After taking a look at the 2020 prospects of SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, it’s time for the final Big Four agency, Big Hit Labels!
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.
Only a couple of years ago, Big Hit wasn’t even part of my main “Grading the K-Pop Agencies” features. But, the company has firmly slotted itself within “the big four,” leading the industry in many ways. As if fostering the biggest K-pop act on the planet wasn’t enough, they’ve gobbled up a few of K-pop’s heavy hitters to form what is now known as Big Hit Labels. While 2019 saw them beginning to make these moves, 2020 bore the fruit of their acquisitions.
It was a busy year for the company, with multiple comebacks by their main in-house artists as well as the newly acquired GFriend, Seventeen and Nu’est. Quite frankly, they are now home to a large chunk of the most successful K-pop acts of this generation. It’s pretty hard to screw that up. And for those who feared that self-produced acts like Seventeen would lose their individuality in the shuffle, 2020 proved that these groups wouldn’t just absorb into a standard Big Hit sound.
GFriend was something of an exception to this, and I’d also argue that they were the biggest beneficiaries of the merger. Though they’ve always been successful (especially with domestic audiences), their collaboration with Big Hit’s suite of producers proved invaluable this year, reinventing their sound while retaining much of its core elements. This is a difficult balance to strike, but over the course of three albums, they really pulled it off.
Seventeen continued to sell gargantuan amounts of albums, and pretty much kept doing their own thing with the benefit of added Big Hit budget and clout. I wasn’t too keen on a lot of their 2020 material, but there’s no denying that the group remains an incredible success. In comparison, their older brother group Nu’est had a quieter year, releasing only one mini album.
Big Hit’s core group BTS continued to go from strength to strength, at least commercially. They scored their biggest global hit yet with Dynamite and dominated every chart they were on. And with military enlistment pushed back a bit, they’re poised to continue this winning streak for the foreseeable future. Of all the K-pop acts I can remember, they are the closest to being a “household name” among the general public – even here in the States!
TXT also grew their sales and notoriety in 2020, and the just-debuted ENHYPEN struck sales gold right out of the gate – even if their survival series I-LAND fell short of the hype created by shows like Produce 101. And going public, Big Hit is clearly rolling in money. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that they’re well on their way to becoming the Disney of K-pop. Now, whether that’s a good thing or not is open for debate…
…and, I tend to think that this is rife with potential issues. I’ve got nothing against Disney. They churn out some great material. But, I think the comparison is apt. As a company grows and becomes more mainstream, it also becomes more difficult to take the kind of artistic risks that lead to truly stunning music. Big Hit has nothing to complain about when it comes to financials, but much of their musical output this year felt overly generic. It was high quality and big budget, for sure. But, too many songs lacked personality.
BTS have reached a pinnacle that few could have predicted. They are titans within the industry, and could really release anything they want with a high level of success. But I’d argue that – taken as a whole – their 2020 output was the weakest of any year in their career. There were some highlights, for sure, but nothing that sparked with the same originality or personality of their best work.
As Big Hit’s list of producers and collaborators has expanded, their song credits often encompass half a dozen names or more. This is a far cry from the early days of Pdogg and “Hitman” Bang and few others. Sure, many hands make light work, but this approach tends to have a more corporate feel. In many ways, this makes sense. BTS are no longer just “BTS.” They’ve become an industry unto themselves, with a rapidly expanding web of collaborators.
Here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with industry, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with collaboration. And if your goal is to make glossy, big-budget pop music with an emphasis on artifice (see: Johnny’s Entertainment), this kind of corporate process makes perfect sense. But, BTS have always sold themselves on a more personal worldview, and when that worldview is filtered through a veritable army of producers, it begins to lose some of its authenticity. I’m just not sure you can have it both ways, and I think this is something that Big Hit is going to continue to struggle with.
