Feature

Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2020: SM ENTERTAINMENT

It’s that time of year again! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at many of K-pop’s biggest agencies and offering my thoughts about how their 2020 went. First up is SM Entertainment.

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.


The Good

SM Entertainment’s 2020 can best be summed up by three letters: N, C and T.

Though they were already gaining popularity, NCT – and all of its units – saw explosive commercial growth this year. We can argue about the quality of their music (and we will further on down the page), but there’s no disputing their sudden rise in status. It took NCT longer than EXO to capture this mantle, and I think much of that is due to the changing K-pop market. NCT haven’t yet found their representative song that the general listening public all knows and loves, but that’s no longer a requirement for breakout success when it comes to idol groups.

The agency’s SuperM project was also a bright spot this year. While they’re supposed to be directed at international audiences, I’d argue that the group instead fills a niche among older K-pop fans who long for the styles and sounds that first made SM Entertainment a juggernaut within the industry.

Though the quality of their releases varied, SM’s soloists had a pretty solid year. The agency has done a good job cementing the careers of solo performers like Taeyeon, Taemin and Baekhyun, which should help foster career longevity even if their own group releases become less frequent. Upcoming comebacks from EXO’s Kai and K-pop legend BoA seem set to secure 2020 as a strong year for SM solo acts.

Meanwhile, Super Junior and all its iterations remain a reliable presence. They continue to churn out material quite regularly, even if the group feels like they’re operating in their own corner of the SM universe. They play to a different audience than many of the younger acts on the agency’s roster, and have done a nice job balancing nostalgia and trends.

It’s too early to tell what will become of newly-debuted girl group aespa, but anytime an agency of SM’s caliber debuts a new group it’s worth celebrating. Given a downright shocking dearth of female groups within the agency, aespa’s arrival couldn’t have come soon enough. I’m pulling for them, even if I have some concerns about their concept and musical style.


The Bad

Across all the years that I’ve run this feature, I feel like SM Entertainment has been the steadiest of the big K-pop agencies. Given their history of taking risks and breaking boundaries, the agency has kind of settled into a routine over the past few years. It’s a routine that generally works for them, but that doesn’t mean they should always maintain the status quo.

Despite a new debut and a gathering of the NCT units, 2020 too often felt a little boring for SM. It was an extremely unbalanced year, with some groups (Red Velvet, TVXQ) virtually ignored, while others (NCT, SuperM) blitzed the landscape with so many releases that they began to cancel each other out.

SM has always had difficulty scheduling comebacks, which is understandable given their large roster. And in the middle of a global pandemic, they can certainly be forgiven in this regard. Yet, if you were to cut the year in half, the second half simply dwarfs the first when it comes to releases. It’s not even comparable. And while I’m not complaining about the sudden windfall of releases, back-to-back scheduling doesn’t give anyone time to shine. Complicate that even further by having some of your highest profile artists active in more than one group at a time, and you’ve created a recipe for burnout.

As the years go on, I’m getting more and more concerned that SM Entertainment will never debut a new boy group outside of the NCT umbrella. This would be fine if NCT itself felt like it was constantly evolving or making room for units of wildly varying styles and tones. But as of now, no one unit has their own individual character.

There are exceptions, of course, but the core U/127/Dream trio feels almost interchangeable when it comes to music. It just depends on what kind of song they happen to be given at the moment. I miss the days where you had a group like SHINee, who delivered a signature style that stood on its own two feet. SM is doing the best they can to keep NCT interesting, but I can’t help but feel that the whole project took a creative dip this year. They’ve somehow become predictable, which seems to go against the very core of their concept!

I’ve mentioned this in comments before, but I feel like SM’s music is at its best when the agency finds one or two main composers who have their own unique vision. Yoo Young-Jin, Thomas Troelsen, LDN Noise. But sadly, SM has firmly moved into the “song camp” approach to songwriting, with armies of composers attached to each track. The agency’s 2020 output was at its best when it came from the smallest groups of collaborators. Too many of these “song camp” comebacks feel generic and trendy. That’s not the SM I used to know and love, and I’m concerned that this approach is here to stay.

