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Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2020: JYP ENTERTAINMENT

After taking a deep dive into both SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment, it’s time to move onto another of K-Pop’s bog four agencies: JYP 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

From the perspective of an outsider looking in, JYP Entertainment continues to have smooth operations. Generally, they’re able to juggle their roster of acts much better than many of their competitors, giving each an opportunity to shine. From what I can remember, the company is broken up into clear divisions that are each devoted to specific acts. This targeted work makes for a seamless promotional rollout, and helps each act have their own personality and justification for existing.

Of all the big four agencies, JYP’s roster feels the most diverse. GOT7, DAY6 and Stray Kids are all quite different from each other when it comes to sound and image, and JYP has done a nice job maturing Twice’s sound while ITZY steps up to take over the younger, trendier style. This line-up covers a lot of bases, which is important when it comes to the breadth of an agency.

But, JYP’s biggest success in 2020 might not be Korean at all. J-pop girl group NiziU seems poised for superstardom. I knew they’d be popular, but I’m legitimately surprised at just how successful they’ve become right out of the gate. The actual music might not be quite there yet, but JYP definitely has the lucrative Japanese market covered.

JYP’s artists got a late start this year, with no major release until March. But after that, their release schedule remained pretty constant. Barring one or two standouts, the actual music was solid if unspectacular. Stray Kids didn’t quite live up to their excellent 2019, and neither did ITZY (though the girls did release almost three times the amount of material).

Twice released title tracks on both extremes – the excellent I Can’t Stop Me and the not-so-excellent More & More. But, even when the music was only so-so, it all felt authentic to the groups that were releasing it. That’s important, and a testament to the A&R teams’ clear vision when it comes to concepts and group idiosyncrasies.

JYP also gets credit for giving its artists a pretty generous level of creative control. As a fan, I don’t really care if an artist writes their own material as long as the song is good, but I imagine it’s pretty rewarding (and potentially lucrative) for performers to take greater charge of their music. This can also lead to a strengthening of their group identity.


The Bad

There was a time when the iconic “JYP whisper” gave most of the agency’s tracks an identifiable commonality. But as happens with most flourishing agencies, the need for a higher volume of music forces the company to outsource. JYP is generally very good at finding great songs from composers around the world, but I do miss the sense of continuity that JYP artists used to have.

It’s a double-edged sword, but sometimes it feels like each JYP group is operating in its own bubble. That’s fine if you’re just a fan of one or two groups. But, if you want to embrace the entire agency roster, it can be fun to see more interconnectivity – even if it’s just via a similar sound or producer.

It’s hard to find much fault with JYP as a whole, but if I was going to be nitpicky, I might complain that their 2020 was just kind of… boring? The agency released a couple excellent songs, and nearly everything they produced had some merit. But compared to 2019, nothing seemed particularly exciting. We didn’t have a dynamic new group like ITZY, or a promising transformation like Stray Kids’ embrace of psy-trance last year. The agency’s acts just released sturdy material without many surprises.

JYP also tended to bury many of their most exciting songs as b-sides. I could level this same complaint at almost any agency, but JYP seemed especially guilty. Stray Kids, DAY6 and even ITZY had a few mega-smashes waiting in the wings, and they really should have gotten a chance at promotion.

Finally, with the departure of Yubin and Hyerim in 2020, JYP Entertainment has now lost all of its Wonder Girls. This wasn’t really unexpected, but it does feel like the end of an era. At least we had the great Park Jinyoung/Sunmi collaboration as a de facto parting gift!

2020 Grade: B+

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

28 thoughts on “Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2020: JYP ENTERTAINMENT

  1. Agree with most of your points. I was expecting you to thrash NiziU’s music, but I guess they just debuted, so it is too early for that.

    Boring is the word to describe JYP’s 2020, thought they had some great b-sides.

    Also, unpopular opinion: Itzy’s Not Shy is actually pretty darn good.

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  2. I agree. I am an SM stan but it is obvious that JYP does a better job (as of the moment) in handling their artists. I saw some contents about JYPe’s unfair treatment of Got7 but it still does not compare to the mess that is SM Entertainment. This year I got to listen to Stray Kids and now I love them!

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    • I’ll have to disagree in that basically JYP entertainment doesn’t serve as an “artist talent agency” AT ALL, it basically doesn’t plan for artists’ career beyond the group’s lifetime they belong to. Artists after that either get shelved or just leaf the agency.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ooohh. Come to think of it, JYP has not successfully launched or promoted any solo career for members outside their group or after their group’s disbandment (have they?). Rain and Sunmi’s solo career flourished after leaving JYP (and Somi too). Unlike SM who extended career paths for Taemin, Taeyeon, remaining EXO members etc.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Since pretty close to the beginning of their career Twice members have said that none of them plan on going solo or doing sub-groups. They’ve crafted their image around being a whole group, and in my opinion it’s been working for them. They never really tried to showcase themselves at SNSD levels of individual talent, or been branded as individuals like Blackpink, and I don’t think they could’ve pulled it off either particularly well.

