I’ve never really been impressed with SM Entertainment, but I will admit to liking many of their artists and songs. For one, they did a good job in producing SHINee. But though they started off on the right foot, the group has somewhat drooped, to the point where it’s obvious that SM doesn’t know what to do with them anymore. This predicament is something that’s constantly seen with SM, and it seems like no one is bold enough to say something to the higher-ups about it. Sure, they may be the biggest K-pop entertainment company in Korea, and they might think it’s not necessary for them to switch things up. But where’s the innovation in it all? Whether it’s 360 degree matrix camera swivels, dancing in a box, or comeback then repackage promotions, SM always seems lackluster in the innovation department.

Case in point: Kai, who seems to have already established his place as the Yoona of Exo Planet. We’ve just been introduced to him and most of us are already sick of seeing him. We might as well call him “Visual Kai” — he is obviously the face of the group and SM is going to make sure we know it. It’s a given that SM tends to milk things for all its worth, but the cow is now dry. It’s time to move on to the next one. Not that there’s anything wrong with Kai, but come on, SM. Stop being so predictable. At least make it hard to guess what members play which roles.

SM’s predictability doesn’t stop there. Even when SM arranges songs, it’s obvious where each member will sing. Granted, everyone has their roles to play, but why should they be so predictable and standardized? For example, there’s no reason for Minho to completely take over all of SHINee’s major singing lines. Let’s be honest: the boy is not the most vocally gifted, but it would be a pleasant surprise to see someone like Key take a stab at high notes that would otherwise be intended for Jonghyun. There’s a formula for K-pop songs, but why must SM always stick to the formula?

When the Wonder Girls sing, one expects Yeeun and Sunye to get the heavy lifting. But lately, JYP has been trying to push Sohee to reach her maximum potential. She isn’t the most vocally talented, but with the amount of lines she was delegated in Wonder World, you can see that JYP is pushing her to give her best. Even Lim was unexpectedly given a solo. Yes, it may have slightly been reminiscent of a Kid’s Bop song, but who was expecting it? She was able to be spotlighted, which was a commendable effort in itself. Even 2PM’s Changsung and Nichkhun have been flipped back and forth between singing and rapping over the years. They might not be the best but they have been given an opportunity to see what works best for each individual over time. Now, no one should expect to see Taecyeon belting out sweet lullabies any time soon, but my point is: JYP switches it up, and it’s largely worked to their benefit.
When we look at YG, we see variation in many aspects. Big Bang’s music is constantly changing. It has gone from a soulful hip-hop/pop sound to a rock/electropop concoction. And Cube brought together an unorthodox pairing in the Trouble Maker unit, while CCM constantly leaves us guessing with T-ara’s bi-polar concept changes.

It’s not to say that SM should be releasing the same stuff as other companies, but it’s good to mix things up and not remain stagnant. Just because SM’s the biggest company doesn’t mean that they should remain satisfied. The groups under SM operate in the exact same ways. They have slightly different images with the same exact formulas. Many SM groups are due for comebacks this year. Here’s hoping that these comebacks will come with a few surprises.