Just 10 years ago, the names that were buzzing across allkpop and everyone’s news feeds were Super Junior, KARA, 2PM, f(x), TVXQ, After School, B2ST, Brown Eyed Girls and much more.
Now the individuality and sound of this era has slowly died and manifested into the talented but admittedly sometimes cliche-ridden, trend-oriented groups such as TWICE, BTS, NCT 127, Seventeen, G-IDLE, ASTRO, FROMIS_9 etc. that we all know of today.
While these groups have done amazing, respectable things in their own right (breaking records, creating the trends of this current age, etc), there is no denying that they are pushing a new generation of K-Pop that was bridged together by previous artists. Let this video below be a reminder (or eye-opener) of what K-Pop used to be and how it is mimicked today.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trashing the current artists. I’m a fan of TWICE (I met them), I jam out to G-Friend (when my friend sings it more often than not) and I definitely fan girl at NCT concerts just as much as the next K-Pop fan. However, I did experience a generation of K-Pop groups that (I believe) started the initial international push of the Hallyu Wave!
I worry 3/4 of the new readers on sites like allkpop and fans of BTS would not even have a clue that these groups existed. I bet when BTS even discuss old idols they looked up to, new fans gawk at them as if they are seeing Michael Jackson ‘moon-walking’ for the first time (please… know this reference…). It is even more possible that half of these current fans of K-Pop wouldn’t be fans of the genre without groups such as Wonder Girls, 2NE1, BIG BANG, KARA, and Girls’ Generation breaking through and paving the way overseas.
Even the fashionable K-Pop trends have taken a hit! Fans used to buy whatever the idols were wearing and recreate their style. Now, I witness fans buying whatever merch has a logo on it. There is nothing unique about it and nothing artists generate for fans to imitate sometimes and it saddens me. At least I catch a few stunning styles at KCON and it is beyond refreshing but a different story I can go on about.
During 2007-2015, new groups had made an impact on younger and older generations alike, paid homage to their veteran singers’ respective styles, and really had an individual sound for each group alongside distinct images and characteristics that made the group stand out. Now, there are an overwhelming amount of nugu-groups, with good-looking but talentless members and plenty of debuts heading nowhere.
If these new groups are even successful, they do ride off of the efforts of a previous generation. Idols used to train for as long as 8 to 10 years but now rookies simply go on a show and become an instant success or are scouted off the streets. I’m not criticizing these newbie’s methods of achieving fame (HEY, JYP LOOK AT ME!), but some artists haven’t taken the time to mold themselves the way older generations did. That is what made K-Pop so different. Those artists worked hard for their image, sound, and attention-grabbing flair rather than jumping on the bandwagon that will sell them the best.
Big named groups like Girls’ Generation, EXO, 2PM, and f(x) spent years in the practice room and are some of the few barely surviving groups of the generation. Sadly, these artists are even taking hits with the loss of members, too. Fans can’t get over the fact that some of these group’s line-ups have changed and even created stagnant inactivity for groups, too. If members don’t pick up solo activities like Amber of f(x) has, for example, they will (most likely) end up like Minzy and CL from 2NE1 or Min from miss A – dust in the wind.
Some older groups feel they can’t even meet with today’s sound and style because so many other groups have dominated the new generation’s stage. Older groups are being pushed to the side or coming close to quits (I’m talking about Rainbow, Dal Shabet, and Nine Muses here). Poor agency management is a key factor, I know – but we can’t ignore the fact that K-Pop’s recent direction/style is pandering to the Western trends (Trap, Hip Hop, EDM, etc). Mandatory military service for some of K-pop’s biggest boy groups haven’t helped matters as well but again that’s a story for another day
New groups today are just handed silver spoon opportunities with numerous events and concerts abroad, thanks to the increased interest in Korean culture these days (think KCON 2019’s current lineup or the mass American media interest in K-Pop) – which is making them the face/representation of K-Pop foreigners know best. Overall, my issue is not with these new groups achieving a new found fame – my problems are with groups pandering to the trends way too much, try-hards with no real sense of musical identity and outshining talent, and with fans who don’t acknowledge K-Pop history or claim to be fans but with no real passion or a clue past BTS ‘Luv Yourself’ albums.
The demand for music is changing and, upsettingly, our beloved groups from the past can’t (or simply won’t) change with it. Music from 2006-2010 is starting to become an oldie-but-a-goodie rather than a, “Hey, that’s my jam” sort of song. *clenches my old-heart*
Did a generation die? Frankly, yes it did. But how? Because K-Pop has evolved into something different than what it used to be – like anything in this world.
With the disbandment of groups like the Wonder Girls, 2NE1, 4minute, and the like, that late 2000’s sound and appeal we have grown to love has vanished off the stage and became a memory.
If rookies aren’t pandering trends, companies are pushing them to be new and different, which in turn loses that K-Pop element many older K-Pop fans fell in love with. I believe K-Pop is trying to be something it previously wasn’t (or maybe isn’t) in order to take advantage of the newfound, worldwide attention. But I warn you, K-Pop companies, don’t go chasing waterfalls.
**Note: this is an updated version of my personal OP:ED from 2017 on allkpop under the guise of allk_maknae. I, the writer, alongside allkpop, own the rights to this article and feature image. The statements solely reflect my opinions and are not allkpop’s or any other company to sell, entirely claim, manipulate or remove without contact/permission.**