It’s Sunday, which means it’s time to end the week with an open discussion post!
To keep things civil, there are a few rules:
- Be kind and respectful to one another. Any harassing language will be deleted.
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Each week, I’ll open with a question to get the conversation going. Feel free to chat about anything, but if you’re not sure what to write you can use this question as a starting point.
This week’s question:
I was thinking about this question recently and how I’ve changed over the years. When I first got into K-pop, it was all about the big, popular groups for me. I think this was mostly due to the fact that they were the easiest ones to find and the whole industry felt a little overwhelming. Plus, bigger groups have bigger fanbases and usually way more content to explore. They’ve also got the budget to make really awesome music and videos (if their agency so chooses!).
But, I’ve always been a fan of the underdog and I now gain most of my joy as a fan from following mid-level (or lower!) groups. For one, I think their music must be a bit stronger than the a-listers to stand out. My favorite acts feel like they’re still pushing and trying, rather than coasting on already-established success. I love following groups when they’re on the ascent – even if it’s a slow ascent that doesn’t always get there in the end. And, fanbase size can be a double-edged sword. Yes, it’s great to feel a part of a tribe, but bigger fanbases often bring more in-fighting and more obnoxious “stans” that ruin it for everyone.
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and what are some of your favorite ‘underdog’ groups?
It is fun to watch smaller groups ascend, but I would have to say the larger groups are more rewarding for me. It’s easier to bond with people or make connections over a well-known group just because their fanbases are much larger.
I’ve only gotten into the really under-the-radar groups recently though, so this opinion is due to change.
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I prefer both as it gives me best music from well-known acts but also music that can change my life forever for underrated groups
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Honestly I can’t choose. Larger groups have larger fanbases and (most of the time; sorry Red Velvet and Blackpink) have consistent content and music released. Watching smaller groups grow is wonderful and it’s nice to have a tight-knit fandom. Sometimes it can be disheartening when members leave due to lack of success or mismanagement, but smaller, less-known groups have some incredible music as well (Pixy, RoaD-B)
While I’ve always followed the music first if I look objectively I would say that I favor underdogs over big company groups. Often they’re more experimental with their sound – look at early BTS for proof – and sometimes it works but I always appreciate a big swing that way vs. chasing a trend that may not be an accurate representation of the group/their intended or wanted sound. Not to mention that with less budget for videos or producers they often have to be more generally creative with output in both areas. It can often be a little frustrating or heartbreaking, especially when you see incredible songs or concepts get paid dust because of timing or other circumstance, but investing in those smaller groups that are clearly going hard to make something happen with a fraction of the financial or fan support ones in the big 3/4 can also be rewarding. A good group is a good group and so much goes into that so while I’m always glad to see a big 3 or 4 company put out groups with good music and excel I can definitely say it’s more exciting to see a small group hit a groove that can potentially help them excel and ascend too.
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Why not both?
Ideally, I think I would always prefer to follow a mid-tier level group in terms of popularity. That way in theory I could avoid some of the drawbacks of being the most popular but never fear the always looming threat of disbandment that
super underknown acts face. One of my favorite groups (Oneus) is a good example of this. They are not so popular as to face the insanity that comes along with that territory, but they have a solid enough fanbase to the extent that they will always be able to continue to make music, as long as they continue to want to.
Of course, not all of my favorite groups fall into this middle ground. NCT is probably the most popular group I follow but I liked them long before they really blew up. In general, I am pretty big SM stan and there is really no such thing as an unpopular SM group.
As for the mega popular groups such as BTS or Blackpink neither has ever appealed to me. Now I’ll totally admit that part of that comes from me wanting to avoid those popularity drawbacks but even on their content alone they have never been for me.
Conversely, I have also actively tried to avoid liking some tiny groups that I started to like because I was afraid, they wouldn’t last.
But in the end no matter how popular or unpopular a group is if I really love them, I’ll support them whether I’m one fan among thousands or one fan among dozens.
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I think in the beginning I naturally came across the groups that had been recommended to me on youtube, very popular groups. The problem with smaller acts is that the release you fall in love with can easily be their last and finding information on small acts in the past was close to impossible.
Typically now I like staying up to date with as many groups as possible but I put extra investment in mid tier groups or ones that are just below the surface ( think oh my girl before nonstop)
You asking this question made me go back to 4ten’s “Severely”, “wae irae”, and “tornado”
for me, i like both, but i am more of a follower of the ‘underdog’ or ‘slightly unknown’ and newer groups from lesser known agencies….not all of them succeed, but some do, and they have some great tunes (see UIU’s “Starlit” as a good example)….
i love the big groups and support them as well, but i am less of a follower of them now since some of my favs are no longer active, have disbanded, or are floating somewhere in K-pop oblivion, hence: Sistar (disbanded), Spica (will always be a mega group for me!), 9Muses, After School, Big Bang (not officially disbanded, but seems to be headed that way), EXO (i know military duty is one of the obstacles that is keeping us from seeing the chart-topping, trend-setting, highly-entertaining super-group they have become, but i also believe that there are some mismanagement issues within their agency that is also preventing loyal EXO-L’s from enjoying EXO like we have before), and Girls’ Generation (yea, i know they just had a comeback after well over five years, but the comeback did not make the kind of ‘splash’ that they did when they were continually active as a full group….y’all now i’m right on that) to name a few….
so, for me. i now enjoy seeing ‘underdog’ groups, with great music and concepts, from smaller agencies, grow into decently successful groups, especially the female groups, ala Everglow (at least i hope they will be back stronger than ever)….
plus, when keeping up with bigger groups you have to deal with a lot of their crazy fandoms, which can be exhausting, depressing, and sometimes dangerous, depending on how El Loco the fan is….