            I’m also pretty sure JYP himself has talked about how JYPE is not great for solo acts, thus he’s been very supportive of artists that have left the company for solo activities, Sunmi being the most notable. I’m not saying that they should continue not being good for soloists, just that there is a level of recognition that they are not the best company for that kind of stuff.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Personal development man, there are multiple ways to prepare members’ after group career other than going solo: sustained variety gig, acting etc. A “talent agency” is supposed to take care of that if JYPE wants to call itself that but no, it seems to consider itself only in charge of promoting the brand they assembled not members in it.

              Liked by 2 people

      • Wow, thanks for pointing this out, I had never seen it this way. You’re right, almost every idol from JYP’s older groups who’s contract has expired has left, except for 2pm I think. And it’s weird considering JYP always brands himself as being super supportive and friendly with his artists yet many of them end up leaving while in SM, who’s considered more restrictive and controlling over their idols (which is kinda true), many idols do stay and start successful solo careers. I don’t know it just seems weird to me.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. God’s menu may not surpass 2019 Miroh’s breakthrough but it’s only because they already got Miroh under their belt. Still a pretty good year for SKZ.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Commercially, I can’t argue with you. They sold A LOT of albums. But, I feel like SZ’s title tracks were a little less exciting this year. Still great, but not on par with 2019 for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ironically the group that is objectively releasing the worst music (NiziU) is also the one that is doing best and tricked ignorant Japanese people into thinking JYP is some experienced artist who is excellent at tutoring young rookies. All their other groups hit their bottleneck pretty hard (maybe not Day6?) and Got7 is probably ending

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You know what I’ll give JYPE credit where credit is due. They’ve handled the Day6 hiatus pretty well and you can really tell that the members are taking this as an opportunity to branch out and do their own thing. YoungK, Jae(especially Jae), and Wonpil have all been pretty active in releasing covers, original music, and branching out with Jae’s Twitch, YoungK on all the radio shows, and Wonpil and Dowoon doing their own shows. So in that respect JYP has been great in giving the group a chance to branch out but I think that’s only unique to Day6 because they are a band and are one of the less popular groups in the company.
    With Straykids they have not stopped releasing content since June and I think they might have another comeback planned for this year, correct me if I’m wrong. Like they literally had a comeback during another comeback. I don’t think there was a single day that passed between back door promotions and all in promotions. And like great for them releasing good music and a ton of content but also JYP is notorious for over working their groups and I seriously think they need a break. Last year was insane for them and I don’t think they’ve actually taken a break since. They’re going to burn out.
    On the other hand, with all this content released by Day6 and Stray Kids can anyone explain to me what the fuck is up with Got7?!! They could (well they kind of already are) be one of the biggest boy groups in kpop but their division can’t even do the bare minimum like release teasers. Mark released more promotional content than JYP did. Honestly this just seems like wasted money on the part of JYP. No one comes out of this a winner. Someone earlier in the comments mentioned that Got7 might disband and honestly at this point I don’t see a reason why they should renew their contracts next year.
    I think that the division system just leads to massive discrepancies in how groups are promoted. You get groups that are overworked and groups that are in the basement and there’s little middle ground. You have groups like Straykids who constantly have content whether that’s comebacks, b-side music videos, solo content/covers and then on the opposite side you have Got7 who probably had a months worth of promotions to is entire year. Like Jackson has probably released more music on his own than with Got7. By separating the job up you let some groups shine while ignoring others. Do the comebacks not get checked by an overarching management?
    I don’t really follow Twice or Itzy but I don’t really see much wrong with their management. Anyone whose more familiar with them feel free to correct me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ikr. Got7 is supposed to be JYP’s’rivals’ for BTS and EXO but it looks like JYP does not even try anymore. I don’t uderstand why JYP would give more creative freedom to SKZ with their music but not with Got7. It obviously works for SKZ so why not. JB is a talented producer too.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Totally agree, and I’m surprised Nick didn’t bring this up. I would definitely want to critisice JYP for it. I feel that pre-BTS US breakthrough, GOT7/EXO/BTS were the three main boygroups and were viewed quite equally. But nowadays JYP just doesn’t know what to do with GOT7… They’re stagnant.

        I’m pretty sure the members and fans would be happier if they were managing themselves a bit more, have more influence over their music and work, get to release what songs they create and have more freedom overall. I feel that either it keeps going like this and they lose popularity and disband (leaving a sour taste afterwards), or the members get the opportunity to rebrand themselves. No matter what happens after that, they at least got the chance to show who they are and do their best.

