In the ever-fickle market that is K-pop, relevance and attention are things most idols have to work for. In the genre, you are only relevant and will get the attention, if you have a comeback and actively promote during this said period. In other cases, your fame would diminish, with the baton passed to other “it” group/s of the moment, until a return to the scene is made for another round of promotions. And the cycle repeats itself. Only major groups such as SNSD, Big Bang, and DBSK can afford to have major hiatuses — releasing only one effort a year or maybe even less depending on the break — and not have any of their popularity or relevance in the market dwindle. But even so, too long of a break can still be a damper for even these bigshot groups, since they’d lose a bit of the grip they would have had in K-pop. This can arguably be seen through the K-queens Wonder Girls who, while being one of K-pop’s most valued groups, controlling the entire market at one point, have now lost a bit of their former clout.
But for rookies, “nugus,” or mid-tier groups, this is definitely the case. For these groups, they might seem to be the trend of the moment following their comeback only for the public to lose interest, switching their attention to the next group with a comeback. More recently, the saturated nature of K-pop hasn’t helped this either; there’s always someone promoting which would give a wide variety of acts, of which many share the same traits for a fan to enjoy. And thus, it’s logical for groups to remain in the public eye as long as they can possibly hold it. At face value, a group having multiple comebacks a year — basically, to over-promote — is widely beneficial to all parties since it pleases fans, makes money for the company, and keeps the group relevant as all times, possibly boosting their popularity as well.
But is this really true? Is over-promoting really that beneficial for an idol or group’s popularity or relevance? Well, as stated above, there are clear benefits in having multiple comebacks. It keeps the group present in the scene, attracting and retaining attention through constant releases. Furthermore, since the song releases can vary, with more music, there will be more chances for a group or idol to attract fans or win awards from the weekly music shows. I mean, at least one song should resonate with the public, right?
However, while this is true, idols are human after all, and one can take only so much work before buckling. They too need a break after rounds and rounds of strenuous promotions. During these periods, it’s not uncommon for idols to sleep clock crazy sleep debts due to constant work; eat less due to the upkeep of a good stage figure; and ultimately be put under so much more stress due to the aforementioned circumstances. And to have idols go through this process repeatedly without much break in between is like setting a human time bomb, waiting for it to explode.
The most triumphant example of overworked idols is definitely the unfortunate ladies of T-ara. I swear, it’s as if their CEO Kim Kwang-soo is out to kill them. 2011 was already one heck of a year for them, releasing mini album John Travolta Wannabe, a re-release of mini album, Roly Poly Copacabana, and another mini, Black Eyes. In all, T-ara promoted 3 singles (“Roly Poly”, “Roly Poly in Copacabana”, and “Cry Cry”), in the latter half of 2011 alone, with little break in between these promotions. 2012 was just as full for the overworked group, with T-ara starting right away promoting “Lovey Dovey” and then later coming back through “Day by Day”. And even after going through one of the biggest controversies seen by K-pop in recent times, CCM still planned a comeback for T-ara with “Sexy Love”, and there’s word of even more for the remainder of the year, which would carry on to early 2013. I haven’t even begun to talk about the group’s Japanese promotions.
This sort of strenuous activity has reached new heights, to the point that it can be seen to be hampering the girls while they complete their schedules. Not only have some turned up looking weak and overworked, some have not been able to produce their otherwise lively stage charisma, and this can only be attributed to their malnourished states. In the case of T-ara, the girls have repeatedly spoken out about how they wish for a break from promoting. I concur as this over-promotion doesn’t seem to be working in favour of fanbase numbers, anyway. As it is, the girls are still under much fire for their recent controversy, so keeping a low profile seems like the smarter way to go.
