20140820_seoulbeats_winner2With the debut of Winner, we may finally draw comparisons between the next generation boy groups of the Big 3. Which group currently has the upper hand? Who will emerge victorious in the end? Who’s overated/underrated at the moment? How will this change?

Camiele: I’ll start from the last question. Exo is by far and away the most overexposed group out there. I’d almost be tempted to say overrated, except I quite honestly only hear talk about them being the best this or that from fans of the group (who are loud and many). All the hype surrounding them built most people up for something exceptional, when in all actuality all we got was the same thing that every other group has, only with 12 members (now 11).

Got7 are better dancers than Exo. I can’t speak to them compared to Winner because we got two ballads as debut singles, making Winner potentially the most interesting debut this year. Got7’s songs are catchy as far as I can tell. I like their confidence and the fact that we’ve got actual b-boys in the group. They’ll eventually grow out of the over-the-top arrogance (it’s part and parcel of being a younger b-boy, but they do grow out of it), and hopefully that will mean more interesting music.

Winner edges Got7 for me in terms of being different than what’s been released from debut groups. The videos were a bit extra and heavy on the cheese, but the sound was there. Vocally, I’d say they’re all about the same level, though Exo disappoints me by having at best three really good singers out of 11 members (they can all carry a tune, but it’s all rather “meh” to me). Winner gets a bit of a foot up because Seung-yoon has an amazing tone quality to his tenor, and the two falsettos — Tae-hyun and Jin-woo — have voices that are clear and strong.

As far as who’ll edge out whom…? In terms of my personal tastes and what I’m looking for in longevity, I’d have to give it to Winner. They edge Got7 vocally, and Exo is basically a group of cute kids with enough talent to be another K-pop group — the one difference, of course, being the company that backs them.

20140820_seoulbeats_got7_ceciLeslie: Exo definitely has a lot of exposure, which gives them an edge, especially after “Growl” and the resulting growth in their domestic fanbase. I wouldn’t call them overrated because they have a lot of talent in their group, but I think Got7 has the upper hand when it comes to dance and charisma. I absolutely adore Exo, but they just don’t have the same instant appeal as Got7 to me — and this is coming from a SM whore who’s no more than a casual fan of Got7.

Winner, though, beats out both groups vocally. I hadn’t ever heard anything from or about them — other than the fact that everyone’s been waiting forever for their debut — so I was pleasantly surprised by their vocal talent with their debut. Coupled with the fact that they’re backed by YG, I think they’ll make for strong competition for the others now that they’ve finally debuted.

The hard thing about comparing the three is that their strengths are all different so I’m really not sure who will come out the victor, but regardless I need to get my popcorn because it’s going to be great fun to watch.

Laverne: I feel the same as Leslie. I enjoy Exo’s music a lot but I’ve never been interested in them individually. Whereas with Got7, I haven’t been as keen about their music but they have so much charisma and personality that I can’t help but be captivated when they perform. They perform as if they’re having fun and completely adore what they’re doing and that will definitely help them in the long run.

Winner’s debut has been hyped and delayed for so long that I almost forgot they had talent. I did like their debut songs, especially “Color Ring” but whether they will continue to stay relevant or not is dependent upon how YG handles them. Exo has the edge popularity-wise, Winner has the edge music-wise and Got7, fittingly, is the dark horse in this trio of boy groups.

Lindsay: If it weren’t for all of the scandals and setbacks this year, I’d be confident in saying that Exo was going to continue to reign as the supreme boy band. However, their popularity has taken a hit that will set them back in terms of viral success. They’ve coasted on SM’s ability to create huge hype around about a boy group but the fans’ rose colored glasses are finally breaking. Will Exo be able to hold on to their popularity now that reality has butted in? I don’t think they’ll disband or anything, but I am also now doubtful that they will be the boy group of the century.

I admit I have less knowledge of the other two groups. Judging on debut, it seems like Winner is going to be popular and will have a good chance at a sustained career, but their style isn’t what you typically see with viral boy bands. While I think they may appeal to a broader, more diverse audience I am not convinced they will appeal to the largest audience which has long been K-pop’s measurement of success.

As for Got7, they hold almost no appeal to me personally but their classic boy band charm and endearing cockiness have won them many fans. As someone who spends lots of time keeping up with K-pop group news — even for groups I don’t like — I can safely say that marketing is Got7’s big challenge. I feel very disconnected from the group, news wise, and that isn’t a good sign.

20140820_seoulbeats_winner_minoAndy: As much as I absolutely love YG artists, I initially didn’t pay much attention to Winner, since I didn’t watch W.I.N: Who is Next. As soon as I heard that Mino was a member, I watched Winner TV and became excited about their debut. Musically, of the three groups, Winner is very much on top. They are not what you’d expect from a boy group. Yes, they have the usual make up, but their sound is so different. I think this difference will help with their longevity and reaching of a wider audience. Winner should be able to avoid the “trend-dol” label.

