As usual, the thoughts are my own and aren’t privy to any insider information. I’m not taking into account things like profits and stock value. The purpose of these articles is to determine how well K-pop agencies are serving their artists and fans.
JYP Entertainment has been on fire this year. If the company’s Super Intern variety show is to be believed, they’ve structured their agency into separate divisions to better cater to their artists. Rather than centralize everything, JYP assigns different teams to different artists – each one tasked with growing individual groups’ sounds and careers. From an outsider’s perspective, this approach seems to have paid off. It’s allowed for a constant stream of releases, with each feeling unique and meaningful to the artists themselves.
When I look back on all of the title tracks released by JYP artists this year, I can’t find one clunker. Many of these groups had career highlights in 2019, whether that be creatively or commercially.
Twice have transformed their quirky-cute sound into an edgier style of pop that suits them surprisingly well. This felt like a natural progression rather than a kowtow to trends, and reached across both their Korean and Japanese material. Their release schedule remains incredibly tight, and I honestly don’t know how they manage to record and promote so much music in one year. Their worldwide popularity continues to soar, dominating the K-pop girl group landscape.
Stray Kids have transformed from a promising rookie to a real powerhouse. They feel like the rare idol act that’s actually allowed to experiment with their sound, and the group is home to some fantastic composers/producers. To JYP’s credit, the agency seems comfortable letting the guys do what they want to musically, and that’s forged an appealing sense of authenticity.
For me, DAY6 have had their most impressive year yet, pushing past the constraints of an idol rock band and exploring new styles within their existing sound. They’ve released a large amount of material in 2019, and it’s been some of their best music since debut.
I haven’t really been a big fan of GOT7’s post-2015 releases, but even they improved their standing in 2019. Their JUS2 sub-unit debut was an inspired choice, and their full-group work has also been solid. Their Japanese output continues to feel comparatively bland, but at least they’ve moved past the noisy J-pop sound of their first few years.
Finally, JYP’s big 2019 debut was a smashing success. ITZY seem to have captured the attention of both Korean and international audiences. As Twice moves into new musical territory, ITZY have smartly taken up their mantle without forgetting to bring their own unique flair to the table. They’ve released two of my favorite girl group singles of the year, and their future seems incredibly bright.
JYP himself spent much of the year showing off his new agency building, and honestly it’s pretty impressive. I don’t want to blindly buy into the hype and spin, but JYP Entertainment seems to be an agency that genuinely cares about its artists as people (as much as a profit-minded business can). As a fan, I feel like I’m more familiar with their inner workings than either SM or YG, and I appreciate that transparency.
I really don’t have much to say here. Obviously, it’s a bummer that Woojin left Stray Kids (and the agency) back in October, and Mina’s future with Twice seems to be somewhat in limbo due to personal reasons. As happy as I am about the steady stream of JYP releases in 2019, I’m a bit concerned about the work (and stress) level of the agency’s artists. But, this isn’t a problem that’s unique to JYP Entertainment.
Though ITZY had an exciting debut year, they really should have released more material than they did. I suppose they could still make a quick comeback in December, but so far the girls have only delivered five actual songs in 2019. Two of them were mega-hits, but I’m the type of listener that needs a bigger discography to truly get attached to an artist. I guess new 2020 material will be something to look forward to.