Have you ever dreamt of salsa dancing under the stars of the Barcelona night sky? Or how about sashaying to the eccentric Bollywood dance in India? Although purchasing a one-way plane ticket right now to your destination of choice may not be possible, your international dreams don’t have to remain as just that. Thanks to the digital age, listeners can now be transferred into new realms when they plug into the top and yet-to-be-discovered hits from cultures thousands of miles away.
Lead guitarist of rock band U2 once said, “Music is such a great communicator. It breaks down linguistic barriers, cultural barriers, it basically reaches out.” This cultural exchange of sorts has led to the creation of dynamic genres including reggaeton, jazz, and even K-pop.
The Korean pop music boom has grabbed the attention of music devotees from continents across the globe. Since its modern-day start in the ‘90s, K-pop artists have drawn inspiration from music of different cultures. Many agree that K-pop is the love child of catchy American pop and the visual-focused culture of Korea. However, the creativity of some artists goes beyond the expected. Let’s check out some of our favorite hits with an international feel.
Our first location takes us to the captivating land of Latin America. South Korea and Latin America have been known to share many similarities in food and culture, but the two worlds come together once again to deliver one of the most anticipated collaborations of the year. Super Junior’s “Lo Siento” featuring Dominican-American singer Leslie Grace, awarded the group bragging rights to the title of the first K-pop act to debut on a Latin music chart. The chart-topper delivers a tri-lingual powerhouse of lyrics in Korean, English, and Spanish, and brings a seductive salsa-infused choreography guaranteed to awaken your inner Shakira.
Home of the vibrant Carnival parade, Brazil is a popular destination for thrill-seeking tourists with its beautiful sights and tropical paradises. Our next hit “V” features a Brazilian funk beat that natives of Brazil know to symbolize a night of endless dancing and fun. A bass-booming beat as this is usually followed by graphic raps performed by young Portuguese-speaking rappers, but this song is far from usual. The soft, honeyed Korean vocals combined with such a dynamic beat make for a perfect blend. The creativity of seasoned b-boy, singer, rapper, and CEO Jay Park truly shines through in “V” as an ode to appreciate international beauty.
Often imagery of Japan calls to mind relaxing views, bonsai trees, tea ceremonies, and everything Zen. However, former B.A.P leader Bang Yongguk presents “Yamazaki” as it transfers us into a gory eighteenth-century Japan. The traditional Japanese stringed instrument Shamisen plays a distinct role in defining the tempo and highlighting the depth of Japanese spiritual symbolism in the accompanying music video. Although, the allusive visuals of geishas, folklore masks, and bloodthirsty scenes, date back centuries ago in Edo, Japan; Yongguk, a Korea native, uses them as a striking metaphor to tell his story.
We recommend reclining in a hammock with coconut in hand for this one. G.Soul’s “Far, Far Away” will take you far away to a time of great relaxation to the sunny islands of the Caribbean. Although K-pop is often associated with bright, colorful aesthetics and high-pitched adorableness, this song delivers instant chill vibes in its slow, rocking reggae melody. You won’t even realize the song is about the woes that come along with a breakup while head-bopping to the smooth island feel.
As our trip around the world comes to an end, our last stop takes us back home to the states. The Bronx, New York is said to be the birthplace of original hip-hop and its deep culture rooted in the African-American community. In the ‘80s, hip-hop expanded its reach beyond the U.S. and made a significant impression on the music industry worldwide, including South Korea. The global integration makes it one of the most influential genres and the shining star behind many of the hottest tracks of today like “Retro Future” by power trio Triple H.
This unique mix takes the nostalgic route from sampling a classic favorite from icon DJ Casper in the intro, to the futuristic synthesized beats ringing all throughout inspired of Grandmaster Flash. “Retro Future” has the elements of mesmerizing old school hip-hop combined with the peculiarities of K-pop. Despite their untimely end in 2018, this group’s talent still holds immense potential in their ability to put their own flair on hip-hop influences like Bruno Mars in their more upbeat hit “360 Fresh.”
Since the beginning of time, music has held an integral role in the development of many cultures. It was used as a symbolic medium to tell stories, celebrate victories, and to signify new beginnings. Today, music is just as powerful, if not more, in its ability to cross borders. Although some may be handicapped by only seeing the world through biased lenses, there are many more who experience the genuine beauty in diversity. These artists showcase a superior creative intellect combining worlds that are often separated and creating a harmonic unity between fans across the globe.
Cover Image: Super Junior (SM Entertainment) & Leslie Grace (Sony)
Written by Serena Jackson