Short-form content is taking over the Kpop world, with songs getting shorter and shorter compared to in the past.
In the era where short-form dominates, everything is decided within 3 minutes. Music that used to be 4 to 5 minutes long, and even as long as 6 minutes, has now gradually become shorter. In fact, songs as short as 2 minutes are appearing, and if you look at the current Korean music charts, this phenomenon becomes even more evident.
In the era of the 4th generation girl groups, songs like aespa’s “Spicy”, (G)I-DLE’s “Queencard”, IVE’s “I AM”, and LE SSERAFIM’s “Unforgiven” are at the top of the charts in and outside of Korean. These songs shared the element of being released by girl groups, but the song lengths are also noteworthy.
“Spicy” is 3 minutes and 17 seconds, “Queendom” is 2 minutes and 41 seconds, “I AM” is 3 minutes and 3 seconds, and “Unforgiven” is 3 minutes and 2 seconds. In addition, BLACKPINK Jisoo’s successful challenge song “Flower” is 2 minutes and 53 seconds, and NewJeans’ “Hype Boy” is 2 minutes and 56 seconds. FIFTY-FIFTY’s “Cupid”, which is popular overseas, is 2 minutes and 54 seconds.
While it is now common for songs to be around 3 minutes long, during the time when ballads were dominant and idol performances newly emerged, long instrumental intros, three-verse structures, and bridge sections for performances were created. As a result, typical songs ranged from 4 to 6 minutes in length. In reality, songs of this length have a clear sense of development and satisfaction when listening.
As song lengths become shorter, the tempo becomes faster, and the music becomes compressed, delivering only the essentials. This method gave birth to what is commonly known as “TikTok-friendly” songs. The focus is on creating segments that stand out within a short period of time. Since the chorus is usually the highlight, the tone of the first and second verses and the chorus may feel different.
On the other hand, the gradually shortening song lengths represent the current era. People are accustomed to short-form content, seek videos under 15 seconds, and only want to listen to the essentials. Accordingly, Kpop is following the trend of change on a global scale. In other words, although the change in song length may seem trivial, it has had a significant impact on the music industry.
A music industry insider explains, “The reason why shorter songs are popular in the recent music market is primarily due to the disappearance of instrumental intros. It seems that the disappearance of instrumental intros is a result of the market’s change where songs need to capture the listeners’ attention quickly, unlike in the past.”
They further analyze, “In the case of idols, they are producing music that focuses on performances, but they cannot sustain intense choreographies for a long time, so it is predicted that they are shortening the length of the songs.”
“Listeners also tend to consume music by listening to shorter segments or through short videos, rather than listening to the entire song. As a result, songs longer than 4 minutes have decreased in the Kpop industry. This trend was evident even in the early 2010s, but there were instances where longer songs emerged as trends,” the insider also said, adding, “The length of a song does not necessarily affect its completeness, but it demonstrates the societal aspect of music being sensitive to trends.”