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Girl Crush and the surroundings: a new generation of K-Pop artists

K-Pop is a genre that right now has a global resonance, a new generation of artists who speak to our sensitivity

By Francesca Parravicini

As an admirer of Asian culture, both from the point of view of habits and customs and from that of pop culture (as a teen my main source of joy was to go to the comics shop every week to buy the latest releases of my favorite manga) there is a phenomenon that I look at with great curiosity. K-Pop.

Modern Korean Pop takes shape in the 90s, but begins its global expansion in the early 2000s, with the advent of bands like 2NE1, Girls Generation, Shinee, Big Bang.

Musically, K-Pop is a genre that mixes traditional Korean music with an infinite amount of influences, from hip hop to dance, jazz to rock, in a very unique hybrid.

But one of the aspects that I find most fascinating is the system behind this genre: each song is accompanied by a concept, which influences the presentation, the choreography, the outfits, creating a sort of micro-universe. The artists known as "idols" are very popular personalities, often guests of TV programs and online formats.

Until a few years ago it was in vogue the belief that male groups were listened to only by girls and female groups only by boys and consequently idols had to follow a whole series of stereotypes: female groups, for example, had to conform to the "girlfriend trope”, perfect, smiling, sweet and seductive (there are exceptions of course, but this was the trend).

But the new generation of artists and K-pop fans are looking for something more than a pre-established role: in a culture that is still strongly sexist and anchored to gender roles, the so-called concept of Girl Crush has taken hold, with empowering songs and a style that shows not only beauty but also a lot of character and an ideal to be inspired by.

Let's get to know some of the artists of this new generation:

Mamamoo

 
 
 
 
 
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. [#문별] - 잠시 후 10시, 네이버 나우에서 '어벤걸스'가 방송됩니다👍🏻 - 우리 무무 여러분 본방사수하면서 문별이와 즐거운 하루 보내세요❤️ - #MoonByul #어벤걸스

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We need to mention them. Among the female groups, Mamamoo are perhaps the most proud champions of the ideals of self-expression: they came to fame starting from a small company,  RBW, standing out with a sound inspired by jazz, incredible talent in singing and interesting lyrics, where they talk about body image, empowerment, self-love. The idols have a very spontaneous image, they almost seem more like a group of friends and each one stands out for its own personality.

Solar, the leader of the group, who speaks of double standards and is not afraid to use her sensuality as male groups do, Moonbyul who prefers an androgynous and masculine style, Wheein, who speaks candidly about mental health and LGBT + themes and Hwasa, that was bullied for her curvy body and unconventional beauty and today is considered the Korean It Girl and has declared: "if I don't fit today's beauty standards, I'll become a new, different standard".

Sunmi

 
 
 
 
 
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One of the most peculiar soloists, Sunmi began her career at a very young age, by joining the famous JYP agency at 14, where she became part of the hugely popular Wonder Girls group, which debuted in 2007 and through many events remained united until 2015. In 2017 Sunmi signs with a new smaller agency, Makeus Entertainment where she finds her dimension: a vintage sound and aesthetic with contemporary touches, lyrics that speak of a femininity divided between love and a desire for freedom, rebellion and themes such as conformity in the age of social media, splendidly shown in the video of the song Noir.

Sunmi is not afraid to show a fierce and multifaceted personality, sometimes bizarre and often talks about the difficulties of being a woman in the world of entertainment, eating disorders and solidarity with other idols, whom she does not see as rivals but friends and allies.

Hyuna

 
 
 
 
 
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Another very popular soloist, like Sunmi, she made her debut at a very young age in Wonder Girls, and then moved to the Cube Entertainment in 2008 where she performed in the popular group 4Minute until 2010. Her solo work immediately stood out for its energetic and sensual style, perfectly exemplified by the song Bubble Pop, which became a global hit.

In 2018 she declares to have a relationship with one of the artists of her company, E'Dawn and for this she is fired together with him: it may seem paradoxical but for idols dating is still a taboo subject, because they must appear ideally like the perfect girlfriends/boyfriends for fans. Hired together with E'Dawn by the company of Psy (yes the infamous Gangnam Style singer) Hyuna has now a greater creative autonomy and talks about her private life without filters. For Hyuna, sensuality is something empowering and she wants to instill confidence in the girls who listen to her.

Red Velvet

One of the most popular girl groups at the moment, Red Velvet debuted in 2014 under SM Entertainment, initially with four members, Irene, Seulgi, Joy, Wendy, then Yeri in 2015. Unjustly criticized at the beginning – they were considered not talented enough – in 2019 they were elected by the Billboard as the best idol group alive and they are one of the groups that has the largest female audience.

Their strengths are an impeccable vocality, complex and recognizable choreographies and one of the best K-Pop discographies ever: Red Velvet breaks the stereotype that girl bands are not very eclectic, offering albums with different concepts, sometimes experimental, but always catchy. Their aesthetic is absolutely iconic, oscillating between a summery and “fruitful” style and creepy elements, inspired by horror films. The leader of the group Irene became an icon of feminism, when she cited Kim Ji Young, Born 1982, a feminist novel (to the horror of male chauvinists) among her readings.

BlackPink

 
 
 
 
 
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and another grateful moment at Inkigayo💕 Thank you all so much for making our weekend so full of love and happiness🖤🙏

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And finally we cannot fail to mention them. Blackpink are perhaps the group that in the contemporary scene have brought the concept of girl crush to perfection and for global popularity are direct rivals of BTS. Rosé, Jisoo, Lisa and Jennie have been on the scene since 2016, in the company YG Entertainment (where was created another nonconformist band, 2NE1) have broken an infinite amount of records in the world charts and their most recent single How You Like That is currently the most viewed music video in 24 hours on Youtube. They stand out for their powerful sound, empowering lyrics and impactful, inspirational aesthetic.

On Instagram they are incredible influencers, so much so that they are often guests of fashion shows and testimonials of brands such as YSL, Dior, Celine, Chanel.