Kpop in 2014
For my last post of Kpop month I thought I’d try to something more general but instead of making predictions, which would all inevitably prove false, I decided to look at what has surprised me the most in 2014 so far.
The answer to that is very simple: JYP
Before this year they were the only one of the “Big Three” Korean entertainment companies that had failed to grab me with at least one band or artist. YG had drawn me in with 2NE1, and SM artists had a tendency to release title tracks that I really enjoyed. Even smaller companies like Woolim, Cube, and Nega Network had piqued my interest with Inifinite, B2ST/4Minute, and Brown Eyed Girls respectively.
But with the exception of 2PM’s Hands Up and a couple of tracks by Miss A (1, 2) none of the releases under JYP’s company had managed to make me a fan. Even when Sunmi made her solo début last year with, what I now I realise is a sublime piece of pop, I found it wanting.
But this year Sunmi has released her first mini-album which, if it weren’t for 2NE1’s magnificent new album Crush, would be my favourite Kpop release since last summer. It is one of those rare kpop albums that manages to have mainstream appeal whilst also having something that makes it unique, but not gimmicky. Even though this was her solo début Sunmi is a Kpop veteran so, perhaps, this is a commendable fact rather than a totally surprising one.
What was surprising, at least for me, was GOT7 and their début release Got It? Whilst not as unique as Sunmi’s sound and still containing the usual mix of ballads, dance tracks, and RnB numbers it still seemed to be striving for something a bit different. Though it clearly packed a lot of mainstream appeal I thought it was a bold move for a newly débuted group to try a different sound, but it was a move that a lot of kpop groups would benefit from. With the flood of new rookie groups in the last couple of years it was hard to distinguish one identi-kit boyband or girlgroup from the next. This probably explains why no new groups had really been on my radar apart from the ones that received massive pushes from big companies (see Exo).
So, whilst I am surprised that a group tried to break into Kpop by doing something interesting rather than tried-and-tested I’m even more surprised that they came from JYP; an agency I’d barely spared a glance at before.
What has surprised you in Kpop this year so far?