Last night, Korean act Red Velvet kicked off their RedMare In USA concert tour in Los Angeles, the first of six concerts that the quintet will bring throughout the country over the next two weeks. They’re one of two K-pop girl groups, along with Oh My Girl, to have already launched Stateside tours in 2019, and Red Velvet's is easily the most prominent one to date after 2017 and 2018 saw not a single female K-pop team tour in the country.
Impactful in its own way and accordingly receiving attention from a wide-range of media outlets, the RedMare tour comes amid one of the highest-profile periods for Korean music in the States to date between the tour and major television appearances by BTS and BLACKPINK over the next week.
Between Thursday, Feb. 7, when the Red Velvet tour kicked off, and when it ends on Sunday, Feb. 17 in Newark, N.J., Stateside audiences will be graced with not one or two, but three opportunities to see artists coming out of the Korean music scene on their televisions. BTS is set to present an award at the Grammy Awards on Sunday (Feb. 10), their first time appearing at the award ceremony, where their Love Yourself: Tear is up for a packaging design award.
The next few days will see BLACKPINK appear on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Good Morning America on Monday (Feb. 11) and Tuesday (Feb. 12), respectively, the latter appearance marking the first time a K-pop girl group has ever appeared on a nationally-broadcasted U.S. morning show. They are also the first K-pop girl group to appear on a late night show since Girls' Generation appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2012.
This busy period coincides with New York Fashion Week, where BLACKPINK and several other K-pop artists are expected to make appearances, a nod to how South Korea’s entertainment industry is increasingly becoming a major arbiter of style and forward-thinking fashion.
Individually, each of these events are notable on their own for expanding Asian representation in mainstream U.S. media. But with such prominent moments of K-pop representation taking place simutaneously, it feels as if the winds have changed regarding the place of the Korean music industry in the Stateside music scene. Previously recognized as a niche, K-pop is now undeniably a mainstream entity, and each of these moments are adding to its impact: Red Velvet are poised as symbols of the potential for girl groups to gain traction in the boy band-dominated Stateside K-pop touring scene, which BLACKPINK is set to join later this year. That quartet has already signed with UMG and Interscope Records, and, along with their television appearances and performance this week, will appear at both weekends of Coachella in April. And, of course, BTS is proving -- through both the Grammys appearance and their career in general -- that it is possible for Asian acts to crossover into the Western music world without any concessions to their artistry.
What new heights the growing breeze will take the state of K-pop in the U.S. to in 2019 remains to be seen. But these appearances and performances, along with a multitude of upcoming tours and festival appearances, following on the heels of last year's historic rise of BTS to the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart on two occasions, makes it clear that now, more so than ever before, K-pop is truly here in the States.