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K-pop acts use more English lyrics now, especially girl groups: Study

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Girl group NewJeans [ADOR]
Girl group NewJeans [ADOR]

K-pop bands, especially girl groups, are increasingly using English lyrics in their songs, a study by local music tracker Circle Chart revealed on Tuesday.

According to a report by Circle Chart’s head researcher Kim Jin-woo, during the first half of this year, 41.3 percent of girl groups’ songs used English lyrics, and 24.3 percent for boy bands. These figures were up 18.9 percentage points and 5.6 percentage points, respectively, from 2018.

The report studied 38 girl groups’ songs and 76 boy bands’ songs from 2018 and 63 girl groups’ songs and 24 boy bands’ songs from 2023 that charted in the top 400 during the first half of each year. It excluded songs that are all in English.

Some girl groups had almost half of their lyrics in English.

English lyrics made up 48.4 percent of NewJeans’ songs, Le Sserafim 50.6 percent, NMIXX 49.3 percent, (G)I-DLE 53.6 percent and Blackpink 50 percent.

The significant increase in English lyrics is attributed to girl groups’ efforts to expand their target audience to overseas listeners following the global success of Blackpink in 2020, according to Kim.

The discrepancy between male and female groups comes from the fact that boy bands tend to target a smaller yet more loyal group of fans while girl groups tend to target the broader public as their listener group, the report added.

“Since the success of Blackpink in 2020, girl groups have expanded the market from domestic to overseas,” Kim said. “This leads to an increase in using more English lyrics starting from the preparation stage, which is a different approach from boy bands, who have a smaller, loyal fan base.”

BY KIM JI-YE [kim.jiye@joongang.co.kr]