Definitely the newer and underrated groups. Or even much older groups that don’t have the same popularity like they used to (speaking about 2PM). Most of the groups I enjoy watching typically are groups I get interested in my own. Like I’ve tried to “stan” really popular groups like TXT, NCT, and SVT that I know a looot of people who like them, but I for some reason just don’t enjoy watching their content unless it’s like the hybe field day. Also, rookies are just really fun to watch, and I just always feel bad for all the talented and funny groups out there that don’t get the recognition they deserve. However, in turns of music, I’m not picky, I try to keep up with basically every kpop group out there because I find that even if I don’t like a group’s title track more often than not there would be a bside that I enjoy.
This is gonna sound weird, but I kind of apply the same mindset that I have with sports. My favorite sports teams are the ones that don’t prioritize immediate success by signing superstars, but the ones that build themselves up organically through player development which brings them long term success over many years or even decades. It’s much more satisfying to follow a team that seems to actually know what they are doing, because the failures that they are bound to have don’t feel like the end of the world. When I first got into kpop, my favorite groups were the ones that had already achieved the pinnacle of success because they were the easiest to find. But I eventually found BTS and they gave off the same impression that most of my favorite sports teams did in that they prioritized their music and performance quality and authenticity over everything else. Over the years they slowly evolved their sound in a very organic way, and they stayed humble throughout all of it. It genuinely felt like they were just a bunch of best friends that loved making music and performing. I think that authenticity is the main reason that they reached the level of success that they did, and the only big company group that seems to give off that same vibe to me is Stray Kids (unfortunately, I don’t really enjoy their music that much). Eventually, BTS became so obsessed with commercial success and validation that they kinda threw away all of that authenticity that they built themselves on, which is why I stopped following them completely. At this point, my criteria for following a group is more about whether or not they seem to actually have a plan or purpose beyond just being popular enough to make the CEO rich. I started following LOONA because they originally were more of and art project than a marketing tool, but things quickly started going downhill immediately after I decided to make that commitment, which has affected my ability to get into other groups in the same way.
With the list of groups I follow – generally I swing towards newer underrated groups. One reason being most of them just happen to have my kind of music. And another being the whole fandom culture, gatekeeping etc is less intimidating and more relaxed for such groups 🙂
Personally, I was put off from most popular groups initially because those are the ones people try to shove down my throat in real life – and it’s not even the music that they try to show me, but the idols themselves. And I’m somebody who gets interested in the idols, content and personality only after a long time so this kinda introduction didn’t work for me at all. (Also people irl looked down on girl groups lol and that annoyed me too 😂)
I get into the popular groups now on my own pace really. If I’ve to name some of the more popular groups now who I really enjoy it would be SKZ (one of my ults), Twice, TXT, Seventeen etc.
In fact Seventeen is a perfect example for me – I loved them with Home Run back in 2020. Rock With You (RWY).last year is pretty much a SOTY for me. But it is only now, 2 years later, after the World cb did I even properly focus on the people & learn ALL their names 😂 Imagine my surprise on knowing that the deep parts in RWY are not all Vernon but Wonwoo and I just saw the guy for the first time in my life now lmao.
I just end up getting into the underrated groups faster but overall it’s the music really and not exactly about which group did it.
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what makes stanning bigger groups fun is (1) the fact that they usually have more budget/consistent planning for fan contents (2) the big fanbase who is willing to translate the stuff. i’m a casual listener of basically everything but what made me interested to “join” the fandom are the group’s personality, which i usually learn from reality & variety shows. when i first stanned tbz, theyre far from considered a big nor established group but their small company has always made efforts to put fun contents with eng subs (partly thanks to their connection with 1thek i guess). i connect a lot with a lot of less popular groups’ music but the lack of contents sometimes frustrate me bc i do want to Stan them! doesnt stop me from following them casually, though.
As far as listening? Everyone. Good music is going on the playlist no matter who it comes from.
As far as stanning, also everyone, but I make sure not to give special attention to groups from big companies. So I’ll listen to all the new ggs from this year, but I won’t go out of my way to watch their content unless they actually seem interesting. And because I’m someone who’s very picky about who they like and want to actively support, I think mid-tier to nugu groups need the attention more than groups with built-in fanbases. My time just feels better spent that way.
