Feature

Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2021: JYP 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 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.

JYP Entertainment


The Good

JYP’s 2021 started off very slow, with no big Korean release until April. But, once they got going their artists released album after album. Along with SM Entertainment, I think they’re the most prolific of the big agencies.

JYP continues to be a trend leader in the industry, with ITZY’s sound steering so many other girl groups and Stray Kids’ self-composed hip-hop approach being adopted by more and more boy groups. And although I found both acts’ music very hit-or-miss this year, they’ve each had a successful year. Booking Stray Kids for Kingdom was a no-brainer and gave their already-popular brand even more clout. ITZY fleshed out their small discography in 2021 with more new music than ever. Both acts released bonus music videos to promote b-side tracks, which is a great way to entice a variety of fans.

Though Twice continue to inch toward that all-important contract renewal, their music has never been stronger. JYP has perfectly managed their maturation as artists. Their current work feels quite different from the songs released during their first few years, but the transition has never been jarring. As a fan, this journey has been satisfying to watch.

JYP Entertainment has also struck gold (again) in Japan, with girl group NiziU. Their debut has allowed the agency to focus more strategically on that territory rather than simply ship their Korean acts overseas. But even with their own J-pop group, the agency continues to pursue Japanese releases from their domestic artists. Too often, K-pop reports and news articles link “global” with “American” and forget the huge potential of the Japanese market. JYP’s global reach feels more balanced than many other agencies.

Veteran group 2PM are emblematic of this approach. They’ve always had a huge career in Japan, and their long-awaited 2021 return bore new material in both Korean and Japanese. JYP doesn’t have a great reputation retaining their older acts, but they did right by 2PM this year.

Finally, 2022 is looking to usher in a whole new era for JYP. They have no less than three new acts waiting in the wings. Band Xdinary Heroes seems first up for debut, followed by a new girl group and the boy group formed through competition series LOUD. On a personal note, I give JYP immense kudos for that series LOUD. It was by far the best K-pop “survival” show I’ve watched in years.


The Bad

The strength of new blood may also prove to be a stumbling block. I’m worried that JYP may be trying to do too much, too fast. With three big debuts scheduled for 2022, I wonder how equitably the resources will be distributed among these acts. Add another Nizi Project, and it seems like the agency is getting ahead of itself. It takes time to establish new acts in a meaningful way. Stray Kids are just getting there, while ITZY have a few more releases to fully cement themselves. I’d hate to see these groups get the shaft in favor of new debuts. But at the same time, I want those new debuts to enjoy ample promotion as well. I hope JYP’s multi-pronged A&R strategy is ready for this heavy deluge of new talent.

As we consider the new generation of JYP, it’s worth noting what the agency is doing (or not doing) for its older acts. Things are looking murky for DAY6, with limited support and a new band ready to fill their agency niche. I’d be pleasantly surprised if all members of Twice re-sign in 2022, but based on K-pop history I don’t have a ton of optimism.

JYP Entertainment has never shown much urgency when it comes to re-signing and promoting its older acts, and this might be a healthy tactic. But, it feels like 2022 will usher in dramatic change for the agency roster. GOT7 already cut ties at the beginning of this year, and I don’t think they’ll be the last act to pursue new ventures. JYP’s response will determine whether this becomes a strength or liability. I’ll be very curious to see where we’re at this time next year.

This is a much more subjective critique, but I feel like JYP has had a pretty weak year musically. I loved Twice’s latest album, but other than that nothing much has stuck out. Stray Kids’ 2021 was solid but not as strong as last year or the year before. Releases by ITZY, DAY6 and 2PM didn’t reach the highs of past glories and I just can’t get into NiziU’s sound. Other listeners may have a totally different opinion than mine, but compared to the other major agencies (outside of YG), JYP’s output felt a little… dull. I appreciate the vast pool of songwriters they draw from, but it would be nice to hear them re-establish a specific identity for the agency. I’m not sure I know what a “JYP song” sounds like anymore, which could be a strength of liability depending on how you look at it. I tend to lean toward the latter perspective.

2021 Grade: B-

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

21 thoughts on “Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2021: JYP ENTERTAINMENT

  1. The one-two-three punch of “Cheese”, “Thunderous” and “Domino” has endeared “Noeasy” to me a lot, but I’d agree that musically, TWICE is the only one of the four Korean groups who didn’t seem to be treading water this year. Still, it’s hard to argue with the numbers – SKZ absolutely had one of the best 2021s of any fourth gen group and not having them put out a major release without Hyunjin seems like the right decision in hindsight (not to mention letting them focus on KINGDOM).

    I absolutely love some of the b-sides from “GUESS WHO”, and the title grew on me a lot.“CRAZY IN LOVE” hasn’t really done it for me, but it sold about what SKZ’s 2020 releases sold, which feels right about where they’d want to be. Whatever happens to TWICE in the next year or so, there don’t seem to be many girl groups currently active who’ve been going strong as long as they have, so kudos all around. That. new album is a blast. DAY6 is clearly the out group, but how much of that is JYPE, enlistments, and whatever’s going on with Jae isn’t really clear to me, and still, the even of day guys have still been more active than plenty of groups starting off enlistment.

    It’s strange – starting the year with the departure of GOT7 and Hyunjin in the penalty box seems like it should have damaged the JYP brand, but if so, it certainly didn’t hold back the groups themselves (DAY6 arguably excluded). This is just wild speculation on my part, but it seems like JYPE (in the last few years at least) markets their groups on their individual brand rather than the agency brand, in SKZ’ case even setting the group up as actively antagonistic to the agency in their pre-debut show. Whether intentional or not, this might be what’s kept their groups going strong regardless of whatever stink attaches to the agency, and maybe even through the pre-contract-termination neglect GOT7 and DAY6 seem to have/be experiencing. It seems like the GOT7 members have landed on their feet and I suspect DAY6 will too, but again, that’s just me speculating wildly.