There was also a shocking gender imbalance within SM’s roster this year. Taking soloists out of the equation, the ratio of Korean comebacks by male and female groups/units stands at roughly 20:3. That’s absolutely crazy, and just shows how much Red Velvet propped up the female side of the agency in previous years. As I said earlier, aespa’s debut couldn’t come quickly enough.

Finally, as a fan, I’m a little upset about the lack of new TVXQ material this year. SM’s 2020 Japanese output was incredibly slim as is, but what I really want is a new Korean TVXQ comeback – or at the very least that long-promised U-Know solo.

2020 Grade: C+

Previous years: 2019 // 2018 // 2017 // 2016

64 thoughts on “Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2020: SM ENTERTAINMENT

    • Ammm you didn’t even said how sm didn’t even made a single thing for exo this year even in 2019
      Nct had many comebacks and the other groups how much did exo had amm let me see ou 1.
      This year how many comebacks did exo had as a group let me think ou there’s nothing to think about they had none and you expect me to like sm b no stfu.I wish exo would leave sm as a group and make their own company

      Liked by 1 person

        • Alright , I think the “EXO-L” guy was saying something right about SM not taking EXO Seriously and I think you have to tone down with what you said.

          “exo is by far the mot talentless group on average sm have ever made , SM ditched them for a reason”.

          EXO is genuinely an amazing group with excellent vocalists , Out-of-this World Performers. There are few groups in K-pop which can elevate a song with their vocal arrangement.

          I hope you understand that EXO are humans just like us and there is no point with you acting like a big bitch to the artists and SM should treat EXO better and that is something we must admit and Baekyun is not a “Worthless Korean Justin Bieber” you could have stopped but you had to continue acting like a dog and being insecure. You brainless , useless piece of trash , EXO have come a long way and they don’t need to prove themselves anymore and you have proved how immature and insensitive you are IN front of everybody.

          Also , what made you say that!?

          Why were you angry?

          What did they tell that made you direct your hate to EXO?!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I mean I really do believe so it’s not a hyperbolic statement, LSM practically got every hack with little self respect from China he can find and stuffed them in this one group (seriously, every single one of them really showed they are terrible after they went back). The only member I really do appreciate is just Chen and everybody knows what happened to him, meanwhile Baekyun made 1 million sales making songs like “candy”. I sing a little myself and Baekyun is really soulless as a performer and if you boost his sales you are objectively a terrible person

            Liked by 1 person

            • I think it’s not about the voice but what SM gives to them , Before EXO had some awesome songs with “Mama” or “History” and I feel like you blowed it way out of proportion.

              Liked by 1 person

        • I wouldn’t call myself an active fan of EXO but I can’t understand calling them talentless. They have some amazing vocalists and very good dancers.

          I will not, however, go mad or cry- I’m not passionate enough about your spicy comment (or about SMs neglect of the group).

          Liked by 1 person

  1. you write with such an abhorrent pen. sorry to burst your bubble that many of sm’s previous hits have come “backed with an army” of composers. like you said, global pandemic. a lot of these companies simply don’t have the resources to make sure every song is as polished as the summer of 2011 utopia you seem to be stuck in. and if your biggest concern regarding kpop is that “the song camp approach is here to stay,” you may as well just stop. many of the hits of past years have been backed by an array of composers, yet its people like you who seem to think they came traipsing along on the eve of 2020. wake up, brave brothers is currently shifting out worse than these black women holding nct’s pen that you rag on. it’s a common complaint in this blog, and i’m more than a bit sick of it. regards from somebody who actually produces under a “song camp” that you blatantly disregard

    Liked by 1 person

    • You didn’t have to gather him like that 😭😭😭 you do have a point though. I do also think it’s just a bit disingenuous to hold out for a literal mega-company to be in charge of musical excellence… let’s remember that their goal, along with basically all record labels and giant music industry figures in the imperial core, is to make a profit. They’re definitely succeeding at that too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Of course you’re right… profit is the end game for all of these companies. I try not to focus on that, and instead evaluate how I feel each agency has done from a fan’s (ie: my) perspective.

