Growing number of rookie groups vie to become next world-class K-pop act

Posted on : 2022-01-21 17:00 KST Modified on : 2022-01-21 17:00 KST
Some say a generational shift is behind the influx of new K-pop groups
The girl group Ive (provided by Starship Entertainment)
The girl group Ive (provided by Starship Entertainment)

An ever-growing number of dreamers aspiring to become global K-pop stars on the level of BTS and Blackpink are throwing their hats into the ring.

The recent influx of rookie groups on the K-pop scene is believed to be linked with a generational shift regarding the transition from older to new groups as well as to the growing global popularity of K-pop.

Let’s start with the girl groups. BTS’ agency Hybe is set to showcase three new girl groups this year through its subsidiary label. Among them, one being orchestrated by Min Hee-jin is drawing attention. Min, the former creative director of SM Entertainment and an ex-Chief Branding Officer at Hybe, was appointed the CEO of Hybe’s label ADOR. She appeared on tvN’s “You Quiz on the Block” program in December, where she said she’s looking forward to “creating a new sensation” with this new girl group.

Also, Hybe’s Source Music plans to debut the girl group Lessarfim early this year. The group will be centered around former members of Iz*One — a group that was formed through the competitive reality show “Produce 101” from Mnet.

Belift Lab, a joint label managed by Hybe and CJ ENM, also plans on selecting groups through the audition program “I-LAND 2” on Mnet.

A preview of JYP’s new girl group, set to debut next month (provided by JYP)
A preview of JYP’s new girl group, set to debut next month (provided by JYP)

Meanwhile, JYP Entertainment is also planning on unveiling a new seven-member female K-pop group next month. Three years have passed since the company debuted the girl-group Itzy. The name of the new group is expected to be “N-Mixx.”

In July of last year, JYP released the group’s debut single package without disclosing any details about the group’s members. They were able to sell over 60,000 copies in 10 days.

YG Entertainment is also planning on debuting a new girl group — six years after the debut of Blackpink. But not much has been made public about the group itself or about a possible debut date. However, because YG already trademarked the name, it is likely the new girl group will be called “Baby Monsters.”

Meanwhile, Wake One Entertainment and Swing Entertainment introduced the girl group Kep1er, selected through the Mnet reality competition show “Girls Planet 999,” on Jan. 3. Only two days later, another group, named H1-Key, debuted under the Grandline Group.

Starship Entertainment also unveiled a six-member girl group called Ive last month, centered on Jang Won-young and Ahn Yu-jin, who had already built up a fandom from their days as members of Iz*One.

The girl group Kep1er (provided by Wake One Entertainment and Swing Entertainment)
The girl group Kep1er (provided by Wake One Entertainment and Swing Entertainment)

There is no shortage of boy groups, either. SM Entertainment has partnered up with MGM in the US to form the boy group NCT Hollywood. Just last month, JYP debuted its boy group Xdinary Heroes.

Interpark Music Plus, a subsidiary of Interpark, introduced the boy group Trenz on Jan. 5. The name encompasses the group’s aspiration to set the trends of Gen Z. They got their name out there by putting out one video after another — following the footsteps of acts that came before them, such as BTS.

The boy group Trendz (provided by Interpark Music Plus)
The boy group Trendz (provided by Interpark Music Plus)

MLD Entertainment, Momoland's agency, is also set to debut a nine-member boy group next month. Yuehua Entertainment, Keystone Entertainment, and Cube Entertainment are also all launching new boy bands.

Agencies are saying that launching new groups one after another is a necessary response to adapt to the new environment. One source at an agency said, “It is not easy for existing groups to keep up with all the new trends as the environment is constantly changing,” specifically citing the “metaverse.”

“New groups are coming out in quick succession in order to [keep up with and] and make sure these groups mesh well with the new trends,” the source added.

The boy group Xdinary Heroes (provided by JYP)
The boy group Xdinary Heroes (provided by JYP)

The sudden influx of so many new groups could also be linked to the contract periods of existing groups.

“There are many idol groups that are going on their fifth year,” another agency official said. “Considering that a contract period is usually seven years, a new group has to debut around this time to ensure the agency can continue to grow,” he said.

Regarding these trends, music critic Joy Park says, "A generational shift is in full swing as teenagers who have grown up with the values of the MZ generation debut as idols.” MZ generation is a neologism used to refer collectively to millennials and Gen Z.

“This is also a move that keeps pace with the rapid increase in foreign fans who love Korean idols,” Park said.

“This year can be seen as a major generational shift that replaces the third-generation girl groups that debuted in the mid-2010s,” she added.

By Jung Hyuk-june, staff reporter

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