After learning more about YG Entertainment and SM Entertainment, we complete our Big 3 trinity with JYP Co., commonly referred to as JYPE.

I was introduced to some of JYPE’s artists (including the man himself) through Dream High, but it was a while before I realised they they were idols too, members of boy bands and girl groups with MVs that were already subbed on release (bless), starting with miss A, 2PM and JYP himself, followed by 2AM. It took me longer to acquaint myself with the Wonder Girls, but that’s a story for another day. JYPE has always appeared to me as “the company next door,” with its accessible idols, friendly smiles, and aren’t afraid to be seen running amok (as seen with the picture above); but what else is there to JYPE and JYP Nation?

For this exchange, I’ve roped in Young-Ji, Johnelle and Salima–speaking of whom…

1. Salima described the company as an emo schoolgirl, but how do you see JYPE, especially in relation to its status as a Big 3 company? What kind of image does JYPE project?

Salima: When I look at SM, I understand their image. They’re the big company that does catchy and easily digestible pop music. YG produces an edgier blend of hip-hop and pop. But I’ve always felt as if JYP hasn’t really found its niche. I think of JYP as a company that’s still growing and trying to brand its image.

As a whole, JYPE oscillates back and forth between brilliant innovation and frustratingly missed opportunities. The Wonder Girls blew up in Korea and then fell to relative obscurity in the U.S. 2PM capitulated the trend of beastly idols and then went all sad-eyed puppy dog on us after their Jay Park scandal. Miss A and 2AM just haven’t reached the peaks musically (and commercially) that I think their talents are deserving of. I just think JYPE is still trying to figure it out. And that’s a good thing.

Johnelle: I see JYPE as the median company of the Big 3. SME has all the pretty boys and girls with a wide range in skills of its talent whether it be as a singer, actors, MC, dancer, or just standing there looking pretty–your more so straight up K-pop company. YGE is K-pop infused with some hip hop flavor and swag. Its artists aren’t always the best looking in terms of traditional Korean beauty standards, but most are charismatic and talented musically. So in my opinion, JYP in terms of their image lie in between the two. They have good looking idols and some that are so-so and their skills are moderate to great.

If the K-pop community was a high school: the SM artists would be the popular rich kids with the pretty bitchy girls (Jessica and Krystal) and guys that appear too good to be true (Yunho), YG artists would be the cool rebel kids (G-Dragon & CL) and the ditchers (T.O.P. & Bom), and the JYP artists would range from the captain of the football team (Taecyeon) to the class president (Nichkhun), the head cheerleader (Suzy) to the class clown (Jo Kwon), and the emo school girl that everyone secretly wants to be friends with (Jia). The rest of the idols from different companies range everywhere else in between.

Young-Ji: I used to see JYPE as the underdog of K-pop and somewhat original until recently. JYP was responsible for producing g.o.d‘s hit song “To My Mother” and Park Ji-Yoon‘s “Sung In Shi/Adult Ceremony,” which were both well received in the mid-90s; Rain proved that a solo K-pop career isn’t reserved for just good looking guys with double eye-lids and the Wonder Girls became a national phenomenon with their hit songs.  I think JYP does a good job coming up with unique concepts: One Day (2 PM+2 AM), JJ Project, etc, however, for whatever reason, he doesn’t seem to execute them properly, and unfortunately these concepts just fizzle and die away.

In relation to the other companies, I think JYP is getting there but not quite there yet.  It’ll take a lot to dethrone both SM, given its history and current status, or YG, especially with what happened with them during the last couple of years, so as far as I’m concerned, JYPE will remain third.

2. JYPE seems to be gifted in either not latching on to talent that presents itself in auditions (IU, Seo In-guk), or somehow letting gifted trainees slip out of their grasp (Sistar’s Hyorin, 2NE1’s CL). Not being with JYPE hasn’t hampered the success of these idols — could the same be said for JYPE, or have they missed out on all this talent?

Salima: Absolutely JYPE has missed out! Moreso than musically, they’ve missed out on artists with the personality to bring some flavor to the JYP brand. When you think of YG, the signature personalities both on and off the stage are T.O.P, G-Dragon, CL, Bom, Se7en. For SM it’s Leeteuk, Sunny, Heechul, etc. I don’t think JYPE can say that about their artists as much, unless you count Jo Kwon. And maybe Nichkhun. I would have loved to see personalities like CL and IU (who both have this palpable “it” factor) on the JYP label.

Johnelle: Although JYPE’s past missteps in letting talent like IU, Seo In-guk, Hyorin and CL go seem blatantly obvious as a problem in their selection process I don’t think they’re any worse off in that category than any of the Korean entertainment companies.  I think it all depends on timing and luck–maybe when IU and Seo In-guk auditioned they just weren’t what the company was looking for at the time.  As for Hyorin and CL, maybe their style didn’t fit in at JYPE: would Hyorin have been able to be her sexy self at JYPE and would they have been able to handle CL’s swagger?  I rest my case with this–SME let go of G-Dragon and YG let go of Kim Junsu.

