Following Minzy‘s departure, we have another one down, and another one down at YG Entertainment. After announcing that none of the company’s artists would be attending this year’s MAMAs, CEO Yang Hyun-suk dropped a double bombshell by announcing the official disbandment of 2NE1 and the departure of Winner member Taehyun. It was revealed that since May this year, CL and Dara had signed solo contracts, while Bom had elected not to re-sign with the agency. Meanwhile, Taehyun is said to have parted ways with the company over the apparent hindrance his hiatus — taken so that Taehyun could focus on his mental health — was to Winner’s activities. Since the announcement, Dara and Taehyun have reached out to fans in an effort to comfort them.
As we see yet another iconic K-pop group leave the spotlight forever, and another fledgeling group experience a line-up change, we ask: was this the best decision? Will Black Pink ably fill 2NE1’s shoes, or do think there is another group out there that can take up the baton? What will Winner be like without their maknae?
Gaya: YG basically did to 2NE1 what he did to Supearls. He kept the group as an insurance policy in case Lee Hi‘s solo debut was a bust. When she reached monster rookie status, Lee Michelle was turned into a scapegoat and Supearls were out the door. Now with Black Pink out there promoting Teddy songs, and CL’s tour officially ending, there’s simply no need for 2NE1.
At the time of Minzy’s departure, it was reported that the other three had already extended their contracts with YG. Except now we’re hearing something different, mere months later? I don’t think contracts are that short. Either reports of the other members re-signing are a lie, or something happened for Bom to ask to leave, and YG agreed. Personally, I think YG only renewed with CL and Dara, and either he or Bom decided it was best to part ways; they then kept mum until Black Pink had debuted and CL’s tour had finished before informing everyone.
As for Taehyun, did YG even try? At a time when we are seeing more companies and idols be more open about their mental health, YG putting the blame on Taehyun feels like such a regression. I sincerely hope that Taehyun, when he is ready, gets back on Soundcloud and releases the music he wants. I’ve enjoyed his compositions and would love to hear more.
Pat: Honestly, was anyone even surprised with the 2NE1 announcement? YG continues to not give a flying f—, and I’m willing to bet my K-pop collection that he waited until Black Pink showed potential to replace 2NE1 to make it public. No way was he going to announce it while CL had her tour.
Now with Taehyun, I have tons to say. First off, Winner is the first YG group I properly stanned and Taehyun, problematic as he is, he was — is — my bias. A lot of people don’t like him for very obvious reasons, but the boy was my YG baby. As someone who stanned all of the members since Team A, I am torn. Secondly, I hate how YG threw Taehyun under the bus that way by using the mental illness as a reason. The change in Winner’s music will be something I look out for. EXIT: E was basically Taehyun’s showcase. At least the remaining members are self-sufficient. Of course, the self-sufficiency will be worthless when YG has such bad management skills.
Gaya: So it seems even notices about groups and idols being removed from the roster aren’t safe, as the press release announcing this news has since been deleted from YG-Life. I feel like it was done because fans have all noticed the discrepancies between this notice and the one made when Minzy left.
Cjontai: I think the great underlying feeling for a lot of Blackjacks is disappointment. I watched a couple of these reaction videos, and what I got was a lot of them heartbroken because 2NE1 was THE group that got them into K-pop. “I Am The Best” is the first video I ever saw when my friend introduced me to this music. I wasn’t feeling them originally, but as I watched more videos and heard more songs, I became a Blackjack.
They were my first girl group bias. They were the first for a lot of fans. When you think of it from that perspective, it’s somewhat disheartening to realize it’s over. It’s not that nobody saw it coming, but that fans hoped for a brighter ending than what they got. A group of their status deserved a farewell tour or something. Instead, all we’re getting is apologetic letters, and it’s just sad. I can’t blame fans for wishing they had gotten a proper send-off.
As for the Winner debacle, I gave up on YG probably sometime after WIN‘s finale. The jokes about delayed timelines turned into a glaring display of mismanagement as their debut got pushed back. All the while, guess who gets positioned as the scapegoat for those delays? I held a glimmer of hope when they put Taehyun on hiatus, but now it’s almost like they’re insinuating his illness was a hindrance to the success of Winner.
Taehyun was an artist under the YG label. He was never in charge of marketing, scheduling, fan meetings, or anything related to Winner’s promotion outside of composing tracks, which he did despite struggling with his mental condition. Implying that his mental state somehow held the group back is both enraging and deplorable.
Winner had all the potential to be groundbreaking, but therein lay the issue. YG only broke ground by introducing them through a competition show. They laid a foundation, and then put up a sign that said, “COMING SOON”. After that, plans stalled. Winner became the skeletal remains of an unfinished construction site. Fans were like, what the actual hell? Why can’t you commit to a deadline? Why tell us something is ready when you have little to nothing completed?
