Feature

Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2021: YG ENTERTAINMENT

It’s not quite December yet, but I’m going to kick off this annual feature a little early this year! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at many of K-pop’s biggest agencies and offering my thoughts about how their 2021 went. Next up is YG 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.

YG Entertainment


The Good

YG Entertainment always seem to have their finger on the pulse of musical trends. For better or worse, their music feels very current and has no trouble making its way to the top of the digital charts. Even with few releases each year, they manage to score at least one big hit. 2021 saw huge hits from BLACKPINK members and AKMU. These songs also seem to have a very long shelf life when it comes to streaming, which isn’t always the case with idol acts.

BLACKPINK remain at the top of the K-pop pack. Their influence is undeniable, and their global reach continues to expand. Members got the chance to release solo projects this year, and both Rose and Lisa’s songs were met with success.

Though she’s signed to a subsidiary, Somi has also had a pretty strong 2021. She finally released an actual album, and seems to have found her identity as a soloist.


The Bad

It really doesn’t feel like YG has a plan for its artists. So much of their appeal is based of style, with less care given to the actual business of making music. Sometimes, it feels like comebacks are one of the least important factors to the agency.

For years, YG has staked their claim on a “quality over quantity” approach. They release far less music than any of their big-agency peers, getting by on the fact that one or two of their tracks become mega-hits each year. However, this tends to leave many of their artists in a ditch, trying to claw their way toward another comeback.

As huge as BLACKPINK are, they haven’t released a single group song this year. After a busy debut rollout, rookie group Treasure seems to be following in Winner and iKON’s footsteps by taking a way-too-long hiatus before their next album. With half of Winner enlisted and iKON all-but forgotten (even after a successful stint on Kingdom), it doesn’t feel like there’s much happening in YG’s boy group department. Treasure should be making multiple comebacks until they’re well-established. The market moves quickly and is more saturated than ever.

Speaking of boy groups, where is that long-promised Bigbang comeback? It’s totally understandable if the members don’t feel ready, but YG’s silence around Bigbang has been very frustrating. I’m shocked that 2021 didn’t see a solo from one or more of the members. I’m not sure what the long-term plan is for Bigbang (if there is one), but right now it feels like they’re all-but retired from music. As a fan, it would be nice to know if we can expect an eventual comeback or if we should just move on.

When it comes to these write-ups, I don’t often delve into financial situations. But, it’s worth noting that YG is currently running on operational losses. In fact, the Korean Exchange has demoted them from “blue chip company” to “mid-sized business.” At this rate, I think it’s safe to assume their place in K-pop’s “big three” has been usurped by HYBE. In fact, HYBE now owns part of YG subsidiary YG Plus! The repercussions of 2019’s Burning Sun scandal still linger and it feels like YG has never quite recovered. Aside from BLACKPINK, they don’t seem to be doing much to right the ship.

Finally, on a more subjective note, the agency’s output just hasn’t been very strong this year. AKMU are always great. Treasure released a solid single back in January. But, the BLACKPINK solos weren’t anything to write home about. Kang Seungyoon’s debut album was solid, but came and went without much lasting impact on the industry. If I were to look back even a few years, it’s stunning how precipitous a fall the agency’s music has suffered.

2021 Grade: D

Previous years: 2020 // 2019 // 2018 // 2017 // 2016

23 thoughts on “Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2021: YG ENTERTAINMENT

  1. Where the hell are Big Bang anyways?

    Oh, and yay Akmu. Darling Daughter plays them a lot in the car, which I don’t mind at all. Her favorites seem to be “Alien” and “How People Move” (with brass). My Girl Scout troop has adopted “Dinosaur” as their unofficial anthem, as they shout dinosaur at the top of their lungs from the back seats of the mom-mobile. Verse, what verses, too much laughing and scratching during the verses. The album Sailing is truly great music.