        Things like:
        management of comebacks/groups
        quality of output
        artistic risks and payoffs

        I don’t know that I expect SM to be in charge of musical excellence, but I think that, as a pillar of the industry, they have the clout to introduce new ideas. Since their artists tend to enjoy a certain level of success just by nature of the agency they come from, in a perfect world this would give SM leeway to experiment a bit more and push boundaries.

        But going back to the main brunt of your comment, it also makes total sense that they’d want to play it safe to help maximize profit.

        Liked by 4 people

    • I’m sorry that this struck such a chord, or read like a personal affront. Rest assured that song camps are not my biggest concern. It was just one concern in a much larger context, but I understand how that can feel upsetting when it’s something you’re very close to. Treat it (or dismiss it) as the opinion that it is.

      And you’re right, there are so many classic SM songs created by teams like this. I guess what I’m missing is a distinct voice driving it all, which seems hard to have when so many hands are involved in a single song. From my perspective, it’s not the fault of the composers themselves and I certainly don’t mean to diminish the efforts of anyone involved.

      And yes, I haven’t been a fan of Brave Brothers’ work this year, so older producers like him don’t get a pass just because they crafted great songs in the past. For what it’s worth (unless I’m missing something?), the only women involved in NCT’s latest album were either white or Kenzie — not that my comment was aimed at any individual group of creators. Kind of off-topic, but since you brought it up I don’t think there are nearly enough female composers involved in K-pop across the board. But I suppose that could be said about the music industry in general.

      I’d be interested in hearing your perspective on the pluses of the song camp approach, since you seem to have direct experience.

      Liked by 6 people

  2. About right. Right from the start of the year it just feels like the entire agency just releasing stuff hoping this year to be over. With the sunk cost of hotels maintenance dragging the company it puts extra burden on the artists and their supporting team to generate more revenue with less cost, and it is stretching the already overworked staff incredibly thin. The swamping comeback of q4 and repeated scandal of plagiarism is an evidence of that and the entire company is just radiating unhealthy vibes.

    Thing about LDN Noise, Moonshine & Sunshine and bunch of others is that SM indeed made them shine in the industry, and now everybody goes to them, but SM is struggling to find new writers who have something new and trendy. Don’t know if they can have the luck in 2021 since the global EDM scene is kind of in a stale now, and in the past like five years there’s incredible money wasted in future bass genre which was objectively a failure and people should just use dubstep.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As a big fan of SM girlgroups, that gender imbalance you speak of makes me really sad. The fact that I’m not really invested in the whole NCT thing only makes it worse.

    BoA’s comeback and Red Velvet’s next album (allegedly out early next year) are the particular silver lining I’m holding on to.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. wow….C+ is a steep grade for a mega-powerhouse like SM, but i understand your thoughts, even if i don’t agree with all of them….the whole NCT thing (all 3 units), i have not completely gotten into….they have released some good songs and videos, but i am just not that into them yet….my qualms (two of them) with SM is 1. what seems like a fading away of their most popular and biggest-selling groups….we know that Wendy was injured, but SM is horrible in keeping fans up-to-date on what’s going on with beloved groups like Red Velvet….we know that Xiumin and D.O. are doing military service, Sehun and Chanyeol are doing their duet thing, Baek is on his Super M and solo efforts (Candy is a frickin bop!), Lay is hardly with the group anymore, Suho solo debuted this year, Kai will be debuting (all previews look really good), and Chen (my bias and one of the top male vocalists in kpop, in my opinion) is being scrutinized and unfairly targeted because he has a baby and a fiance, yet through all of this, including other members needing to be enlisting in the military soon, SM keeps the ‘clouds of transparency’ as thick as molasses by not revealing to EXO’s loyal fans what is going on with them….this is disturbing considering how popular and great EXO is….then, we have not only my #1 female kpop group, but my all-time favorite female group, Girls’ Generation….we know that SM does not officially disband groups; they just let them fade into obscurity until it is obvious they have disbanded….i’d be surprised if we see the 8 members of GG together again….TVXQ, like you said, has been sparse, and Shinee has been very sparse as well….these are big groups in SM that have been MIA for some time, so i guess they need to come up with something from their bag of tricks, like pushing through with NCT back-to-back comebacks with each unit, Super M material (and i don’t think they did well as an international group), and finally debuting another female group, aespa (i like their energy and am truly rooting for them, but they have some huge successful shadows lingering over them: GG, Red Velvet, F(x)….).

