Fantagio’s new members, under the pre-debut name i-Teens, were recently introduced, and they included I.O.I’s Kim Do-yeon and Choi Yoo-jung. There have also been frequent rumors swirling about Jeon So-mi’s future under JYP Entertainment with the possibility of a group formed. Fantagio’s new group is expected out in July of 2017, but they’re at the end of a list of debuts or comebacks from former I.O.I. members and their original agencies. Which means it’s time to brush up on I.O.I and the winners from Produce 101’s first season.
I.O.I. was a girl group that sprouted out of the the TV show Produce 101 that appeared on Mnet in 2016. The 11 members were chosen from 101 trainees from 46 different entertainment agencies. The group only existed from April 1st, 2016 to January 31st, 2017. During this time, the group released the singles “Crush,” “Dream Girls,” “Whatta Man,” “Hand in Hand,” and the JYP-collaboration “Very Very Very.”
Since January 31, 2017, the majority of 11 members have been promoting full force with their original agencies. In 2017 alone, Pristin has debuted, DIA, Cosmic Girls and Gugudan have released new albums and Kim Chung-ha has released her own single. Despite being one of the world’s most beloved and fabled girl groups for a year, the members’ success has varied in with respective agencies; some are searching for footing, while others are trying to carve out their niche in the world of K-pop.
The most known quantity of the I.O.I. affiliated groups is Cosmic Girls, otherwise known as WJSN. Despite I.O.I. activities going on, Cosmic Girls and Yu Yeon-jung dropped “I Wish,” the follow-up EP to their 2016 album, “The Secret.” Cosmic Girls had the benefit of premiering a hit single before I.O.I kicked into full pace and was able to promote the members of their choice. Along with Yu Yeon-jung, there’s also Cheng Xiao, Bona, and fake “Chinese lesbian billionaires” Wu Xuan Yi and Meng Mei Qi.
Compared to the other groups, Cosmic Girls have been the biggest success. Several award shows across Asia named Cosmic Girls as their rookie of the year in 2016. On top of that, WJSN have peaked at four and six on the Gaon Album Chart for their past two albums. Part of that is undoubtedly to their ability to market the entire group rather than their single former I.O.I. member.
While WJSN has the most mainstream success of I.O.I related group, there are other groups that have used their face time to benefit new groups. Among them are the newly-debuted group Pristin.
One of the most hyped 2017 debuts, Pristin, dropped Hi! Pristin, an electrifying first album complete with one of the catchiest singles of 2017, “Wee Woo.” Pristin includes squirrely Im Na-young and Kyulkyung (formerly Pinky). The album was written and produced with the help of the women, which is almost unheard of in modern K-pop. Bae Sung-yeon is the star of the credits, with musical or lyrical attributions on every song but one.
It seems Pledis Entertainment is following a recipe for success while letting the women add their flair to it. The first single paired simple, catchy choreography with a dose of spice through flying kicks. The group also gives focus to their other stars Xiyeon, Jung Eun-woo, Roa, Rena, and fitness expert Yuha in their own individual scenes. Pristin might have the most potential to survive without the perpetual reminder they have two I.O.I. stars.
Pristin, along with Gugudan, are the two debuted groups that sport two Produce 101 finalists. Gugudan has Kim Se-jeong and Kang Mi-na. Gugudan released the cutesy/fantasy “Wonderland” in 2016 off the back of Kim Se-jeong and Kang Mi-na’s popularity in I.O.I. Unfortunately, despite peaking at 35 on Gaon single charts, the song seemed to fall flat and was little more than a promotion for Kim Se-jeong and Kang Mi-na. After a rather unspectacular debut, Gugudan decided it was time to bring the attitude.
The new single from Act 2: Narcissus, “A Girl Like Me” is a sassy, in-your-face song that highlights what made the Produce 101 pair famous. The duo provide aggressive and beautiful interjections by Kim Se-jeong and a brazen rap by Kang Mi-na. Jellyfish Entertainment took notes and helped push others into the spotlight, including a rap for Sally and plenty of lines for Hana, Han Hae-bin, and Kim Na-young.
While Cosmic Girls, Pristin, and Gugudan have the most potential among the I.O.I. related groups, there is still the show’s winner, Jeon So-mi. The most recent news is that JYP is “Exploring various options including girl group.” Instead, there were ridiculous rumors of her joining Twice as a door-knocking specialist in their release of “TT.”
Either way, Jeon So-mi is in an odd place. She’s young enough to debut in a group, but not old enough to lead a group. She’s been active in the Korean entertainment business though. She has appeared in Eric Nam’s single, “You, Who?” She has also hosted The Show and appeared on Sister’s Slam Dunk Season 2. No matter what happens, JYP Entertainment has shown they have the tools to handle and produce mega stars such as Wonder Girls, Twice and GOT7.
These six members have the highest chance of success in post-I.O.I. era. Despite that, there are still five other members living their dreams, but it’s too early to tell of their success. Of the debuted groups, DIA and Jung Chae-yeon might be the most puzzling case of them all. At first, the group focused so heavily on Jung Chae-yeon and neglected many of the other members. It didn’t help that their first singles didn’t have a wide appeal. Once “Mr. Potter” dropped, the group navigated to a new front, bringing out members such as Ki Hui-hyeon (formerly Cathy, and another Produce 101 participant), and Ahn Eun-jin.
MBK Entertainment added two new singers and promoted more of the group before the release of the trot album YOLO in April of 2017. YOLO has been a relative success for the group as Jung Chae-yeon and the other eight members helped pick up a boy in the lead single, “Will You Go Out With Me.”
DIA isn’t the only group with questions about their future. The new group from the agency Fantagio still has to debut. For now, the group is simply known as i-Teens and will feature Choi Yoo-jung and Kim Do-yeon. The group is set to debut in July of 2017, but there hasn’t been much news besides member releases.
There are also a few former I.O.I. members without groups who might get lost in the pipeline, Kim Chung-ha being the most likely victim. Kim Chung-ha dropped a solo ballad, “Week” at the end of April under her agency, MNH Entertainment. While an extremely talented dancer and vocalist, Kim Chung-ha is without a group and a big agency to back her up. It’s hard to say what will happen with Kim Chung-ha in the future. For now, Kim Chung-ha fans will only have the music video and recently released dancing video for “Week.”
Kim So-hye is another former I.O.I. member who could get lost after her success on Produce 101. Kim So-hye was one of the surprises of the first season of Produce 101 since she had no dancing or singing experience. Fortunately, she seems to have the drive to be successful. Since she was without an agency, she founded S&P (Shark & Penguin) Entertainment and opened a cafe (Penguin’s Cafe) to connect with fans. There has been no indication she’s releasing music, but a 2017 acting debut is anticipated.
The former I.O.I. members have had their hands full. But now it’s time for them to find their true potential now that the year-long experiment has come to an end. It seems Cosmic Girls, Pristin, Gugudan, and Jeon So-mi have the highest chance of success since they’ve already released bops or are in a promising agency. DIA still has something to prove, but YOLO is a step in the right direction from past releases. iTeens and Fantagio still have yet to debut, so it’s hard to guess their potential. The rest of the idols find themselves in a tight spot with a seeming lack of resources from their agency. Until a reunion happens, we’re left surviving on the remnants of a very very very successful experiment.