K-Pop is an agency-driven genre, meaning that what gets put into the market is often expertly crafted by a team of individuals and hoisted upon a group/artist who then takes it to the next level with their talent and charisma. This doesn’t necessarily take art out of the equation, but it does create an environment where trends and images are (mostly) in the control of a few powerful groups of producers and marketers. Given this, I thought it would be a good idea to check in with some of the genre’s biggest influencers and evaluate how they’re doing so far in 2016.
Of the big three agencies, JYP feels like the best positioned for the coming years. This marks a real resurgence, as it seemed only a couple years ago that they were in danger of slowly drifting away from the k-pop zeitgeist. Then came Twice and GOT7 — both of which have become among this year’s best sellers. Twice seems poised to become Korea’s number one girl group as the veterans begin to disband and/or slow down with promotions. GOT7 has brilliantly cultivated a strong international fan base that guarantees them a massive amount of success, even if they have yet to enjoy that one big hit in Korea.
While JYP Entertainment became synonymous with the production work of its founder, Park Jinyoung, its acts have slowly become more diverse, utilizing a new breed of producers to craft a fresh, trademark sound. The agency’s pairing with duo Black Eyed Pilseung has been especially inspired, giving Twice three massive hits in a row. I love Park Jinyoung’s production style, but it was a smart move to loosen the reins a bit and offer a larger variety of styles and sounds.
Speaking of variety, JYP has done a good job expanding their genre base as well, mainly through the Studio J subsidiary label. They have the soul/r&b of soloist G.Soul (who also does composing work for a variety of artists), and the indie rock of DAY6. Acts like these give JYP a more credible cache as a label, proving their versatility and willingness to explore a multitude of genres.
Promotion for JYP artists has been predominantly good. Both Twice and GOT7 have received multiple comebacks, as would be expected of the label’s two biggest selling acts, but veterans like 2PM and Wonder Girls have also been able to release new material. Even better, JYP artists have guested and collaborated with many of their peers from different labels. There’s been a particularly strong bond between JYP and SM this year, which has benefited both agencies. Reaching out like this is so important in the relatively small world of k-pop. It excites fans and brings in new ones.
Though JYP is cultivating new talent in new genres, I wish that promotion for these underrated groups and artists was a bit stronger. DAY6, in particular, have incredible potential. The k-pop world has an open space for the next big idol rock group (à la FTIsland or CNBLUE), and I think that DAY6 can fill it. But it’s not going to happen without music show promotion and consistently scheduled releases. GOT7 has been wonderfully managed and promoted, and JYP would do well to follow that template for DAY6. Drafting Jae as a host for After School Club was a good start, but the guys really just need to release more music and promote it more often.
Though JYP’s future looks incredibly strong right now, I’m also concerned that many of his veteran groups don’t pack the punch that they used to. Other than Wonder Girls, who did very well this year, there’s just not much to fall back on should Twice or GOT7 (unexpectedly) lose popularity. 2PM will be enlisting soon, but their last couple of albums haven’t made much impact anyway. Miss A and 2AM are on hiatus, which usually means a probable disbandment. Even ever-popular Suzy seems to have fallen out of the spotlight a bit this year, with her last drama not exactly setting the world on fire. With rookies as strong as JYP’s this isn’t an imminent concern, but it’s still worth noting.