While K-pop artists have made major strides on the U.S. industry in key areas like album sales and touring, landing on radio tends to be the final piece of the puzzle still missing. This week, Monsta X makes a major stride with an important entrance onto the pop-radio charts.
Monsta X make their debut on Billboard’s Pop Songs airplay chart this week as “Who Do U Love?” featuring French Montana enters at No. 39. This marks just the second-ever Korean group, and third-ever K-pop act, to enter the Top 40 radio chart. The septet follow only PSY (who has one entry to date when “Gangnam Style” hit No. 10 in 2012, the highest placement yet for a K-pop artist) and BTS (who have four entries, recently peaking at No. 22 with “Boy With Luv” earlier this year).
The Pop Songs chart measures total weekly plays, as tabulated by Nielsen Music, among its reporting panel of 168 mainstream top 40 stations.
Leaders in plays for the song for this past week, ending Aug. 11, according to Nielsen Music, include Radio Disney (with 67 plays), Sirius XM Venus (40 plays) and WBBM-FM, B96, Chicago (28).
Erik Bradley, music director at WBBM-FM (B96) Chicago, says that the song’s tempo, memorable hook, relatable lyrics as well as the growing strides K-pop artists have made in America all factored into garnering radio play. “Although ‘Who Do U Love?’ is still developing we’re happy to give it a shot because of all the ground work the artist and their team have put in thus far to get it to this point,” he tells Billboard.
Bradley adds that “Who Do U Love?” being in English made it more appealing for U.S. radio. “When you go to a big K-pop show you can’t help but easily see that there is quite a movement happening and it’s something I want our station to be involved in,” he adds, saying K-pop songs in English “makes the decision to play this kind of song relatively easy.”
EVP at Epic Records Rick Sackheim sees the track helping “bridge the momentum between K-pop fever and pop radio.” He says, “American radio has shown over the years to further push pop-culture moments and make these moments into true music movements with longevity…’Who Do U Love?’ lays the foundation for long-standing relationship between Monsta X and U.S. radio audiences.”
This past week also saw Monsta X wrap an important week of stateside visibility. Their U.S. tour closed with a sold-out show at the Staples Center and the band performed at the 2019 Teen Choice Awards, making them first K-pop act to appear on the show. Looking ahead, Epic’s Sackheim adds that “more English recordings are on the way” for Monsta X.
And as with any pop act, “it’s up to the public to take it all the way or not,” B96’s Bradley adds. “I’m optimistic that it will succeed, all early indications are pointing in that direction.”