K-pop groups 2NE1, Wonder Girls are gone, here comes a new batch of stars

Girl group Twice comprise (front row, seated, from left) Jeongyeon, Sana, Momo, Mina, Jihyo, (second row, from left) Dahyun, Nayeon, Tzuyu and (last row) Chaeyoung.
Girl group Twice comprise (front row, seated, from left) Jeongyeon, Sana, Momo, Mina, Jihyo, (second row, from left) Dahyun, Nayeon, Tzuyu and (last row) Chaeyoung.PHOTO: JYP ENTERTAINMENT AND ONE PRODUCTION
Girl group Twice comprise (front row, seated, from left) Jeongyeon, Sana, Momo, Mina, Jihyo, (second row, from left) Dahyun, Nayeon, Tzuyu and (last row) Chaeyoung.
BTSPHOTO: VIU
Girl group Twice comprise (front row, seated, from left) Jeongyeon, Sana, Momo, Mina, Jihyo, (second row, from left) Dahyun, Nayeon, Tzuyu and (last row) Chaeyoung.
BlackpinkPHOTO: WARNER MUSIC SINGAPORE
Girl group Twice comprise (front row, seated, from left) Jeongyeon, Sana, Momo, Mina, Jihyo, (second row, from left) Dahyun, Nayeon, Tzuyu and (last row) Chaeyoung.
GFriendPHOTO: VIU

The music craze is far from over, despite the disbanding of four big-name South Korean girl groups in the past year

Korean pop group Wonder Girls disbanded last month, the latest in a series of recent dissolutions in the industry - 4Minute and Kara were no more in the first half of last year and top quartet 2NE1 broke up in November.

Expired contracts, members leaving to pursue solo careers and declining popularity are among the reasons for the groups' demise.

Whatever the reason, some observers may ask: Is this the end of K-pop?

Well, no.

In fact, the high turnover rate could be taken as a sign of a dynamic music industry, says Nanyang Technological University's assistant professor Liew Kai Khiun, who has research interests in Asian pop culture.

K-pop groups will come and go - the template in terms of music composition, dance choreography and marketing is already in place for at least the next decade.

NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY'S ASSISTANT PROFESSOR LIEW KAI KHIUN, who has research interests in Asian pop culture, on the staying power of K-pop

He says: "A competitive industry is one characterised by the frequency of new entrants and the exit of artists."

To make his point, he cites the introduction of 22 K-pop groups last year, compared with five new entrants in 2005.

Local singer Ferlyn Wong, 25, who was part of the now inactive K-pop group SKarf, says: "You just have to wait for the next sensation. I used to listen to a lot of 2NE1's music. But now, I listen to Blackpink."

Blackpink and Twice are the two hottest all-female rookie groups at the moment.

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The former, a sassy quartet under YG Entertainment, which also managed 2NE1, made a splash with their debut singles, Boombayah and Whistle, taking the top two spots on Billboard's World Digital Songs last August.

Twice, signed with Wonder Girls' JYP Entertainment, launched their first world tour with three-day concerts in Seoul earlier last month, where tickets were reportedly snapped up within 40 minutes of their release.

Ninety per cent of tickets to the nine-member group's show in Singapore at The Star Theatre in April have already been sold.

K-pop followers here are warming up to Twice and Blackpink.

Student Tan Kai Wen, 14, who listens to the songs of Girls' Generation, BigBang and 2NE1, has bought tickets to Twice's concert - he is looking forward to their cute members performing nifty choreography to the catchy tunes of TT and Cheer Up.

He is also a fan of Blackpink's music: "It is no surprise that Blackpink's music and dance choreography are of high quality because they are from YG Entertainment.

"Their producer, Teddy, is behind many of the hits songs of 2NE1 and BigBang, and now, Blackpink."

Prof Liew says: "K-pop groups will come and go - the template in terms of music composition, dance choreography and marketing is already in place for at least the next decade."

•Watch K-pop idols' performances on music shows Music Bank, Inkigayo: The Music Trend and Yu Hui Yeol's Sketchbook on Viu's website or app


Bands to look out for

TWICE

Are Twice the next Girls' Generation? Both of them feature leggy beauties and both also started out with nine members.

Little wonder K-pop pundits think the new group will reach the dizzying heights of fame attained by their mega-group predecessor.

Since appearing on survival reality show Sixteen in 2015, Twice have seized the attention of K-pop listeners and dominated music charts with infectious dance tunes Like Ooh-Ahh and Cheer Up.

As part of their media onslaught, the good-lookers are all over the news, appearing on magazine spreads and even on political pages, when their Taiwanese member, Tzuyu, was slammed for waving a Taiwanese flag on a South Korean television show last year.

BTS

When BTS arrived in Singapore a year after their 2013 debut, the septet barely made a blip outside of their fan meet in 2014.

Today, BTS, or Bangtan Boys, have an army of fans worldwide so powerful that they beat American rapper Kayne West's fanbase to make BTS the most retweeted artist in a month last year.

Even without the backing of any of the big three agencies (YG, SM or JYP), the Big Hit Entertainment artists have made their mark with the songs Fire and Dope, which are so addictive that they need to be put on loop.

BLACKPINK

Followers of YG Entertainment had waited with bated breath for Blackpink's arrival last year.

The multinational quartet are YG's first female outfit in seven years since 2NE1's debut and include the agency's first non-Korean artist, Lisa, from Thailand.

They are also the first YG Entertainment act to be marketed for their looks as well as abilities. Previously, the company said it focused on only "skills and charisma".

"This time, we wanted to give equal weight to talent and appearance," says YG's executive director Yang Hyun Suk at the group's launch last year.

GFRIEND

GFriend had to endure a few hard knocks en route to fame - they literally had to pick themselves up after a couple of their members fell heavily a few times on a slippery stage in a rain-soaked performance that went viral worldwide.

International media, including Time magazine and Billboard, applauded the group's spirit as they continued to perform the upbeat song, Me Gustas Tu, in 2015, the year of their debut, in the face of disaster.

K-pop aficionados soon fell in love with the tenacious teens, who are known for their innocent schoolgirl looks and for executing synchronised dance moves with clockwork precision.

Hailing from a little-known agency, Source Music, GFriend beat the odds to become a chart-topping sensation on South Korean music shows, such as Inkigayo and Music Bank.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'K-pop is alive and well'. Print Edition | Subscribe