International music has hit the American music industry in force. Traditionally, Western popular music had been divided into several categories—RnB, Hip Hop, Rap, Rock, Indie, Alternative, Punk, Pop—the list goes on. But in most cases, the assumption is that mainstream music was a product of western cultures and sung in the English language.
Luis Fonsi’s Despacito broke records in becoming the biggest-selling international pop music sensation in a non-English language, though its popularity soon spurred a follow-up remix featuring English additions by Justin Bieber. The recent newcomer to the western scene is Korean music, otherwise known as K-pop. In a break with tradition, the K-pop group BTS were the first non-English group to perform at the Billboard Awards. This immediately caused an internet sensation and won even more fans of K-pop.
It’s a win-win situation. The world is getting exposure to a long-underappreciated genre of pop music and the native populations that gave birth to these songs are increasingly hyped to find their favorite music slowly integrating itself into the international music market.
But there is one significant barrier to achieving total acceptance of these foreign gems by our increasingly multicultural audience: How do you sing along in the shower, at a party, or riding the MRT if you don’t speak the language?