For a variety of reasons (not all of them k-pop related), I don’t think too many people are going to miss 2017. But as we turn the calendar to 2018, I’m filled with a sense of optimism for what the new year might bring us.
With this in mind, here are the top ten things I’d like to see happen in 2018. Some are probably more realistic than others (as we saw with the results of last year’s resolutions), but that’s the beauty of a list like this! Be sure to leave your own ideas in the comments.
1. No. More. Disbandments.
First things first, we’ve got to stop the bleeding when it comes to k-pop’s established groups. 2017 was a brutal year for disbandments and roster changes, and felt like a total changing of the guard. I’m all for new groups rising to prominence, but there’s a place for acts with more history behind them too.
2. A Return to a More Powerful Vocal Performance Style
As k-pop has embraced attitude-driven trends like tropical house, future bass and hip-hop, I’ve noticed that the way songs are delivered has changed. Listening to some of SM Entertainment’s older material, their vocalists used to simply attack a melody, casting off a constant barrage of dramatic power notes without a second thought. Much of this had to do with the influence of producer Yoo Young-Jin (who desperately needs a resurgence), but I think this theatrical, over-the-top performance style has also just gone out of fashion. I need it to return, because it’s one of the things that first enthralled me about k-pop.
3. An Easing Up on the Moodiness (Boy Groups)
If I have one complaint about boy groups in general, it’s that many have become overly moody. Call it the BTS effect, I guess. Sure, there are many lighthearted acts as well, but there rarely seems to be much of a middle ground between the two. I know that long, brooding gazes at the camera appeal to much of k-pop’s teen audience, but sometimes the self-seriousness negatively affects the music, casting a murky shadow over what could otherwise be a big pop chorus. In 2018, I’d like to see an extra injection of fun.
4. An Easing Up on the Cutesiness (Girl Groups)
With girl groups, my issue is the exact opposite. I’m all for a cutesy concept, but not when everyone is doing it. The light, saccharine nature of this style really limits what a group can do, and I miss the musical maturity of acts like 2NE1, Miss A and Wonder Girls. A little more moderation would be welcome in 2018.
5. A New Wave of Weird K-Pop Ambition
Second generation k-pop was decidedly weird, but in recent years it seems like some of that oddball charm has softened in favor of a more international push. This has resulted in tremendous success, but I don’t want to see k-pop acts simply copying what’s popular about American or European acts. The industry is much more interesting than that, and it’s time to harness that creativity again.
6. A Surge of Rock-Influenced Production
If tropical house and EDM were the buzzwords this year, I’d love to see more rock elements brought in for 2018. This isn’t to say that I want idol groups to start picking up guitars, but I’d love a return to the SM Performance Style that incorporated elements of metal into its slick dance-pop sound. This could be especially dynamic for NCT, who still need that one big, breakout song.
7. A Solid Foundation for 2017’s Most Promising Rookies
Golden Child and ONF, I’m talking about you. These two groups have all the potential to break out, and I hope it happens for them. Ditto for A.C.E and Dreamcatcher, who have both developed very passionate (if niche) fan bases. And I hope 2018 goes well for LOONA, who have been part of this year’s most ambitious roll out. It will be interesting to see what happens upon full debut.
8. Peace for SHINee
Whatever SHINee decides to do with their tenth anniversary, I hope they’re happy. The loss of Jonghyun has been an incredible blow to the entire industry, but I can’t imagine what it must feel like to the remaining four members. No group has had it harder in 2017. Selfishly, I hope they stick together and pull an incredible comeback out of this tragedy, but most of all I wish them the opportunity to reconcile what’s happened and find peace.
9. Big Hits from Infinite and TVXQ
These two groups have been away for awhile, and both are scheduled to make comebacks toward the beginning of the year (Infinite’s is just a week away!). They’re also two of my ultimate favorite acts, and I’m rooting for monster returns that reestablish their k-pop dominance.
10. Justice for Snuper
It goes without saying, I’ve been a huge booster of Snuper this year. And while their sales have risen with each comeback, they still deserve more attention than they’re getting. But even if they don’t find incredible commercial success in 2018, I just hope they keep releasing music with Sweetune as their producer. It really has been a match made in heaven these past few years.