Recently, you might have noticed a lot of K-pop stars are getting name-dropped by western talents. From Wale and Kehlani to child actress Kylie Rogers, it seems that the Korean wave is once again catching the attention of stars out west. Big names like BTS are on the tip of everyone's tongue, and as a result, some interesting cultural exchanges are taking place between fans of Korean and western acts. One has to wonder though - isn't this name dropping mostly beneficial to the western acts in the equation?
When celebrities acknowledge each other or a particular brand on social media, it's usually strategic. Of course, plenty of people just make friends with those who they work around, so it makes sense for some celebrities to be buddy-buddy naturally. On the other hand, savvy and cynical followers of celebrity social media platforms can usually pick up on pre-planned promotion. For every post that doesn't get stamped with the infamous and repellant "#ad" hashtag, there's two or three more that serve the same purpose as advertisements without being totally explicit or in-your-face.
Let's look at the facts. The official Twitter account of BTS has 5.03 million followers. Their secondary account, used by their label for announcements and promotional purposes, has 3.24 million followers. When BTS social media accounts are active, a significant number of people are paying attention. When their name comes up in news articles and trending topics, fans and onlookers alike notice. Can the same be said for those who have name-dropped BTS lately, though?
Tinashe, who recently made headlines for saying she would like to collaborate with BTS (and J-Hope specifically), has about 644,000 Twitter followers. Kehlani, another alternative R&B singer on the rise, told her 360,000 followers to tell BTS "holla at me!" Furthermore, although Rap Monster collaborator Wale boasts an impressive 5.36 million followers, it's worth noting that he hasn't had a significant hit or feature verse since 2011's "Slight Work."
While BTS has been graceful and accepting of their international praise, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that they're doing favors for people who are, frankly, less famous. To understand the concept of influence is to recognize that some K-pop acts have enormous amounts of it. Acts like BTS and Big Bang gain the attention of international audiences even without English-language songs, whereas acts like Tinashe and Kehlani have to work quite hard to establish themselves slowly starting with western audiences.
For performers like BTS, international recognition is something cherished and often carefully approached. Labels and artists both recognize that you can only make one first impression on the world stage, so they approach things like promotion and touring with rigorous attention to detail. Conversely, the current state of Korean-western pop music relations makes it seem like western artists need only mention K-pop to receive heaps of attention from Korean music fans and news outlets. In the absence of a legitimate strategy for internationally expanding a western artist's career, the practice of appealing to the largest and most attentive K-pop fan groups has gained popularity.
Have you discovered K-pop through a western artist? Perhaps you had discovered an American artist through K-pop? If you said yes to either of these questions, take a moment to congratulate yourself; you're an influencer that can affect the cultural exchange! Share your experiences in the comments below!