Young-Ji:  Based on what I gathered from JYP’s camp, JYP seems to over-emphasize the importance of being well-rounded, or to put it bluntly, he wants his trainees to follow his footsteps of being successful in his musical as well as academic career.  I get why he is the way he is, but at the same time, I think he’s forgetting that he’s the trainees’ producer, not their parents.  It shouldn’t matter if they go to college or a hold similar value system as he does, he should only care about their talent but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Even though outsiders may think that JYPE is missing out, I don’t think JYP would ever change his ways, so this will continue to happen.  Personally, I’m keeping an eye out to see if JYPE is able to keep K-pop Star winner Park Ji-min around until she debuts.

3. JYPE has a large number of subsidiary companies, and even takes part in the management of some of the acts under these companies, namely 2AM and miss A. What are your thoughts on this arrangement — Is it a win-win situation for everyone, or is there one party that is invariably losing out?

Young-Ji: The subsidiary set-up for JYPE is very confusing and unwise — for consumers and artists alike.  It’s confusing for the music fans like us, because there isn’t one overarching brand that unites these artists together, such as YG and SM.  And it’s probably confusing and frustrating for the artists within the JYPE umbrella, because the producer plays favorites.  In sum, JYP should take a cue from Sidus HQ and leverage one brand while maintaining different management behind the scenes.

Johnelle: I think it’s a win-win situation for all involved especially if the alternative is that those bands that were shoved off onto the subsidiaries would have been dissolved otherwise.  It makes sense to me especially if those bands/individuals have a different style from the average K-pop band like ballad singers 2AM. For their style of music, 2AM’s approach needs an audience slightly different than say 2PM’s, right?  So maybe Big Hit Entertainment‘s employees are more specialized in ballad singers.  I can definitely see how some might think it’s a disadvantage because maybe they’re not getting as much money or talent allocated their way because they’re not under JYPE itself, but if done well these subsidiary companies can also be successful–the success of 2AM and miss A are proof of that.

Salima: This whole deal with JYPE’s subsidiary companies is confusing. For example, MBLAQ, who are under Rain’s J. Tune Camp, are actually under the J. Tune Entertainment umbrella, which has actually merged with JYP Entertainment. I’m not even sure if Rain officially still holds stock in J. Tune–I believe his stocks were all sold to JYP. The point is, MBLAQ is technically under JYP Entertainment, although they’ll never come out and say it. But the reason why Rain left JYPE and built his own label in the first place was to earn independence from JYP, who’d been a significiant mentor to him for years. I think this is at least partly why MBLAQ doesn’t overtly associate themselves with JYPE. On one hand I think it’s good to establish independence, but with Rain out of sight in the military, I think MBLAQ could benefit from associating with a team like 2AM, 2PM, and Miss A. And JYPE could definitely use the roster.

4. What are your thoughts on Jo Kwon and Wooyoung releasing solo albums so close together? And which other idols would you like to see release solo material?

Salima: I’ve talked about this in a previous article (which I’m still being toungue lashed for hehe), but the debuts of Jo Kwon and Wooyoung so close together is strange. Although Jo Kwon’s debut is being handled by Big Hit Entertainment (another subsidiary of JYPE), to the public they’re both JYP. Surprisingly though, their debuts haven’t really intersected very much, which is good for them if they want to be given their fair share of spotlight. Being a huge 2PM fan, I was excited by Wooyoung’s teasers but felt let down by his first solo stage and debut MV “Sexy Lady.” And for Jokwon it was the other way around: I didn’t care for his teasers but thoroughly enjoyed his debut. Having these debuts so close together makes them more subject to comparison.

I, being the Jun. K ultra lover that I am, would love to see Junsu have a solo album. That just goes without saying. But one project I would also love to see is one between Sunye and Yenny. I absolutely loved their rendition of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston‘s “When You Believe.” Not a solo project, but the only other one I’d like to see out of all of JYPE.

Johnelle: The real question here would be if one thought that a majority of the fans of Jo Kwon are the same as Wooyoung’s?  If they are, you run into competition and a cannibalization of record sales potential by the other and of course they will be competing against each other for chart position.  I know that there is probably some overlap of One Day fans, but I think for the most part their fan base is different.  Also due to the fact that JYPE their respective companies will be handling their promotions, I don’t think they’ll be suffering due to lack of attention or resources of their company.  It would have been an issue if say Wooyoung and Junsu released solo albums at the same time.

I wouldn’t mind seeing (more) solo work from Changmin and/or Seulong mainly because all the boys in 2AM have great voices.  And when I saw the Wonder Girls in Concert I really was impressed with Yenny, so I wouldn’t mind seeing a solo effort from her.
Young-Ji: Jo Kwon and Wooyoung releasing solo albums at the same time was unwise in my opinion.  What’s the point of making these two compete against each other, especially among high come-back season?  Aside from that, I wasn’t too impressed with their solo endeavors.  It was good to see Jo Kwon embrace more of his performer personality on stage with “I’m Da One,” but it wasn’t anything that out of the ordinary and Wooyoung’s “Sexy Lady” was alright.  Nothing too spectacular on both fronts, which is why it’s even more puzzling of their debut timing.  Hopefully JYPE learns their lesson from this mistake.

