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BlackPink vs. 2NE1: The ultimate analysis

BlackPink 2NE1

Around the time of their debut earlier this month, I wrote a detailed introduction to YG Entertainment’s long-awaited girl group, BlackPink. Now that the group’s history and its members have been properly discussed, the time has come to analyze the group’s structure and sound. While YG made it clear that he originally wanted to create a group like Girls’ Generation from rival SM Entertainment, the label ended up opting for something much more like its own act 2NE1. BlackPink’s formation, in my opinion, is definitely the safer route. Instead of pushing its boundaries to create a larger girl group with bigger visuals and personalities, YG maintains its trademark styles of fusing hip-hop and pop while emphasizing rap and vocals over everything else. Because the songs match YG’s style so closely, the question must be asked (and it is being asked all over the K-pop community) – what differentiates this group from 2NE1? The answer is, well, not that much.

I will, however, dive into the similarities and differences to provide more insight.


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In terms of members, BlackPink mirrors 2NE1 almost exactly. Jennie’s place in the group is almost identical to that of CL because her specialty is rap, but she can sing and dance as well. She gives off the same badass, hardcore vibe that is so notoriously CL. Going off of that, Jisoo mirrors Dara, serving as the visual focus of the group and handling some singing lines. The importance of her role is performance much more than any specific raw talent, which is exactly what Dara contributes to 2NE1. Rosé easily matches Bom, as both are main vocals and handle only singing lines, especially ones that require the most vocal skill and power. The most recognizable connection is between Lisa and Minzy – both are maknaes (youngest members), and are (or were) the most versatile members of their respective groups in terms of talent. Lisa handles rap and dance along with a few singing lines, similar to Minzy’s role in 2NE1 around the time of their debut.

And like 2NE1, BlackPink’s musicality and lyricism is influenced very much by the members’ international backgrounds – both groups have only one member born and raised in Korea (Jisoo in BlackPink, Minzy in 2NE1), another member who lived in Southeast Asia (Lisa in BlackPink, Dara in 2NE1), two members from English-speaking countries (Jennie lived in New Zealand while Rosé lived in Australia, CL and Bom lived in the USA), and some European influence as well (Jennie is originally from the Netherlands, CL spent a few years living in France).

blackpink whistle

And obviously, the biggest similarity is music/concept. 2NE1 (in their original four-member form), could probably sing both “Whistle” and “Boombayah.” Even though 2NE1 may have matured away from this kind of sound in recent releases (and that makes sense, since BlackPink as a group is much younger in age). “Boombayah” is absolutely reminiscent of “Fire,” although not as much in sound, but definitely in concept and line distribution (the more obvious sound comparison can be made with songs like “Fantastic Baby” and “Bang Bang Bang” by BIGBANG). Only time will tell if BlackPink will move to deeper, more evocative concepts like 2NE1 did with “Come Back Home,” or if they stay with more lighthearted yet hard-hitting songs like “Boombayah” and “Whistle.”

The differences between the two debuts aren’t significant or groundbreaking, but still definitely notable. YG definitely put more interest into visuals this time around, trying harder to pick members that match Korean standards of beauty. In the eyes of the Korean public, this probably gives BlackPink a little bit more of the attractive qualities that groups like Girls’ Generation bring to the industry. And while 2NE1 is incredibly beautiful and likeable, the group was a bit more focused on hard-hitting performances even in member structure, so we see YG deviating from that concept a little bit by pushing the visuals.

From the styling to the sound, BlackPink’s two debut songs and accompanying videos seem to be produced meticulously. In this sense, BlackPink is more polished than 2NE1 was at their debut, since YG was still experimenting with girl group visuals and sounds back then. Another notable difference – BlackPink doesn’t have a leader. While CL wielded leadership proudly, BlackPink demonstrates a little more equality among members. This leaves probably the most exciting difference – all of the members are incredibly versatile. While Jisoo is the group’s visual, she has a strong singing voice, allowing her to develop her sound further over the group’s upcoming releases in ways we might not expect. Even Rosé, the main vocal, is a fantastic dancer (well, based on their Dance Practice video that went up on YouTube a little while back), meaning her role can exceed expectations as well.

The verdict – overall, BlackPink is incredibly similar to 2NE1, and it speaks an incredibly loud message about YG’s desire to put out a girl group that could emulate 2NE1’s success, rather than try something drastic and new. Even Yang Hyun Suk himself commented on the similarities, expressing his interest in maintaining the YG style and sound. So BlackPink isn’t exactly breaking any boundaries, but they are carrying the YG name with a feminine touch, something K-pop has been missing since 2NE1 went haywire following a drug scandal back in 2014 (and a little bit before that, as well). For at least that much, I applaud BlackPink.