    2. not just SM, but SM in general, seems to burn the candle at both ends quite a bit with their artists….Baek and Taemin have got to be tired (multiple solo projects, Super M, and Baek also doing “Obsession” with the few members of EXO at the end of last year), NCT and WayV members doing Super M promotions as well as promotions with their own groups), and now Kai getting ready to do his solo thang after doing promotions with Super M….it seems like SM work their artists beyond normal circumstances.

    -MuZik Mann

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I didn’t really go into EXO too much but I agree with most of what you said.

      A C+ may seem harsh, but I guess technically it’s still above average? If I were to convert it to my typical rating criteria, it would be around the low 7’s, I think.

      Liked by 3 people

      • well, i hope SM will have a better 2020 and be more forthcoming about their plans for their artists….and, i also agree with your thoughts about having too many writers and producers in the ‘cookie jar’….take AOA, for example….when they were at their peek, it was Brave Brothers (feel about him how y’all want….i even have issues with him being a producer and CEO that can’t seem to help his own in-house group, Brave Girls, prosper) that was the main writer and producer for the majority of their hit songs, and under his production, they blossomed and flourished….so, i agree that when you have a winning game formula, you continue riding with that person or team….sometimes more isn’t always better.

        Liked by 1 person

    • For the second point, I feel like SM just chooses their favorite people and tries to squeeze as many songs out of them as possible by putting them in everything that they can.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I pretty much said it in my last comment on the NCT U Work It post but I completely agree on everything you said about SM scheduling this year. The pandemic was definitely part of it but a large portion of it just baffles me. I just don’t see why so many of their releases had to be smushed into the last few months.

    Personally, as an NCT fan I was very happy to see them be more widely recognized this year but SM continues to mismanage them in ways I am not happy with, and their scheduling is a significant portion of that. They continue to drastically overuse some members and criminally neglect others, and either way its just not healthy for the members themselves; but of course no one’s ever accused SM of being very health conscious.
    Going forward I am really hoping that their boost in popularity allows them to experiment more musically. I have always thought NCT is at its best when they are allowed to push boundaries and make me question everything I just heard upon first listen. (Simon says is still one of my favorites.)

    Of Course, my greatest hope for 2021 is the return of Shinee, they have been dearly missed!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You know, since last year I’ve been thinking that the NCT project has actually hit a sort of natural limit like all of SM’s super ambitious projects, EXO included, even if it doesn’t seem like that because of WayV’s debut and the sudden rise in popularity of 127 and now the whole NCT 2020 thing with two new members. For one, if you saw the project presentation back in 2016 you’d see the whole affair has been quite a lot more subdued and slow in rolling out than was promised. I mean, IIRC, we had to have a Korean, a Chinese, a Japanese and an American unit right now. Instead we have the flagship 127, a unit that is just now being fully and openly admitted into the NCT fold (WayV) and a unit of idol Youtubers with an still admittedly uncertain status (Dream) plus two new members that don’t belong anywhere yet. (Rumor has it that there’s a new unit debut slated for next year, probably the Dreamies + Sung-taro, set to promote… where exactly? 4 Koreans, 2 Chinese and a Japanese?) To me the scrapping of the “graduation” plans for Dream were an admission of failure akin to the end of Super Junior 2005. Not to mention the “multiple units singing the same song in different languages” happened exactly *once* (Chinese version of Regular) and wasn’t that well received by the public.

    So, in short, I’m slightly disappointed but I don’t think your fears of every SM group in the future being NCT units will come true. In fact, I doubt the brand can outlast Taeyong and Mark (and right now people are saying Mark might just be about done with the whole affair. Probably the first member to go. Else it’s Yuta.)

    Changing topic, do you happen to know where I could find some analysis of K-pop companies more from a business perspective? Let’s say I’m rather more intrigued by Big Hit’s finances than their current artistic output.

