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If I Ruled the K-Pop World: Comeback Recommendations for the Industry’s Biggest Acts

Watching (and obsessing over) Avengers: Infinity War last week has got me thinking. If I wielded the Infinity Gauntlet and had the power to shape the universe, how would I control K-Pop?

Infinite comebacks every month! New Sweetune songs every week!

Just kidding. I’m not going to be that biased. Instead, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the industry’s leading acts and offer my thoughts of where I would like to see them head next. This kind of pie-in-the-sky speculation can be dangerous, since setting unrealistic expectations undoubtedly leads to disappointment. But what is life without a little danger, right?


BLACKPINK

Well… I really just want more music. I’ll take anything at this point. I know that some fans want them to branch out from their 2NE1-esque, Teddy-produced sound to show a more individual appeal, but I actually want them to stick with Teddy and continue down the road they’ve already started. If only that road didn’t have so many blocks and detours…

BTS

BTS’s recent material has been solid, but it’s at its worst when it tries to ape western trends. They’ve already charted a course towards global domination, so I hope that their next comeback will cement that status with music that feels uniquely them, rather than a hodgepodge of genres that are popular in the States. A callback to their 2014/2015 work would be much appreciated.

EXO

I may be in the minority, but my favorite EXO album is still their debut mini. After the success of Power, I’d love to see the group explore their sci-fi side again but blend it with the funk influences of their 2015 singles. Their work has always been strong. Now, it’s time for them to really throw down the gauntlet with something big and splashy to remind the world why they are SM’s flagship group.

GFriend

GFriend’s concept has often been described as “powerful innocence,” but their last few comebacks have seemed to ignore the “powerful” half of that equation. After a trio of subdued title tracks, it’s time for Navillera (or Fingertip) part 2. Put Yuju front and center, and let her belt it out without holding back.

GOT7

If I’m being honest, GOT7 is close to losing this particular fan. I haven’t completely enjoyed any of their singles since 2015, as I find that much of their music has become too self-serious and lacking in melodic hookiness. The members have shown promise when it comes to songwriting, but I think they need to be paired with more established producers to expand their sound and reignite the fun factor of tracks like Just Right and A.

Infinite

Infinite are at the stage in their career where they’re unlikely to garner a swell of new fans, so they should be targeting their promotions toward their existing fan base. It’s been awhile since they’ve promoted a real “Infinite” sounding track, so I want the most Infinite-ish Infinite comeback imaginable. It would be awesome if this came via Sweetune, but it doesn’t have to. In-house producer Razer did a fine job channeling this style with January’s excellent b-side Wind.

NCT

I don’t care which unit it comes from, but I desperately want SM to give NCT a summer song as instantly classic as Red Velvet’s Red Flavor. They need that big breakout hit to offset and compliment all of their more experimental material. Something funky and melodic with a classic hook.

Red Velvet

There’s honestly little I would change about Red Velvet’s career arc. They’ve been allowed to show versatility in sound while maintaining a very high-quality singles run. As a bigger fan of their pop-driven “red” side, I selfishly want more songs in the vein of Red Flavor. In fact, that entire mini album was pretty close to perfect. More of that, please.

Seventeen

As much as I’ve enjoyed Seventeen’s past few singles, I’d recommend an easing up on the EDM and a shift back to the funk influences of their first few years. This group is too good to simply conform to trends, and EDM doesn’t always allow for the kind of pop melody that composer Woozi excels at. I want a “Very Nice” part two, but with a fully fleshed out chorus.

TVXQ

If there was ever an act designed for the bombastic SMP style, it’s TVXQ. Now that they’ve given us a more refined sound with The Chance Of Love, I want something big and powerful and edgy. After all, we haven’t really heard this style from them in Korea since 2012. That’s way too long!

Twice

I’m usually a proponent of groups filling their discography with variations and extensions of a core sound, but with Twice I think it’s time to do something totally different. Their songs are beginning to feel a bit predictable, and their quirky-cute sound really only soars when working with Black Eyed Pilseung. If they’re on to new producers now, the foundations of their music should also branch out.

VIXX

I love that VIXX continues to embrace unique concepts, but their past few singles have seemed to be stuck in the same style (and downbeat tempo). It’s time for something with a bit more energy. Instead of letting the concept drive the song choice, I’d like them to do the opposite. Start with the best track on their album and build a concept around that.