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The rest of my first impression of BlackPink is, however, much more nuanced. With such striking similarities to 2NE1 in structure and sound, BlackPink is YG’s way of saying that the characteristic “YG sound” is not as important as the artists themselves. Sure, it’s cool that YG as a record label has its own way of distinguishing itself, but it’s unfair to the artists to box them off within the boundaries of what YG does with its sound. Not to mention, it’s incredibly unfair to Blackjacks, who have been waiting for YG to do something about Park Bom’s scandal and give 2NE1 a comeback. The existence of a new girl group is not at all a problem, but the similarities seem to indicate that YG wants this group to carry on the “YG sound” by effectively replacing 2NE1, the girl group that contributed so much to the establishment of the “sound” in the first place. While 2NE1 might be on a downward spiral, debuting what is essentially a more polished version of them is disrespectful to them and their fans.

That being said, I plan on supporting this group, just not as strongly as I’ve supported 2NE1 (if you couldn’t tell by now, I am a Blackjack). BlackPink’s concept is a two-edged sword, as it makes them unique in K-pop right now but not at all within their label. But no matter the negatives, they are here to extend and carry on 2NE1/YG’s original mission of creating a girl group that shamelessly challenges K-pop’s neverending dichotomy of innocent vs. sexy.

Somehow, both 2NE1 and BlackPink simultaneously fall right in the middle of the spectrum and entirely outside of it. Despite the lack of originality in concept, BlackPink is full of talent, beauty, versatility and, most importantly, good music. And for those reasons, I’m rooting for them. I hope they find a way to stand out among YG’s slowly converging discography, because that may be the best, if not only, way to continue to success they’re currently receiving.

How do you feel about BlackPink’s debut and 2NE1’s legacy? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Intro to BlackPink

BlackPink

It’s been years in the making, but YG Entertainment’s newest girl group is finally here! And only days into their debut, BlackPink is already proving to be a formidable force in the world of Korean girl groups. As fans swarm to YouTube and other media to watch the videos and listen to the music, let’s go into the basics of BlackPink’s history, formation, and members. If you didn’t know much about the girls before the release of their songs “Whistle” and “Boombayah” a few days ago, you’re in the right place to learn more.

The announcement of a new group from YG dates as back as far as 2011, when the label announced that a girl group reminiscent of Girls’ Generation would debut in the following year. In 2012, YG Entertainment began teasing the possibility of not one, but multiple girl groups debuting under the agency, becoming sister groups to the explosively successful 2NE1 and BIGBANG. It came down to two groups, the first being SuPearls, which was composed of four strong singers aiming to release vocal-oriented music instead of the typical K-pop sound and singing skills. This group was supposed to have current YG soloist Lee Hi as a member, among three other vocalists from “K-pop Star 2.” Without much more detail, YG revealed plans to debut another girl group before 2012’s end alongside SuPearls. The stage was set for these girls about four years ago, but as we can see, they didn’t take the stage until much later.


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Clearly, YG faltered on its 2012 plans — SuPearls was disbanded before debut, leaving Lee Hi to take the stage on her own, and the other new girl group was nowhere else to be seen. That is, until CEO Yang Hyun Suk reopened the possibility of the girl group debuting in 2013, but failed to happen as well. 2014 saw another such announcement, and more discussion of the girl group resembling SNSD, only to let fans down once again as both 2014 and 2015 passed with no formal debut.

Jennie Kim G-Dragon

But as the years went on, we weren’t entirely clueless about the girl group. If there was one person a YG fan could have guessed would be a BlackPink member, it’s Jennie Kim. Her name was all over YG releases between late 2012 and early 2013, when she featured on G-Dragon’s “Black,” Seungri’s “GG Be,” and Lee Hi’s “Special.” Whether it was rapping or singing, it was pretty clear that Jennie Kim was being prepared for debut, no matter how long it would take. Member Rosé underwent similar preparations, even though she wasn’t directly named in her feature on G-Dragon’s “Without You,” (instead, she was called “? of YG New Girl Group” for the better part of four years). As this was happening, members were being repeatedly added to the girl group and cut. It seems that, considering the intended connection to Girls’ Generation, that YG desired to debut a girl group much larger than 2NE1, probably closer to GG’s nine members than 2NE1’s four.

