Despite some minor (okay, pretty major) complaints about the company, Pledis Entertainment is still a fairly formidable force in K-pop. Sure they may have a bit trouble in execution, but they know how to build hype, leading to impressive comebacks and relevant debuts. I was thoroughly impressed with most of After School‘s comebacks, and NU’EST‘s debut was handled pretty well. Sure, Pledis indulges in a lot of gimmicks, (the tap dancing, the graduation system, Ren‘s entire image, etc.) but those gimmicks still manage to get attention and stand out, something important in the vastness K-pop has become. But as savvy Pledis is when it comes to building hype, I don’t know how they (or any other company for that matter) can handle what they brought upon themselves.
Pledis has just officially announced another group-in-the-making named Seventeen, which will consist of 17 members with the average age of 17. Before I point out the major problems that group is going to go through in the near future, I want to mention that Pledis has also officially announced the debut of After School’s sister group Hello Venus, as well as the (possible) debut of another boy group, Tempest, which will feature the remaining Pledis Boys not included in NU’EST. Tempest’s debut as a separate group is still iffy as it is widely suspected that the Tempest boys will instead join the roster of Seventeen (more on that later). So, in all, Pledis will have to handle two or three debuts during th remainder of the year (a total of three or four year-round), along with After School’s Japanese promotions and whatever they want to do with NU’EST (Sadly, with all this announced, there’s still no word on Son Dambi). Pledis sure is reaching a bit too high in the sky with their current schedule, and there are definitely reasons why.
It seems Pledis is announcing all these debuts so they can take advantage of another gimmick most other companies indulge in: the “Family” gimmick a la SM Family, Cube Family, etc. Before 2012, Pledis only had two prominent acts signed under its label: Son Dambi and After School. If things work out, by the end of this year, Pledis will have a total of five or six acts under it label with a total of 38 different artists (43 if Tempest debuts as another group). That’s more than enough to host a Pledis Family concert, a goal a company like Pledis would be going for since a family concert is basically proof that you’ve made it to the “big leagues.” More proof of Pledis wanting to establish a “family” can be seen in the entirety of the Happy Pledis project. The project featured the whole of Pledis’ then lineup (sans Bekah) as well as the yet to debut Pledis Boys and Yoo Ara of Hello Venus. The songs featured and the music video for single “Love Letter” fluffed up the relationships of the artists under the label, and it just shows how hard the company wanted to create and sell a “family” image even if the family they were selling was still under construction.
And the creation of this image would definitely have its benefits. It not only gives you a fluffy, ideal picture of the company, a picture so carefree that fans would never suspect any internal troubles, but it’s also a great marketing strategy. You appeal to many fan bases at once while being able to introduce new “family members.” Using Happy Pledis as an example, the project targets the company’s current cash cow (After School) while introducing new talent (Pledis Boys and Ara) and keeping older artists still somewhat relevant (Dambi). Family albums and collaborations are a great way for new groups to gain interest, and the more interest, the better when debuting. It gives a preview of an act’s skills and leaves people (hopefully) wanting more. Even 2NE1 first showcased their skills in a collaboration with Big Bang.
But as much as a family project can help a company, one shouldn’t prioritize it. Unless Pledis is planning to release more family projects (one for each up-coming group) or a family concert (unlikely due to their main act still being in Japan) in the near future, the creation of the family image at this point is somewhat unnecessary. With announcing a debut, a lot of the company’s focus would be placed on that debut, placing the already established artists in the backseat. Dambi’s time in the spotlight is already — and unfortunately — fading, and while I don’t think Pledis will put After School in the back, if their Japan promotions actually turn out to be a success, they may well not stay too long in Korea following their comeback this June. And I actually saw some potential in NU’EST. Their material might not have been the best, but their debut was one of the better so far this year. Like I said, they received needed attention and that was enough to get them a passable fan base.
As for my thoughts about the groups in question, I don’t really see any of them working out as well as Pledis may hope. Hello Venus is due to debut soon with teasers and profiles released, but there isn’t as much anticipation for them as there was when NU’EST first splashed onto the scene. The group will consist of some of After School’s “Pre-school Girls,” basically those who were due to join After School at some point, and some trainees of Fantiago Entertainment, which will co-manage the group.
While the influence from another company may take some things off of Pledis’ back, I doubt it will make much of a difference, since hey, Pledis is the one with the resources; they have to be proactive if they want the group they invested in to be a success. From what we heard from the “Pre-School Girls” (I seriously hate that term), either through the Happy Pledis project or through After School’s Virgin album, their skills are passable (Ara’s vocals especially), but nothing really extraordinary. And debuting as After School’s sister group comes with its disadvantages since collectively, After School has covered a broad range of concepts already. By going with the “cute yet natural” concept as the group seems to be doing, they don’t really bring anything new to the table, and will eventually be overlooked.
As for Seventeen and Tempest, there isn’t as much information out on them. However, it has been confirmed that Seventeen will be taking a similar route as Exo in that they will debut and promote in multiple countries at once, namely Korea, Japan, and China. Pledis is aiming to create a new genre with this group called “Asia Pop,” which will infuse elements of K-pop with components of J-pop and C-pop. It’s definitely an ambitious project, and one I’m not sure Pledis can pull off yet, especially with everything else they have planned, but it if they do, it would have a generous payoff.
Their whole “17” gimmick, however, may actually hurt the group more than it could help it in the way that the more members there are in a group, the harder it would be to distinguish them, and if not handled right (like what happened to A-Peace), the results could be disastrous. Also the average age gimmick isn’t thought out for the long run. What would happen when the average age becomes 18? Add another member and change their name? (Why am I feeling like Pledis would actually do this?) And unless all the members were under 20, there would have to be some pretty young members in the group. Having so many blatant issues from the get-go really isn’t a good way to start at all. I can only hope for the best for Seventeen and Pledis.
As for Tempest, there have been hints in Pledis’ official Twitter that they will instead be part of Seventeen (probably the unit that would promote in Korea), but as of now nothing is concrete. Other than that and an article in Pledis Boy Magazine virtually nothing else is known of Tempest.
Ultimately, Pledis seems to be working with the mindset that the more the merrier. But is more really merrier? Is bigger really better? Sure, the more artists Pledis has and the more they can accomplish in a year’s time, the better the potential payoff. That’s true. But there’s also the saying, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” The more Pledis plans and the more ambitious their projects are, the more evident their failures would become. That’s also true. Why Pledis can’t just chose the happy median is beyond me, but who knows with Pledis anymore? They may actually surprise us in the end. But as a mere speculator, I can only predict trouble for Pledis.
What do you think, Seoulmates? Is Pledis just setting themselves up to fail, or do you honestly think they’ll succeed? Are the gimmicks they use or want to use worth the risks? And as an afterthought, where do you think they get all their trainees? They seem to always have some debut-ready ones on hand. Your input is gladly appreciated.