This all culminated in the release of Dynamite – a commercial-jingle-ready pop song if I’ve ever heard one. I know a lot of people love it, and it certainly rattled around my head this year. But for me, this song feels like a major “jump the shark” moment. It comes across as K-pop conforming to a mainstream American radio sound rather than showcasing its own unique strengths. I know there’s a strong argument to be made in the opposite direction, but I still worry about the precedent it sets. I just hate seeing amazing things become watered down.
If I had it my way, 2021 would be a year for BTS to really establish themselves individually. Take a short break from group work and focus on solos or sub-units. Get some of the guys on dramas if they’re interested. Begin to plant the seeds for a post-BTS career, because whether fans want to admit it or not, idol group sensations all come to an end eventually. It’s just the natural order of things.
Junior group TXT had a few growing pains in their second year. I wasn’t a fan of the angstier direction they took in the spring, but was happy to see them revert back to upbeat material in the fall. The group’s overall promotion seemed more scattered than last year, but I think they’ve still got tons of potential yet to be explored.
Finally, when it comes to Big Hit, you know I’m going to mention vocal processing. I’m a big proponent of agencies having their own “house style,” where a common sonic thread links all the artists together. But, I don’t know why Big Hit’s calling card has to be this mushy, mealy-mouthed vocal processing they seem to slather over every track. Though it fits well with some of the more ethereal songs in the BTS and TXT discographies, more often than not it just drowns the artists in effects that make them all sound identical.
It’s a baffling move, and one that I’ve seen widely mocked in many circles. I’m not sure if the agency just doesn’t have confidence in their artists’ vocal ability, or if Bang Si-hyuk genuinely loves this sound. Either way, I think they’d be much better off letting a more natural tone drive their music. If they must employ aggressive vocal effects, at least hire producers like Sweetune who know what they’re doing!
2020 Grade: B
Previous years: 2019
I think GFriend probably had the best year out of any Kpop artist in terms of music, but TXT and BTS wouldn’t be far behind. That’s rlly a testament to BH’s power at this point.
I just watched TXT’s MAMA performance and they sounded so good. They made Dynamite their own song. Why BigHit continues to rely on vocal processing is so baffling when the boys sound just fine on their own
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I would give them a D this just for the vocal processing alone. I legitimately can’t listen to their songs, I don’t understand how others can. It’s such an easy fix too. GFRIEND is the only thing putting it above an F honestly, but only because I’m rating them on the music. We all know commercially they have an S rating
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I’m glad I’m not the only who sees the Disney comparison here. It’s also just the way that they’ve been acquiring other smaller agencies with successful acts that’s been kind of concerning to me. Obviously the industry has always been dominated by a few big agencies, but a lot of smaller agencies have flourished lately. I don’t know if I’m too paranoid, but I’d rather one company not monopolize the industry, no matter how “humane” that company might come off as.
nice review….while it seems that ARMY fans and stans want to rip your head off if you say anything they don’t like about BTS, you still make a lot of valid points on the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’….
in contrast, and this is not in the highest strength because i am still kind of new to BTS, i think their 2020 has been amazing, and from what i have seen and heard with some of their past material, i believe that their 2020 material has been the best i’ve seen and heard from them…. “Dynamite” is a really good song and while you may feel a bit different (as mentioned in your review), it may be that they (BTS) made the song to be more commercially dynamic than k-pop safe…. “Live Goes On” is a truly beautiful contemplation that flows in a melodic rhythm…. “On” was straight fire and i think was also more of global-appeal production than just primarily k-pop infused….they are now a global group icon, so it only seems fair that some of their material take on more global appeal, incorporating elements of various music styles….now, i do not believe BTS (or any kpop group or artist) should abandon their roots (i do not believe that any artist should do that), but it is okay to have commercial appeal outside of your roots, especially if you have a large fanbase outside of your roots…. “Black Swan” was my favorite release by them this year and alternates with “Fake Love” as my all-time favorite song by them.
i agree with you that when you start getting too many hands in the producing of your groups, this can become a problem….it’s kind of like, if it works, why mess with it?….more isn’t always good.