    Both Enhyphen and Kai are set to debut on Monday. Guess which one I’m more stoked about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • i really like SM and what they have accomplished in the kpop industry and music industry in general, but the way they manage some of their artists just irritates me to the fullest, sometimes….i’m just sick of their $#!+ in how they hide information and do not communicate with their artist’s fans, even though it is the loyal fans that put money in their pockets….

      EXO seems to be fading away and they became one of the company’s best boy bands….while i did like last year’s “Obsession,” i did not like that they did it with two main members missing (well, three with Lay, but he is in China promoting so much that he is rarely with the group anymore), Xuimin and D.O….plus, more of the members will be approaching the age of mandatory military enlistment….SM does not seem to have a clear plan or vision going forward for EXO or some of their other artists, like Red Velvet, as well….it seems that they are comfortable and satisfied with pushing NCT stuff down our throats….

      lastly, what is happening with Girls’ Generation has me really dissatisfied with SM….not just because GG is my favorite female kpop group and my all-time favorite girl group (including any here in the US), but just the fact that we are talking about one of the most iconic girl groups of all-time….how do you just let them fade away….it was one thing when Jessica was kicked out of the group (or she quit, depending on which side of the story you choose to believe), but then the ‘writing on the wall’ that this group was fading off became clear when Tiffany, Sooyoung, and Seohuyn all signed contracts with different management companies….then, we get a ‘tease’ of “Lil Touch” from Oh! GG two years ago and have not heard else since.

      the thing that gets me with SM is that okay, maybe GG’s iconic time has run its course….okay, it happens to the best of groups….it hurts my heart, but it happens….but, instead of companies like YG, SM just allows their artist to fade into obscurity instead of simply announcing they have gone separate ways and have disbanded or will not be coming back together as a group again….they allow their artist’s fans to suffer, not knowing if they will ever see the kpop artists that brought them so much joy and good memories again….take for example Big Bang….when they were all reaching mandatory military enlistment, they kept in communication with their fans by letting us know what was going on, when they were planning on enlisting and even gave us some farewell material when T.O.P. enlisted….YG kept us informed….and, they all chose to enlist close to one another so that the wait for their return would not be spread out over several agonizing years, unlike a lot of the male kpop groups like EXO who just does projects with missing members….

      this is SM’s ammo….instead of just trying to bring all 8 members of GG back for one last farewell, they continue to stay silent and let their faithful fans wonder what’s going to happen….no, they can’t just admit that the group is basically disbanded….they can’t just bring them back with a new album of all new material (maybe 8 new songs), debut two of them per month, over a four or five month period (sort of like Big Bang did with their “Made” album), let them have a couple months rest, then go on a four month tour and have a final two-hour goodbye toward the end of the year, maybe around the month of December, and then finally go their separate ways….no, SM won’t do what’s right, they will continue holding fans hostage….look at what happened with F(x)….

      Liked by 1 person

      • ‘EXO seems to be fading away and they became one of the company’s best boy bands…’

        You know, listening to Kai’s song today and remembering SC, I was thinking they should just pull a Bigbang and send all the boys they can to the army ASAP (not Kai and Baekhyun cuz that’d break SuperM and all that.) and then get a full-er group comeback in the shortest possible time. I mean, 6 guys in Obsession worked really well for me; I even forgot about Xiumin and Kyungsoo for a while (granted, I’m no big EXO fan, but still.)

