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Synth pop regains popularity in K-pop, riding retro boom

07:00 May 27, 2023

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- Synth pop has recently undergone a resurgence in the K-pop music scene, capitalizing on the retro wave and the global preference for easily accessible music.

Synth pop is a sub-genre of pop music that thrived in the late 1970s and 80s. It features electronic instruments, particularly synthesizers but differs from electronic pop, which is more electronically driven.

The genre began to establish its place in the music industry in the late 1970s as synthesizers became popularized. British bands The Human League and Duran Duran represented the genre in the world music scene while Nami's "Round and Round" (1983) and Cho Yong-pil's "Short Hair" (1980) were among the popular synth pop songs domestically.

K-pop girl group Fifty Fifty is seen in this photo provided by its agency, Attrakt. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

While electronic pop is characterized by fast-paced music that fills the ears, synth pop combines a leisurely tempo with electronic sounds to evoke a warm and nostalgic sentiment.

The genre received great love until the 80s before gradually fading from the mainstream market in the 90s, as the sound produced by synthesizers began to feel somewhat outdated with the emergence of new sound devices and music genres offering diverse musical colors.

Synth pop is experiencing a recent resurgence in the global music market, however, largely driven by popular artists like The Weeknd, Dua Lipa, and Miley Cyrus. The mainstream K-pop scene has also witnessed a renewed interest in the genre, influenced by the prevailing trends in the global music industry.

K-pop soloist Cho Yong-pil is seen in this image provided by YPC Company. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Cupid," the hit song of K-pop rookie sensation Fifty Fifty, is a synth-pop track known for its refreshing synthesizer sound.

The song debuted on the U.S. Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart at No. 100 on March 28, making the quartet the fastest group to enter the chart since its debut in November. It spent nine consecutive weeks on the chart, the longest for a K-pop girl group.

Band leader Saena said during a press conference last month she thinks overseas listeners were the first to appreciate the song because it is of the globally popular synth pop genre that is easy to listen to and evokes a warm and nostalgic sentiment.

BTS member Jimin is seen in this photo provided by BigHit Music. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Like Crazy," the lead track of BTS member Jimin's first solo album and "Feeling of You," a new song released by K-pop legend Cho Yong-pil last month, are also categorized as synth-pop tunes.

Since synth pop can be used to create diverse music without limit, combined with various other genres such as rock, disco, ballad and dance, experts forecast synth pop's popularity will likely continue for the time being.

"Synth pop can be varied in form depending on how synthesizers are utilized in different genres and vibes," Jung Min-jae, a local pop music critic, said. "As it has recently gained popularity, the trend is likely to continue for some time."


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