Popular as they are, what’s stopping Kpop idols from going solo?

Many Kpop idols crave for a solo debut in order to show their unique colors. However, even if they belong to popular groups, chances of going solo are low. 

Many idols in Kpop groups always crave to show their own talent, color, and musical vision – something that’s hard to do while you are in a group. In addition, making a solo debut can also help idols establish their own standing in the industry, one that is separate from their group. 

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Making a solo debut is the dream of many idol

However, most companies are reluctant when it comes to solo debut, so what are the reasons?

Solo star quality 

In a Kpop group, each member contributes their own colors and talents, making for well-rounded performances and appearances. For example, there will be members good at different skills like dancing, rapping, vocals, or visuals, all contributing to an overall group and attracting attention. Meanwhile, soloists need to embrace all these star qualities alone, and have no-one to have their back should they make a mistake. 

Therefore, if a member does not have enough star qualities, they won’t be able to make it as a soloist despite their popularity. 

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A soloist need to have well-rounded skills and immense stage presence 
EXO Baekhyun
There is no one to have the soloist’s back should they make a mistake. 

Company orientation 

According to music critic Jung Min Jae, some companies simply do not prioritize solo releases. 

“The exponential growth of K-pop’s global fandom has extended the life span of most K-pop groups over the last few years. Surviving for more than seven or eight years was a daunting mission for them in the past, but today, the majority of them can enjoy popularity for more than a decade thanks to their solid international fandom and the diversification of platforms where they can showcase their music and content. So K-pop management companies, which often put more emphasis on group activities, seek to make the most of this,” the critic said. 

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Solo debuts need to be approved by music labels
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Not every solo debut will receive the support of the whole group’s fandom

In addition, companies generally earn more profits from groups than from soloists. And even if a popular group member has a recent solo release, there is no guarantee that all fans of the group will support that member, said Jung Min Jae. 

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Group activities generate more profits than solo activities 

The music critic also mentioned IVE, saying that due to the girl group’s explosive success, Starship Entertainment is unlikely to allow any member to make their solo debut in the next 2 to 3 years. 

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It is unlikely for IVE to have solo releases in the near future 

Moreover, it is difficult to decide on a song and a concept for soloists, and sticking too tight to one strong concept may lead to repetition. 

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Taeyeon gained great success, but her activities is not necessarily supported by all SNSD fans

The exception of YG Entertainment

Nevertheless, YG Entertainment is an exception to the industry, allowing its idol group members to release solo songs super early on. From BIGBANG, 2NE1, WINNER, to BLACKPINK, there’s no extremely long period between the group’s debut and the first solo. 

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YG idols often achieve outstanding successes as soloists 

In the case of BLACKPINK, Jennie made her solo debut within just 2 years of debut. Rosé and Lisa follow soon after, with each earning huge successes on their own. Finally, whilst Jisoo hasn’t released any solo album, she has breached into the acting industry, playing a leading role with a top-star actor. 

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Jennie’s single “SOLO” was a huge success
Lisa (BLACKPINK)
Lisa broke a lot of records with her solo debut 
Rosé showed her unique artistry and vocal colors and attained successes of her own 

Regarding this exception, music critic Jung explained that unlike other labels, which focus on building a group fandom, YG “has long been centering on building a strong personal brand for each member in a group”.

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BLACKPINK is a sensation when it comes to solo successes

Source: Korea Times, Yan

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