Wanna One

I wish that YMC would put as much effort into the group’s music as they do their other promotional opportunities. Their past two albums have been disappointing compared to last summer’s Energetic. Instead of bouncing around from one producer to the next with vastly different results, I’d recommend finding one that works and sticking with them. Might I suggest Flow Blow (Energetic) or Ryan Jhun (Pick Me)?

Winner

I know that former member Taehyun played a large part in the more rock-influenced side of Winner’s discography, but I would love them to explore this sound further. Seunghoon’s voice, in particular, is just perfect for this genre. My fear is that the group is simply latching onto whatever trend is popular at the time. This worked well last year with tropical house, but the autotuned trap of Everyday was definitely a step back. I’d rather the guys develop the styles they excel at rather than try to cover as many bases as possible.


Agree? Disagree? Do you have recommendations you’d give other groups?

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8 thoughts on “If I Ruled the K-Pop World: Comeback Recommendations for the Industry’s Biggest Acts

  1. i agree with a lot of what you said especially with bts and seventeen i believe bts (although they’ve hit super stardom as a kpop group and kudos to them for that) their music for the past few comebacks (since blood sweat and tears?) have started to become more commercialized don’t get me wrong the production is usually still topnotch but they’ve lost the unique bts vibe(?) ever since BSAT im sorry im not really good with technical terms or professional critique on music but essentially it’s the difference in their style between a song like “i need u” and “blood sweat and tears” as for seventeen i don’t have much different comments i agree that they definitely should harken back to a sound similar to their rookie days like “shining diamond” or “rock” those are some of my favourite seventeen sounds
    as for nct im little hesitant on a summer smash hit doing it for them if looking at the style and sound they’ve made for themselves for the past few comebacks but they’ve pulled off touch as well so i guess anything could work
    i would also be really thrilled if they one day fully utilize their 18(!!) member roster in a pop song that puts more focus on melodic verses and chorus besides rap/atonal chorus (like cherry bomb) because their vocal line is underratedly impressive (back 2 u, without you, heartbreaker, japan release “chain” bridge and last chorus) i don’t have really high expectations (honestly sm usually sticks to the same formula for their groups) but it’ll be absolutely fantastic if they actually did end up doing it

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  2. oh also i forgot to mention i’d really hope sm will not delve deep the “chain” instrumental style (there’s just a lot of squiggles and trap beats and the non-stop metal(?) sounds during all of the rap sections) because it’ll really ruin any chance of developing melodic pop choruses for them and also partly why i prefer their prechoruses and bridge in chain more than the verses taeyong and mark are superb rappers but it’s starting to seem like it’s being overdone to the extent that 75% of the song is made up of rap when they have a talented vocal line

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  3. I can definitely agree with Infinite, Red Velvet, GFriend, but I know that k-netizens loved “Hear the Wind Sing” more than “Fingertip”. Fingertip needs more love!!
    Also, kinda like Infinite, SHINHWA recently constantly changed their styles to fit to the trends. Ever since their 7th album, I haven’t been getting SHINHWA vibes (13th album I dare say is an epic fail), so I would love to see more old-school MJ-vibes or even songs like “Mannequin.” I want a Brand New 2 song

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    • I would LOVE Shinhwa to go back to their roots and show k-pop’s younger acts how it’s done. Like you, I wasn’t a fan of their most recent album at all, but I think the previous three represented a strong modernization of their sound.

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      • I do have to say that I do love modern sound of Venus, This Love, and Sniper (but these three have the same dynamics and “vibes” from one composer, Andrew Jackson. But I do like that it gave the group new mature feeling without being awkward)

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  4. Tbh i completely agree that winner should experiment more with rock. Everyday just didn’t do it for me; I think the reason that the song does well in korea is bcuz of its catchiness(?) and its witty lyrics.

    It’s not just taehyun who put forward a rock sound in winner – different and immature were both yoon compositions, and so were La La, we were and movie star from this album.

    It’s not just seunghoon, even Jinu has a gr8 voice for rock. Just listen to his cover of crooked – it’s awesome. And I still maintain that Yoon sounds the best when he’s doing rock.

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