18 influential experts in the Korean pop music industry explained their choice on Top male and female Kpop idols of the 4th generation.
H.O.T, SECHSKIES, god, S.E.S, Fin.K.L, SHINHWA, Baby Vox… these groups, who are household names, all have one thing in common: they are idol stars who dominated the music industry from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, and played a pioneering role in leading idol music to become the mainstream of the pop music industry as we see now. As a result, these groups are often classified as “first generation idols”, and from them, idol music started to grow. Over time, Kpop, or Korean pop music, has spread beyond Korea to the world, and has been reborn as a vanguard of the Korean Wave. Now, in 2022, the generation has already changed, and “4th generation idols” are taking over the mantle and dominating the pop music world.
Celebrating the 18th anniversary of its foundation, Korean media site Star News recently conducted a survey of 18 influential experts in the pop music industry on the theme of “4th generation idols who are most expected to perform well in the future”. As a result of the survey, which was held on September 9th, NewJeans and aespa were selected for the female idol category, and ENHYPEN and TREASURE were selected as the 4th generation’s best prospects in the male idol category.
The 18 people who responded to the survey selected a total of four teams, two each from male and female idol groups that debuted after 2020. To ensure fairness, idols belonging to their respective companies were excluded from the selection.
NewJeans vs aespa, “HYBE and SM poured out their capabilities”
NewJeans received 16 out of 18 votes (88.9 percent), making them the most voted female idol in the fourth generation.
NewJeans is the first girl group created by Min Hee Jin, a former creative director of SM Entertainment, after moving to HYBE Labels. As a result, the group has attracted great attention even before their debut in July, and has since swept through music charts with their 1st ep “NewJeans” and their track “Attention”. In addition, the ep sold 262,815 physical copies on the first day of its release, ranking first in first day sales among all debut albums of Kpop girl groups.
It is evaluated that NewJean’s music and promotion strategies that are different from existing idol trends have achieved more than expected results.
Kim Jin Woo, CEO of RBW, said, “Unlike other groups that are active in recent years, who are pursuing strong music, NewJean sought after easy listening pop and the concept of innocence and trendiness, which makes them stand out.
Another representative from an idol agency, who requested anonymity, also added, “NewJeans best expresses the natural charm of teenage girls. In addition, their average age is young and they are composed of multinational members, so there is a high possibility of global growth.”
Choi Jin Woo, CEO of Hi-Up Entertainment, commented, “I think they are a group that pursues popularity with sensibility and freshness in the 2000s, breaking away from the normal frame of fandom-centered idols. I am looking forward to seeing what charm and color NewJeans’ naturalness will bring to the public.”
aespa received the 2nd most votes after NewJeans, as 9 out of 18 people (50%) chose the SM girl group
aespa is a four-member girl group from SM Entertainment that debuted in November 2020. With a unique worldview where their members coexist with avatars, aespa have established themselves as representatives of the 4th generation idols by targeting the taste of the MZ generation under the modifier “Metaverse Girl Group”. The group made their debut with “Black Mamba”, and later established themselves in the music industry with hits such as “Next Level” and “Savage”. Moreover, at the global awards ceremony “2021 Asia Artist Awards” (2021 AAA), “Next Level” was honored with the group’s first Daesang.
Kwon Jae Young, CEO of A9 Media, said, “They have their own unique storytelling content called ‘worldview’ with the concept of an AI idol, so I’m curious about the next story and looking forward to the high-quality production of a large agency like SM.“
Meanwhile, Kim Yeon Soo, vice president of Pledis Entertainment, said, “With their unique concept and visuals, aespa is gaining great popularity not only in Korea but also abroad.”
NewJeans and aespa received high praise for their strong backgrounds as well, having debuted under large agencies such as HYBE and SM Entertainment, respectively.
Park Sung Hoon, CP of SBS explained, “Both aespa and NewJeans are teams prepared by the nation’s largest and best agencies, who are pouring in all their capabilities and resources and focusing on what they do best.”
Jung Wook, CEO of JYP Entertainment, added, “The company’s system that has been accumulated for a long time will be a great nutrient for the development of aespa. Similarly, the system of the large entertainment company HYBE Labels will give its artists strength.”
IVE was followed by New Jeans and Espa with 8 out of 18 votes (44.4%).
IVE is a 6-member girl group that debuted under Starship Entertainment in December of last year, and captivated music fans with their outstanding visuals and performances. The fandoms of Jang Wonyoung and Ahn Yujin, both former members of the project girl group IZ*ONE, quickly settled into the music industry.
CEO Kim Jin-woo said, “Based on members such as Jang Won-young and Ahn Yu-jin, who are well-known and have a strong fan base, they are showing not only music activities but also many activities in various fields. I am looking forward to more activities in the future.” CEO Noh Hyun-tae said, “The public is also intrigued to find hidden meaning, as it has been firmly established from the beginning.”
Also, NMIXX, LE SSERAFIM, and HI-KEY were selected by some experts.
ENHYPEN, unrivaled fandom… TREASURE, meaningful growth
Among the 4th generation male idols, ENHYPEN won overwhelming votes. 17 out of 18 (94.4%) pointed to ENHYPEN.
ENHYPEN is a seven-member boy group formed through Mnet’s idol survival program “I-LAND”. Debuting in November 2020, they achieved 1 million cumulative album sales with their first mini album “BORDER: DAY ONE” and second mini album “BORDER: CARNIVAL”. In July, the third mini-album “Manifesto: Day 1” (MANIFESTO: DAY 1) sold more than 1 million copies in just two days of the initial tally. This is the record of the minimum annual million-seller among idol groups. In other words, it proved to be an unrivaled fandom among fourth-generation idols.
Lee Wonmin, CEO of WM Entertainment, said about N-Hyphen, “With a strong fandom, the group is showing good results in the United States and Japan, and is recording high album sales, such as becoming a million-seller in the first year,” adding, “They are also showing the group’s distinctive worldview and concept.” Kwon Jae-young, CEO of A9 Media, analyzed, “It is worth watching because it is under Belif Lab, a HYBE’s sub-label, and is more popular than Tomorrow X Together, which is under Big Hit Music.” Chung Jin-kyun, CEO of GLG, said, “The audition program showed the way to go.”
Treasure took second place with 9 out of 18 votes (50%).
Treasure, which debuted in August 2020, is a 12-member idol group released by YG Entertainment, the first to debut under this company four years after Black Pink. Although it does not reach the ripple effect of previous idol stars of YG Entertainment, it is gradually expanding its fandom by showing off its strong musical capabilities and the diverse members’ individuality. The mini-album ‘THE SECOND STEP: CHAPTER ONE’, released in February, recorded sales of 800,000 copies, and the cumulative sales volume of 3 singles and 1 regular album announced earlier was 2 million.
Noh Hyun-tae, CEO of Think Entertainment, said, “TREASURE sets itself apart from other groups by sticking to authentic hip-hop, and it also supports their skills, so they have a high stage dominance,” adding “Since ‘Straight Forward’, which was released in February this year, the influx of fans has increased, and they are solidifying the inflow of fans in the form of cores by introducing our own contents such as ‘Treasure Map’.” Bang Jae-hyeok, director of KQ Entertainment, said, “Compared to other groups, they seem to have superior production skills, and they received record-breaking views as it is supported by the company to spend 500 million won on music video production alone.”
Experts also voted for ATBO, Xdinary Heroes, TNX, YOUNITE, BAE173, and DRIPPIN.