YG has lost who they once were. They won’t listen to fans. They’re producing music that now sounds outdated when they used to be at the forefront of setting trends. The fresh roster of talent they do get, they allow to rot behind the scenes between scarce promotions. I don’t understand what is happening internally in that company, but they need to fix it fast because TOP is enlisting in February, and you can’t milk a cow once it’s hamburger.
Qing: As a non-fan of 2NE1, I don’t feel things with the same intensity as Blackjacks, but I can fully empathise with them. If there was any surprise or shock at the announcement, it definitely has to do more with the utterly dishonest and disrespectful way the company handled the disbandment, rather than the fact of disbandment itself.
It’s true that fans and non-fans alike know better than to trust YG’s words at this point. But as Cjontai said, I think a part of us, knowing that this legendary group was nearing its end, still clung on to the hope that they would at least get one last comeback, or even just a fanmeeting, to provide proper closure for the members and fans. During the whole period of the group’s inactivity, it was still possible to crack jokes about how horrible the management has become. But with this final breach of trust, no amount of wry humour can temper the bitterness of how crudely the disbandment was handled. And I think that’s what hurt fans the most.
I don’t know enough about Taehyun or Winner to add anything fruitful, but I’d like to shift the 2NE1 discussion on to an appraisal of their contributions. Will there be another group that can fill 2NE1’s shoes? No, it’s not possible, because the K-pop scene has changed so much since 2009, there isn’t going to be a time and circumstance to produce another 2NE1. And a great part of these changes was brought by 2NE1 themselves, and, to give credit where due, YG’s planning (before it all went downhill).
Those who have been following K-pop pre-2009 will remember this landmark year—not just for producing the viral hits that are SNSD‘s “Gee” and Super Junior‘s “Sorry Sorry” or bringing the debut of Beast—but also because it was the year of remarkable girl group debuts. After School, 2NE1, 4Minute, f(x), Secret, and Rainbow all debuted in this year (to be honest I hated “Gossip Girl”, but I like Rainbow so I’m keeping them on the list). The thing about these groups is that they came at a time when there weren’t many girl groups, and when the ones around were mostly stuck in the cute/sexy binary.
Then 2NE1 broke onto the scene, shattering that mould by embodying and projecting female independence and confidence. It wasn’t a simple matter of being different and refreshing; it was about speaking up and for women, reaching out to a very important facet of identity, that gained the hearts and admiration of fans and non-fans alike. It was okay to be gentle and demure as a woman, but now it was okay to be cool and confident, too. You could dislike their music and image, but you couldn’t deny the influence the group had in shaping the scene for the better. They were part of what made hoobaes like miss A, Mamamoo, Black Pink, and other girl groups riding on the image of female independence and sass even possible to be around. For this much, I will always appreciate and respect 2NE1, and YG’s foresight at the time.
Gaya: If there’s one thing fans hate more than being mistreated, it’s seeing their faves being mistreated. From the letters written by Dara, CL, and Bom, it seems they were as blindsided by the announcement as everyone else, and that has made fans even angrier on their behalf. And with the press release about 2NE1 (and Taehyun) vanishing from YGs website, suspicions as to YG’s motives are definitely being aroused, though if anything will come out of it remains to be seen.
There will never be another 2NE1, but I hope that we see more girl groups who do go down the path they forged, like those Qing mentioned, as well as Sol-T, Bulldok, and more.
Lorenza: Like many people, 2NE1 was my first girl group. They were more hard hitting, more independent, and projected an image that looked more like the woman I wanted to be. They were revolutionary in many ways and seeing the mistreatment from their management just feels like a slap in the face. Blackjacks didn’t deserve that and the members definitely didn’t. I was heartbroken, but not even remotely surprised, when they announced the disbandment.
YG’s management has been a mess for years. It’s frustrating since they’re a company that used to consistently put out music that so many really loved. Now, now it feels like if it’s not Big Bang, YG doesn’t really care. Even then, YG hasn’t managed BigBang’s career very well in recent years either. I’m worried what will happen to groups like iKon and Black Pink once YG gets bored of them. Are they going to be put in the dungeon, forgotten until their fanbases dwindle to the point where even if they had a comeback they’d be successful? He’s already doing it with Winner. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it again.
I hate that he threw Taehyun under the bus. I hate how it feels like it wasn’t a mutually beneficial decision. I wasn’t surprised by the news of Taehyun’s departure, but it was disrespectful to Taehyun, Winner, and all Incles. It feels like Winner really can’t win with YG. Their music is a departure from the same old stuff YG has been putting out and the fact that YG isn’t investing more into them is yet another example of the company’s internal (and now external) mess.
