Since the start of K-Pop, there has always been individuals who have been fan-favourites. They are often rewarded with the opportunity to pursue solo careers too; Taeyeon (Girls Generation), HyunA (4Minute) and G-Dragon (Big Bang) are some of the most prolific second-generation names to come out of this trend. However, within their groups, the focus was on the group; group music video teasers, group promotions and group pictures. This article will be covering these three elements and exploring the differences in second and third generation groups, trendat.net drawing attention to girl-groups in particular.
The clearest comparison to make would be the difference in how Girls Generation and BlackPink have been promoted; the teaser for ‘The Boys’ which was released over eight years ago ended featuring a group shot. Red Velvet’s ‘Umpah Umpah’ may also end with a group shot, but due to the sticker that covers it not every member is clearly visible and this further suggests that the broad focus of the clip is on each member alone. The trailers for ‘Psycho’ are also split for each member and the group trailer only shows individual shots of each person, further supporting this argument. The focused image of the group is not present in the way it was for hayamix.com earlier promotions of K-Pop groups. Arguably, this is one of the reasons why current groups typically have less members; Red Velvet, Mamamoo and APink are much smaller than Girls Generation, Wonder Girls and EXO. Groups such as 2NE1, Loona and Twice clearly undermine this trend, but widely speaking it is clear that groups are generally becoming smaller and the cameras focusing on the individual for large periods of time.
In some ways, the social media feeds of artists is subsequently set to follow suit; many almost exclusively publish images of themselves. While possibly unintentional, this use of social media creates a broader image of the groups as the combination of individuals. Interestingly, both Loona and Twice, which have a large number of members, do not have individual Instagram accounts for their members, suggesting that they market themselves in a more traditional manner. If using EXID’s Hani as an example, the posts on her page are almost exclusively of herself; EXID is not even mentioned in her bio, pointing towards the notion garida.net of individual expression. While this may be due to several members leaving Banana Culture and the future of the group currently being up in the air, even when they were promoting new material, her feed featured plenty of solo snaps, including some which appear to have been taken at the airport. Social media, by nature, promotes the individual but it is the fact that members are allowed to have accounts that represent themselves which is unusual; even if they are managed and controlled by a second party.
The final aspect that I wish to cover is the increase in solo promotions. Group promotions, while still occurring and popular, are now often replicated with single member events. BLACKPINK are the most noticeable users of this; Lisa completed several meet-and-greets with YG cosmetics label Moonshot despite not having a solo single. Individuals promoting a brand is not unusual in itself but has gained increasing traction in recent years, arguably due to the marketing of individuals in groups. While in previous years only select individuals may be used to advertise a product, now, many groups are filled with members having brand deals. All of the BLACKPINK members promote other fashion brands and all of the Mamamoo members have had their own slots on television shows.
It is therefore clear that K-Pop is shifting gears and pushing a more tailored and selective image of individuals. Idols now, more than ever, are the ‘faces’ of the groups that they are in; for the better and for the worse.