    What happens with the new groups I don’t know, but we will see.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I just went back and reread your 2018-2020 reviews, and it doesn’t seem like you were especially off base anywhere, other than the fact that you weren’t as thrilled with their 2020 releases as I was. I’m not sure how I would grade them, but I feel like going from a B+ to a B- might not reflect the year they had so much as the concerns for the future. I think I’d keep them at a B+ myself, but of course it’s all subjective!

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      • The B- has more to do with where I put most emphasis. My biggest criteria (and also the most subjective) is the overall quality of the music. **Spoiler that’s not much of a spoiler,** but this will be the first year since 2017 without a single JYP song in my top ten. For me, the bulk of the agency’s 2021 music has been solid but unspectacular.

        If I were to take that out of the equation, they could probably be bumped up a notch or two. I actually have high hopes for next year and the new acts.

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          • I wonder how many songs rated below a seven will end up on my list. “No Diggity” and “U Mad” are in the running for top 10. “VAMOS” probably top 50.

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          • I’m putting my money on “Beautiful Beautiful” and “Atlantis” for Nick and my only top 10 overlaps. Maybe “Killa” but I’m not sure it’s quite that high for me. Not gonna lie, I’m pretty excited! I don’t celebrate any of the standard holidays so December is usually pretty weird and boring.

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            • Yeah I’ve read thru all the old year-end lists whenever I’m in search of stuff to listen to so it’ll be interesting to be present for one of them. I expect Bad Love, Beautiful Beautiful, and Atlantis to be overlaps for me. Anything else would definitely be a surprise though.

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        • That makes sense. I was thinking it seemed like a bigger drop than going from musically “just kind of… boring” to “a little… dull” really warranted, but I hadn’t thought about the lack of any standout tracks as a factor.

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  2. As someone who is a big fan of their groups, I’m always interested in how the agency is doing, though that probably means I have a distorted lens on JYPE (don’t worry, I’m far from being a fan of the company itself). It feels a little harder to rate them as an agency compared to the other Big 3 (4) agencies because they didn’t have any particularly stand-out “moments” this year I guess, company decisions-wise. Next year will be particularly interesting though, with 3 debuts stacked up – definitely excited to see what they all bring. I’m not quite sure if being worried that JYP won’t manage them properly should go into the “Bad” if they haven’t even debuted, but of course this leads into the management of their current groups, especially since this influx of new groups reminds me of the relatively close debut dates of Got7, Day6, and Twice. Of course, Got7 has already left, and Day6 seems to be halfway out the door as well, but the Got7 guys seem to have settled into their own careers nicely and while I’m not entirely updated on the Day6 situation with JYPE/enlistments/Jae as a previous comment mentioned, I have hope the members will be able to establish careers they’re happy with. Twice’s path is the most in the air, and as a huge Once, I’m nervous; however, I have hope they will all stick together, and perhaps land a better contract with JYPE.

    As for the success of the groups, Stray Kids and Itzy have been as popular as they’ve ever been. Twice is still going strong, and 2PM returning was a welcome surprise in a year of 2nd-gen comebacks, and Day6 remains one of the most popular bands in the industry. And of course, NiziU is killing it in Japan. I do have to agree about the music quality this year though – other than Twice (whose music I LOVED this year…their natural maturation has been incredibly satisfying to watch) there weren’t any real standouts, though I’ve been playing some of Noeasy’s B-sides a lot.

    Overall, 2022 seems like it will be an important year for JYPE, so I’m excited and nervous to see what happens. I think I’d agree with Mybrainisonfire in that I’d probably keep them at a B+ for this year.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Do you look at smaller companies? I’m curious of your objective view for KQ or other non Big 4 companies (excluding Pledis/Seventeen). Block B is relatively inactive and they concentrate mainly on ATEEZ.

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  4. Jyp’s 2022 is going to be VERY interesting. As Pikachu said, they felt a bit more low-key this year than their fellow big 4 counterparts (except YG because they literally did nothing). But next year seems like it’ll be a bit a transitional year for them. New band, new GG, new BG, new JP Bg. They’re going all out for sure. I hope they resign Twice tho. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them leave but I’m holding out hope that we get an OT9 resign.

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  5. You mentioned JYP as solid but not spectacular. I’d say I have to agree with that.

    Stray kids has exploded in popularity. I was a stay after side effects came out- when the fan base wasn’t as big. So this huge splurge in popularity is making me nervous for future music. I know to keep fans you have to satisfy the masses…but I just want them to keep their originality. Their cle series holds a special place in my heart and as happy as I am for them to finally shine- I hope they always keep their identity.

    I like Twice much more this year compared to past years. In fact, the I can’t stop me to the feels era is my favorite stretch for them as artists. I’m not entirely on board with their new comeback title track- but the b sides are great. So their trajectory remains amazing.

    I do like itzy’s first three songs better as a concept than their recent material- but their recent album has given me some good b sides. I feel like they could go either way for me. I could love them more or dislike the direction. I need another comeback or two to decide.

    I don’t know 2pm as well, but I am happy to see them back. I know big companies have a rep for keeping old groups in the dungeon- so I’m happy to see familiar faces.

    All in all, they all have a trajectory where I am unsure whether I will like their future work. Because of this, 2022 is going to be an interesting year.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2021: JYP ENTERTAINMENT | Beatsway

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