As the Korean Wave continues to spread across the globe, reaching an increasing number of countries, K-pop is one of the main factors. K-pop has had a niche following of fans internationally for many years now, but only recently has it been so open and accepted all over the world. In the past couple of years, we have seen many of our favourite K-pop artists receiving worldwide recognition, charting on Billboard, attending American award shows such as the American Music Awards and the Grammys, and appearing on both American daytime and late night television shows.
Music has the power to transcend language barriers, and many of the K-pop artists and groups are proving that by making history. They’re also showcasing the harmony between cultures through music by collaborating with entertainers from other countries. Today, it is not uncommon to hear that our favourite K-pop group is releasing a track with an American artist. This kind of content is in high demand by international fans. Additionally, collaborating with other international artists helps to not only reach international fans but to channel into another fanbase.
We have been gifted quite a few magical songs that have been birthed through K-pop and international collaboration. From our favourite K-pop idols to popular artists all over the world, here are ten collabs to add to your playlist!
1. Steve Aoki & Monsta X – “Play It Cool”
Although, I try to play it cool, I can’t help but lose it when the bass drops! Uncle Steve, as he’s called in the K-pop community, does it again as he makes yet another bop with the help of the seven talented men of Monsta X. The group gave a statement to Entertainment Tonight, saying, “It was such an honor and pleasure to work with Steve Aoki on our collaboration for the track ‘Play It Cool (Korean Version).’ We are huge fans of his work, and we were so excited to find out that he is a fan of Monsta X as well… Steve is such a great guy, and he’s been like a brother to us. We had so much fun working together and are so excited to share the track with everyone on February 18th, when our album Take.2 We Are Here releases worldwide. More to come….special thank you to MONBEBE, our fans, without you none of this would be possible. We love you!!”
2. Jason Derulo, LAY, NCT 127 – “Let’s Shut Up & Dance”
Speaking of basses dropping, this dream collab that no one could have ever seen coming will make you want to get up and dance no matter where you’re from. This song boasts multiculturalism with Haitian-American R&B singer Jason Derulo, Chinese singer Lay (also from K-pop group EXO), and the international K-pop group NCT 127 which has members from South Korea, Japan, China, USA, and Canada. Additionally, to stick with the theme of the song, they shot the music video all over the world with both professional and street dancers from LA, London, Ethiopia, Jamaica, and Asia.
The song pays homage to Michael Jackson, and although it may appear to be a fun dance track initially, the underlying message is something that had uttermost importance right now. Derulo, who co-wrote the song as well, said to Entertainment Tonight that the theme is to “stop all the hate,” let go of one’s troubles, and, of course, “just dance!” “Especially with everything that’s going on in the world I think the concept is really poignant,” Derulo said about this collaboration, “We come from totally different worlds, but I really, really love their talent.” Honestly, I am not sure if we will ever get a collaboration as legendary as this one.
3. Dua Lipa & BLACKPINK – “Kiss and Make Up”
I wouldn’t be mad if Dua Lipa became the fifth member of BLACKPINK. Both parties bring their own unique sound to this rhythmic and bilingual track. Dua Lipa spoke to Access about how she had written the song a year ago, but was waiting to find the right person– or group to collaborate with, “I wanted to do a collaboration with someone, I just didn’t find the right home for it,” she explained, “I recently met the girls in Seoul and I was just like, ‘Would it be crazy if I just sent them the song if they liked it?’ That’s what I did, and they were very quick with the response. They’re like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ I’m really thrilled about that one.” Lucky for us, they agreed!
4. PSY – “HANGOVER” ft. Snoop Dogg
This legendary collaboration between the unlikely friendship of PSY and Snoop Dogg is one for the ages. It was initially met with mixed reactions by fans, but it remains popular, even being featured in the Oscar-winning Marvel film, Black Panther. Regardless of what we think, the two artists have a lot more in common than it seems. Both have a reputation for enjoying drinking and this music video shows them experimenting with a variety of Korean cures for hangovers, hence the song title. PSY described how the collaboration became reality, “One day I wrote a hip-hop track and I thought about one catchy word…I was hungover and I thought about hangover, so I just recorded it right away. As soon as I got that hook part I thought about Snoop Dogg, because we all know he’s hanging over every day…I called him and said ‘I’m PSY, do you know me?’ and he was like ‘What?’ I said ‘Can you feature on my song’ and he’s asking the title and I say ‘Hangover.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I’m doing it.’ So, that’s how we met.”
5. Gallant x Tablo x Eric Nam – “Cave Me In”
A good choice for R&B lovers, this is one of my favourite collabs. Tablo told Billboard, “This song, in some ways, will get you pumped and ready for the club and, in another way, when you’re back in the Uber and things didn’t work out as well as you imagined that night, it could console you… I’m a huge fan of music and what it can do to your psyche and also to your life. There are songs that have affected me my entire life and turned me into who I am, so whenever I’m on a song it feels like to me it’s a mission to change somebody at that moment, or for longer if that’s possible.”