As time went on, however, Yang Hyun Suk and the rest of YG management must have changed their minds, because BlackPink in its final form consists of only four members. Only two months ago, YG reported that a fifth member would be revealed, only to later take back that announcement and go forward with a four-member girl group. What prompted the last-minute switch? We don’t know for sure, but recent trends in girl group debuts might have played a role in the decision. Given that TWICE, Gugudan, DIA, and I.O.I, among other girl group debuts these past two years, contain in excess of seven members, going with only four members gives the girl group an immediate edge — they stand out simply because they’re different in size. And, of course, it gives YG room to plan another girl group in the near future.

And finally, we have BlackPink. It took five years since the initial announcement, but YG’s next girl group is finally here. To go on further, let’s discuss the four members.


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Jisoo BlackPink

Jisoo is 21 years old, and is the only member of BlackPink to have been both born and raised in South Korea. After training for over five years, she takes her place as the main visual and a vocalist in the group. Before BlackPink, she appeared in multiple CFs in addition to Epik High’s music videos for “Spoiler” and “Happen Ending.” With a pretty face, she serves as the group’s face, a role very important to the popularity of some K-pop groups (see: Yoona of Girls’ Generation, Nayeon and Tzuyu of TWICE, Suzy of Miss A, etc.).

Jennie Kim BlackPink

At 20 years old, Jennie Kim is the member we all expected to see among BlackPink’s final lineup. She serves as the group’s main rapper, while also covering vocal and dance sections as well. As previously stated, she has demonstrated her talents in previous YG releases leading up to her debut. She boasts experience with English and foreign cultures, as she is from the Netherlands and has studied abroad in New Zealand.

Rose BlackPink

Rosé is the group’s main vocal, another English-speaker who comes from Australia. At 19 years old, she shows strength in both her dance and singing, which is not surprising given her four years (at least) of training at YG. As previously stated, her feature in G-Dragon’s “Without You” served as the main precursor to her group activities.

BlackPink Lisa

Last but certainly not least is maknae Lisa, who comes from Thailand. At 19 years old, she is the group’s main dancer, second rapper, and vocal. Her Thai ethnicity makes her the first YG idol to be entirely non-Korean, and her exposure to different cultures has clearly benefitted her understanding of language, as she can speak English, Korean, and Japanese in addition to her mother tongue. Prior to her five year training period in YG, she was part of the Thai dance crew “We Zaa Cool” alongside GOT7’s BamBam. She made appearances with YG’s NONA9GON brand in the years before her debut.

What do you think of BlackPink? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

The Big Three: K-Pop Record Label Mid-Year Review

taeyeon bigbang twice jyp yg sm

Whether you’re an Inspirit, Pink Panda, Blackjack, S<3NE, B2UTY, or anything in between, you probably know the names of some of K-pop’s biggest record labels. From SM to YG to JYP to Cube to others, each label plays a huge role in the present and future of K-pop’s stars and the industry as a whole. And every year, some labels grow in power while others get closer and closer to obscurity.

Halfway through this year, some labels have tons to work on, while others are definitely killing it. Let’s take a look at some of K-pop’s biggest record labels and talk about their strengths and weaknesses from throughout the year. The evaluation will be based on the following five categories: Artist Management, Artist Popularity, Music Quality, Music Popularity, and Overall Success. For the first part, I’ll be discussing SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment, affectionately known as the Big Three labels. With the biggest overall success, popularity, market share in some areas, these companies are on a separate level than other labels, and therefore deserve an article of their own.


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SM Entertainment

SM Tiffany Taemin Taeyeon NCT U

The worldwide leader of K-pop entertainment is still thriving. With major artists like EXO, Taeyeon, Red Velvet, and more leading the first half of the year, SM has clearly spared no expense in maintaining its seat on the throne for K-pop kings and queens. It seems like every week or two brings a new album release out of SM, along with actual weekly song releases through SM’s ambitious STATION music project. Collectively, the frequency and efficiency with which SM releases are things other labels can only dream of emulating.