you stated that you like a lot of their previous material better….what are a few of their songs that you like better than what they put out this year?….also, while outside of Irene & Seulgi and Jus2, i am not really a fan of subgroups from the original group (Oh! GG is also an exception for me….not sure what else they could have done anyway with their situation and circumstance), i do believe in artists doing solo projects and other things they are good at (like acting, modeling, business endeavors, etc.)….so, i agree that it may be time for BTS to think about doing some individual things, but as a group, they have become too iconic to not do group material and activities for too long….this is why i am not sure why groups that become hugely successful do not just have all the male members do their mandatory military enlistment at the same time….Big Bang (hope they will be coming back soon) members (excluding Seungri, who left the group and industry anyway) all enlisted no longer than a year apart….this allowed us to have Big Bang back within a couple years and not 4 or more years.
TXT is still ‘growing’ on me….they have had enough intriguing material that keeps me interested in them….i believe they will just get better.
the thing you said about the ‘voice processing’ is something i also agree with….i am not a hater of things like autotune….Everglow debuted out the box with using it and i absolutely loved it because they used it for “Bon Bon Chocolat” (very good choice) and then have been using their natural voices since then….i also to not like when you cannot tell the individual singing voices apart….for me, although Kookie has a much higher range than Jimin and Jin, the three of them often sound alike, while V, who reminds me of Big Bang’s Daesung (husky voice) can be differentiated from the other singers because of his husky, raspy voice….in too many kpop male and female groups, too many of the members sound the same, especially in cutesy and innocent concepts….this is why i like more mature-sounding groups (especially with the girl groups) that have singers who each have their own voice, via it singing or rapping….this is also why i wish Big Hit (or a successful agency like them) would bring Spica back together and manage them….talk about powerful, distinct, talented voices….but, alas, that’s an entirely different conversation.
i believe that the groups that Big Hit Labels have acquired will be much better….while i am not much of a follower of Seventeen and Nu’est, i am becoming more of a fan of Gfriend now than i ever was before.
with the boss moves Big Hit is making, my guess is that they will have a grad of A+ at the end of 2021.
Commercially, I’m sure most of us can agree that they are already at an A+ grade. As a company, their commercial interests do come first at the end of the day, so I wouldn’t be so sure their moves are going to increase their standing much next year if they keep in the direction they are going. Most likely, they will probably continue things the way they are, possibly acquiring more groups, possibly promoting some of these groups more to Western media.
The point is that none of these moves specifically lead to an improvement on music or general kpop content from any of these groups. “Improvement” is a bit of a subjective word, but if Dynamite is any example, there is a lot of commercial gain in being radio friendly and not as original / groundbreaking / experimental, which is one of the reasons I was drawn to kpop in the first place.
i agree with you on the commercial aspect….more money, publicity, and opportunities abound when you can appeal to a wider audience than your own….with that broad appeal, it is a good idea to make some of your music appeal to your other fan bases as well…. I do not believe “Dynamite” would have been nominated for a Grammy if it were done in Korean….”Dynamite” is catchy, well-produced and an overall very good song that BTS should be given props for singing it in English and being nominated for a Grammy because of it, but beyond that, it was just another song to me…. “Life Goes On,” “Black Swan, ” and “On” were better songs, in my opinion.
Indeed. I wasn’t surprised to hear that it won SOTY, but I’m getting afraid that they’re setting a precedent where the “best” songs are the ones that can get the most people to say “I don’t dislike this” kind of radio friendly. Although to a point the commercial success cannot be ignored.
A few years from now, I will be hard pressed to say that “Dynamite” or “Boy with Luv” are unquestionably iconic as songs. This is especially apparent when compared to other SOTY like “Cheer Up” or “Bang Bang Bang”. Twice winning with “Signal” and “What is Love?” probably elicit similar reactions from others though.
if BTS and other groups start to become more globally popular, it will be interesting to see how the kpop world will respond to these groups making music that appeals to more thank just the kpop base….
