K-pop boy groups are taking over in a post-One Direction era


Wren Bulawin

Now that British and American boy bands are no longer in vogue, musical acts from the East – most notably the incredibly popular Korean boy group BTS – are rising up and becoming household names in the global music industry. The primary demographic of boy bands and groups has always been teenage girls and young women because of how these artists are catered and geared towards the female gaze.

Kaitlyn Luu, Staff Writer

Depending on which generation you hail from, the image that comes to mind when you hear the words “boy band” probably conjures something vastly different from preceding or succeeding generations. Baby Boomers will most likely think of the Beatles and Gen X may recall the heyday of the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. As for Millenials, many former fangirls long to go back to the days before Zayn Malik’s exit from One Direction. 

Gen Z has a bit of a different story. Our generation didn’t grow up with the traditional western boy bands. Conversely, the dominance of boy groups from Korea in music charts and in sales that has spread far and wide all across the globe seems to be the most prominent trend in foreign artists uptaking slots that need to be filled in the western music industry. BTS, NCT, Exo — and more recently — Stray Kids, Tomorrow X Together, and Ateez have risen to worldwide fame in no small part due to the serious deficit in western boy bands to capture the hearts of crazed teenage girls. 

Boy bands have been around for a long while now and historically come from the U.S. or Britain. Based on recent trends, it appears that the popularity of these kinds of boy bands is in steep decline as the market shifts more towards an individualist artist branding. This isn’t to say that teenage girls have lost interest in boy bands or that they have tired out and become stale. Fandom culture will always persist even when it evolves into new forms over time, as it is evident that the thrill and obsession is still very much alive and thriving. 

In the wake of the Korean Wave or Hallyu, K-pop boy groups have taken over the role as the idiosyncratic musical act of this generation. Hallyu is the immersion of Korean culture and exports into the western world and far beyond globally. Korean food, clothing, movies (K-dramas), and music have diffused to just about every corner of the earth in 2023, effectively increasing South Korea’s GDP up by $12.3 billion in 2019. Teenage girls are now obsessing over boy groups from Korea in place of the scant line-up of boy bands being produced over here on the other side of the world. Although BTS — the big superstar leading the pack — is currently on hiatus to serve in the military, the popularity and influence of K-pop is still going strong as the older groups cede their thrones onto the younger groups. 

In 2021, BTS performed four shows at SoFi Stadium having sold 214,000 tickets and grossed $33.3 million. This broke several records and solidified BTS’s spot in Billboard Boxscore history. Despite the incredulous rise in concert ticket prices, “ARMY” will relentlessly support their idols and fight to the death on Ticketmaster to have the opportunity to see them live. 

We’re already seeing similar levels of fanaticism espoused by the fandoms of other K-pop groups gaining traction worldwide. This is all to say that no matter where these boy bands come from, fangirls will never fail to fawn and swoon over these dreamlike gentlemen as teenage girls do and have done for decades. By the looks of it, BTS seems to be just the start of K-pop’s reign over the music industry.