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Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2022: Part Two (KQ, MLD, P Nation, RBW, TOP, Wake One, WM, Yuehua)

Disclaimer: As with my write-ups on K-Pop’s biggest agencies, this is written from an outsider’s perspective. I’m not privy to any business-related financial information beyond what any other fan would know. The purpose of these articles is to examine how well these agencies are serving their artists and the general K-pop fan-base.

If you’re curious to read my thoughts on these agencies from last year, click here for part one and here for part two!

Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2022_ Part Two (KQ, MLD, P Nation, RBW, TOP, Wake One, WM, Yuehua)


KQ Entertainment

KQ

ATEEZ’s release schedule has become less grueling, but they’re still touring and travelling like crazy. Still, with only one mini album in 2022 and a special album in late-2021, this felt like a slower period for the agency. They’re working on debuting their next boy group, which could be very exciting. But, the trainees’ weird pseudo-competition debut show The Player was one of the most oddly underwhelming pieces of K-pop propaganda I’ve watched. It really didn’t seem to have much of a point and I’m curious when/if the new group will arrive on the scene.

B-


MLD Entertainment

MLD Entertainment

MLD was probably over-presumptuous naming themselves after Momoland since that group has steadily faded in recent years. They had a strange little one-off single early this year that was actually pretty good, but the agency’s focus seemed to be on new acts Lapillus and the newly-coined TFN (previously T1419). Neither of these acts have been blessed with strong material and it often feels like the agency is forced to pluck through the songwriting bargain bin. Given that they’re a subsidiary of Double Kick Entertainment (formed by the mighty producers Duble Sidekick), you’d think they’d be able to harvest some classic K-pop sounds.

D


P Nation

P Nation

It was a year of exodus for P Nation. In 2022, they lost Jessi, HyunA and Dawn. Oof. So much for being the agency everyone wanted to join! They still have a strong roster, but this year definitely found P Nation in a stage of growing pains. They debuted their first idol group, the LOUD-spawned TNX. But with only one mini album, they haven’t yet made the waves I would’ve expected from such a hyped agency. PSY finally launched his long-delayed album and it was a strong collection of songs led by a bonafide hit. Crush and Heize also scored hits, while Jessi, HyunA and Dawn all released music before jumping ship. If anything, I’m more worried about what 2023 will bring for P Nation.

C-


RBW (Rainbow Bridge World)

rbw

RBW has swallowed up other agencies like WM And DSP, but I’m keeping them separate for now since – for the most part — they all seem to operate independently of one another. That leaves Mamamoo, ONEUS, ONEWE, Purple Kiss and (surprisingly) Kara under the core RBW umbrella.

Mamamoo had a pretty busy 2022, with solo releases from all three members still under the agency and a group comeback late in the year. Not much of this music registered with me, but they continue to chug along with consistent success.

ONEUS had to deal with a member loss this year, but prior to that they released two solid mini albums. It wasn’t their best year musically, but they’ve forged a loyal fan base. ONEWE is a little trickier, and currently struggling with enlistment hiatuses that makes their immediate future less clear. RBW has never felt as comfortable promoting a rock group as they are their dance acts.

Purple Kiss lost a bit of momentum in 2022, though they still have their unique place among the 2021 class of rookie acts. Compared with new-ish girl groups from other agencies, it doesn’t feel like RBW are promoting them very hard, though.

B-


TOP Media

top-media

TOP Media has rarely stood out as a major player, but they have a ton of experience producing boy groups. Unfortunately, that experience isn’t currently leading to blockbuster sales. The agency gave senior group UP10TION two comebacks this year, but neither registered with the public. MCND also stalled, releasing one mini album to deflated sales. Oddly enough, their biggest success in 2022 seemed to come from soloists. From what I can tell, Kim Wooseok’s album boasted the agency’s biggest sales of the year (though even those were down). I don’t know… TOP Media doesn’t feel very buzzy anymore. They need to do something big and exciting with their acts.

