Unlike the huge popularity of K-pop nowadays, the proportion of Korean songs with Korean lyrics loved overseas has decreased significantly during the past few years. Analysts believe that this phenomenon is the aftermath of K-pop idols releasing too many songs in English to target the North American market. There are also concerns that the Korean narratives, which have long been considered the strength of K-pop, are weakening due to this change.
According to the 2023 Annual Report by Luminate, a company that analyzes the global music market, Korean songs accounted for 2.4% of the TOP 10,000 most played songs online, including music platforms in more than 50 countries. The impact of Korean songs has also increased in the US. Last year, Korean songs accounted for only 0.7% of the 10,000 songs.
If you look at the K-pop Global Dominance report released earlier by the same company, consumption of K-pop music in the global music market surged by about 40% from January to October last year.
K-pop songs have resonated among music listeners overseas, but Korean songs have become less influential in the ranking of popular songs. Last year, K-pop idols such as BTS’s Jungkook and BLACKPINK’s Jennie released all their solo songs in English. FIFTY FIFTY’s mega-hit song “Cupid” also had an English version and eventually this version was more popular.
Korean lyrics are losing proportion in K-pop idols’ songs these days. On 8 music platforms in Korea, English lyrics accounted for 41.3% of songs by female idol groups in TOP 400 from January to June last year. This is an increase of 18.9% compared to the same period in 2018. This is because Korean entertainment agencies have shifted their target to the English and American markets due to the prediction of a crisis in K-pop’s Asian market.
Music critic Kim Sang-hwa made an evaluation, saying “There is a trend of songs used as BGM on short video platforms such as TikTok gaining huge attention. This has led to K-pop producers utilizing the method of translating K-pop lyrics into English even more. As a result, the number of English songs grow as well”.
K-pop is in a dilemma. If K-pop continues to release more common love songs sung in English, the support based on fandoms may weaken. Music critic Kim Do-heon said, “The global music market is witnessing the rise of music with distinct regional characteristics. For example, the Vietnamese song ‘Si Tinh’ became popular thanks to its catchy ‘Ting Ting Ting Ting’ melody and artists like Bad Bunny, who dominated the Billboard charts with only Spanish songs”, adding “As such, it is questionable whether the direction of the current K-pop scene, which has started to become more English, is an inevitable globalization”.
In fact, the proportion of English songs among the Top 10,000 most played songs online was 54.9% last year, a decline of more than 10% compared to 67% in 2021.