-Dragon for coming out on stage tonight. They went crazy. #honored."
A month later, G-Dragon revealed he was recording a collaboration with the pop superstar, promising it would come out early next year. We can't wait.
Every band knows how important SXSW is to get exposure in the U.S.—Icona Pop, HAIM and Chvrches all had huge 2013s after playing it this year—and girl group f(x) led the charge as the festival's first K-pop artist. The quintet brought their experimental electro-pop to Austin for a key performance that gave them major exposure before they dropped their excellent sophomore LP, Pink Tape.
"We think we were invited because the kind of music we do is rare—not only in Korea, but all over the world," the group told Billboard. "It is our goal to become Asia's best-dance pop group." Watch a full interview about f(x) at SXSW (don't forget to turn on the English captions!) below.
The 2013 Mnet Asian Music Awards—aka the MAMAs, South Korea's version of the MTV Video Music Awards—saw some Western hit-makers collaborating onstage with top K-pop stars.
2NE1 member CL added a rap verse to Icona Pop's "I Love It" (above), while Ylvis (aka "The Fox" singers) performed a K-pop song with girl group Crayon Pop (below).
Typically, K-pop skews more cute than raunchy, opting to tease rather than let it all hang out. But 2013 was K-pop's sexiest year by far.
Above, watch girl group After School throw off their tops and showcase impressive pole dancing skills in "First Love," the sexiest vid of the year. Below, see male/female duo Trouble Maker grind and get physical in their R-Rated "Now" video.
K-pop might be the last thing you'd expect to hear at a Chris Brown concert, but turns out the dude's a fan! According to reports, Breezy got into girl group T-ara N4 after hearing their uber-catchy, uber-dancey "Countryside Life"—watch its "Gangnam Style"-like video above—and even invited them to one of his video shoots in L.A.
Later in the year, T-ara N4 flew to Las Vegas to open for Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa, attended the 2013 BET Awards and told Billboard they are "in talks" to collaborate with the two American artists.
More and more K-pop acts showed that America was an important world tour stop this year with B.A.P, Infinite, TVXQ!, 2AM, VIXX and more performing an American show (or two in VIXX's case! Or four in B.A.P and Infinite's cases!) in 2013.
Fuse caught up with Infinite and B.A.P in the middle of their treks, and they told us what it was like sightseeing in America and meeting their U.S. fans. Watch the exclusive interviews above and below.
Major Lazer's genre-blurring banger "Bubble Butt" was a treat for EDM, hip hop and dancehall fans. But an October remix brought another fanbase into the mix: K-pop fans!
TOP and G-Dragon, both members of BIGBANG, joined an already eclectic mix of guest features on the track (Bruno Mars, Tyga and San Francisco MC Mystic). The duo laid down a joint verse in Korean and even peppered-in English phrases such as "GD and TOP: So fly and sexy."
The 2013 MuchMusic Video Awards went Gangnam this year when Psy served as the show's host. Despite referring to his English-speaking skills as "four-year-old English" in past interviews, the goofy "Gentleman" singer pulled off hosting duties and even charmed the oh-so-sexy Naya Rivera during the night.
Fuse viewers made their love for two of the K-pop scene's biggest stars crystal-clear this year.
In August, fans cast millions of votes to name G-Dragon Fuse's Best Breakout Artist for 2013. It landed him a feature on Fuse News, where he commented on his international fanbase. "Even though a lot of people have taken an interest in Korea, it's still a small country," G-Dragon says. "The cultures are really different: I was very surprised to see all the interest." Watch the full interview above.
Three months later, Fuse asked viewers who they fancied to be the year's sexiest musician. G-Dragon's BIGBANG bandmate TOP snagged the No. 1 slot, with over a million votes cast. Fuse News captured his reaction to the news, which you can watch below.
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