D+


Wake One Entertainment

Wake_One_Entertainment_logo

Wake One is new to this feature in 2022, but with Kep1er and TO1 among their ranks they feel worth writing about. Kep1er has been a runaway success, fueled by competition show hype and a mix of appealing members. More often than not, their music has left something to be desired. But, it’s selling like hot cakes.

TO1’s transformation has been one of the year’s highlights. With new members and a new sound, the group finally feels like they have some focus. They’ve seen a slight bump in sales, but more importantly the music itself has been consistently solid.

B+


WM Entertainment

wm

It feels like WM Entertainment has been in some form of status this year. With most of ONF in the military and B1A4 largely inactive as a group, its male acts are off the table. However, I’ve gotta give them kudos for pre-planning a special ONF release during the group’s hiatus. That was a cool idea, even if the music wasn’t among their best.

Sadly, WM seems to have bungled Oh My Girl’s chance at mega-success. Back in 2020, they felt unstoppable. Their 2022 album sold well, but came and went without much impact. Strangely, WM doesn’t seem to be promoting them. It’s as if their hands are tied. I don’t get it.

We had a solo release from YooA this year, but her music seemed to polarize opinion. Lee Chaeyeon’s solo debut was a bright spot, and positions her well for the future. However, it feels like the agency is intent on sabotaging itself. They need a strong return from ONF, an Oh My Girl revitalization and some new groups ready to debut.

C-


Yuehua Entertainment

unnamed

Yuehua’s debut of Tempest has been a big 2022 success story, though they’ve lost some of my faith with the drastic concept change of Dragon. Still, the group is doing very well in a year without many notable boy group debuts. Their future seems stable and bright.

However, Yuehua seems to have forgotten that they’re home to a girl group as well. After a great December 2021 comeback, Everglow pretty much disappeared. I’m not sure what the plan is, but Yuehua had a very lopsided 2022 – at least in Korea.

Another mixed bag was the agency’s soloists. They’re set to lose Woodz, but Yena made a successful solo debut and seems to have momentum at her heels.

B-


Make sure to check out part one, with Brand New, Cube, DSP, Fantagio, FNC, IST and Jellyfish. 

39 thoughts on “Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2022: Part Two (KQ, MLD, P Nation, RBW, TOP, Wake One, WM, Yuehua)

  1. TO1 losing FOUR members in a year and replacing them with three, two of them having preexisting fanbases and yet only reaping a 2k improvement in album sales definitely failboat enough to knock Wake One to C imo

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think a C at best is appropriate for Wake One. I’m happy TO1 has managed to continue, but Wake One has taken that group through all types of chaos since last year for still unclear reasons. I know people say the member change was to help the group switch concepts, but nothing about the last two TO1 releases screams “new concept” to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2022: Part Two (KQ, MLD, P Nation, RBW, TOP, Wake One, WM, Yuehua) - Rapgurus

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  5. Re Everglow: Yiren just rejoined the group earlier this month and had a solo debut, so we should be hearing back from them maybe early next year!

    Also I guess you’re probably not grading Blockberry Creative but I wonder what you think of the latest developments.

    On another note, I have been on an Every Little Thing binge, and I have to thank you for first pointing me to them. YouTube has been aggressively recommending their music to me ever since I first checked out “Future World” (which was featured here) and their music is just so in line with my tastes. I never expected this blog to be such a fantastic source of J-Pop, but I’m not complaining!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad to hear that! Every Little Thing are awesome… especially their first few albums!

      Re: Blockberry Creative: It’s like they’re battling Spire Entertainment for the worst currently-active agency out there. What a mess.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I’ve been listening to what seems to be a greatest hits album. “Dear My Friend” is also such a good song, so are “Graceful World” and “Deatta Koro no Yo ni”… as a former keyboardist myself, I am just so thrilled with their synths. Though I’d imagine Mitsuru Igarashi leaving the group didn’t do them any favors…

        Yeah, the thing with Spire and Omega X is just so extremely bad, but when industry people are rallying behind Chuu after BBC threw her under the bus, you know things aren’t great. Orbit are also a really fervent fanbase and seemingly have turned on BBC (I don’t think I’ve seen one actually siding with the company this time) so welp.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I remember the time when everyone wanted P-Nation to sign their favorite idols. Crazy how much things change in a year. Psy is still a hit maker, so I’m sure the label will be fine.

