As is Bias List tradition, it’s time to take a look back at last year’s K-pop resolutions and see how many of them came true. As always, the results are a mixed bag, but on the whole I’m reasonably satisfied.
Make sure to read through my 2019 hopes and wishes, first. And check back tomorrow for 2020’s resolutions!
1. Make an Impact
Did 2019 deliver? — Yes and no
This past summer was a torture of low-impact, “chill” hip-hop sounds, and the Korean digital charts still seem to favor this sound. But, an influx of rookie groups offered that impactful sound I was missing in 2018. ATEEZ, Stray Kids, ITZY and TXT immediately come to mind, delivering tracks that demanded attention with bombastic production and an emphasis on dynamic performance.
2. The Purging of Over-saturated Trends
Did 2019 deliver? — Not really, but I see a light at the end of the tunnel
I’ll be very interested to see where we’re at with this next December. A lot of my least favorite K-pop trends are still hanging around, but to a lesser degree than before. I think the tropical craze plateaued some time ago. Trap, unfortunately, is still omnipresent. But I feel like, more often, these genres are becoming a smaller element of an overall K-pop track instead of the foundation. Again, I’m most optimistic about K-pop’s wave of rookie groups, who seem more willing to play around with different sounds.
3. The Return of the Classic Chorus
Did 2019 deliver? — Slightly, and things are looking up
My mind immediately goes to TXT’s Run Away, or ITZY’s Dalla Dalla. Both were hits for their respective groups, and both rested largely on the strength of their choruses. Beat drops and chants are becoming less common, though still a go-to for too many K-pop groups. I’m optimistic that we’ll hear more big choruses in 2020.
4. More Powerful Girl Group Comebacks (That aren’t Tropical or Hip-Hop)
Did 2019 deliver? — Not really
There were plenty of powerful girl group comebacks this year, but not the kind that I’m longing for. Too often, these edgy concepts are simply aping the kind of powerful boy group work that I tend to dislike — overly dependent on hip-hop and EDM. I’m still craving that Kara-esque, powerful dance sound. Right now, WJSN seem to be the only group capable of delivering something that comes close.
5. Brighter Concepts for Boy Groups
Did 2019 deliver? — Yes, but I can always do with more
Dark and angsty still seems to be the de facto way to become popular (especially internationally), but there were plenty of big-name acts that went brighter this year. BTS led the trend, followed by rookies TXT. VERIVERY were a reliable supplier of upbeat pop music. Dongkiz, too. The Boyz released a pair of bright title tracks, to varying success, and even NCT went a little brighter with the anthemic Highway To Heaven. Unfortunately, personal faves Golden Child succumbed to the dark trend… but at least they did it well.
6. More Inter-Agency Collaborations (and some J-pop Collabs!)
Did 2019 deliver? — Nope
The closest we got in 2019 was Queendom. And with Korea and Japan currently at odds, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any J-pop collabs any time soon.
7. Ease up on the Hip-Hop Vocal Effects
Did 2019 deliver? — God no!
Autotune was one of my least favorite aspects of 2019. I hate how it’s become an affectation, and I need it to end in 2020. I doubt it will.
8. An Influx of Monster Rookies
Did 2019 deliver? — Yes, yes, yes!
This year was insane when it came to rookies. Probably the strongest rookie year I can remember, actually. They were coming out of the woodwork each and every month, and I’m super excited for what their future holds. Some of these rookie groups (ITZY, TXT, AB6IX, etc) already feel like they’re headed straight for K-pop’s a-list.
9. A Full Embrace of the Burgeoning Retro Trend
Did 2019 deliver? — Well, I wouldn’t call it “full”…
Retro elements will always have a home in K-pop, but this “newtro” trend remains somewhat niche within the industry. I’d love to see more of it, and 2019 offered some promise for the future. I’m especially thinking of VERIVERY’s output, BTS’s Boy With Luv, DIA’s Woowa, DreamNote’s Hakuna Matata, etc…
10. Enough of the “Song Camp” Approach
Did 2019 deliver? — Not at all, and I don’t think this will change anytime soon
SM Entertainment has gotten even worse when it comes to this songwriting approach. Collaboration isn’t always bad, but it needs to feel organic and have a personality of its own. The Leez x Ollounder x Buddy x Eden team is the gold standard for how to work as a group but still have a unique, exciting sound.