It took a long time for many K-pop idols to finally go solo.
K-pop idols who started out in groups often have to wait a long time since their original debuts to finally make their solo debuts. A few examples are SHINee’s Onew (10 years), EXO’s D.O. (9 years), Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon (8 years), and TWICE’s Nayeon (7 years), among many others. There are also stars who only made their long-awaited promotions as a soloist after their group had disbanded, such as GFRIEND’s Yuju and Lovelyz’s Baby Soul.
What these idols have in common is that they are all their respective groups’ main vocalists who are famous for their singing talents and whose solo debuts receive much anticipation from fans and the public. So the question is, why does it take such a long time for these well-recognized singers to go solo?
According to SCMP, from fans’ point of view, idols should go solo as soon as they can because not only will it significantly boost their individual popularity, it is also a perfect way to introduce a distinct side and color of their own without being limited to the concept of an entire group.
Regarding the discussion over group vs. solo activities, music critic Jung Min Jae said that for a lot of K-pop agencies, letting members of a group debut as soloists is not their priority.
Jung specified that the rapid growth of the global K-pop music industry has lengthened the lifespan of the majority of K-pop groups. In the past, staying active for more than 7-8 years as a group was not easy at all, but now, they can stay relevant and engage in activities for more than 10 years. That’s why companies often focus on group promotions, instead of developing each members’ solo careers early on. Besides, it is obvious that a group will guarantee more stable earnings than a solo singer.
However, there are some companies that have gone against the trend of overdue solo debuts, such as YG Entertainment and Cube Entertainment. For example, BLACKPINK’s Jennie made her solo debut in 2018, only 2 years after her group was launched. HyunA went solo only a year after she debuted in 4Minute.
If other companies want to focus on expanding the popularity of the whole group, YG emphasizes each member’s individual brand and fanbase, thus allowing them to debut solo sooner than other K-pop idols, said critic Jung.