    It seems like Top Media decided to prioritize touring for MCND over releasing a lot of new music this year. I get it from a business perspective, but it’s time for them to come out the gate swinging in 2023 so they don’t lose more momentum.

    Speaking of touring, what is the deal with Everglow? Is Yiren officially back? I heard she rejoined the group in Korea, but she isn’t in any of their upcoming tour promo materials.

    Tempest is still the male rookie group of the year for me. Dragon is still kinda “eh”, but I really loved their debut mini-album.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sadly, this year ended Oh My Girl’s hot streak. I’ve loved all of their feature tracks from 2015’s “Cupid” to 2021’s “Dun Dun Dance”, but this year’s “Real Love” was a complete bore.

    Jiho’s left, and it really bugs me how WM keeps giving YooA preferential treatment. Seunghee and Hyojung are better singers, so where the hell are their solo releases?

    For what it’s worth, though, I actually did like OMG Banhana’s “Love Is”. It’s no “Banana Allergy Monkey”, but it’s still kinda cute.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. as happy as i am that to1 is successful rn wakeone COMPLETELY fumbled the bag w the lineup change. like they fr axed nearly half the group (including arguably their most popular member and the main reason to1 has the notoriety they have) for no reason whatsoever……the whole “concept fit” thing is bullshit bc woonggi and jerome would have been PERFECT for drummins concept (or bright concepts in general) i just hope all 4 of those guys can redebut

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Top Media continues to crush my heart with every UP10tion comeback. I’d never seen so much interest in them on my social media timeline as I’ve seen for Codename: Arrow and just nothing. And Wooseok made like 1.5 good songs this year. I’d give them a D-.

    Like

  10. Pingback: Grading the Okay-Pop Companies 2022: Half Two (KQ, MLD, P Nation, RBW, TOP, Wake One, WM, Yuehua) - Move The System

  11. everglow only released one song this year (a collab with thefatrat, one of my faves) and nothing else like wtf

    anyway toothpick wu finally got 13 years in prison and is gonna be kicked from china 😍😍😍😍😍😍

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Honestly I loved both the Up10tion comebacks and the the MCND comebacks this year! 😄❤ I’m not speaking of sales or whatever but all those 3 songs are really high up on my lists and quite memorable for me!

    KQ practically runs on Ateez but they’ve got a great year! I’m looking forward to the new group too – I had low-key hoped it would be a girl group tbh, but KQ Fellaz look good – that big Kick It collab stage was pretty good and I’m excited for their debut!

    I have always loved RBW, this year wasn’t the best for them due to many reasons, but I agree with the grade – solid comebacks and sales. Hopefully Purple Kiss gets into the field next year! They too lost a member recently :/ I hope they get some exciting stuff in the future! Just like you had hopes in Mirae being your top rookies of 2021 I had such hopes for Purple Kiss too – brilliantly talented girls who just need that perfect song! Competition is insane for gg with Ive, Le Sseraffim and New Jeans everywhere and Nmixx as an amazing group even if their songs aren’t for everyone – it’s going to be hard for Purple Kiss as time goes on but I hope they get their style and niche soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s just sad how Double Kick/MLD has absolutely regressed over the years.

    I used to be super fervent on Momoland releases. By that, the first two releases, namely Jjan! Koong! Kwang! & the smash hit Wonderful Love. Like, this year, the latter song has been covered by the WSG Wannabe women. It’s that good. (I am neutral on Freeze – not a stellar execution of the same concept, especially after wonderful Love.)

    2018 happened, and so did Bboom Bboom. Wildly different from those releases…..but, hold up! They’re getting traction for this?! I guess, good for them, even if that type of sound isn’t exactly my flavor.