5. What will it take for JYP to stop pushing his compositions onto his idols for promotions?

Johnelle: A muzzle and chains? Someone to pull up that hideous skirt he was wearing at the Mnet 20’s Choice Awards up over his head?  Joking, but in all honesty it doesn’t really bother me although it is kind of lame.  He’s not the only one though, YG artists also do shoutouts to the family in their songs–it’s just not every single song.

Salima: People give JYP a hard time for his “JYP whisper” in every song. But I totally get him. It’s his brand. It’s just like how P. Diddy says “Bad Boy baby” in all of his artists’ songs. It builds the JYP brand and gives a common thread to all of his artists. And frankly, the guy works so hard that he deserves at least a whisper.

But pushing his image onto his artists is where I must tell him politely to please chill out. JYP has this huge affinity for the old school concept, R&B, and soul. But that concept can’t work on everybody. You can’t keep doing the whole retro thing with the Wonder Girls and then also try it on Wooyoung’s debut. I do, however LOVE that JYP is worldly when it comes to his music. He doesn’t call himself the Asian Soul for nothing.

Young-Ji: As long as JYP is in the picture, he will force his musical style down his artists throats.  It appears that he views his artists as an extension of himself, rather than raw talent that he needs to help develop.  The fact that the man can’t seem to back down and needs to claim his artists by enforcing his musical style seems to me like either he’s insecure with his style or he has too much time on his hands.  Or maybe both?


You know what I learned today? How to spell Nichkhun’s name properly–I never noticed that extra H. Also, I like the JYP whisper. Really, I do; I can see how it can be annoying, but I’ve never really had a problem with it. In Carnatic music, for one, composers traditionally include their name or some kind of “verbal stamp” within the actual lyrics of their compositions–so, the singer will at some point be singing the name of the composer. By contrast, the JYP whisper is in fact quite unobtrusive. At the very least it will help people a hundred years or so from now to easily identify the composer of “Bounce.” I may have to draw the line at actual cameos, though–the man almost scared me out of my skin when he turned up in the Wonder Girls’ “Like Money” MV.

But, in all seriousness, JYP needs to trust his other producers and song writers more and allow them the chance to develop and improve on their own skills. JYP may no longer be the CEO of the company, but he seems to be the man calling the shots. I don’t know why he’s doing this, or even IF this is what is happening (we don’t know what really goes on behind closed company doors, after all), but if the speculation here is accurate, then the company needs to take action to ensure that they can produce hit music in-house in the future; JYP will probably still be around, but they do not want to be like, say, SM, who seem to only get their hit songs from either Yoo Young-jin or Sweden. And SM can afford to pay for foreign compositions; I’m not sure of the prices, but whether JYPE would be able to follow the same path is questionable. Recently, though, JYPE did put out a call for songwriters to audition for the company, so there may be hope yet. Furthermore, idols like Ye-eun have shown their talent for composing and producing too, further broadening the talent pool.

The subsidiary system JYPE has seems to be working well for both the parent company and the artists under the subsidiary systems (though, of course, neither of them have to go through the horror of consolidating the financial reports). JYPE is in charge of 2AM’s group activities, while Big Hit oversees each members’ solo activities. Being associated with a big name, but also being with a smaller company that can give you more attention and care means that 2AM arguably have the best of both worlds. For miss A, unfortunately, it’s another matter entirely: their group promotions are executed almost perfectly by JYPE, with each member given her own time in the spotlight. But outside of official promotion periods when the group is left to subsidy AQ Entertainment, the group becomes invisible. Of course, Suzy is hot property at the moment and as such is still able to sustain the public’s interest in miss A by virtue of being one of its members, but Fei, Min and Jia do not seem to have as many solo activities, and AQE seems to be missing out on the opportunity to get the other members out in the public eye more using the miss A name.

I agree with Johnelle that JYPE is the middle ground between SM and YG; one the one hand, JYPE’s material as a western vibe to it like YG’s music does, but it remains distinctly pop, similar to SM’s style. They could easily turn this balancing act into their shtick, or go in a different direction altogether, but their execution has to be, largely, faultless. JYP Nation sounds like one big happy family, and JYP’s emphasis on education is admirable, but that way of thinking is not for everyone, and the company needs to be more flexible in its options for trainees. I definitely agree with Young-Ji that there needs to be a greater degree of professionalism, but hopefully without destroying the camaraderie and candidness of the JYPE artists– if they can get this balance right, then we could have well-trained idols with quality material who also make meticulous parodies of Brown Eyed Girls songs. Who wouldn’t want that?

So, Seoulmates, what are your thoughts on JYPE and their subsidiaries? And what solo or collaboration would you like to see happen? Because my mind is suddenly fixated on MBLAQ-miss A–what do you think?

(JYP Co., miss A’s fan cafe)