Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2022: STARSHIP ENTERTAINMENT

Before I take a brief look at many of K-pop’s smaller agencies, there are a few that I have more to say about. Consider these “bonus” write-ups — shorter than the “big four” but longer than a paragraph or two could cover. 

As usual, the thoughts are my own and aren’t privy to any insider information. The purpose of these articles is to determine how well K-pop agencies are serving their artists and fans. Because of the timing of this post, I’ll be including the last few weeks of 2021 as part of my analysis.

Starship Entertainment

The Good

Starship Entertainment isn’t often in the conversation when discussing K-pop’s biggest agencies, but they really seem to be making a play for it. They’ve always been home to at least one super-successful artist, and their roster seemed especially strong in 2022.

Though they only debuted a year ago, IVE have quickly become one of the industry’s top tier girl groups. I’d like more music from them, but there’s no denying their track record for hits thus far. Starship has been smart in delivering an all-killer, no-filler debut year for them. They’ve scored massive public hits without sacrificing quality, and member Wonyoung seems to be everywhere. With a Japanese debut on Kōhaku Uta Gassen next month (despite no original Japanese singles!), their popularity seems to be unrestricted from geographic boundaries.

I’ve been critical of boy group CRAVITY’s output for years, but it felt like they finally found their sound in 2022. Starship is giving them great material that truly fits them and doesn’t come across as a “Monsta X Jr.” placeholder. With two solid comebacks this year, they’re on a roll.

WJSN had a very successful run on season two of Queendom. Being part of the show was a risk, but it paid off. We didn’t get much music from them in 2022, but their consistency showed no signs of abating. Starship continued to nurture the quirky sub-unit Chocome as well with a fun release at the start of the year.

Monsta X was less active as a group, but the agency successfully launched a solo career for member Kihyun, who wisely leveraged his strengths with a rock-influenced sound that differed from his group work. And speaking of (ex) Monsta X soloists, Wonho continued churning out hits under Starship subsidiary Highline Entertainment (which merged with the company in July). He had a very active 2022 before his upcoming enlistment.

All of these artists benefitted from an A&R team that seems to be rejuvenated. Compared to past years, Starship’s musical output was much stronger in 2022. I’m not sure who’s in charge of choosing the songs – and whether it’s different teams for different artists – but they’re doing something right.

The Bad

I really don’t have much to say here. I would’ve liked more music from WJSN and IVE, and I don’t think the agency knows what to do with soloist Jeong Sewoon. But apart from those quibbles, Starship has had a banner year. There were small controversies here and there, which is par for the course for any agency of their size. And, it’s clear that different artists are given different levels of promotion. However, everyone on the roster got some time to shine in 2022 and Starship enjoyed robust sales and increasing popularity. They seem very well-positioned going into 2023.

2022 Grade: A

What I’d like to see in 2023:

  • A continuation of IVE’s great singles run
  • More music from WJSN!
  • Keep CRAVITY’s sound light and fun — please don’t go back to the blustery sounds of the past

Previous years: 2021 // 2020 // 2019 // 2018 // 2017


24 thoughts on “Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2022: STARSHIP ENTERTAINMENT

  1. I am not an IVE stan myself, but I will freely acknowledge that they are easily debut of the year for girl groups.

    ok ok what about the other ones, Le Ss, BlueJ, the other recent one, yes, ok good starts, but IVE on their budget with only 3 girls have knocked it out of the park with big hits that are clever and catchy and good. Its like they replicated early Twice in a minigroup format.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. also what i rlly like abt ives promotion is that starship was smart enough to not pull a 4minute….theyve made it clear that theyre not just wonyoung and the wonyoungettes like sure wonyoung is a bonafide celebrity atp but all of the members got opportunities to shine this year too

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Definitely one of the most solid collection of songs/groups this year!

    Ive’s music is really good and somehow end up growing on me every single time! I would like to say they are so far a fine example of quality over quantity as almost every one of their tracks in their minimal discography are so well done!

    As for Cravity – Veni Vedi Vici was what made me really get into them and the double slam this time with Adrenaline and Party Rock just shot them upto the top! Just like you, I too hope they continue with this fresh bright sound because they really know how to pull it off! ❤

    MonstaX last year was a great force with Gambler and Rush Hour so it did seem they paled a bit this year – but the solos definitely were good!

