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Why song-centric pop beats choreographed K-pop 

BTS, Map of the Soul: Persona
  • BTS, Map of the Soul: Persona

Paula Abdul’s return to the recent Billboard Awards unintentionally underscored the limits of current Korea- and China-based boy bands, exemplified by BTS. As much as Abdul’s 1980s introduction of dance to song charts was lauded, her music rarely had the staying power of, say, Madonna’s. Similarly, BTS has won accolades for the complexities of their seventh album, Map of the Soul: Persona (Big Hit Entertainment), though the lyrics (in Korean) are a trifle overburdened and self-important. K-pop stars, like American boy bands before them, fill stadiums because of elaborate dance moves, without much song content underneath.

By contrast, Carly Rae Jepsen and Lizzo both launched gems promising greater staying power. Jepsen’s Dedicated (School Boy/Interscope) moves the Canadian slightly in the sultry Halsey direction in tracks like “Julien,” without limiting her melodic riff appeal. Those who claim Jepsen doesn’t take chances forget the vapid field she often competes against. Lizzo (Melissa Jefferson) cut her teeth on hip-hop, adding R&B elements in her first two solo albums, but her newest Cuz I Love You (Atlantic Records) is a paean to straight-up pop, albeit with horns and full-throated howls. Let’s face it, even The Jonas Brothers’ reunion album Happiness Begins (JB Recording) deserves some credit for attention to guitar riffs and lyrical interplay — more than offered in a K-pop diet.

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