        Liked by 1 person

        • This is an interesting point. It might be my own ignorance, but I never really saw GOT7 as direct competitors to BTS and EXO. Maybe it’s just because they debuted a few years later, but even then I don’t think JYP has ever promoted them with the same kind of ambition as EXO/BTS. They always had a global reach, but it felt more under-the-radar and approachable.

          Also, I’d argue that this is a general flaw within JYPE. To me, it seems like GOT7 are following a similar trajectory to 2PM, whose Korean career seemed to fade into diminished returns as the group grew older. Like someone else pointed out elsewhere, the company doesn’t really have a track record of managing groups well long-term.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. GOT7 and ITZY promotions this year were poorly handled by Division 2. Wannabe and Not shy are underwhelming for me. They have a potential to be solid hits.And let’s not talk about Breath and Last Piece.

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  6. I don’t quite understand JYPE’s promotion strategy for GOT7. Every time one of their other groups has a comeback, I know about it because I get ads on youtube or find other content they release. For GOT7 though, it’s only through your blog that I know that they’ve released something. It’s the downside of not being on twitter I guess, but I feel like they can do better with the group.

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    • They don’t post GOT7’s promos on their official page neither and JYPE barely promotes them most of the time. That’s what makes me think they may won’t renew their contracts next year.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I like JYPE. They’ve earned a soft spot in my heart for their steadfastness in releasing content for their roster. I have witnessed JYPE’s company image vastly improve over the last 5 years as TWICE, DAY6, SKZ and ITZY debuted. I appreciate their willingness (both JYP, the artists and the company itself) to be transparent with the general public about its inner workings and structure and I feel an intricate connection to JYPE.

    JYPE’s music has largely been either a hit or miss for me. I Can’t Stop Me, Wannabe, When We Disco has greatly grown on me and currently stands out as the few highlights of 2020. My support group SKZ, their music sadly has been difficult to connect to and my “fanship” towards them hasn’t increased nor decreased since last year. I worry about them being overworked but I know this is what they have to do to reach those coveted levels of stardom. I hope that next year SKZ will release music that aligns more closely to Miroh or that of Side Effect.

    My final ranking would be a B. Had SKZ’s music been a hit with me then it would’ve been an A. Overall, I’m just really happy that the JYPE train has continued to chug along and portraying itself as a symbol of stability despite the chaos that 2020 is.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2020: BIG HIT LABELS | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  9. (long comment incoming)

    as a longtime fan of jyp groups, i appreciate your kindness and favorability towards the company and their artists in general but i can’t hold them to the same kindness. i guess the only group that i agree with you that was decently well handled was day6, whose music i have grown less fond of over the years but i loved the subunit single they released.

    looking at my favorites under the company (got7 and itzy respectively), both have been handled terribly by their respective division managing them. especially in the face of the reviews from former employees from there, the fix isn’t just the worker’s output but also just the hierarchy of the management there and fixing their old fashion ways. it’s a great shame – especially as i grow more and more fond of last piece as a whole and get disappointed by everything got7 themselves should not be responsible for (like the lack of an mv teaser, the treatment towards lacks of advertising in general where mark and the other members had to handle, the continuous terrible graphic design for all div2 albums, even the weird styling in comparison to skz’s burberry outfits at mamas was so strange) + itzy’s lack of comebacks during the year (though i love the copious dance practices, i wish they were releasing more music or even variety). i can go on but i will digress that this my main quip with jyp – how do you plan for longevity without trying for lasting impact?

    it also is very strange to me that as big as twice and skz are, imo they are very overworked and constantly have back to back comebacks and schedules as a whole. i will admit that i don’t care for skz (too young – nothing against their music as i loved miroh) but they’ve had a tremendous year ahead of them and represent what this gen of jype has to offer. as other reviews have said, jype is not a company for longevity but for striking upon the match / trend when they can. i just hope that with the companies they have now that they can capitalize the talents they have and last for longer – i bring twice and skz into this part as they are on a steeper upward projective as they have always been in comparison to the other groups, but i’m afraid that they might burn out (physically, and even emotionally re: twice).

    again, thank you for the review – i think this was really interesting to read and will anticipate for your top 10s by the end of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed with pretty everything you said and just wanted to point out one of your last points. Yes, JYP’s groups are targeted for immediate success and to establish a trend under their name, which, as you said, means his groups would have a relatively short lifespam. This is also projected in their music, particularly in their girl groups like Twice, who’s songs are generally focused on becoming an instant hit/trend that they don’t age well or are just lost in the fog of time. Sure, hits like Cheer Up, Fancy and maybe TT will always be classics (as in, replayed throughout the years) but other title tracks have not aged that well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If you think about it, the entire kpop industry is built upon multiple comebacks a year, compared to American pop where you may see a big artist release an album once a year or even a few years. I agree that not all of Twice’s releases have lasted the test of time, but how many other kpop acts can one say consistently release music aimed at longevity?

        Liked by 1 person

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