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Music Odds – K-Pop Artists Headed for US Success

Trevor Dueck

by Trevor Dueck in Entertainment

Updated Jan 17, 2018 · 9:39 AM PST

K-pop is still trying to make inroads into North American mainstream music, but Psy, the undisputed King of YouTube, has at least made that journey a bit easier.

With singles like “Gangnam Style,” “Hangover” and “Daddy” going viral in the good ol’ USA, is there another K-pop artist(s) that could put South Korean pop music on the map?

Despite an obvious language barrier, K-pop has the potential to go mainstream in North America. However, it has been tough sledding for some groups over the years, just have to look at the failed experiment called Wonder Girls.

Currently, the music has a niche market and it’s true that Psy has paved the way for other Korean artists, but few have the “IT” factor needed to break cultural boundaries. Earlier this year, we set odds on K-pop artists most likely to break out in the US market. It’s time to reset the odds and predict the next K-pop sensation.

CL: 2/1

With 2NE1 a big smashing success in Asia, lead singer CL decided to try her hand at a solo career in the States. Thanks in large part to super-manager Scooter Braun, CL has started to turn heads with EDM collaborations like “Dirty Vibe,” which she did with G-Dragon and Skrillex. She has also had moderate success with songs like “Hello Bitches” and another EDM track with Diplo called “Doctor Pepper.”

CL’s first real solo English project is set to be released sometime in the spring of 2016. Considered a fashion trend-setter, she’s infused sartorial elements into her particular brand of K-Pop, and that just may be the recipe for success for a North American breakthrough in 2016.


Reminiscent of K-pop female powerhouse Girls’ Generation, this six-member girl group has already broken into the European music scene. With a nomination for Best Korean Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards under their belt, GFRIEND is poised to extend their reach into North American charts. The group also went viral in September, when a fan-recording of their stumbly performance earned 2 million views in less than 48 hours.

Joo Young: 15/2

Korean YouTube sensation Joo Young is another artist that could defy international borders. Already a big name in the underground scene, this singer/songwriter has collaborated with several of K-pop’s biggest stars including Kim Jin Pyo, Lyn, and Eluphant. Many of Young’s soulful R&B tracks are in English, which gives him lots of crossover potential. His single “Erase” was one of the biggest songs on the K-pop charts in 2014 and has over 5 million views on YouTube to date.

Katie Kim: 8/1

Kim Seo-hyeon, better known by the stage name Katie Kim, was the winner of K-pop Star 4. Part Amy Winehouse, part Kelly Clarkson, Katie’s sound ranges from pop and R&B to jazz and gospel. The South Korean’s breakthrough performance of “Where You Need To Be” topped four million views on Naver TV Cast, so we know she has plenty of star quality. Her sultry voice could easily bridge into the North American market.

iKon: 10/1

Boy bands may not be the cultural phenomenon they once were, but the popularity of One Direction has proven that they are making a comeback. iKon hopes to capitalize on this trend. The seven-member, all-male group made their debut in October, and have already amassed a dedicated fan base. Fusing K-pop with hip hop, iKon has a good mix of talented rappers and vocalists. Their track “Rhythm Ta” has over 12 million views on YouTube, and is admittedly pretty poppin’.


MAMAMOO is not your standard K-Pop girl group. The quartet is focused as much on substance and talent as it is on style. If the group leans more on the soulful stylings of ostensible lead-member Solar and less on the rapping of Hwasa, American audiences may eat up their next offering.

Baekhyun (lead singer of EXO): 20/1

“Bacon,” as his fans call him, is considered one of the more talented members of the K-Pop group EXO. He has now taken a break from the uber-popular group to focus on his solo career, immediately turning heads with a song called “Dream” (a duet with Suzy of the group Miss A). The single topped charts after its release and its music video garnered 1 million views within a day. This young man can play piano and has a voice with amazing range. Could America be reading for his musical stylings? It will be difficult, but with the right type of song writing and maybe a more contemporary jazz approach, it could happen!

(Photo credit: By MFDice (http://mfdicekone.tistory.com/200) [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

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