Hi Nick! I first wanted to say that I recently discovered your blog and I really like it. I’m new-ish to K-Pop (started listening to it majorly in early 2019) and I have discovered some true treasures through your reviews. So thank you for that!
This is my first comment on your blog and I hope to be active. I like discussing K-pop but twitter is just one stan group against another, that giving an opinion on it is just inviting plain nuisance your way.
Big Hit struck gold with BTS and has been smart in absorbing great talents for its future growth prospects. There were some worries over how Big Hit would fit in with seventeen, gfriend etc. but it seems that Big Hit has let them have their own space and continue their own sound. These groups have tons to gain from Big Hit’s investment so for now I see the partnership being very seamless and beneficial for all parties. I have to add here that two of my fav. tracks of the year were from Gfriend (“Mago” and “Labyrinth”) ) and that is a great example of this partnership. So that is a big plus for Big Hit this year.
Coming to its home groups, it’s remarkable to see BTS’s growth. I am a fan of BTS (though wasn’t a fan of their output this year) and their commercial and charting successes are astounding. I agree with you that their output this year wasn’t great. Their Feb album had some potential but was ruined by the weird processing which just baffles me (Case in Point: Black Swan). Dynamite is a nice commercial song but not K-Pop. Maybe it was made for a broader audience and its an easy listen but I wouldn’t associate it with the BTS sound. I’m not going to comment on their Nov album, which seems to be made for the BTS army so maybe that’s why it didn’t stick emotionally with me. Apart from the title track, which I listen to at times, the other tracks are largely forgettable.
I am surprised that you haven’t mentioned the grammy nomination though! My own views on dynamite aside, I would have never thought that a K-Pop group would have ever be nominated for a grammy! For a long time the K-Pop industry has attempted for mainstream success in the US and while a few have certainly made waves, it doesn’t get any more bigger than this. Of course BTS have for some years now been successful in the states commercially but this is certainly the best example of that.
My other fav track of the year from this company was TxT’s Ghosting! I didn’t like their early work this year and was worried that the October output would be similar but I’m glad to see that wasn’t the case. The vocal processing continues though and they need to stop it!
Enhyphen seems to have a great start. Their sales were good and the title track has grown on me. But its too early for me to have a view on them so for now I’m just waiting for more of their work and hope that Big Hit does well in establishing their core sound and keep it distinct from TxT.
Considering their commercial and charting successes, I would have given Big Hit a B+ for this year. I’m hoping they abandon the vocal processing. I am also excited to hear that they are going to debut a new girl group next year! So a lot of waiting and watching for Big Hit.
[Apologies for this huge rant, I got excited :)]
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Welcome! I hope you’re not a lurker/stranger in the future. Some of the best conversations happen in these comments sections.
It’s funny… I didn’t even think to mention the Grammys. That’s probably because I have little faith in the Grammys as an arbiter of anything, and despite being an American myself, I try hard not to view K-pop successes through an American lens. But, kudos to BTS because I know this means a lot to them. I’d rather they just release awesome music without award show recognition factoring into the process, but I can’t begrudge fans’ happiness over this recognition.
Yes! I plan on being active (work permitting).
Ah, I get that. Probably because being a foreigner myself, I understand that the metrics for seeing a foreign act’s presence/ permeability in a new market are these awards, apart from just charts, sales etc. Rightly or wrongly, a Grammy seems to be significant metric for foreign acts (even domestic for that matter) as a marker of some success. For a K-Pop act to do that seems surreal so maybe that’s why I thought it of some significance. But yeah, these award shows are mostly bull and when you are outselling stadium tickets, who cares right.
A pivot to this above topic but I was wondering why are some awards called ‘Daesangs’ and every show seems to have one? I think its literal translation is a grand prize. I mean of course some awards would matter more but to have them expressly call Daesang is another thing I guess. Curious about it though!
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i won’t call it a ‘jump the shark’ moment, as I believe them when they mentioned how liking the original english demo made them want to do it in english too, but it definitely encapsulates the culmination of their western push. I can believe their group identity and all that is still them but they’re growing and that’s not a bad thing.
