Now before you shout "Off with your head!" take a moment to really think about your favorite idol group and their last live performance. Maybe they were excellent and blew us all out of the water... or maybe that backtrack was louder than we expected and they still need a few more months' practice with their vocal trainers.
K-Pop idols are crafted for mere entertainment. They are people with a variety of skills that are each showcased and presented for various purposes. Not only is the standard idol supposed to know how to sing and dance but they also have to be prepared for various activities such as radio programs, modeling sponsorships (like literally being plastered on anything and everything), television shows and the (more often than not these days) transition into becoming an actor.
Idols jump all across the border of the entertainment industry, so wouldn't it be fitting to label them more as entertainers rather than singers? I admit, there are many groups out there that have 1-2 talented lead vocalists that carry the group with well-executed songs. However, I feel they may be in an idol group because they need the option of variety in order to get their name out there through variety shows like 'Idol School' or 'Unpretty Rapstar.'
Idols are also quick to stay put where they are better suited. Look at Girl's Day's Hyeri for example - she is in a girl group but recently can't seem to walk away from the small screen of acting for dramas like the 'Reply' series. Yet, members like Minah are continuing to showcase their talent through solo albums or appearances on singing-oriented broadcasts. That is the slight, but real, difference between an idol trying to find his or her niche and someone who knows he or she want to be a singer.
Sometimes idols also appear to lack balance in certain skills necessary to truly be a singer. We have heard of numerous cases where an idol was simply "chosen off the streets for their good looks" or that they were an "ulzzang" before becoming an idol. Being a visual is not a talent. This is just another aspect that works well in entertainment.
Whether they start modeling or pull a 180 like Nine Muses and suddenly become idols, looks are simply just that - looks. They use their looks to rake in money for their companies and pay off their debts.
Suzy of miss A is another fine example. She was often seen singing quite well alongside her group members but now it appears she has become her own mega-idol entity due to her looks. Bouncing between one show or drama to a makeup ad the next, Suzy has become another poster child of Korea. I mean, their last track "Only You" is almost two years old. Proof is in the pudding, honey.
Sadly, there is even the common phenomenon of "who can't sing" even though they are "singers." People may have a bias, but everyone is guilty of pointing fingers at certain groups with a member who lacks vocal prowess. Hara (a previous member of KARA) has been in the line of fire for that for many years (see the MR video below for yourself), and now she has gone on to pursue acting and stars in more variety shows since the group's disbandment. If she were solely a singer, a disbandment would have had a larger effect on her career.
This is why big companies shovel out their money and force idols to work hectic schedules to undergo a multitude of projects - for the sake of return revenue. Because Hara is an entertainer, that is why it is an easy transition for her to star on television programs or venture out into different fields of work similar to Eric Nam or Amber of f(x) who are both MCing for shows and are involved in other independent projects recently. Some idols have even admitted they always wanted to act - being an idol is just the necessary step before that to gain traction. Some companies force them to debut as idols first so they can be more successful as actors later - and this seems to work fairly well, actually. It's even common for agencies to train their idols to not only sing and dance but also do well on variety shows. Sounds like a fun class!
People like someone who can do it all, and that is why big companies like JYP and SM are busting out large groups like TWICE, IOI, or even oldies like Super Junior. These groups consist of many members with many talents that contain something fitting for any person's taste. You don't see Adele, Mariah Carey, or Beyonce going on shows like 'Real Men' or 'Running Man' trying to scoop up popularity. They sing - and that is that (except for the few wonderful times when Beyonce starred in movies like 'Austin Powers: Goldmember' which was pretty great).
But let us not forget the meaning of an idol. Being an idol means you are revered by many, someone that people can look up to, replicate in their life, and even depend on to make them happy. The idols we know and love, including the ones I mentioned, do all of these things for us. However, not everyone wants to be a singer and singing isn't the only thing that makes people happy. Sometimes the variety, which is found through the entertainment aspects of an idol, is what makes them so popular and desirable.
Overall, our idols showcase a plethora of exciting talents that lead them into newer areas of entertainment we love to enjoy. Jessica is now modeling and working on her own fashion brand, Jay Park was once an idol but now makes his own music and runs his own company, Gyuri (another previous member of KARA) and Jo Kwon of 2AM are broadway/musical stars, and even entertainers like GOT7's Jinyoung can be seen dabbling in the acting world.
With so much variety, it is an honor and title of endearment to be called an entertainer. For those that look at as demeaning or disregarding an idol's talent for singing, I feel that the big picture has been missed. Idols are entertainers and they have many skills and outlets to continue entertaining us for years to come. For that, I am very grateful!