And with that, there’s an emphasis on solos and subunits. So far, we have seen solo releases from Taeyeon, Tiffany, Jonghyun, Taemin, Yesung, Ryeowook, Luna, Amber, to name a few, with rumored solos in the works for Seohyun, Yuri, and Onew. The amount of fanbase power that each artist, whether in solo, subunit or full-group releases, ensures SM’s continued relevance and money-making abilities. Each mini-album sells a few ten-thousand albums and brings the label more profit. Artists are also receiving more creative freedom, with SHINee members Taemin and Jonghyun having extensive control over their own solo releases. With Taemin, NCT’s Ten, and Hyoyeon all participating on Mnet’s “Hit the Stage” in addition to tons of schedules for non-enlisted Super Junior members, Girls’ Generation members, and f(x) members, it seems SM is also doing a good job of keeping its artists within the spotlight.

SM’s only major weakness this year, however, is completely self-inflicted (and also very noticeable). With minimal promotion for some solo releases and a seemingly compulsive desire to dive into alternative and electronic genres, SM is losing the Korean crowd on digital charts. EXO’s “Call Me Baby” made #2 on 2015’s First Half-Year Gaon Chart, proving that “Call Me Baby” was a strong and popular release throughout and beyond its promotion cycle. On 2016’s Half-Year Chart, the highest-charting SM song is “Everytime” by Chen and Punch at #11. This song wasn’t even part of SM’s promotions, as it was part of the “Descendants of the Sun” OST. Aside from a few STATION releases that went without promotion on music shows and 2015’s “I” by Taeyeon, the only SM song in the Top 100 that was actually promoted this year is EXO’s “Monster,” which sits at #100. Clearly, SM is taking horrible losses in the digital market.

It seems, however, that SM knows their songs aren’t demolishing the charts, and seems to value the quality and quantity over digital success and public popularity. While it might be frustrating seeing our faves so low on the charts, SM seems to have an agenda — even with new group NCT, which is aiming for world domination. We’ll just have to wait to see more of what SM is planning. The only other weakness is scandals, which have hurt artists like Krystal, Kai, Victoria, Lay, and Zhoumi. Since we have yet to see the full effect of these scandals in the context of a musical release (except for Zhoumi, but there aren’t many negative effects since he was never super popular in Korea to begin with), these scandals are still only minor losses for SM.

For the first half of 2016, they get a solid 8.5/10 from me.

YG Entertainment

yg akmu akdong musician winner lee hi

Angry fans everywhere can tell you that YG is slacking. The once-great label was home to domestic and international chart-topping groups, with huge fanbase power in tow. Now, it’s another story, and YG is entirely to blame for its mistakes. As expected of a group with ten years under its belt, BIGBANG is slowing down with releases, especially considering the fact that none of the five members have enlisted in the military yet. As a result, we are left with the remains of 2NE1, which continues on a downward spiral of mismanagement, and newer artists like WINNER, iKON, Lee Hi, AKMU, and, originally “by the end of July” now August 8th, Black Pink. These artists are by no means bad, but YG fails to give them the proper management to make them succeed. They still don’t make many TV appearances, and have huge hiatuses between comebacks. Lee Hi lost a lot of traction and momentum once YG delayed her comeback for over three years — WINNER had a similar situation, waiting over a year for a comeback as well.

This isn’t to say that YG doesn’t have some successes this year — while many say that WINNER’s comeback was a failure, this isn’t entirely true, as their one mini-album yielded three top ten singles this year. Lee Hi shot the same number of songs to the top ten with her album “Seoulite,” and Akdong Musician achieved a number-one hit with the catchy “Re-Bye.” Even iKON got into the top three without any promotion with “#WYD.” Not everything is in shambles for YG, as their newer artists are clearly decently popular, but there’s definitely a lot to criticize.

Let’s look at the current situation — 2NE1’s three-member summer comeback is nowhere in sight, WINNER’s E.X.I.T. series, which was supposed to yield four albums throughout the year, has only seen one album release with the year’s seventh month having come to a close. iKON’s July comeback never happened (aside from a few random singles), BIGBANG’s MADE album from last year is still lost in the void, and only the next week will be able to show us whether YG actually puts out Black Pink on August 8th like the company is saying. It seems the only good things about YG this year are the quality of the music (even though it takes an eternity to be released) and sub-label recruitments from HIGHGRND and The Black Label. On the whole, YG gets a 4/10 from me. Burn.

JYP Entertainment

GOT7 JYP Wonder Girls TWICE Baek Ah Yeon Baek Yerin

Arguably the most successful label of the year, JYP has made quite a comeback of its own. I love a good underdog, and seeing JYP rise from the ashes of its pre-2015 decline has been quite exciting. With the explosive success that is TWICE, the label is definitely raking in the dough this year. Based on further analysis of the Gaon Chart, it’s evident that TWICE’s second mini album “Page Two” has already sold more than any previous Wonder Girls or Miss A album, and TWICE’s two mini albums have, in less than a year, collectively outsold the entirety of Miss A’s discography. With tons of CFs and variety appearances in tow, TWICE has clearly given JYP new life.