My only issue this year, as every year, is the vocal effects because ALL of them sound better live and without it so at this point it’s a bit of a crutch. And while it was a semi unpopular opinion here I liked both sides of TXT we saw as it once again speaks to their youthful spirit and how their songs are about those smaller personal emotions.
B…But, of all the mergers, GFriend took the biggest hit in popularity, no?
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That could more be attributed to their change in sound, rather than having anything directly to do with the merger. I think apple still did fairly well on the charts, but I don’t know anything about their physical sales. Last time they went mature with fingertip, it wasn’t as successful as their other stuff either.
Mago got completely destroyed on the chart
I have a request so,please yg,jyp, and author company’s please come to India and take a audition because many people want to be a kpop idol meto so please come to India 🇮🇳 and I have many talent to just like vocal, rap,dance, Korean language to so please come and us a chance to show our talent to you so please come…
Although on principle, I am not arguing against the idea that Gfriend’s sudden drop in popularity is long in the making.
Big hit really hit it big these past couple years. I’d like to believe BTS genuinely love their company and it really played a big role in their success. BH is able to achieve what the other big agencies have been trying so hard to do in recent years and that is to break through the western market commercially and with recognition. BH really utilized everything BTS has to offer to put them where they are now. And yes, now they just feel very corporate-y. BTS became really famous because of their ‘underdog’ status in the past, with BH being a relatively small company, but they can’t claim that now anymore. So all future BH groups are now considered ‘priveleged’ starting with TxT. At least there’s not much ‘complaints’ from fans against BH treatment of their artists, which the other big3 companies are usually getting.
Damn I didn’t know vocal processing could affect a company review, but it is interesting to me how differently people view that. I honestly can’t imagine Dynamite, ON, black swan w out the vocal effects cause to me its just fits/makes sense. Pretty cool insight !
Same. I can’t imagine their songs without vocal processing because it adds magical feels to their songs. It gives a lot of dramatic feelings to it. And also in my art school, its really not a bag deal to use vocal processing. Because it adda story to the song. And to BH, it kinda make sense because of their slogan(Music and Artist for healing). They create story in every songs that they release.
I think most of us would mind it a lot less if it just wasn’t SO prominent. I also can’t imagine songs like Black Swan without those production choices (though, to be honest, I really don’t like Black Swan, nor do I think I would if the vocals had been processed differently), but to such an extent for every track? It becomes their musical identity more than the music itself.
I suppose it’s a bit like the tropical trend back in 2018(?) — fine in moderation, even if not a favorite, but it just gets so tired so quickly, and there are so many more interesting or flat out better ways to go about creating the song.
Well,when BTS’s DNA released I already thought that the sound somewhat too american. The last bts album that I like is love yourself:tear. I really hope that next year, BTS will come back as themselves because their recent music don’t sound like BTS&kpop.
TXT need more times to establish their own music color I think.
Enhypen first single sounds like a mix of BTS & TXT.
Gfriend tried hard to make new attempt on their career.
Seventeen did good, but I wish they try sth new next year.
Although Nu’est have shown what they are capable of, the agency should take care of them more.
To sum up, BH should not only focus on making more money and cooperate with foreign parties. Their old ways the properly took care even the smallest detail on BTS mv for example is what make BTS unique. It is better to go intl while being local (keep the identity), rather than try to be somebody else to please strangers across the sea. I’ll give B-.
This is my personal opinion. Love&peace.
The comparison with Disney is interesting but also conjures a bad omen: it promises great commercial success but it also means their work will be repetitive and monotonous. Now, before some of you start hating on me let me explain. As Nick, pointed out, big money means they won’t take any big risks with securing their income as, when a company grows, it tends to increase their costs exponentially. Therefore, like Disney, I wouldn’t be surprised if Big Hit stays with a tried-and-true formula that secures the revenue (for Disney, it’s the “quip”) but doesn’t necessarily push their sounds to new heights. Now, there’s big companies, even in Kpop that do take risks with their sounds, so maybe Big Hit will take that route who knows, but if this year is a testament for things to come, I’m afraid they will stick with a safe, commercial formula. In my opinion (you can disagree with me, no need to call me out like this is Twitter if you don’t agree), this year Big Hit releases have been generally monotonous, with some exceptions sure.