    Liked by 4 people

    • It’s pretty weird considering Big Bang was supposed to perform at Coachella 2020 prior to COVID hitting. Idk what T.O.P stance is currently but I remember him really not wanting to promote in Korea any longer. Daesung is just doing drum covers as of rn lmao. Even if Big Bang hasn’t came back though, I’m surprised neither Taeyang or GD haven’t even hinted at solo work.

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      • And yet they re-signed right in the middle of all the muddle, so if they are waiting their contract out, we will all be waiting a loooooong time. Unless that is what they want to do, in which case fine. Its not unheard of in the west for established Big Name artists to wait a few years between albums.

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    • It has to be because of their inability to tour. Bigbang Japanese tours made YG truckloads of money so my theory is they decided to wait covid out…which in hindsight was a poor decision. I know TOP has been working on music outside of YG but there’s not even a hint of a possible release. Taeyang and Daesung have to be bored out of their minds not performing but at least Taeyang has a wife and soon to be newborn. Daesung meanwhile has a lego youtube channel (not even kidding). GD I guess is enjoying his yearly Nike shoe projects and being out of the limelight. I have to imagine he has some songs burning a hole in his pocket.

      My theory is that once Japan opens its doors Bigbang will announce a huge tour centered around an album release. I doubt they’ll even bother with korean music shows. Then once thats done we’ll see the solos. Just gotta wait 😦

      Liked by 3 people

  2. 2021 was definitely weaker than 2020 and as far as we can tell, there ain’t no yang hyun suk to shoot anymore because someone needs to be blamed for this.

    2022 might be better but that’s because its hard to be worse than this.

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  3. Found this on reddit and thought that some of you might find it interesting… it is a “List of releases by the big4 companies since their inception”. Here is the link:

    It seems YG is making a lot more money from distributing music for HYBE and other companies than anything else.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. After a strong start with Treasure, Bobby, Ikon, Rose, and Yoon, YG preceded to waste their summer and only give AKMU a comeback. As for fall all we have so far is Lisa (2 songs!). Somi was also there if you want to count her. All in all it’s been an incredibly lopsided year that at least will hopefully end with a Treasure comeback in December.

    Group thoughts:

    BIGBANG won’t be back until they can tour and solos won’t come until after a group comeback. Or at least that’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. If they include the 5th guy I riot.

    Ikon had a strong start with Bobby’s solo, a single, and Kingdom. Then nothing. Bobby’s family revelations didn’t help matters but they’ve been clearly working on an album. Let’s hope we hear it before their contracts are up in 2022 unlike Lovelyz.

    Winner is currently split in two thanks to enlistments but Mino and Yoon were at least busy

    Blackpink will always be a group thats not focused on producing music. Meh

    Treasure should have came back earlier in the year but at least YG produced contnet for fans

    Akmu isnt an idol group so I’m not that concerned with their schedule

    Somi had a great year in terms of sales. Again not really YG proper but I’ll take it.

    And finally they have a new girl group in the wings that will hopefully not be under Teddy’s producing umbrella.

    Let’s hope for a better 2022

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just don’t get what YG is doing with their boy groups. A slow year for Blackpink isn’t surprising given how they’re essentially marketed as influencers over idols, and how every time they do finally release music it’s a massive success regardless – it’s clearly working for them, anyways. But why in the world did Treasure not comeback for nearly the whole year?? I genuinely forgot they existed, which should not be happening to a group with this much hype around their debut and a Big 3 company behind them. I don’t see the reasoning behind the lack of music at all – yes, I know they have been producing fan content and stuff, but as someone who isn’t a fan, to me it felt like they disappeared, and I know I’m not alone on this. And then nothing from Ikon after Kingdom…what is the logic? I feel like we’re always ripping on the lack of content from YG, but I’m genuinely baffled.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I don’t get why people mad at yg ‘mistreatment’ for BP when they are living their best life.I feel bad for lisa’s solo, but it’s understandable because she is not korean and knetz are rude.Seeing how YG treat their boygroup hurt me the most, a whole year without Treasure,iKON promotion when they need it the most!!

