Opinion: K-pop star shines brightly

By Laney Konz, Staff Writer

With the emergence and proliferation of “stan” culture in Gen Z, the charts have become emblematic of an artist’s success.

The weekly Billboard  charts are a strong indication of whether a song has achieved bop status, primarily valued for its popularity in the U.S. 

Consequently, the Hot 100 holds a lot of weight among stans, as it reflects how much the song has been purchased, played on the radio and streamed overall. Thus, earning a high placement in the  Hot 100 is a grand achievement.

For artists who aren’t from Western countries, making it big in America is difficult, let alone charting in the Top 10 of the Hot 100. Artists like Bad Bunny, Rosalía, BTS and Blackpink are a few of many boundary-breaking artists who are blurring the lines between language and music. It becomes apparent when seeing the impact these artists have had in America and their ability to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 that music transcends language.

Before BTS and Blackpink, Korean music began permeating the U.S. charts through PSY’s hit songs, “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman.” Yet, surprisingly, these legendary tracks never reached No. 1 on the BB Hot 100. “Gangnam Style” peaked at No. 2 on Sept. 27, 2012. When looking at this song’s influence, the fact that PSY never charted higher than No. 2 underscores just how difficult it is to chart in the U.S.

On April 3, “Like Crazy” by Jimin rang in at No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart, becoming the first South Korean soloist to achieve this feat. The single does not only change history due to its charting, but it also is important to note that it had little to no radio play, despite it having an English version. Thus, the large roles that stan culture and streaming play become even more palpable.

Moreover, the sales for Jimin’s single were the highest in a single week since Taylor Swift’s 328,000 units for “Anti-Hero” back in November 2022. Jimin is the first artist to sell more than 100,000 units since Swift’s song. 

The song itself is a beautifully painful reflection of the struggles of finding one’s identity, especially in regards to facing societal expectations for gender identity and sexual orientation. The imagery in the music video unveils Jimin’s own journey in navigating the lines between his feminine and masculine sides. He faces himself in the mirror, critically analyzing the person he sees and the person he wants to be. 

On top of this, Jimin sports bold white eyeliner and a dangly earring on the left side of his face, showing that he sees himself as a symbol of rebellion. The song, its music video and choreography are clearly queer-coded. By taking this brave step in being vulnerable about uncovering his identity and being on a path toward self-discovery, Jimin is not only breaking boundaries in his music, but also setting a precedent among Korean artists and citizens by normalizing and celebrating queer culture. 

Jimin’s airy, light vocals and the song’s vibey, smooth beat are sure to give you a good ride and make you stream like crazy. If you’re looking to dive down the rabbit hole of K-pop, Jimin’s “Like Crazy” is the perfect first step.