Side note: I know this is controversial, but it astonishes me the amount of people that equate the commercial success of a song with their quality, defending, since X song has charted way better than song Y, song X must be better because why else would people listen to it.
Side side note: It’s sad BTS had to recur to a song with English lyrics in order to chart this high on Billboard. I’m not sure if this is an advancement for Kpop in the American industry because it mainly shows kpop acts must recur to another language and a safer sound to cater to Western “tastes.”
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I don’t think it mattered that Dynamite was in English to chart so well. It was by force of will. I think Big HIt and the Army found the magic math to manipulate the magic formula between streaming and releasing all those remixes that they muscled their way onto the top. For several weeks the main song and the remixes were at or near the top of the US itunes ranking. (Its hard to tell what the radio play numbers are – Billboard hides it pretty well behind a paywall.)
The sales are worth something like 20 times more than stream – I don’t remember the exact formula but thereabouts. Big Hit also bargain priced them at 69 cents instead of the usual $1.29. So if one teenager deletes and redownloads all 7 (8?) at 69cents each, that’s 5 bucks each time around, and do it 10 times, 50 bucks = 1,400 streaming equivalents = about someone streaming it constantly for 3 days, which they also did. I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few fans did a few clicks to mimic a US IP address too, to get on US itunes. It happens all the time with all those fan voting charts.
Force of Will.
“Life Goes On” was number 1 last week, but it won’t last as there are no remixes announced so far, and US itunes top 10 is dominated by holiday songs. Mariah Carey, again. Burl Ives, still, and the man has been dead for 25 years, Life Goes On is ranks 196 on US itunes as of =right now=, which isn’t a good sign for billboard charts. Dynamite is 68 on US itunes =right now=.
In 2020, the number of songs I have bought from the greater Big Hit family can be counted on one hand. We could argue endlessly about subjective merits of quality and innovation, but the sound overall has drifted so much that it’s just not my style much anymore, even Seventeen which for a long while was my go to.
I wish the biggest boy band in the world would show some cojones and sing live. Not play-acting-sing live with stealth prerecorded vocals on the same mics that fool most of the fans (or maybe they just don’t care), but actually sing live. The 3rd and 4th gen are following their lead, and as a result the vocal quality in kpop has taken a serious nose dive. It becomes very obvious during Nick’s regular “Looking Back” features from 10 or even 5 years ago when even the honorable mentions have solid vocals that don’t need any effects and have multiple real live music show examples of nailing their lines in tune.
Metaphorically, I feel like Disney is an apt comparison. It is as if right now Big Hit is at the Lion King stage, riding high. After the Disney Renaissance with the Mermaid-Beast-Aladdin-Lion King string of hits in terms of both quality and sales, they expanded to a whole lot of other animated shops, lots of product pushed out – who remembers “the Pebble and the Penguin”? anyone? Bueller, Bueller? Of all that effort the only farm team that was a success was Pixar. Their own Disney animation shop released Mulan and Tarzan, which were OKish but just not the same as the Disney Renaissance era. Entertaining, but not the high polish as before. Does “just not the same” sound familiar?
Big Hit has a boat load of cash right now, and lets see if they will find their Pixar, or will it just be … I had to look these up actually, because it was so bad for a few years there … “Thumbelina”, or something called “A Troll in Central Park”. (I really never heard of that last one.)
I think the nose dive in vocal quality should be most attributed to pd 101 series
That too. Those shows are voted based upon Visuals > some groupthink perception of worthiness > dancing > singing. That is, when they aren’t rigged.
And also that the biggest sunbae’s don’t really sing live. If sunbae isn’t, then why should hoobae?
