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A Student Short Essay Series #2

Updated: Apr 8

I am teaching a K-pop course at Berklee College of Music. The majority of my students are non-Koreans who are fans of K-pop and aspire to work in the industry. Their perspectives are crucial for us to understand how K-pop is perceived in a non-Korean context. With permission, I will post a series of short essays drafted during the final exam. These will serve as our knowledge base, guiding us to understand the best way to create the most valuable K-pop educational content by leveraging their insights. The questions are curated during the weeks of classes, and students get to choose two of them to answer freely. I edited the text to improve readability.

An Essay by N.A.

Essay Question: Reflecting Psy’s interview with NY Times “I still don't understand why that one song, 'Gangnam Style,' was so special, even though the people who made the music, danced to it, and performed it were all the same,” Is luck a significant factor in achieving success in the music industry? Please explain.

Luck is real; but luck is often confused with strategy. Of course, luck exists, but the very definition states that it's when things happen by chance rather than through one's own actions. I disagree with this definition. I believe it is a notable side effect/chain reaction of an action. In this situation, PSY became an overnight sensation because of his song 'Gangnam Style.' In the case of PSY, I do not think it was luck. I do not believe that luck is a significant factor in the industry; rather, 'strategy' is.

The evidence behind my opinion is that around 2012 when PSY released Gangnam Style, the hits were being made by the usual K-pop groups BIGBANG and Girls’ Generation. Nobody was expecting PSY. Then an older-looking man drops an electronic K-pop song that is extremely catchy with amazing, hilarious, and surprising choreography. That is not luck, although PSY might believe he was lucky. It was a shock factor, a strategic way to stand out in the industry. People in the K-pop industry especially know how to sway people to make them react a certain way. The industry collects data and studies patterns starting from the first successful K-pop artists and until today they are using that data to predict future careers/releases. I would say a significant factor in achieving success in the industry is 'strategy.'

Another way luck is a side effect and not a factor is in the emotional aspect. Gangnam Style was a song that broke the internet and broke through cultural bounds. Whether or not people understood the lyrics, it made people feel something whether it was humor, happiness, sadness, stress, anger, annoyance... The stronger the level of emotion, the more memorable. Since that song is still remembered to this day as a legendary hit by PSY: 'one-hit wonder,' it shows how strategy (not luck) came together to touch the lives of people all around the world.

A final example of luck not being a factor but a side effect is: An artist might post a cover video on YouTube. They do not promote it at all; it just sits on the internet. 5 years later, a manager comes across the video and loves their talent and wants to release music with them. Later, they become famous. People may see that as luck because the video was found after so long. But the first thing that had to happen was the artist posting that video. The cover was posted with the intention of people seeing it, and it wonderfully fell into the hands of a manager. Although in this case there was no strategy in promotion, or effort to share it elsewhere, the effort of just posting it was good enough for this artist. They were meant to be found after posting a video with no promotion. Other artists may find that in their calling, they have to work harder. It's not luck, just different expectations for every person so they can create their own strategy.


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