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K-pop targets global audience with English lyrics

By Hong Yoo

Published : Oct. 31, 2023 - 14:52

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(G)I-dle (Cube Entertainment) (G)I-dle (Cube Entertainment)

The ratio of English words used in K-pop songs is rapidly increasing in line with the genre's popularity overseas.

English words took up 41.3 percent of the lyrics of K-pop girl groups’ releases that landed on Circle Chart’s Digital Chart Top 100 in the first half of this year, according to Circle Chart.

This is an increase of 18.9 percentage points compared to 2018, when the figure marked 22.4 percent.

Breaking it down by group, 53.6 percent of the words in (G)I-dle’s releases in the first half of this year were in English, while it was 50.5 percent for Le Sserafim, 50 percent for Blackpink, 49.3 percent for Nmixx and 48.4 percent for NewJeans.

Ive used the least English words, at only 24.9 percent.

English words most used in K-pop girl groups’ singles were “I,” “You,” “Like” and “Love.”

“As K-pop girl groups started to expand their reach overseas since the global success of Blackpink, the use of English started increasing in their songs. The more foreign demand the group had, the more English they used,” said Kim Jin-woo, a senior researcher at Circle Chart.

“The young generation in Korea has no resistance against English lyrics so the language in which K-pop lyrics are written is no longer limited to Korean,” said local music critic Kang Tae-gyu.

Stray Kids (JYP Entertainment) Stray Kids (JYP Entertainment)

Meanwhile, the increase of English words used in lyrics was relatively lower for K-pop boy bands’ releases that landed on Circle Chart’s Digital Chart Top 100 in the first half of this year, with 24.3 percent of those words being English, marking growth of 5.6 percentage points from 2018.

“This is because girl groups are not only targeting their fandom, but also the global audience, while boy bands’ releases are more centered around targeting their own fandoms,” explained researcher Kim.