Based on PD101 and PD48 jail bait >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> everything else
I don’t disagree that young girls dominated most of the rankings on those shows (although we now know they were at least partially rigged so who knows how much that actually made a difference). Wonyoung’s popularity in particular is uncomfortable. But if we could refrain from calling real live teen girls “jailbait,” even in jest, I would prefer that, thank you
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I just want to remind you guys that Twice debuted before P101 was ever a thing…
(No shade to Twice, they’re just not remotely a vocal group and they’ve been vastly more successful than any of the Produce groups.)
JYPE’s unrelenting streak of full on assault on the very concept of singing has been going on for years and quite frankly they sucked way before twice but only recently has this serious decline happen. I guess we just give up and say “it’s complicated”. Thing is in a void with “free competition” you will very quickly end up with idol music with skills of akb48 levels. The reason SK is different is entirely because of the need to export. Industrial policy man
Also I just watched another video yesterday of Matilda before their disband and I am sad.
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If you want my real, honest opinion as a huge ARMY….
Jungkook has shown time and time again that he’s an incredible live vocalist (I mean, offstage when he’s just casually belting, no mic in sight). I don’t think this would be much of a problem for Jimin or Taehyung either except when it comes to the more intensive choreo (which is a given and I don’t think you’re really asking to hear Jimin sing high notes while doing his Spring Day backbends anyway. That is not something I want to experience either).
Did you notice I haven’t mentioned a fourth vocalist yet? Okay. Case in point, their NPR tiny desk concert.
I feel reasonably comfortable saying they’re live here because that’s basically the point of NPR tiny desk– for performers to prove that they can sing live as they’re in kind of a home studio setup with minimal recording equipment etc. And also, because we can see Jin about to bust his fucking left lung over there.
When it comes to 100% live vocals, maybe BH’s philosophy is that you’re only as good as your weakest link. So until every last one of you can sing without looking like you’re mid-stroke, that vocal processor is not going away. Perhaps sad but true.
It is very easy to fix your weakest link, just make your main vocalist do the vocal double and the upper harmonies for your weak links. SM has been doing that for so long it is now so easy to spot who is not so great based on vocal arrangement alone
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Yes, Doubling up the vocals is an old trick from my chorale days too. There were three of us who were strategically positioned towards the back between the second sopranos and altos, and depending on the song, the day, we got shifted thisaway or thataway, and told to sing louder (but not too loud) so those standing in front of us could hear the line better.
Also, add High harmony, check. People get pleasantly distracted by a descant.
Or lots of harmony adds distracting ooh wow, if they can pull that off.
Parallel octaves sometimes works too, in a nice stealth way, if they can’t pull off harmony.
Or just make the chorus a chorus of all of their voices
Have a few lines earmarked for the non singers (= every Twice song ever)
Have the singers choreo go still with quiet movement for the really hard parts (BoA and Ailee do this all the time).
Have a few parts that in concert are shouted along with the audience (every Big Bang arena song ever, some parts are designed to be crowd pleasing shout alongs and never sung).
Add a supportive instrumental behind for the hard parts. (My favorite example this year is the high synth washes behind KHH, because singing this high, this full out, is really hard, starting at 2:50 here ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfljfLcg6jA or 2:28 here ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mPz30ZKg7Q
Or how about
Not having non-singers sing outside of their range in the first place
Not putting so many effects on the recorded vocal line that there is no way to recreate it live ever without sounding shitty
Singing outside of their supported range is awful even for skilled vocalists. It’s really an artifact of the current trend to never sing live, so artists can just force a note out and leave the rest to processing. If they’re not going to sing the song, why bother writing something they could sing when it sounds “worse?”
Alongside this is the overproduction of so much music. Excessive audio processing means that it’s humanly impossible to reproduce the sound most people associate with a song. It’s not even a matter of vocal ability at that point. Unfortunately, people tend to dislike something that goes against their expectations, so this only gives more incentives to not sing live.