(However I do have a soft spot for JYP groups, with the exception of Nmixx, who have yet to release a decent song.)
I was listening to K-pop since before TWICE debuted but I’m a ONCE because I think they have the best discography in K-pop. They are like the third biggest act after BTS and Blackpink so not small by any means but I didn’t become a fan because of their status but because of the members who are so engaged in their music and with their fans and simply because of their very diverse discography. And the members just know how to deliver as a group but also as individuals. I don’t know any other group with many members in which every member is so recognizable.
The thing that makes them stand out for me is they achieve big success in the west while they don’t make music aimed at the western audience, unlike Blackpink, BTS, Psy and several other acts. It has become somewhat of a hype to just score easy in the west. With much of K-pop’s success in the United States being attributed to most Korean acts employing either hip-hop or EDM as their sonic base, Twice is making their bubblegum sound attract Western appeal.
TWICE keeps evolving. The members really want to work on their music instead of just scoring big hits. I feel that emotion in their songs. That and their diverse discography makes them the best out there for me.
I do listen to smaller groups too. I have hundreds of K-pop songs on my playlist, many from smaller groups. I think it’s always good to support other groups/acts. I am more into female than male acts. Especially if you are a fan of a bigger act, I think it’s good to support smaller acts too. They work so hard and more good music than not doesn’t get the right amount of recognition.
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I don’t know that I have anything as well considered or consistent as a preference. I’m still relatively new to Kpop, and the big groups were my way in (Blackpink and BTS). I think I have probably listened to and followed groups primarily from the big 3 companies thus far with a few exceptions. Toward the end of last year I started to listen to more of the performances on music shows and checking out their other songs if I liked them. I’ve become really fond of Billlie and Pixy. I don’t get involved in the fandoms of any of the groups I follow. I don’t particularly want to stan a group – if they make good music I just want them to continue doing that, but I don’t particularly want to see any of their non-music content. (I say that, and yet I did find myself watching most of Stray Kids’ 2Kids Room series on YT recently. I had to stop myself from seeking out more Lee Know, Bang Chan, and Changbin content.)
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Smaller groups for sure. Mostly because bigger groups tend to attract some of the worst, most irritating and downright awful fans. Now, I try not to let other fans ruin things for me in general, but also the bigger groups aren’t releasing much of anything worth the annoyance anyway so eh. Smaller groups have a pretty lousy batting average though, and it doesn’t help that they don’t usually have the expensive sonic production that can make mediocre-to-bad songs mildly catchy (see: BLACKPINK since 2018).
Tbh I’ve been pretty disconnected from K-Pop at large. Most of my old favorites have disbanded (GFriend, CLC) and/or are inactive (A.C.E, ONF, and until recently EXID but they’re coming back soon apparently), I’ve just felt sadly disconnected from VIVIZ and Kep1er’s music, and while there is some good stuff almost none of it is really inspiring my devotion. The only groups I really follow these days are Dreamcatcher and N.Flying, and Red Velvet to some extent (by far my favorite active Big 3/4 group). That said I may be getting into ATEEZ and a friend is trying to get me into P1Harmony (with some success–I’ve had “geobnani” stuck in my head), and I’m keeping tabs on CSR because that debut album is my favorite debut album since fuck knows, maybe Season of Glass?
I think having a variety works out the best. The larger groups are large for a reason, but the smaller groups also have music that is great.
I think I generally prefer small group songs, but larger group discographies. Due to their size, smaller groups often get better songs, because their companies are more willing to try unheard-of trends, while major groups on the other hand have to kowtow to trends. On the other hand, smaller groups often switch styles due to them not receiving commercial success, and the larger groups can slowly build a strong discography.
I think a mix of the two is good. Larger groups often have more resources behind them, so you typically don’t have to worry about content being low quality. Also, I find it interesting to get into the music of larger groups once they’ve become established acts. Being able to go through a discography and hear the evolution of their sound is fun. You also get to experience the group in their “groove” musically and performance wise, not unlike a veteran sports team that knows how to work well together on the court.
In contrast, it’s exciting to see a smaller group debut and make their way in the industry. I find that their content often feels more heartfelt and innocent (I’m a sucker for the groups who you can tell are excited and emotional to be experiencing their first video shoot, music show promotion, and variety show together). I also like that you can see the growth of the group in real time, like a young sports team that is talented but needs some years of experience before they can contend for a championship.
I like this question. I’ve never really been a big fan of the massively well-known groups like Blackpink and BTS, but I do love Stray Kids, who have gotten much more popular over the last couple of years. I was also really into E’last and DKB for a while. They aren’t “unknown” per say but they aren’t super famous. If you looked at my playlist, it’s a pretty decent mix of well-known and lesser-known groups.
Both. I will not check releases from newer/less known artists by default but I’m opened to recommandations (from social media or sites like yours), and if I like the title song, I will listen to the album, and if I like the album (at least a few songs from it), I will for sure listen to their next release. If their next release is also good, they will be part of the artists I follow for the music in general.