Brief note: I saw some hate on Park Bom for being the reason for 2ne1’s disbandment. I can’t even begin to express how angry that makes me. All the events after the announcement clearly point that the blame doesn’t lie with the members, and especially with just one member. Bom is an easy target because of her past scandals, but that isn’t fair. YG did whatever he could to keep G-Dragon from going down because of his scandals, and now GD is one of the most well known idols in the world. If he wanted, he could have done the same for 2ne1. If we’re going to play the blame game, then fine, let’s blame the piss-poor management. In the end, everyone’s still angry and hurt and YG is still terrible at managing his artist’s careers.
Mark: I get why people are mad about the things coming out of YG’s mouth but are these really bad decisions or, as some of us have put it, ‘mismanagement’? Did we really envision 2NE1 promoting without Minzy or finding someone to replace her? It just wouldn’t be the same and, more importantly, it just wouldn’t make sense when thinking about opportunity cost. Spending money on another 2NE1 comeback comes at the cost of spending that money and time on another group that may have a higher rate of return. Another 2NE1 comeback could mean either a delay in the future comebacks of Big Bang, iKON, Winner, or Black Pink.
When we speak of ‘dungeons’ it’s only because SM, JYP, and YG have so many acts to manage and they can’t all promote at the same time. And most of the time it’s the more established groups that get ‘dungeoned’ because more money and time is needed to invest in the fledgling groups. In the case of 2NE1, why spend money satisfying an older and dwindling fanbase that’s more likely to download a digital single for $1 per comeback when that money can be spent on gaining a younger and more rabid fanbase that’s more likely to buy a $20 album with each comeback.
It’s also important to understand that 2NE1 is not a boy group and that it shouldn’t be held under boy group expectations. When was the last time a girl group held a goodbye tour or a farewell fanmeet? Not 4Minute, Kara, or Secret, that’s for sure. Girl groups tend to disband unceremoniously because there’s no incentive to continue promoting a girl group towards the end of their contract. The primary reason to promote a girl group in the first place is to get the members in demand to win endorsements. That incentive is lost when the members don’t have a future with the company. Again, it’s because money can be better spent elsewhere.
Camiele: What we’re talking about here is willful negligence. It’s not mismanagement as in, “Whoops, I forgot.” Mismanagement as in, “Look, I don’t care.” This is a man who’s gone on record as saying his goal was to recreate Seo Taiji & Boys. To relive the glory days of his own time in the spotlight through another group. Big Bang was and remains his only actual priority, and nowadays only tangentially.
You can’t expect a group to flourish or make money if you have no desire to promote them or put them in a position to make money in the first place. This idea that you have too many artists to take care of is a load of bull to me. If you don’t have the money, time, or resources to house and nurture all your artists, then stop taking in so many damn artists! It’s simple. You don’t want to the responsibility of making sure a child is nurtured, raised, and given the best opportunity for survival, then don’t have a baby (or let said child go early enough that you don’t fall into a pattern of abuse and neglect that completely stunts child’s development).
Point-blank: take responsibility for your shit. You created a group, then through a simple lack of interest let it die off. It’s childish: get you a brand new toy, and then when you’re bored of it just toss it in the middle of the floor.
I’ll only touch briefly on the inherent sexism in the previous comment, because honestly from my perspective women aren’t respected in most societies, so why should anyone expect otherwise in the microcosm of the idol industry? The fact remains most groups don’t actually have a farewell anything as far as I know. Given how YG makes it plain he has no time or even a seeming modicum of respect for women in actions and words, it probably wouldn’t have surprised most if they weren’t promised otherwise.
What’s more disturbing than his hate for women, however, is his now obvious disdain for those with mental health issues. I had little respect for YG for many reasons, but whatever ounce of it I had disappeared like so much dust in the wind when he used Taehyun’s mental and emotional health as a scapegoat. Honestly, it was too good an opportunity to pass up: a group he openly didn’t care for from the start is totally ignored (because he wants the second coming of Big Bang but audiences wanted something different), but fans are actually pissed off now. So what does he do? He takes a kid with apparent controversy around him and uses him as a sacrificial lamb. Two birds, one stone. Get rid of an apparent problem and still get your way. It’s disgusting.
That’s about it from us. What about you readers? How do you feel about YG Entertainment after the announcements? Did the 2NE1 disbandment surprise you? What do you think will be the impact of Taehyun leaving Winner? Sound out in the comments below!
(Images via YG Entertainment, Nylon Japan, Elle Korea)