    It went downhill for this, with the company deciding to make three more remakes of Bboom Bboom for the next 2 years. All the hype was down; from being nominated on best girl group to be a C-tier group. It was sad to see that. Their potential was just wasted on trying to replicate that success.

    Then, 2020 happened. I guess the company realized that it’s not going to work, so they released a summer special album, with a very chill title track (and iirc Japanese song rereleases), and FINALLY, a change in sound! I enjoyed Ready or Not quite a bit. They made a transition to being a veteran act pretty smoothly imo. Then they ran with it, with the latest two releases…styling wise at least. Good on them for changing it up to match their stature in the industry.

    But that makes the question: how are the odds of them resigning to MLD? After being urged to sell the same concept for 2 years, before lulling in promotions. With the company focusing on the shiny new things, it’s going to be interesting.

    Other notes on MLD Entertainment that are kpop-adjacent:
    a) I believe they’re one of the organizers, or connected to the organizers (KAMP Global) behind KAMP LA – a mess of an event.
    b) They’re also behind a new survival show in the Philippines named Dream Maker. People involved include Bae Yoonjung, JeA (of BEG), their producer Bull$eyE (all as judges), and some local artists as well. Interesting project for MLD as well.

    Liked by 2 people

        • ‘Tis an unfortunate thing about being in the Philippines. Do the names Marcos and Duterte ring a bell to you? A not-insubstantial proportion of the population support/ed them (I mean, this is how they got the presidency after all, though I have some doubts about Marcos and his “31 million” votes). So I guess it’s not at all surprising that there will be at least some fash-loving trash on the show. Say what you will about political differences and stuff, but my god. We suffered 21 years under the elder Marcos. We were known by the world for having a bloodless revolution to kick him out. If you decided to vote in his son because of his father’s “accomplishments”–which included plunder and murder of dissidents–I don’t know what to say to you.

          Anyway. Kyler Chua is the one name I remember–he came under fire for his pro-Marcos, pro-Duterte and misogynistic (mostly targeting enemies of the two like former VP Leni Robredo) social posts, which have mostly been deleted but people kept screenshots of. I’m sure I saw at least another one. Doesn’t help that Dream Maker is a show on ABS-CBN, the TV network that Duterte had shut down due to a personal vendetta.

          Like

      • It’s like week 2 of the show I believe, so nothing’s set in stone yet. I am not following it to my own accord either; just social medias doing their thing here. I’ve literally seen someone defending one of those dictator supporters hours ago. Quite crazy.

        Liked by 1 person

    • KAMP is definitely associated with MLD. In previous KAMP events in Asia, Momoland and TFN were always there, and it’s also why the entire MLD slate was supposed to be in the KAMP LA (that is until Lapillus were also unfortunately part of the group who got no visas approved). KAMP was also a partner of the Dream Maker show.

      Like

  14. Pingback: Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2022: Part Two (KQ, MLD, P Nation, RBW, TOP, Wake One, WM, Yuehua) – Arts of sounds

  15. I’m happy about them finally debuting Chaeyeon but I’m really worried about WM. Oh My Girl and ONF’s U are just pretty much hanging around there at the moment, and there’s no sign of a new group coming since they let go of literally all their trainees after the RBW acquisition that would’ve been Chaeyeon’s group. Not sure why they’re not banking on whatever roster they have left.

    For TOP Media, Lee Jinhyuk’s sales were down too.

    P Nation seems to have an understaffing problem, as Psy admitted he and the entire staff went all hands on deck for TNX’s debut to the detriment of their other artists, which is a shame because I think they could at least compartmentalize their staff and all even if I like TNX. Crush had a fantastic song but his momentum stopped with his controversy, Heize’s album didn’t make much of a dent, and Swings is taking too much goddamn time in making a new song lol. I don’t get what’s taking so long to greenlight a comeback from TNX.

    To add maybe to Wake One, Davichi had a comeback that did well, Jo Yuri’s two comebacks were great, Roy Kim somehow made his first post-military (and post-Burning Sun) comeback, and they got to sign Seulong from 2AM.

