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What Is Moombahton & What Does It Have To Do With K-Pop?

The house-reggaeton fusion is taking over K-Pop.

This week, Jay Park released the music video to “Me Like Yuh” off his new album “EVERYTHING YOU WANTED.” Unlike the hip-hop and R&B genres that the singer is commonly known for, this particular single features a vibe that we’ve been hearing a lot lately in K-Pop; it’s a rhythmic little genre called moombahton.

Moombahton first came to be, by mere accident, back in 2009 when American DJ Dave Nada slowed down a remix of the song “Moombah” by Silvio Ecomo and Chuckie that soon sent the world of EDM into a tailspin of two-step insanity. At least that’s how the story goes according to Google. The result is a house-reggaeton fusion genre that has now been combined with other electronic ingredients and rapidly evolving, as is customary of dance music. Although moombahton has died down some in the last couple years, we’ve learned that if it has trended in the West, it is bound to creep into K-Pop eventually.

Jay Park is the most recent Korean artist to release a moombahton-infused single. While it was accomplished in “Me Like Yuh” in a pretty standard fashion, he’s certainly not the only one to do it in 2016.

Early this year, SM Entertainment went full Apple Inc. on everyone and held a highbrow conference in which founder Lee Soo Man introduced not only the company’s strategy to tackle the digital market (with STATION) but also their newest boyband project NCT (or Neo Culture Technology). In July, the Seoul-based branch of NCT, known as NCT 127, made their debut with the lead single “소방차 (Fire Truck).” And, you guessed it – moombahton is a key feature in the song.

What SM chose to do on this track, however, was to, of course, throw a few more wrenches into the machine for added flavor. “Fire Truck” focuses largely on deep-bass and trap elements for the majority of the song, then shifts into a full moombahton percussion moment from the bridge to the end. It’s an effective climax that elevates the song considerably, and makes for one hell of a breakdown relative to the rest of “Fire Truck”.

Moombahton provides a laid-back groove courtesy of its slower reggaeton tempo. Even when it’s reduced to the basics, like in “Fire Truck,” it’s still an appealing characteristic. Another group that utilized moombahton’s appeal in a similar way is YG Entertainment‘s BLACKPINK in their hit single “휘파람(Whistle).”

The song is chill and mellow by default, so it was a natural progression for YG to introduce moombahton into the mix; at least that’s what comes across after listening to “Whistle.” Like NCT 127, BLACKPINK saved the full impact of the fusion genre for the breakdown, which in this case pairs swimmingly with the rest of the hip-hop style of the song.

But if there’s one glowing example of moombahton’s rise in K-Pop this year, it is BTS‘ comeback single “피 땀 눈물 (Blood Sweat & Tears).” This single pulls moombahton front and center, and keeps it there. The song captures the electronic elements of the genre, then takes it a step further by treating BTS’ vocals the same way that is done in reggaeton today. BTS is autotuned for effect purposes throughout “Blood Sweat & Tears,” and the end result is a song that is comparable to the genre in a way that sounds less K-Pop and more Latin. This is interesting for two reasons: 1) BTS tackled a rhythmic style along the same lines as this not too long ago with, “뱁새” off their previous album, which points to their pulse on rising trends, like moombahton; and 2) it’s an example of how intertwined global sounds have become over time. “Blood Sweat & Tears” could easily, and potentially, exist and coexist alongside pop music overseas in Latin America and Europe, because it sounds derivative enough to do so.

Like dubstep a few years ago, moombahton might overstay its welcome sooner than expected, but, for now, the genre has found a new home in K-Pop. With all the liberties K-Pop producers take in manipulating dance music, it’s yet to be seen where this newfound marriage could lead both moombahton and K-Pop in the future.

Credit: This article was originally written for and published on Music Mind (Source).

1 comment on “What Is Moombahton & What Does It Have To Do With K-Pop?

  1. Pingback: An Annotated Listening: “Rumor” by K.A.R.D – Is This How You K-Pop?

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