Changing appeals of JYP girl groups needs to balance fandom-building with another element if public recognition is off the equation.
On the 31st of August, Sports Kyunghyang posted a news that all girl groups under JYP Entertainment, a preeminent entertainment agency in the Korean idol industry, have returned to the music race.
On July 15th, ITZY released their new song “Sneakers”. On 26th of August, TWICE dropped their eleventh mini album “Between 1&2”. Not long after that release, NMIXX, JYP’s new rookie group, announced their first comeback with their single “ENTWURF” expected to release on September 19th. While JYP is often reputed for being the “Girl Group Master”, in the midst of the competitive K-pop industry, the public is rethinking the status of the company.
Therefore, when three girl groups under JYP Entertainment made their respective and sequential comebacks to release new music, attention shifted to NMIXX to see if JYP could still hold on to their well-known title.
TWICE’s quiet comeback
A while without activities, TWICE was wrapped up in outfit controversies upon their return. The body-tight skirts and tops following the “visible underwear” trend in this promotional period in Korea was criticized heavily for looking “too revealing” and “suggestive”.
However, contrary to the debates on the Internet, “Talk that Talk”, the title track of the mini album, received mild achievements on domestic music charts. According to Sports Kyunghyang, in general, TWICE had a pretty “quiet” comeback.
“Between 1&2” is TWICE’s first album to release this year, and the group’s first album after all nine members renewed their contracts with their management company. The album reached 1 million pre-orders but “Talk that Talk” could not break into the top 20 in almost all of the domestic music charts.
This can be considered a sign of TWICE losing their heat to the wider public. In reality, their previous album, “Formula Of Love”, did not garner much success in the music charts.
Sports Kyunghyang said this was a regretful outcome for the “digital music queens” who once took the charts by storm. The situation becomes more serious as girl groups in general are gaining popularity, creating sensation and swaying the industry with their moves.
In recent generations four K-pop girl groups, most noticeably NewJeans and IVE, are dominating the largest online music streaming platforms in Korea, such as MelOn and Genie. BLACKPINK’s recent releases, the girl group from the same generation with TWICE and Girls’ Generation, and a representative of 2nd generation K-pop girl groups, also recorded stable accomplishments on the charts.
Many netizens believe K-pop is stepping in the “golden age” of female K-pop groups. Online community discussions also shared screenshots of the top 10 tracks of domestic charts, all by female groups.
Nonetheless, TWICE, unfortunately, did not appear in these photos.
The “heyday” of JYP girl groups
ITZY’s newest song “Sneakers” successfully broke into the top 10 of Melon chart after the group finished their promotional activities. However, such an achievement was not enough to restore JYP to their leading position.
“JYP girl groups never fail” was once the common remark of the public when mentioning the girl groups under JYP.
JYP earned the title of producing top girl groups after the explosion of “Wonder Girls syndrome”. The group’s reputation soared after the released music hits such as “Tell Me”, “So Hot” and “Nobody”, marking a series of successes for JYP-based girl groups.
After Wonder Girls, Miss A debuted in 2010 and immediately became a widespread sensation with hits such as “Bad Girl Good Girl” and “Breathe”. Their former song even won “Song of The Year” at the 2010 MAMA ceremony, turning Miss A into the first girl group to receive the Daesang Awards with their debut song.
Afterwards, TWICE debuted in 2015. The group hallmarked amazing successes in both domestic and foreign markets with tracks such as “Cheer Up”, “What Is Love?” and “Likey”. They further strengthen JYP female groups’ status.
In contrast to their seniors who were often regarded as “peak career in fleeting moments”, with stable comebacks, TWICE was able to build an enlarging and loyal fan base while maintaining considerable public recognition.
JYP held tight to their title “Girl Group Master” for many years. Nonetheless, the situation took a change when K-pop stepped into the eras of 4th generation K-pop.
Strategic change at JYP
Hankook Ilbo said that ITZY and NMIXX followed a different path from their sister groups in JYP. With ITZY, the group had a similar starting point to other JYP groups. Their debut song, “DALLA DALLA” was widely loved by both K-pop fans and the wider, nonfan public. It seemed JYP’s main purpose with “DALLA DALLA” was to help ITZY gain the attention from both fans and the public.
According to Hankook Ilbo, the firm holds that Wonder Girls, Miss A and TWICE had the support from both their fandoms and the public. ITZY’s debut strategy followed this pattern.
However, after “DALLA DALLA”, ITZY released songs that were oriented towards fans more than to the public taste, “Not Shy” and “Mafia In the Morning” were prime examples. This led to stylistic and image changes that were “less receptive” by some fraction of audiences.
However, Hankook Ilbo still remarked ITZY as focusing on building a firm fan base instead of increasing their recognition to the public, which was “not a bad choice”.
In reality, excluding the negative reaction from the public, ITZY still showed a consistent growth in their music production. They still broke records in album sales and made new records on global charts.
Their latest album, “Checkmate”, recorded 470.000 sold copies in the first week. On August 31st, ITZY officially became the “milion-copy idol” now that the sales for “Checkmate” reached 1 million copies. The album also broke into Billboard 200 at 8th place.
ITZY’s new-found achievements, in some way, influenced JYP’s direction for NMIXX. The group focused on fandom-building instead of public recognition right from the start, receiving a figure of 220.000 in sold copies for their first album “Ad Mare” in the first week.
Despite an initially stable fan base, the group’s style and music were regarded as “too difficult to understand” to the wider populace. The group could not score points on domestic charts and members did not have wide public recognition similar to TWICE and ITZY upon their debuts.
Hankook Ilbo remarked on the group’s situation as follows: “It is natural for an entertainment company to meticulously adjust their strategy to keep up with the era and new trends. However, JYP needs to remember that a company can only keep their “Girl Group Master” title for more than a decade due to a ‘weapon’ that goes beyond short-term tactics. That is the unrivaled popularity of each group under the company”.
If JYP intended to focus on building strong fandoms and phase out public recognition, they would need another element to support this edge.