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

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?

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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?

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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.