    I think I’d maybe move the score for MLD a bit higher? Despite the divisiveness of their music, they did send TFN and Lapillus to promote like crazy in Latin America and Southeast Asia so at least they put in the work for those groups. I think Momoland did go to Latin America too.

    Like

    • A few insights about WM because I don’t think the current situation is “that” worrying (except for their current inhability to choose good title tracks…)

      Oh my Girl might not be active in the music department but they are everywhere in South Korea. There is not one week passing by without Mimi, Hyojung or Seunghee on a TV show. They have tons of CFs, picturials, Arin is acting, YooA had her solo comeback. They also participated to most of the University festivals as a full group. It’s a bit of a stretch to call them unpromoted…they are very promoted, but differently. The focus is also on korean audience. I wish they had more music but they are far from hanging around doing nothing making no money.

      In ONF’s case, U is doing exactly what most of the fans expected him to do, mcing/radio/idol/dance gigs. He could have gotten a solo but honestly, it was very unlikely from the start (main dancer, not among the popular members, foreigner…). For the future, it’s obvious the company will focus on the full group as soon a they’ll step a foot outside the barraks.

      Like

  16. Pingback: Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2022: Part Two (KQ, MLD, P Nation, RBW, TOP, Wake One, WM, Yuehua) | Beatsway

  17. I don’t know much about Companies but I just know that I adore WM’s CEO Lee Won-Min. Him genuinely caring for idols under his company is something that I love seeing.

    Lee Won-Min crying for Yooa’s solo debut and him genuinely being proud of ONF passing auditions during MIXNINE was so heartwarming.
    (I don’t know how true this is) but I read somewhere that he also went around to his friends to borrow money to be able to debut B1A4. What a great man he is.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I think these smaller agencies are going through hits and misses. I’ll sum up some of the remarks that I have for the agencies I followed.

    WM is doing as much as it can, sadly. Things are still pretty good with ONF’s U hosting a late-night radio, YooA and Chaeyeon having new releases, and MiMi building her fanbase in Second World. It’s just there’s not much output aside of that, and while Oh My Girl’s album is pretty good, it feels like they’re putting out the wrong title track. 2022 might just be a resting year for WM Entertainment before commencing some big plans in 2023… I hope.

    Yuehua confuses me with some odd choices and situations this year. They seem to put priorities on Yena and Tempest, but sort of sideline their senior acts. I feel there’s something fishy at this agency with Everglow not getting a single comeback but going on tour, and WOODZ not resigning (and instead becoming IU’s adoptive sibling over at EDAM). TEMPEST’s sudden change of concept into NCT YH and Yena not making much splash on her comeback isn’t a good sign for their 2023.

    RBW has been having both good and bad news. ONEUS has risen steadily in popularity, but with the cost of Ravn surrendering and leaving the group out of rumors. Purple Kiss may have started to build their trademark with Nerdy, but not much was happening after that, we got CAN’T STOP DREAMING OT7 BUT THE LINE DISTRIBUTION SUCKS, and also with Jieun stepping out of the idol scene. We also had Mamamoo with one pretty good veteran comeback, and Moonbyul reigning as the queen of Second World. I just hope they had a better year both music-wise and career-wise.

    Wake One still sort of delivers? Good things happened to the sound and concept of TO1, and Yuri delivers with ‘Love Shh’ (but sadly fizzles a bit with ‘Lovable’. I can’t say the same things with Kep1er – which should’ve been their main priority at this point, since their contract will only last for 1,5 more year, and the title track game might be going down to the grave with We Fresh.

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  19. Is there a part 3 coming? I only ask because I am ticked by what you might write about BlockBerry Creative, especially after the firestorm of this weekend LMAO

    Like

  20. MLD should get a lower score since they have Snuper and no comebacks. I was actually waiting for a disbandment announcement this November (since it’s 7 years since debut) but, nothing official. Just a video post from one of the members with all of them.

    Like

      • Snuper changed from Widmay Entertainment to RD Company, but the CEO was the same person, so it seemed like more of a name change, not really a company change. And then MLD bought RD Company.

        Like

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