Track: Neon | Artist: Yukika | Album: Neon (single)

Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.  

What exactly is K-Pop? Does it exclusively refer to mass-produced idols, or is there room for a broader definition? Is it kosher to call independent artists K-Pop? How about artists that aren’t even Korean?

I bring this up because Neon is bound to become a lightning rod for this argument. Yukika, the artist behind this wonderful ode to 80s city pop, was a Japanese celeb first before she crossed the pond to debut in Korea. Not that you’d know it from listening to Neon; her accent is flawless. But is it K-Pop?

Once you start straying from the mainstream, the exact definition of the term can get surprisingly muddled. There’s no question that groups like Twice, BTS, Super Junior, or Miss A are considered K-Pop. But what about 2AM, a ballad-focused group? Or a rock band like LEDApple? If we take K-Pop as a stylistic measure, can we say with absolute certainty that an artist like Sunny Hill can be considered K-Pop?

Also—how Korean does K-Pop have to be? Would Big Bang or TVXQ’s Japanese-language tracks be considered K-Pop? How about Tiffany’s English debut, or Wonder Girls’ ill-fated collaboration with Akon? When does the boundary between K-Pop and Just Pop occur?

Personally, I couldn’t care less, which is why I’ve gamely featured artists like Jaurim and Norazo under the K-Pop banner, and have also spotlighted lesser-known indies—which, according to more conservative viewpoints, would never quality as K-Pop by definition. All words are made up, anyway.