        The fact that they created EXO-SC (like, did someone seriously wake up one good morning thinking “You know, what the world needs is Sehun and Chanyeol in a duet”) tells me they’re rather (quite) aimless with the group. One’d think this would be a good chance to finally give Chanyeol a singing gig, for instance (the guy’s voice as lovely as his rapping is bad) and give Sehun… Sehun can model clothes or something…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yep, it’s sad what is happening with EXO, and I agree that when a group is as popular and polarizing as EXO, the members really should consider all enlisting at the same time, so that their loyal and faithful fans will not be waiting many years for a comeback. I think this is especially true for groups with lots of members. While I did like the song and video that was last year’s “Obsession” by the group, I did not like that it was done without all their members. With the exception of Irene & Seulgi, I am not that interested in sub-groups and units as I am interested in the entire group. So, when D.O and Xuimin come back and the next however many go in, will we have another EXO comeback without all the members? What happens when they perform a concert? Will D.O and Xuimin go backstage and chill when the members are performing songs from the “Obsession” album? Then, when they are performing another set of songs without other members, what will the members who did not partake in that album do? It’s crazy and sometimes irritating. I love kpop, but the way they (the industry) do things is sometimes just silly, to me. At least Big Bang members went into their military enlistment no more than a year apart. If they are coming back as a 4-member group, we only would have to have waited a couple years (minus the COVID-19 crap).

          Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with basically everything you said but I do think NCT’s brand can keep going on as long as SM continues to pour money into promoting the newer members they add. Taeyong and Mark might leave one day but if they then start heavily pushing Sungchan, or whoever else they want, I think the group will remain relevant enough.

      I can see fresh young faces keeping NCT from losing its “lustre” for as many years as SM wants, really.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve thought about that too.

        My conclusion is that SM has put a lot of effort into making Mark and Taeyong, but mostly Taeyong, the pillars and center of NCT to the point that the brand is seamlessly intertwined with them and most non-fans think “NCT=Markyong.” (In fact, a lot of non fans dislike NCT precisely on this point.)

        There is, however, one unit totally suited to life outside of the Markyong-sphere: WayV. Which to a certain degree proves my point, I think. A bunch of people have become NCT fans the roundabout way, thanks to WayV’s debut.

        So the way I see it, a method to keep the brand going would be beginning to shake out the dependence on the 127 connection with something along the lines of WayV, meaning almost totally independent units with little shared history and not even called “NCT so and so” (WayV was supposed to be NCT Vision, remember?) but still loosely associated with the NCT umbrella, probably in biennial reunions like the one we’ve had this year (although I don’t see how they’ll manage with those when the membership runs into the high 20s and 30s without leaving most people unsatisfied like NCT 2018.)
        For starters, work on finally separating the Dreamies from Mark and Hyuck when they probably (surely) debut in their own official unit next year.

        But then, how is that any different from just debuting a proper bg the traditional way? Remember most people didn’t even believe WayV was NCT.

        I think they’ll make some compromise like that sooner or later because they must realize prospective fans also associate “NCT” with “too many members,” so you have to make every new unit stand out on their own instead of scaring people away because they think it’s like Seventeen on steroids. Because the big misconception is that NCT is *one* (EXO: we are one xD) and so only the ones gifted with photographic memory and loads of free time can “stan” them. (I don’t. To my fan friends’ dismay, I care rather little for Dream. Or most of 127, for that matter.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Does it really matter if WayV is part of NCT or not? it’s not working to their favour if WayV’s primary market is China. WayV is also supposed to be a C-pop group but SM is doing nothing to promote them in China.

          Liked by 2 people

  7. SM is trying too hard to innovate and push the industry forward that they loose track of the basics. Look at aespa’s virtual avatars (which I believe are only going to lead to trouble especially just looking at their over sexualized designs) and NCT’s infinite member concept (like don’t get me wrong I like some of NCT’s music and love their members but the concept just doesn’t seem fair to any of the members and if I was a male SM trainee I’d honestly drop out before I’m slotted in alongside the rest of them) for example. They’re focusing on making a buzz and being leaders instead of actually working on bolstering their artists and their sounds. A lot of SM releases this year (Super M, Red Velvet’s subunit, aespa, NCT, even EXO’s Obsession from last year) seem to be of a similar genre and style and I don’t think it does any of their group’s justice when they are nearly indistinguishable from each other. It seems like they come up with great ideas but simply lose it in the execution.
    I mean take NCT 2020 for example. It’s radio silence for the entire year and boom over 8 months in they drop this bombshell on us and within the next 2 months, it’s already over. It was incredibly rushed and way too sudden. It feels as if it’s only been a week since the project started. And do not get me started on the line distribution, the underuse of members, and the overworking of other members-it just doesn’t logically make any sense.
    Though I’m not really up to date with fan opinions, I don’t think people are very happy with SM this year which begs the question why do they keep it up? Realistically they are only in it for the profit so if fans aren’t happy shouldn’t they try harder to fix it. I mean look at YG (I know, I know literally the worst possible example) but after the fiasco that was last year they seemed to actually get at least some of their shit together. They’ve given Blackpink two comebacks(unprecedented I know)-one of which was a full album (well 8 songs could be a large mini album but at least it’s not a single) and a reality show while Treasure has been on fire with releases this year. It’s a definite improvement from the year before and I think it’s because of fan outcry. Are fans just not as disappointed with SM as I think or are they disappointed but still paying up?