But TWICE isn’t JYP’s only success this year. With successful releases from Baek Ah Yeon, Baek Yerin, and Wonder Girls, the label is a huge success in terms of musical and artist popularity this year. Wonder Girls is an especially large win, considering that the group was in danger of becoming irrelevant after last year’s “I Feel You.” Through “Why So Lonely”’s breakthrough success (the song still tops charts almost a month after release), Wonder Girls have proved the resilience of both their group and their label. JYP teaches us all that a label is truly successful when both its older and newer groups can make waves in the K-pop world.

Along with profits piling in from TWICE, GOT7, and a successful Japanese release from 2PM, JYP is killing it in all aspects of success. It’s also definitely notable that its artists are being promoted well — many are given creative freedom, constant releases, and stable promotion. Each TWICE member has made upwards of seven or eight variety appearances since debut. While Tzuyu and Sana are currently the most popular members, JYP is taking the time to bring Jihyo and Momo some attention as well, given their recent appearances on shows like “King of Mask Singer” and “Hit the Stage,” respectively.

Keeping all of this success in mind, JYP has taken a few hits this year, specifically in GOT7’s scandal and Fei’s recent solo release. While GOT7’s controversial actions definitely hurt their reputation in Korea and possibly abroad, the group still has a lot of room for upward advancement, given their increasing sales and ability to tour worldwide. Fei was never incredibly popular, and her recent support of China in the South China Sea dispute has really hurt her Korean reputation as well. The result was catastrophic — the single fell off of most charts within a day of release. Recognizing these minor losses as nothing more than, well, minor losses, JYP gets a stellar 9.5/10 from me.


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And that wraps up the Mid-Year Review of the Big Three. For the first time in years, it seems like JYP has become the overall best label of the year so far. We can only hope that their success continues, while praying that SM can get themselves a hit or two before the year’s end and that YG lives up to at least a fourth of its promises.

The ranking is as such:

  1. JYP Entertainment — 9.5/10
  2. SM Entertainment — 8.5/10
  3. YG Entertainment — 4/10

What do you think of the Big Three so far this year? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

SM Entertainment: The ‘Brand’

sm entertainment smtown sm artists idols groups

A few weeks back I wrote about the idea of authenticity that YG Entertainment uses to sell its artists. While I stand by most of my opinions, I feel it comes across as too one sided. I was ready to slam YG and I didn’t stop to consider the ideals of other companies. By other companies I really mean SM Entertainment. They are the yang to YG’s yin. My YG article clearly misses that yang, there is a sense that I prefer a different approach to the YG one, but don’t touch on it. I don’t know if I prefer the approach, but I do prefer SM’s music, so that probably influenced my opinion.

The Asian idol system is a thoroughly transparent one. Fans are allowed to see all elements of how an idol comes to be, their extensive training in not just singing and dancing but acting, PR, and fitness. It is not an entirely glamorous regime, but it’s what it takes to be a star. This transparency means, however, that fans are also under no illusion as to the creators of the music and its authenticity. SM makes no attempt to hide this or push their artists beyond this. So why is SM so popular and yet have no discernible musical figureheads?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8ZrPFMr_nY&w=500&h=281]

Another writer on KultScene got to the heart of this when she wrote about how SM and Disney are very similar companies. It wasn’t totally positive either, equating the recent controversies of SM to Disney’s own troubles with diversity and such. In the context of the companies actual content though, for me, it boils down to the “brand.” These companies are loyal to their brand and what will make their brand the most money. SM has time and again shown that the overall company is more important than any individual. From apparent slave contracts to over-worked idols, no company has had as many high profile departures than SM. The amount of cases show it be a serious problem for young idols and show a lack of understanding from an imposing company.

While groups like Shinhwa and Fly To The Sky left SM after their contracts expired and achieved much success, leaving SM Entertainment prior to the end of the contract has meant difficulties.

The worst of all, of course, is the case where three members left former-quintet TVXQ,  which left Junsu, Jaejoong and Yoochun  (who formed JYJ) unable to attend any Korean television programs. If they do, the station that shows them will potentially not get any SM coverage in the future, losing the station a ton of potential viewers. So JYJ is essentially blacklisted (although Junsu just performed for the first time on television in six years, thanks to EBS.)