The trend to increasingly physically demanding choreos also hurt the prospects of singing live. Since so much of singing is breath control (arguably all of it, really), dancing and singing is a fundamentally asinine idea. One of the two has to be sacrificed, and the general public has proven itself to vastly prefer harder choreos. It’s no coincidence that Gens 3 and 4 largely have much more difficult choreos than Gens 1 and 2, and current kpop groups are expected to constantly one-up themselves.
Finally, singing’s hard. There’s only so much time a company can dedicate to training the artists, and singing’s an incredibly low priority. Mass appeal through a manufactured persona is at the very top with visuals and dancing following while vocal ability is far in the back.
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i got into kpop in 2013 and from my short time of being a fan, i can honestly agree with you on most of what you have stated….it seems, to me, that it is more about visuals than it is about actually singing….three are many groups, though, that do have very good vocalists within their groups, such as Big Bang, EXO, Ateez, Mamamoo, and Spica (although they are no longer together), and i’m sure many more….yet, as you have stated, it seems to be more and more about creating visuals at all costs: dieting, surgery, very intensive work and practice schedules, etc.
IAWTC. It’s too bad but something has to fall to the wayside here, and in this industry it’s almost always going to be vocals. BTS in particular have made their name as the world’s biggest kpop group based on their intense choreos, and it is what people expect to see from them.
Considering that it’s one or the other, maybe we’ll see them do some more live singing in ten years / on a reunion tour when they all have back problems lol ❤
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I’m with you there. If I had my way, they’d be utilizing Jungkook like that whenever possible. But you know how kpop fandom is… fans always want the parts in songs to be divided with complete equality regardless of whether it makes any sense. I’m already risking my life and livelihood by giving voice to this opinion in a semi public space lol
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To be honest with you, I am a bit skeptical of Jungkook’s ability to fulfill such task to a level close to for example, Wendy’s calibre. To me he tends to choose safe options which gives him of a more stable reputation where Jimin seems to be completely in the wild these days and his famous Charlie Puth blunder was because his refusal to use the safe option to use falsetto with a descending melody coming into a supposed “supported” range and it backfired
They should do their real concerts like the NPR tiny desk (also the Good Morning America reprise version too). For one they are actually singing, and for two they are actually having genuine fun. Its fun to watch. Their smiles are bigger than ever. Its not just a canned performance, hit all the marks, wink at the camera at the right time. The audio sounds great, and not crafted in some back studio somewhere. Wouldn’t it be really fun and refreshing if BTS did a whole concert with a live band behind them. Fire, with real drums. Get the Blue Devils out for realz playing their instruments, a real full line of horns.
Let the back up dancers do the dance. Or better yet, how about make the choreo serves the song, so that the person singing doesn’t have to compromise.
For example back to you, Super Junior. The only canned vocal in this example is the true chorus part of the chorus This is also a good example of rotation through parts, because Ryeowook and Kyuhyun are both away in their service, so Yesung and Donghae cover their parts.
Right, their happiness is contagious and also leads me to think they’d prefer to do it this way as well if they could. I think dancing is probably equally important as singing in terms of a live performance but I think it’d be cool if they switched it up to allow some of the tracklist to have more of a live vocal focus, while others could be pure dance focused numbers.
Any/all of this would be welcome to me…. from your lips to bang pd’s ears.
Absolutely, stretch a song like a Dynamite with a two minute exuberant dance break! in the middle and leave the singing parts to wandering the stage with infectious ad libbing and fan love, gathering back in the middle for a chorus or two of the proper dance.
Oh my God! I think I should marry you. You have explained all the things in a very agile way that you managed to get my thoughts on BTS in order. Thanks a lot.
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I agreed with the writer.their music are out of our expectations,maybe because they taught that their group already become worldwide boyband and they can use something easier in their music that has no any interesting compared to their old songs.bts songs be the top in any chart just because they’re famous not because the song itself. I really miss their old era that has so many well-produced song and mv😭😭😭
Yea just stop… just stop using that god-awful vocal processor. I know they can sing damnit and quite decently if I may add.
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