From “Gangnam Style” to BTS: The Rise of K-pop in the U.S.

Photo Courtesy: Andrew Lipovsky/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

Nielsen Music reports that the consumption of Korean music in the U.S. has doubled over the past three years. Thanks to social networking platforms, user-generated content sites like Tumblr (R.I.P.) and South Korean promoters’ loose perspective on copyright, Korean bands, TV shows and more began seeping into America’s pop culture consciousness in a whole new way at the beginning of the last decade.

The term "Korean pop," most often abbreviated as "K-pop," originated in the 1990s but gained widespread popularity in the early 2000s, replacing the term "Gayo," which was used to refer to pop music created in South Korea. This more modern form of South Korean pop music has been influenced by numerous genres — hip hop, gospel, folk and so on — and musical styles from around the world. Apart from celebrating its hybridity, K-pop also leans heavily into sleek fashion, mesmerizing audiovisual content and — perhaps above all else — incredible dance and choreography.

These days, K-pop boy band BTS has taken the world by storm: The group’s first stadium concert in the U.S. sold out within 20 minutes, which is quite a feat for a non-English-speaking musical act. But how did K-pop go from being celebrated by one pocket of the internet to mainstream darling? Well, there are quite a few factors at play, but there’s one pop culture touchstone that we probably all remember well: "Gangnam Style."