You only have to look at some recent stats to see how K-pop is continuing to conquer the world. BTS’s second English language single, “Butter”, just logged the most single-day streams of any song ever on Spotify. There’s been a growing recognition of K-pop acts in the US, with BLACKPINK being the first all-female K-pop group to perform at Coachella, and BTS receiving four Billboard awards last night (May 24). So why doesn’t K-pop have its own category at the Grammys?
BTS were nominated for the first time in 2020: “Dynamite” was up for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the recent 63rd awards, but lost out to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s “Rain On Me”. It was a historic moment – the first-ever nomination for a K-pop act. But according to Bill Freimuth, chief awards officer at the Recording Academy, a K-pop-only category is unlikely to emerge in the near future.
Speaking to Billboard, Freimuth said that both he and the “community” find it hard to separate K-pop music from ordinary pop enough to justify its own category. “The way I see it, modern K-pop really started in the ’90s,” he said. “They took what was popular during that era (such as R&B and bubblegum pop) and made it their own. What we’ve heard from the community is that they consider what they are creating to be pop music.”
“The general process (of adding a category) is quite formal,” Freimuth added, explaining that detailed proposals and several rounds of approval are needed by various bodies. The Recording Academy does occasionally add new categories, though, most recently adding Best Global Music Performance and Best Música Urbana Album. Potential categories need around 100 submissions for a “strong chance” of consideration, but K-pop only got 14 last year.
Following the release of their latest feelgood bop, BTS expressed a desire to be further recognised by the Academy. During a press conference in Seoul, the band said: “We continue to want to receive a Grammy award. “Butter” will be another try and I hope it can have good results.”
2021 has been a monumental year for K-pop so far, with the return of SHINee, Dazed Korea cover stars aespa scaling the charts, and Jackson Wang of GOT7 pursuing his solo career.
Read our recent interview with K-pop idol turned hip hop star, Jay B.