According to Rolling Stones, despite the constant growth of Kpop, there has been no new artist who reached “legendary” status.
Recently, Kpop has been getting too saturated with more and more groups debuting every year, yet less talents and ground-breaking elements.
If the first generation of Kpop, including artists like H.O.T, S.E.S, Fin.K.L, Sechs Kies, BoA, and more, were the ones who set the foundation, then 2nd gen idols, like SNSD. Super Junior, Big Bang, Wonder Girls, or SHINee, were the ones to kick-start Kpop’s international popularity.
Meanwhile, the 3rd generation, which includes groups like BTS, BLACKPINK, TWICE, EXO… was when Kpop began its global conquest. However, the 4th gen, which started with groups like TXT, ITZY, (G)-IDLE, IVE, Stray Kids, and more, are still far from being called legends.
No unique colors
According to an editor from the US site KpopStarz, alongside the Billboard Kpop reporter Jeff Benjamin, Kpop is facing the risk of oversaturation, where hundreds of Kpop idols, who were trained using the same methods and promoted using the same procedures, debuted every year.
As a result, there’s no longer newer traits for fans to look forward to. Even the successes the new generation attained look less impressive compared to their seniors.
A prime example of unique in a Kpop legend would be 2NE1. At their time of debut, the 4-member group stood out amid cute and feminine girl groups, and brought a fresh air with their one-of-a-kind fashion and strong Hip Hop sounds.
The mad popularity of 2NE1, as such, can be credited to their boundary-breaking visuals and rebellious concept never seen before in a girl group, alongside their constant changes across the group’s career.
Similar to 2NE1, BTS was the dark horse of Kpop 3rd gen, and was a rare group who wrote songs about youth struggles and social issues among other romantic music. Their meaningful, thought-provoking lyrics, alongside unique self-produced sound, managed to catch attention.
The CEO of BTS’s agency, Bang Si Hyuk, once shared with TIME about the musical pursuits of the boy group, saying: “I promised to let them follow the sound they wanted. With Hip Hop, they can freely express their thoughts and opinions. I kept my words with a firm belief that BTS will be able to touch the hearts of many youths around the world who share the same perspectives and suffer from the same issues.”
It is evident that BTS path their way with the group’s own personalities and kind of music – a thing that most newer generation idols struggle to achieve. In fact, 4th gen idols often delivered a brand of “perfect” music that’s well-produced and crafted, but lacks the soul of the artist and their raw emotions.
Because of this, 2nd idols still retain their popularity after over a decade, while 4th gen idols are already losing some of their fame. We can see this in Big Bang and SNSD’s relevance in contrast to 4th gen girl group ITZY, which was once a favorite of Kpop fans.
Looking further into the case of ITZY, it can be seen that all 5 members of the group, with their outstanding appearances, became madly popular right after debut. However, during the last few years, none of their releases hit as big as old tracks, and rookie groups like NMIXX, aespa, and IVE, are quickly catching up, while also adopting similar girl crush and high teen concepts.
Despite their constant activities, ITZY never managed to make a lasting impression. Their “sound” was not enough to stand out among many other groups, while their lyrics were neither relatable, thought-provoking, nor meaningful. Their senior TWICE barely managed to avoid the same fate, and this was only because TWICE was able to blow a different kind of energy into their songs.
Lack of exceptional talents
The latest generation of idols seem to have too many idols with outstanding visuals yet lack skills. Meanwhile in the previous generations, there were more all-rounders that excel in various areas. Rain, BoA or IU are all considered iconic veteran idol singers of Kpop. Not only do they have successful singing careers, they have also established solid positions in acting, fashion, business, etc.
Idol groups like H.O.T, G.O.D, Big Bang, TVXQ, SNSD, 2NE1 or BTS are all considered legendary names throughout the first 3 generations of Kpop. In particular, Big Bang is a strong proof that talent is a major factor that makes an artist’s success. Not only is Big Bang well-known as a group, the members have also made a name for themselves.
G-Dragon is dubbed a versatile icon and trendsetter of Kpop as he took the lead in both music and fashion trends. T.O.P is by generations of idols thanks to his unique artistry. Dae Sung conquered the public with his talent despite not meeting the standards on appearance. Taeyang is one of the most talented idols and recognized vocalists of the industry.
Building a reputation through talent helps Big Bang maintain the status of “Kpop King” for many years. Despite many ups and downs in their career, Big Bang and their music are still loved by the public and they remain a role model for generations of idols.
For a group to become an icon, each member’s individual talent and charm is definitely crucial. This also explains why after more than a decade, no girl group has been able to take the “nation’s girl group” title from SNSD, even though it’s been years since their last full-group promotions.
The resounding success of senior idols has created a solid premise for the new generation to thrive. However, this has also unintentionally resulted in pressure for young idols when they have to step out of the big shadow of their seniors.