Just a little under 10 years ago, the names that were buzzing across allkpop and everyone's newsfeeds were Super Junior, KARA, 2PM, f(x), TVXQ, After School, B2ST, Brown Eyed Girls and much more. Now the individuality and sound of this era is dead and manifested into the talented but admittedly cliche-ridden, trend oriented groups such as TWICE, BTS, NCT 127, Red Velvet, Seventeen, IOI, ASTRO, etc. that we all know of today.
While some of these groups have done amazing, respectable things in their own right, there is no denying that they are pushing a new generation of K-Pop that was bridged together by previous artists. Check out a sick mashup of some of 2009's hits below and take a trip down memory lane.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not trashing the current artists. I'm a big fan of TWICE, G-Friend, recently disbanded IOI, and NCT 127 just as much as the next K-Pop fan. However, I did experience a generation of K-Pop groups that started the initial push of the Hallyu Wave (especially internationally).
I worry half of the new readers and fans would not even have a clue that these groups existed. It is even quite possible that half of these current fans of K-Pop wouldn't be fans of the genre without the breakthrough groups such as Wonder Girls, 2NE1, Big Bang, KARA and Girls' Generation, who definitely paved the way internationally.
A "Step" in the right direction!
During that era, new groups had made an impact on younger and older generations alike, paid homage to their veteran singers and styles, and really had an individual sound for each group. Not to mention a distinct image and characteristic that made the group stand out.
Beforehand, fans wanted to buy whatever the idols were wearing and imitate their style. Now, fans simply buy whatever merch has their logo on it (mostly from unauthorized stores). There is nothing unique to imitate since the image is becoming so obviously been-there-done-that. Alongside that, there are an overwhelming amount of nugu-groups, with good-looking but talentless members and plenty of debuts heading nowhere.
If these new groups are even successful, they are riding off of the efforts of a previous generation. Idols used to train for as long as 8-10 years but now rookies simply go on a show and become an instant success or are scouted off the streets. I'm not blaming these newbie's methods of achieving fame, but some artists haven't taken the time to mold themselves the way older generations did. That is what made K-Pop so different. They worked hard for their image, sound and attention-grabbing flair rather than jumping on the bandwagon that will sell them best.
Big named groups like Girls' Generation, EXO, 2PM, and f(x) spent years in the practice room and are some of the few surviving groups of the generation. But sadly these artists are even taking hits with the loss of some members. Fans can't get over the fact that some of these group's line-ups have changed and even created stagnant inactivity for groups. If members don't pick up solo activities like Amber of f(x) has, for example, they will (most likely) end up like Minzy from 2NE1. Dust in the wind.
Yea, I said it.
Some groups feel they can't even meet with today's sound and style because so many other groups have dominated the new generation's stage. Older groups are being pushed to the side or coming close to quits (I'm talking about Rainbow, Dal Shabet, and Nine Muses here). Poor agency management is a key factor, I know - but we can't ignore the fact that K-Pop's recent direction/style is pandering to the Western trends (Trap, Hip Hop, etc) alongside the new, fresh faces on stage. Mandatory military service for some of K-pop's biggest boy groups haven't helped matters as well but that's a story for another day.
The demand for music is changing and sadly our older generation groups can't (or simply won't) change with it. Music from 2006-2010 is starting to become an oldie-but-a-goodie rather than a, "Hey, that's my jam" sort of song.
Mortified by the fact their music is old now. T_T
Did a generation die? Frankly, yes it did. But how? Because K-Pop has evolved into something different than what it used to be.
New groups today are just handed silver spoon opportunities with numerous events and concerts abroad, thanks to the increased interest in Korean culture these days - which is making them a face/representation of K-Pop for many newcomers. But, many new groups pander to the trends way too much, often appearing as try-hards with no real sense of musical identity.
With the disbandment of groups like the Wonder Girls, 2NE1, 4minute, and the like, that late 2000's sound and appeal we have grown to love has just vanished off the stage and become a memory.
If rookies aren't following the trends, the group's companies are pushing them to do something new and different, which in turn, loses that K-Pop element many older K-Pop fans fell in love with. It isn't the fact that it has "already been done," it is the fact that K-Pop is trying to be something it isn't in order to take advantage of their new found, worldwide attention. Don't go chasing waterfalls, K-Pop.