Back on the notion of over-performing, one song out of a series of promotions could give some groups their big breaks, but it runs the risk of making the group sound repetitive, or even sub-par with the little time allowed for polishing the tracks between releases. Calling on the example of T-ara again, the girl group falls victim to this since while “Roly Poly” drew in tons of fans, and “Lovey Dovey” intrigued through its dance, the same old Shinsadong Tiger progression definitely got old by the time “Sexy Love” came around. And while “Day by Day” is definitely one of the most intriguing things to have come from T-ara, its supposed followup “Day and Night” proved to be anything but, going the route of the repetitive and unoriginal when compared to its own predecessor.
Furthermore, over-promoting isn’t necessarily the best idea since it takes away the hype and excitement of waiting for the group in question to return. Plainly, there won’t be as much excitement for a group’s return if they barely left the K-pop scene to begin with. A group can achieve just as much, if not more, attention or sales through a highly anticipated comeback rather than multiple consecutive promotions with little fanfare.
For example, let’s take a look at everyone’s favorite rookie group at the moment, B.A.P. The group, despite only debuting earlier this year, has already released and promoted six singles to go along with three mini albums, not including any repackages. While I still haven’t gotten tired of B.A.P.’s sound and image (yet), I don’t really anticipate the group’s returns as much as I did when they were still fresh from debut. When I heard they were going to release a repackage for their most recent mini No Mercy, it was just mere contemplation before I thought little else of the matter.
Of course, as a fan, I’ve been happy about their popularity, and for the fact that they constantly have new material for fans to enjoy. But when it becomes a norm, it nearly always equates to something no longer newsworthy. As such, a comeback should never seem like a passable thing since they should always be seen a headliner; they should be advertised as the return of a well-missed group that has improved during their time away from the spotlight, a group ready to “show new sides of themselves”, as companies word it. A comeback should be advertised as something that would literally shatter the industry even if the actual material doesn’t reflect that. And B.A.P.’s return doesn’t always reflect that since we see them so often, to the point that it’s hard to be surprised at what they do due to our familiarity with them. And honestly, I just want the boys to get a break. They’re only rookies, and while I understand rookies should do everything in their power to gain attention, a little break would do these guys good.
And lastly, even if a group doesn’t hinder in quality and even if they find a popular song, over-promoting still does not guarantee nor secure popularity. To illustrate this, I’m going to have to use the subject of our recent exchange, U-Kiss, who was similarly on overdrive this year, releasing 3 main singles “DoraDora”, “Believe”, and “Stop Girl”. U-Kiss’s quality definitely did not slide, and the guys even found a song that could potentially be a hit (judging from the positive reactions) through “Stop Girl.” However, despite all of this, U-Kiss still hasn’t experienced that major surge in popularity, making their previous constant promotions somewhat for naught.
But that isn’t to say over-promoting isn’t a bad thing. I already gave its positives above, and it honestly does work in many cases. For example, there’s Infinite. Back in 2011, the group had much time in the spotlight, promoting four main songs (not including digital singles, which Infinite also had an abundance of). Their over-promotion definitely boosted their popularity and secured it — with hits “Be Mine” and “Paradise” proving to be very popular, even giving the group some of their first wins — to the point where they have been able to stay fairly relevant in 2012 with only one release so far in “The Chaser”.
For all its disadvantages, over-promoting can come across as a desperate attempt for attention, done to the detriment of our beloved idols. While it’s justifiable for rookies to resort to over-promotion to achieve relevancy, it is questionable for more established groups as these attempts can be seen as a testament of a group’s true status in the hierarchy of K-pop. Conversely, they can also be a testament of how greedy and evil a group’s CEO is, and how little control idols have in their scheduling.
In conclusion, sure, over-promoting has its pluses, and it can still get the job of attracting popularity done. However, this will likely come with major costs that affect everything from health, quality of music material, as well as the hype surrounding a comeback. For these reasons, solo efforts can prove to be better alternatives as they not only attract new fans, but they also keep the group’s name in circulation and in the public eye.
But what do you Seoulmates think? Do you like having your idols constantly in the K-pop scene at all times? Or do you think a little time apart can do a little good in your idol-fan relationship? As always, express yourselves below!
(Core Contents Media, NH Media, Woollim Entertainment, TS Entertainment)