    Liked by 1 person

    • NCT 2020 was definitely, from a fan’s (my) perspective more hyped up than it actually was. I am a relatively new fan, but I agree that there was no lead up then suddenly all the promotions were dropped on us. I was excited about seeing the different subunits work together, but even then, the songs that came out of this didn’t really catch my attention.

      I had listen to Black Mamba and I really liked it, but I (along with probably everyone else) agree that the virtual characters should go. I really hope that this is something that they will scrap in the future. Also the plagiarism scandals that they have gotten into with aespa is insane. There’s a new article about another plagarism every time SM releases something or aespa performs.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I am gonna explain SM’s creativity Dip in the following Sentences:

    Hey SM! Where is that TVXQ Comeback? …….. Have a NCT Instead.

    I am really excited about Red Velvet’s Comeback ! You’ll definitely be excited about a NCT too……. I think…

    Fine then , Anything meaty to chew on? Here have some ballads from solists instead and Oh! a NCT for sure.

    I am really excited for Aespa’s debut and I heard that a NEW SM BOY GROUP is coming out of there , what do they have? Oh , just normal NCT Rethreads and Here is a NCT.

    Well , nothing can be wrong with NCT , I mean they have a group which focuses on Ballads , group which focuses on Bright Pop Songs and a Group who works on experimental Hip Hop….

    I am sorry , what? Ballads? Bright Pop Songs? ExPeRiMeNtAl?
    Hip Hop , take it or leave it.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. As a more than casual RV fan, I am torn between understanding that Wendy’s horrific injury was probably a factor in sidelining the group and knowing that SM doesn’t really give a damn about the girls either way. But you’re right, the gender ratio in SM releases is troubling, and the load management of NCT members (you have the members who are in every unit + SuperM, and then you have the forgotten WayV members on the opposite end of the spectrum) is baffling and unhealthy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Controversial but U-Know’s Follow is better than almost every single SM release this year… where is that TVXQ comeback dammit!

    My favourites this year are Candy (unpopular opinion I know), Taemin’s releases and some of SuperM’s (autocorrect needs to stop turning it into Supermarket every.single.time) b-sides. Hopefully this BoA comeback is good. Please God.

    Wish we got more SHINee inspired NCT instead of… all of this we got.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ‘It’s too early to tell what will become of newly-debuted girl group aespa, but anytime an agency of SM’s caliber debuts a new group it’s worth celebrating. Given a downright shocking dearth of female groups within the agency, aespa’s arrival couldn’t have come soon enough. I’m pulling for them, even if I have some concerns about their concept and musical style.’

    See, when we talk big 3 privilege this is exactly what people mean. Aespa’s members clearly are putting their all into this debut as performers but this song was not good, their group concept was confusing and if this was a group that debuted under a non big 3 company (or big hit, who is inching into making the industry a big 4 place) then would anyone be willing to give them a second chance?? No.

    Liked by 1 person

    • good point….i believe i would because they captured my attention and also because i am a multi-stan who likes many groups and artists who are not in the Big 3 (4 with Big Hit Entertainment), but i am sure so many more would not give them a second look if they were not from SM, which is sad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And I’m honestly not faulting the girls themselves or the concept (which is cool/interesting) so much as the song and debut rollout. If they weren’t from a big 4 company – and instead were signed to somewhere more mid tier like Berry Good’s or GWSN’s companies – would there be such inherent faith in the group’s ability to do better? Sure there would be support but would the general tone be ‘yeah this wasn’t great BUT they surely will do better?’