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  6. YG deserves to go bankrupt at this point. They have so many ultra successful groups like Blackpink, Ikon, Big Bang, and Treasure just sitting on their hands doing nothing. If you’re losing money shouldn’t you create content to make some money? I just don’t get this company.

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  7. I got into k-pop around the time Burning Sun was breaking, so my impression of YG has been pretty low from the outset. Personally, I don’t see the appeal in putting musch energy into groups that aren’t releasing music, though of course it’s different if you’ve been a fan for a while. I listen to YG releases the same as I listen to anything, but I’ve tried not to get attached.

    That said, I loved Bobby’s “LUCKY MAN” solo album in January, which, as I recall, you did (*checks*) not love, and the guys were a fun addition to KINGDOM, with their stages usually ending up in my personal top three. I loved many of their earlier releases and was ready to learn some names, check out some content, see what their next comeback looked like… and… nothing. Participating in KINGDOM can’t have been cheap, so why bother if you’re not going to take advantage of it?

    I really liked “On The Ground” though, SOMI’s releases have been fun, and, as noted, AKMU are always great. /shrug

    Also, do you know who has released 24 tracks this year? B.I.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They blew it when they did not release Full Dash as a single. One of the most galvanizing performances in Kingdom this season. “They’re performing…with rap!” That’s what I thought YG was about.

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  8. YG is really wasting Treasure’s potential to be a top group. I thought Treasure is not gonna follow YG’s template for comebacks but adapt to the fast paced comebacks in 4th gen but seems like not. Unlike BP in 2016-2017 and fellow YG groups in their debut years, they weren’t given a real hit yet. Fans claim Going Crazy is a hit (it’s still not) it’s not even originally their song, it’s the YGTB signal song that they naturally happened to perform because they’re the winning group. They’re the ones suffering the most with this way of YG way of doing comebacks. I don’t understand the point of being able to do a webdrama with many episodes yet cannot make songs and maybe a 3 minute MV.

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    • I think it’s true.. but don’t you remember how yg throw iKON to Japan for a whole year after their debut? YG management is the problem, seeing how hype YG boygroup debut are.. iKON and winner are the original monster rookie, treasure debut is a bomb too. But yeah they just wasting their talent

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      • Yes. Treasure debut was serviceable but it could have been more if YG knows how to properly manage a 12 member boy group. 2021 is kind of an empty year for their bg department and they could have let Treasure filled the spot for it and followed the 4th gen way of promoting.

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  9. as a blink, i fucking hate yg… literally no comeback for blackpink and its even worse for their solos. two songs for each of the girls’ solos… how come bobby gets 17 tracks for his solo while the girls only get two. the promotions sucked too, especially for lisa. there’s no other way to explain yg’s ugly ass treatment for blackpink other than misogyny cuz wtf

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bobby wrote his own track and it’s an album. As a fan you must know the difference between single and album! Don’t throw hate anywhere you like,learn more and support them. This comment just create a hate, and as an old YGStan i can say that BP get the most comfortable treatment compared to other group lol

      Liked by 1 person

  10. A brilliant artist like Kang Seungyoon deserves a better album though, but without Yang Hyan suk’s guidance I guess its understandable or maybe he just needs more artistic freedom.

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    • I think he needs to work with producers outside of the agency, fresh perspective might do the trick and also he needs serious image re-branding. His stint on KOMS was unforgettable and so was his first three singles before his debut with WINNER.

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  11. As an adult, I feel like YG is doing just fine. I have a job and a life. I do other things. I dont have time to sit around demanding YG to release a Blackpink song every 3 months like other companies. I dont have any issues with their release schedule. Blackpink is out there living their best life and some of yall demanding they leave the company that allows them to do so. Really? Because they don’t meant YOUR demands, then they must be mistreated. Saw an article people wanting Lisa to leave YG cuz Sorn left Cube..idiots.

    Like

  12. Pingback: Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2021: YG ENTERTAINMENT | Beatsway

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