With news of G.NA’s impending comeback on August 23rd, I was led to contemplate her singular success in this current wave of Korean music. For anyone with a passing interest, it is amazingly obvious how singing groups have completely taken over Kpop like The Blob. The solo singers are still there, for example, the talented Hwayobi, Navi, IU, etc, it’s just that we have to look for them among the mass of flawless smiles and synchronized steps.
The Kpop sphere is dominated by repetitive girl/boy group concepts that offer the full idol fantasy package. The looks, the sounds and the personalities must be carefully manufactured to meet the demands of today’s fans, who appear to judge their loyalty to a group based on the cuteness of selcas, infectious natures of dance moves and members’ sense of style more so than the talent as an artist. Kpop groups are like living anime characters, and as a theater geek I enjoy it. I enjoy the costumes, the lighting and the confetti (sometimes bubbles). The whole extravaganza leaves me smiling, which may be the reason why solo artists are slowly becoming an endangered species in Kpop.
The appeal of the bells-and-whistles of a group makes it hard to market a solo artist from scratch, which explains why most of today’s “solo” artists are members of an established group, such as HyunA of 4Minute, Park Bom of 2NE1, Taeyang of Big Bang, etc. I’m not the biggest fan of G.NA, but at least she is a solo artist that hasn’t broken off of an existing group and successfully cultured her own fans. Not that she’s the only one, but she hasn’t been looked over in the shuffle either.
Based on the current trend in Kpop, that focuses more on the packaging of the idol concept, instead of identifying or grooming artistic talent, do you think there is even a room for solo artists to stand out in the crowd, if they didn’t originate from a popular group? Or will solo artists just become endangered species that eventually become extinct within the Kpop sphere?