As to “trend-dols,” nobody is bigger than Exo. I am genuinely a fan of the group, despite their plethora of crappy title tracks – I still jam out to “Growl,” though. Exo has great talent and likability. They have just been overexposed to the point of exhaustion. If SM were to repackage the group (better title tracks, more equal individual exposure, and more organic promotion), EXO could end up being one of, if not the, best boy group the company has ever produced.

Got7 is definitely the underdog of the three; but that’s usually the case for JYP artists, right? They don’t receive the same amount of attention, but that doesn’t stop them from giving their all in their performances. They are a lot of fun to watch. Got7 also has such a great conglomeration of personalities, that they can charm practically anyone. Having a “foreign line” doesn’t hurt internationally, either.

Since Exo has a two-year jump start, they are clearly leading the pack. Winner seems poised to take over, if the all-kill is any evidence. If Got7 releases better tunes and gains more exposure, they’ll become a great contender. Since I like all three, I’ll be satisfied regardless.

Mark: It seems that the fates of these three groups will be largely determined by the fates of their three respective companies. Just because they are the designated “flagship” boy bands of the next generation, doesn’t necessarily guarantee them automatic success. In a way, Exo has largely established themselves as a major player with last year’s “Growl,” but the other two groups still have a long way to go. Even if Exo doesn’t become the next Super Junior, SM is still in good financial standing. On the other hand, JYP has got a lot riding on Got7 if it plans on regaining its position as part of the Big Three.

Winner is in a very peculiar situation because they are part of a class of new artists that YG is grooming for the new generation. Along with Lee Hi, Akdong Musician, Team B, and the upcoming girl group, YG is doing a great job so far of solidifying its industry standing for years to come. Which is why I think Winner is not being pushed as hard as the other two groups. They’re not looking for Winner to be the next Big Bang. Releasing two ballads and not displaying any bit of choreography during live stages isn’t exactly the most ideal debut marketing tactic, but it certainly sets them apart from other boy bands and it’s piqued my curiosity as to what type of identity this band will have going forth.

20121030_seoulbeats_exo_k_kaiWillis: I agree with most everyone in pointing to Exo as the ones that have the upper hand at the moment. Like Andy, I will credit that to their earlier debut. and despite some major controversies this year, they are still one of the biggest boy bands of the moment.

The bands all have a different type of appeal. I’m not sure who will emerge victorious in the end, but all three are quite capable of making a name for themselves. Winner caught my attention with their debut, so it will be interesting to see how they grow and what they tackle with their future releases.

I honestly believe that Got7 will become bigger in time. They only have two releases so far, but they are growing on me with their strong performances. At this point, out of the three bands they feel the most underrated for me.

Lo: I back Willis, although I do feel that Exo has hit its peak with “Growl”, what with everything else that’s happened. To recover the top spot, they’ll need their own “Sorry Sorry.” Winner has potential, but honestly, their debut lacked that that ungh needed to identify their music as theirs. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t make me want more. I’m putting my money on Got7 for the win. They’re the only one out of the three that made me want more of their music, and I recently realized I love watching them live. After seeing their “10 out of 10” cover on Mnet‘s Singer Game, ironically. But Got7 is definitely the underdog, lacking Exo’s fans and Winners musical skill.

Gaya: Even after Amy recommended I give Got7’s debut mini album another shot, I’m still not getting into the group. I’m also not much of a variety show watcher, so “Got Balls” continue to remain somewhat of an enigma to me. I think they will be fine, but need a decent hit or two in order to be a proper top tier group.

Exo’s earlier debut date gave them the headstart that puts them head and shoulders above the rest in terms of fame. They’ve managed to do a lot in the past two years, and as a result have built up a considerable fanbase and gained widespread domestic recognition. But, like Lo, I get the feeling that Exo have peaked musically; not because they are lacking in musical talent, but because they will likely not get many opportunities as a group to extend themselves and improve. With the way “Growl” is treated by SM as being on the same level as “Gee” and “Sorry Sorry,” and the size of Exo-L, SM probably feels like they’ve built Exo up enough for them to survive the rest of their career on fandom and legacy alone. As for personality… they’re nice enough boys, but are still pretty green on variety. Perhaps Sehun and Kai‘s turn on Running Man showed more potential?

Winner’s debut album is a decent listen, and they already have a pretty unique sound. And, to be honest, they are going to be good on variety if their pre-debut show Winner TV is any indication. The only doubt I have is whether or not YG himself sees Winner as the alpha group the other two are to their respective companies. Their debut is something different and it will be interesting to see how they are handled by their agency; that is going to be the biggest factor affecting their success, in my opinion.

(YouTube. Images via: JYP Entertainment, YG Entertainment, So Cool, Ceci, SM Entertainment)