        In a market so saturated where genuinely good songs can’t really get traction (ie: Weki Meki’s ‘cool’) I vote no. They would make it to a comeback/2nd release but a 3rd or 4th one? Who knows.

        I’m most reminded of RV’s Zimzalabim in this case – I despised that song upon release BUT it at least elicited an emotion from me & while it’s still not close to a favorite I can respect it’s daring. Black Mamba is just…..painfully average and devoid of any sort of unique charm – be it from execution or the music – and by a group in another company Aespa as a group would be on much shakier ground.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Weki Meki is not even in that bad of a position, they released a lot of mediocre songs too and regardless of quality they don’t get traction, but they keep getting comebacks anyway. Despite a huge company the divide in resources means some groups aren’t even that well equipped from the start. There is consumer habit though but that’s another topic. Talking “deserving” in this market is just plain silly, imo

          Liked by 1 person

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  13. Although “churn out material quite regularly” is very accurate, I think Super Junior needs more than a couple sentence mention.

    15 years on and they are still Working in the industry, capital W. Did Shinhwa do anything this year? Somewhere I heard that Sechskies disbanded again around May. Every now and then a HOT or god member shows up on a variety show. We have yet to hear from Big Bang, and Infinite. TVXQ was a bit quiet this year.

    But Super Junior has been so active with a bumper year. Their albums still sell thousands. The concerts are still draw thousands. It’s a blessing that they have their own sub-label, because they can operate outside of the big company. At this point, they and their sub-managers have so much experience, they have been doing it better than the main SM.

    And here are some figures of merit from 2020 to prove it:

    For the full group, January had the Timeless / TimeSlip repackage which sold 500k+ copies in Korea, and another 200k worldwide. (with “2Yao2Yao” single, which was well, meh). January also Japanese full album. There is another full album release “The Renaissance” expected this month, with “Melody” single pre-release and another expected promoted single. Two online concerts. The one in May had 125k people attend, and estimated revenue of $50m. There was another in October, similar numbers.

    D&E released three promoted songs and an EP which sold 300k copies, plus a Japanese single in November. Donghae also had a Gaon #1 for a week in February with his random full gospel single “Harmony”. KRY album in June sold 200k copies worldwide, one Korean single, and another Japanese single in November. Kyuhyun released 3 OST’s + a couple singles – two of the OST songs were in the Gaon top ten for a few weeks each, one of which is still Gaon #15 digital single chart this week. Ryeowook was the lead in a musical over the summer. Leeteuk continues his role as National MC. Heechul is doing his shows. Shindong produced something around half of all the online showcases and concerts for all of SM, and a couple MV’s too.

    My boys have been busy! At 15 years on, they have the working career in the industry that their hoobaes wish they will have in their futures.

    There, that is more than a couple sentences. Thank you all for your time.
    Signed, This ELF.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2020: YG ENTERTAINMENT | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

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  18. I feel a certain considerable distance between myself and SME. My main connection with them is SNSD and it makes me disheartened to see their lack of presence in SME’s roster this year. The current most active groups that we saw this year was RV, NCT, and Sperm and all of their releases have failed to connect with me. In the span of this year, the only song I still have from SME was Taemin’s absolutely ethereal and powerful Criminal. All other songs have had short life spans where I would listen to them and delete them after a few days.

    It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between NCT and their counterparts and NCT’s music style and genre seems to spill over to the other groups. It still remains to this day that I have no idea what NCT’s concept is. All their subunits overlap with each other and I am confused as to what happened to their distinct images at the time of their debut.

    Recently we’ve seen the dramatic unveiling of long-awaited brand new girl group Aespa. Their debut has been a huge miss for me both concept-wise and music-wise however, I am willing to keep a close eye on them in the coming 2021.

    I am sad to say that my interest in SME has greatly decreased since last year as my support groups saw little to no satisfactory promotion and the current groups remain disconnected to me. At this point, the only thing keeping me reeled in is the potential of Aespa. Final rating, C-.

    Liked by 1 person

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