 


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Like Disney, people have grown to essentially worship the brand of SM. Even after all these controversies, loyalty remains and the fans nearly always side with the group and not the individual. This sort of attitude can lead to a company becoming a Disney-like juggernaut, and that’s a problem. If SM continues growing and accumulating smaller companies, like Woollim Entertainment, they can build a possible monopoly. This might not seem so bad since Woollim has been proceeding business as usual with their affairs, but they’re still under SM’s control. If this continues, the whole Korean music industry would revolve around SM, making it possible that if SM goes under, so does all of K-pop.

Let’s steer away from the dramatics for now and back to a real, current problem for SM: the treatment of individual stars. Maybe it’s not a problem, but just a clear difference in style to YG. Emblematic of SM’s love of the brand, they prioritize cohesive groups over individual talents. It was actually listening to F(x)’s Pink Tape and realizing how replaceable they are as a group that gave me the idea for this article. Yet I still think it is one of the best full length albums in K-pop history. Apart from TVXQ and to a lesser extent, SHINee, all of SM’s groups feature members that could be left out and would make no difference to the quality of their music. Similarly, no group has a defining creative head like G-Dragon, CL or even Bobby, whenever iKon debut. Even TVXQ who are possibly the most talented group in K-pop history, do not have a creative head, merely extremely proficient singers and dancers. This lack of strong individuals shows SM are not interested in people who leave the group or company, in order to shine on their own right as solo artists, overshadowing their previous SM-related efforts. When one of them threatens to possibly do this, they are swiftly taken care of, like former Girls’ Generation member and head of fashion line Blanc & Eclare Jessica Jung.

What about the music these large, anonymous groups are releasing though? This is where it gets tougher to pin SM down. SM is known for creating songs it dubs SMP, SM Music Performance. This is a type of song that is created together as a complete song and performance, which cannot be separated. Essentially, these are incredibly complex songs that go above and beyond what a pop song is expected to be. Examples are SNSD’s I Got A Boy and TVXQ’s Rising Sun. What’s really interesting though is that these are the type of songs that big brands would never dream of releasing. They play with structure in strange ways and swap genre without any notice. Pop songs were designed to lull you into security, make you feel at ease so you won’t go against the system. SM does the opposite and its makes for an interesting case.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vBzLtZMCno&w=500&h=281]

To find out why SM does this though, is not easy to find out. We can look at the producers of the songs. A lot of them are outside producers, people like Teddy Riley, Will Simms and The Stereotypes. SM would not let them produce such weird tracks without their consent though, and probably would have even specifically picked out songs like this. This comes across as more of a negative in reality, as it makes SM seem uninterested in even their own artistry not just their groups. Always using outside producers gives them an image of business people rather than musicians, but this is not wholly true either. There are many in house writers and producers like Yoo Young Jin, who has worked on almost every great SM song since its inception.


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My last and most likely theory has more to do with the Korean public than the music itself. South Korea did not have pop music as we know it until 1992 when Seo Taiji and The Boys burst onto the scene with their musical fusion. They mixed rap, metal, dance, and many more genres to create something never heard before in the country. At the time they used this music to criticize Korean society (see Gyosil Idea,) which Seo Taiji still does to this day, and it worked thanks to the genre mashing and structure bending forms of their songs. They were so popular, however, that this style of music eventually became commonplace in K-pop. So maybe SM’s songs today are not as strange and revolutionary as I thought, but merely the norm in the country.

One thing I can be sure of though is that SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment have completely different ideologies when it comes to their brand. Of what I have written about, they do share at least one thing in common, having lots of great, artsy teasers, but not delivering with the final product (WINNER for YG and EXO for SM) and I hate them both for it. Ultimately, I don’t know what side I come down on in favor anymore. I prefer SM’s music, but I don’t respect any of their individuals as much as I respect CL and her brazen individuality amongst idols. Either way I’m supporting a big brand whose only goal is to make lots of money.

Let’s support neither of them. Go find a smaller company whom you can get behind and encourage by rewarding quality music and artistry with your support. Like Chrome Entertainment, home of Crayon Pop, whose DIY attitude is already changing K-pop or Source Music who have been accused by netizens of making deals with journalists so G-Friend can get on the charts or any other of the large number of smaller, less corporate companies currently struggling to stay afloat.

What do you think of SM Entertainment’s system? Who do you prefer SM or YG? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

[This article was updated on April 21, 2015.]