    WJSN – I liked Super Yuppers a lot!! And Last Sequence was a very polished song!

    Rating’s about right! Good year for Starship – music-wise and group-wise!❤

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. I wasn’t crazy about IVE’s debut last year with Eleven, but they sure won me over big-time this year. Love Dive was great, and the next release After LIKE was just as brilliant. Perhaps even better was the b-side, My Satisfaction. For me, they’re one of the big stories of K-pop this year.

    I love WJSN, but the only song I’m still listening to from this year is Done. Wonho’s Eye On You was another highlight for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. IVE dominated this year and that alone is enough for a high grade. But the way Starship was able to right the ship musically for Cravity is the company highlight for me. I was genuinely concerned that Cravity was going to get lost in the IVE-Monsta X shuffle, but thankfully things turned a corner with enjoyable music that seems to fit the group.

    Next year, I would like to see some mini and/or full length albums from IVE. I feel like they could give us the closest thing to “pop perfection” from a girl group album we’ve seen in a long time. I also wonder if their success will fast-track some solo activities that typically don’t happen for groups until they are several years in the game.

    I am also curious to see what happens with Monsta X in the coming year. In particular, I wonder if we will get a proper solo debut project from Shownu upon his discharge from the military. Also, how are things are going to play out with I.M? He recently signed with Sony, so I hope there are some well-thought out plans about group promotions because we know things can be easier said than done when members leave their original company.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Starship is really killing it. I was one who hoped for a continuiation of I*zone but I am happy enjoying IVE, Le sserafim, and the solo acts (Eunbi and Yena particular).

    Anyways I feel like from bitd w Boyfriend, SISTAR to 3rd gen Monsta X & WJSN to the current crop, I think Starship’s ascent is very well deserved. I think they’ve always realized solid to amazing music. couple duds

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi, I’m a longtime lurker, first time commenter!

    I think Game Caterers showcased the breadth of the Starship lineup and is maybe the first time that the agency has presented itself as a family since their last Christmas song four years ago.

    WJSN are approaching contract renewals in February, and I’m really hoping that all members will renew, or at the very least, release more music in January.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I became a Luvity after the release of Party Rock and what I’ve realised with Cravity is that I love how frustrating they can be as artists. Do I like many of their songs? No, but their ambition to release shit like My Turn keeps me questioning what a K-pop release is, if that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. Some information I want to point out:
    1) IVE doesn’t have an original Japanese single – they do have a Japanese b-side (like the GFRIEND 2nd JPN single, where they put the original material as a side track). It won’t matter within the context of the sentence it’s attached too, but I’d want to point out nonetheless.
    2) I know write-ups like these aren’t supposed to be privy to the business side of things, but for the record, Highline Entertainment has merged with Starship Entertainment four months ago. Wonho is technically under SSE now…but again, doesn’t matter with the context of the sentence.


  13. Undoubtedly the winner of 2022.

    Cravity finally found a palatable sound with their two last comebacks. No more car-sounds!

    WJSNs comeback was so so, but they did really well on Queendom and Super Yuppers still holds up. Not bad for a group most thought were headed for disbandment.

    Monsta X had an excellent concert, a good album and a few solid solo releases. Kihyun sells as well as the Exo lads, pretty good. Same with Wonho. One damn good release and one bog standard “Heading into the army” single.

    Ive? What’s to say? Everyone expected them to do well, no one expected this kind of dominance. A group that is far greater than the sum of its parts. They’re consistently doing what Itzy set out to do with Dalla Dalla. Setting the absolute gold standard for 4th gen girl groups.


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  15. IVE have honestly exceeded my expectations. It was obvious they were going to do well considering Wonyoung and Yujin are both really popular, but to have 3 consecutive hits and already become a group that can sell over a million copies with an album just goes to show how Starship have hit the jackpot with them. All we can hope for now is that the consistency continues and that they get a full album next year, and hopefully a World Tour as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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  17. Totally agree with what you grade them. I’ve loved every release from IVE and Last Sequence is in my top three favorite kpop songs. I’ve also enjoyed Cravity’s and Monsta X’s last comebacks. I only hope WJSN release more music soon.


  18. Pingback: Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2022: STARSHIP ENTERTAINMENT | Beatsway

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