Eric Nam said of the collaboration, “On any collaboration, you want to respect your music and the other’s music.” He continued, “When you think of Gallant’s music and his voice, you don’t automatically think, ‘Oh, Eric Nam would be great a fit.’ or ‘Hey! Tablo would be an amazing fit.’ So to be able to have a seamless piece of music, I think that’s what we were talking about the most.”
Tablo added, “As soon as I heard the phrase [cave me in], I thought [it] was the perfect way to describe what love actually does to you,” said Tablo. “I noticed that a lot of times when we talk about love we use phrases that are very violent. So as soon as I heard ‘cave me in,’ I wrote out the lyrics to my verse.“
Eric also said, “So much of the reason that I’m working in Korea is because [Asian-Americans] are not given the opportunity to do this in the States, to showcase our talent in entertainment,” he said. “I think acting has developed a lot lately, with shows and movies that feature Asian faces, but I don’t think there are a lot of Asian faces in music in the western world. So what started off as a humble project of, like, ‘Let’s make good music, let’s make some waves here or there’ led to having a song with Grammy-nominated Gallant and Tablo, who I’ve been a fan of for years.”
6. K/DA – “POP/STARS” ft. Madison Beer, (G)I-DLE, Jaira Burns
This might just be the best advertisement ever… K/DA is actually a new girl group created by and for the League of Legends video game to, basically, advertise some of their new skins. This collaboration hasn’t united not only K-pop and American Pop, but also the two different fandoms of gamers and K-poppers. The fictional group consists of real female music artists, American singers Madison Beer and Jaira Burns, along with two members of the K-pop girl group (G)I-DLE, Miyeon and Soyeon. If you’re like more of this innovative collaboration, check out this live performance of the artists with holograms of their characters and a behind-the-scenes look of the makings!
7. SUPERFRUIT – “Fantasy” ft. Amber Liu
If you’re familiar with the pop-acapella group, Pentatonix, you may recognize these two young men! Best friends, Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying have a subgroup of sorts through their YouTube channel where they post comedy videos, covers, and their own original music. They released an electronic-pop album titled Future Friends which was a combination of their two EPs, including their song, “Fantasy,” featuring K-pop girl group f(x)’s Amber!
Scott revealed that “Fantasy” is his favourite off the album, explaining, “It makes me feel so good, and whenever I go back to listen to things, I always put on Fantasy first.” When asked about the collaboration with Amber, the duo said, “K-pop is so much fun, and we are obsessed.” Same.
If you’re wondering how the collaboration came about, it all started from Twitter! Amber tweeted that she liked their song “Bad For Us,” and it encouraged them to reach out– once they finished freaking out, “We were like, ‘queen Amber Liu from f(x) likes ‘Bad For Us.’” He added that they were “honored to have such a major K-pop star on our song.”
Also, each song from Superfruit’s album has a music video! Check out Amber’s behind-the-scenes video from their filming of “Fantasy.”
8. Super Junior 슈퍼주니어 – “Lo Siento” ft. Leslie Grace
Rather than a bilingual song of English and Korean, how about a trilingual one with some español?! This song encompases the diversity of the music industry of today. This is classic K-pop group Super Junior’s first collaboration with foreign artists. On this song, Dominican-American singer Leslie Grace and producers Play-N-Skillz add some Latin and Moombahton flavour.
Grace spoke to Billboard about collaborating with Super Junior, “I love love love working with Super Junior, we’ve been having a very good time and they couldn’t have treated me any nicer.” She added, “It definitely has been something that has made me grow. It’s a new experience — I’ve never traveled so far — and I’m so glad that they are the cause of it and that I’ve learned some Korean words and new dance moves.” You can also check out videos of her interview with Super Junior and Billboard and their interview with iHeart Radio!
If you enjoy this song, check out Super Junior’s collaboration with REIK for ‘One More Time (Otra Vez) from their full Latin-pop (mini) album, “One More Time.”
9. Jackson Wang – “Different Game” ft. Gucci Mane
GOT7’s rapper, Jackson Wang with Gucci Mane?! I had to check twice and make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Jackson has always done well with crossing cultural boundaries, being in K-pop, releasing all-English and all-Chinese tracks in addition, and now collaborations with American rappers. The music video showcases his multicultural background, with paying respects to Jackson’s roots, especially by showcasing the Chinese characters for “China” (中国) on Jackson’s jacket, necklaces, and more.
10. J.Y. Park – “Fire” ft. Conan O’Brien & Steven Yeun & Jimin Park
You probably think you’re reading this wrong, but, no, I am very serious. Late-night TV host Conan O’Brien and The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun teamed up with JYP for this video as part of a segment for Conan’s show when he visited South Korea. You’ll recognize many familiar faces and voices besides JYP, including the girls from Twice and the Wonder Girls, along with Jimin Park of 15& and After School Club! As a fan of K-pop, you’ll find yourselves laughing at the parodying of K-pop style and music videos. When the music video was first released, Conan jokingly tweeted “this is either going [to] ruin my career or make it.”
What was your favourite collab? What international artist would you like to see make a song with your favourite K-pop idol or group? Let us know in the comments below!
Cover Image: Monsta X (Starship Entertainment)
Written by Tiffany Simms