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Looking Back at Last Year’s K-Pop Resolutions — Did 2018 Deliver?

It’s that time already! Before unveiling my 2019 K-pop resolutions tomorrow, I wanted to look back at last year’s list and see how many of my hopes came true in 2018. Honestly, the results are… not great.

Make sure to read through the original post, first. And check back tomorrow for 2019’s resolutions!


1. No. More. Disbandments.

Did 2018 deliver? — Nope, but it stopped the hemorrhaging of 2017

It’s impossible to have a year completely devoid of disbandments. But although 2018 saw its fair share (mostly mid-tier girl groups), there wasn’t a major blow like Sistar or Wonder Girls. For me, the most notable (and sad) roster change was B1A4, who I had expected to go the distance. It remains to be seen how they’ll continue as a trio.

2. A Return to a More Powerful Vocal Performance Style

Did 2018 deliver? — In drips and drabs

The year started off on a strong note, with NCT’s music offering a peek at SM Entertainment’s powerful vocal style. You had to wade through a lot of hip-hop to get there, but the presence of producer Yoo Young-Jin helped ensure an interesting vocal arrangement. Overall, the year’s trends didn’t favor powerful vocals, so those goosebump-inducing notes were few and far between.

3. An Easing Up on the Moodiness (Boy Groups)

Did 2018 deliver? — Nope

If anything, 2018 was an even moodier year for music. You’ll see this come up again in my 2019 resolutions tomorrow, but I can’t think of another year that had as many slow, dark boy group tracks. I know that this aesthetic is the current trend, but I’m ready to move on to brighter sounds.

4. An Easing Up on the Cutesiness (Girl Groups)

Did 2018 deliver? — Mostly, but it’s a slow transition

I’d still say that “cute” is the dominant sound for girl groups, but 2018 began to see a surge of diverse concepts including girl crush, retro and hip-hop. I’m hoping that this sense of variety continues into the new year.

5. A New Wave of Weird K-Pop Ambition

Did 2018 deliver? — Not really

SM Entertainment continues to be a driving force of “weird” K-pop sounds, and their NCT 2018 project seemed to point towards the industry moving in that direction. However, genres like tropical and trap still have a stranglehold on K-pop, preventing it from becoming quite as experimental as I’d like. With its continued global prominence, it feels like too much of the industry is still beholden to boring American pop sounds.

6. A Surge of Rock-Influenced Production

Did 2018 deliver? — Well, I wouldn’t call it a “surge”…

I had high hopes for awhile, especially with Stray Kids’ wonderful incorporation of rock elements into their music. But other than District 9, I can’t think of many 2018 title tracks that really dug into the rock sound in an exciting way. Maybe next year?

7. A Solid Foundation for 2017’s Most Promising Rookies

Did 2018 deliver? — Yes, even though most have yet to really “break out”

2018 was an underwhelming year for rookies, but it was a great year for K-pop’s Class of 2017. Groups like Golden Child, The Boyz and fromis_9 had a ton of strong comebacks, while ONF released my favorite single of the year (even if their fan base remains relatively small). I hope for a busy, prosperous 2019 for all of these groups.

8. Peace for SHINee

Did 2018 deliver? — It’s impossible to tell, but the group had a great year.

Obviously, I can’t speak for the members’ individual mental health, but SHINee as a group had an amazing 2018. They released one of their best albums yet (including four title tracks), and many solo projects. Though colored by tragedy, their legacy seems to be in a solid place.

9. Big Hits from Infinite and TVXQ

Did 2018 deliver? — No, not in the commercial sense

It’s clear that these two acts are past their commercial prime in Korea, but they each released strong material in 2018. Infinite’s album and solo projects were especially good, and I’m more than satisfied as a fan. Now bring on the next album, please!

10. Justice for Snuper

Did 2018 deliver? — Not at all

If anything, Snuper’s standing fell in 2018. And more importantly, their music quality declined exponentially thanks to the jettisoning of Sweetune. I still have a soft spot for them and wish them well, but honestly my excitement for future work has pretty much dropped to zero.

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4 thoughts on “Looking Back at Last Year’s K-Pop Resolutions — Did 2018 Deliver?

  1. Also Cross Gene suffered for another roster change due to Takuya’s recent withdrawal, and I hope it won’t enhance their 2018 dramatic lack of popularity (to me Black Or White is still one of Top5 best KPop tracks ever and Mirror was an amazing concept, but it’s clear that something got definitely broken soon after).

    I guess Snuper are in the pipeline to disband in 2019: everything they did in 2018 was a complete mess, from The Uni+ to title tracks and worldwide promotions (LOL). And apart from a couple of people – including me in the past, but not any longer – who keep on asking themselves why they’re so underrated, they actually have no fanbase. Sad ending of a never begun fable.

    BUT: Nick, do you know something about MVP? I 100% loved their debut track Take It, but after The UNi+ they completely vanished away. I hope they are in charge for a comeback in 2019, but maybe it’s just too late.

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    • I wish I knew anything about MVP. They really just disappeared from the face of the earth after releasing a super solid mini album. I fear it’s too late for them to make any sort of meaningful comeback, which is a total shame.
      As down on Snuper’s 2018 music as I am, I’d be surprised if they straight-up disbanded. If nothing changes, I think it’s more likely that we witness a slow and steady fade in Korea until their contracts are up in 2022. Not the path I’m hoping for, of course…

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  2. I feel the same way about Snuper. Honestly, the only hope I have for them is Japan. They’re doing decent there and imo their Japanese discography is better than any Korean track they released this year. Have you noticed that they weren’t even invited to the ISAC? Every nugu group is there except for them. It’s so sad. I don’t want to say disbandment, but that’s where I think they’re heading to 😦

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    • I think it’s more likely that they end up being a Korean group that promotes almost entirely in Japan. That’s a bummer, but it’s worked for other acts before. Now, if they’d only get Sweetune to produce more of their J-pop material…

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