2011 and Beyond: K-Pop Groups to Keep an Eye On

Well, the first four months of 2011 has gone by – we’ve seen a lot of new groups debut in that short span of time, such as Rania and Dal★Shabet, as well as some amazing comebacks from the likes of Big Bang and CN BLUE.

With what seems like a group either debuting or coming back every week, it can be a little hard to keep up with the breakneck pace that is the Korean music industry; it can definitely be said that K-Pop travels at much a faster pace than its American brethren – one of my acquaintances was very surprised when I told him that the average lifespan for an idol group is less than 10 years, and they’re lucky if they reach 5. (Side note: Big Bang has just broken that curse by being the first idol group on record to re-sign their contract with YG Entertainment for another 5 years.)

With the industry being what it is, keeping up with all the headlines can be hard, to say the least. There are myriads of groups out there that are clamoring for your attention; rookie debuts, comebacks from celebrated seniors, and everything in between.

That being said, here’s my list of the groups to keep an eye on in 2011 – keep in mind that they might not be necessarily “new” groups; just groups that, I feel, have a ton of potential to make this upcoming year theirs.

1. Dal★Shabet 

Dal★Shabet was the first rookie group to debut this year; they created headlines for being the brainchild of E-TRIBE, one of the most prominent composers working in the K-Pop industry. They debuted with their first single, “Supa Dupa Diva”, and recently made a comeback with their second single, “Pink Rocket” (insert hormonal teenager joke here).

Even though they’re not the most talented singers in the world – nor the prettiest, nor the ones with the most stage presence – Dal★Shabet’s success can be broken down into one clear component: their success in developing their individual personalities.

When a girl group escapes from the mindset of the “many” – as in, being regarded as simply a gaggle of girls – and start to create their own distinct personalities, their fan base has that much more potential to be widened. For example, let’s take the case of the ultra-popular SNSD – why are they regarded as the Queens of the K-Idol world? In a word, they managed to diversify. Let’s be honest here: SNSD’s music isn’t the pinnacle of K-Pop. I can easily think of a dozen songs off the top of my head that trump every single one of theirs. Yet, they have an explosive fanbase that devote themselves to everything SNSD.

This can be chalked up to the nursing of the girls’ individual personalities – when you actually get to talk to the SNSD fans, you’ll quickly realize that they all have a “bias” – one, or two members that they favor over others. (I’m personally a Seohyun bias.) Most of the fans follow the same path: one of the members caught their eye, then they gradually became fans of the other members as well – thereby becoming “SNSD fans”. It doesn’t hurt that all the members have their own unique personalities – Yuri’s the sexy one, Seohyun’s the chaste and virginal one, Taeyeon’s the dork, etc. etc.

With Dal★Shabet accomplishing this crucial task – establishing their own unique personalities – in such a short period of time, they’ve managed to secure their fanbase. Having safely traveled past the first few months – when the fates of idol groups are decided – they have put down their roots that are slowly working to entrench them in the K-Pop industry. I think it’s safe to say that Dal★Shabet is here to stay, which makes them the first idol group in 2011 (in my opinion) to do so.

2. Rania

…Huh? Oh, that’s right. I’m writing an article.

Rania is noteworthy for two reasons: they were produced by the famous American producer Teddy Riley, and they were the focal point in a controversy that erupted over their “scandalous” choreography, costumes, and lyrics for their first single, “Dr Feel Good”.

Judge for yourself:

Yeah, not exactly PBS material there.

In any case, they’ve agreed to reform their costumes and rework their choreography, and apparently Teddy Riley isn’t too happy with that – he said, and I quote, “No matter what, I’ll never understand these standards.”

Well, Mr. Teddy Riley, I have one thing to say to you:

When in Rome…

Okay, so Rania has several things going for them. Their vocals are out of this world; apparently they spent 4 years training for their debut, and it shows. Secondly, they take to the stage like a fish takes to water. I’ve never seen a more visually appealing girl group since SNSD came out in 2007 (and some might disagree with the last part of that statement). They all look mature and sophisticated – if it wasn’t for their costumes, you’d probably see them on the curbsides of Paris, sipping coffee and discussing fashion trends.

But alas, the reason why they’re all over the news right now isn’t because of their vocals or their beauty. Instead, it’s because of something decidedly quite less appealing. And not to put too fine of a point on it, but that absolutely stinks. The focus should be put on the producer, not the girls themselves – they’re not the ones that chose to dress up in that outfit, and choose that particular song to sing (which is actually a pretty good song, if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics).

Dear Mr. Riley, the next time you decide to release music in a foreign country, do your research first – the Korean music industry is much different from America’s. We have different rules and regulations, and a whole another culture. Consider Rania a lesson in future planning.

But amidst all the controversy, there is one good thing to come out of the media firestorm – Rania is now known by virtually everyone in South Korea. And like the Great Houdini once said, “There is no publicity that is bad publicity.”

Yes, Rania’s been under a lot of fire, and yes, their image isn’t too good right now, but if they manage to spin all the attention on them into something positive – if they come back and show everyone just what exactly they’re capable of – they’ll be unstoppable. And all the bad things I’ve said about Teddy Riley notwithstanding, he’s a damn fine producer – if he learns to pick up the ropes of the K-Pop industry and learn how to work with it, there’s little doubt that he could potentially turn Rania into a powerhouse.

Personally, I’ll be waiting with bated breath.

3. Dalmatian

Dalmatian isn’t technically a “rookie” group, per se – they had their debut last year with their first single, “Round 1”, and recently made a comeback with their second single, “Lover Cop” and “That Man Opposed”.

They were trained under MC Mong, who is one of the biggest names in the Korean entertainment industry – and who just got sentenced to 8 months in prison for obstruction of justice. But that’s another story for another day. Back to Dalmatian.

There’s a sense of “freshness” in Dalmatian’s music that I just couldn’t find in any other recently-debuted boy idol groups. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and embrace their “rookie” status with pride. All that makes for a group that’s very “loveable” – they all seem like they could be your next-door buddies, and the same feel continues in their music – “Round 1” and “That Man Opposed” are both easy-listening tracks that no one will have a hard time with. In contrast to tracks from other new boy groups such as B2ST’s “Soom” and Teen Top’s “Supa Luv”, which sound like overwrought efforts to make themselves bigger than they are, Dalmatian’s music is “friendly”, upbeat, and put simply, a smile wrapped up in a box.

Their talents can’t be ignored, either – they all have had years of training, and it shows. (I’m coming to think that there’s a direct relation between the number of years spent training and vocal talent.) Some of them have even had previous experience in the music industry – one of the rappers, for instance, was actually a choreographer for an entertainment company before he was scouted by MC Mong for his new project group.

With that much talent and skill, combined with great music, it’s hard to see Dalmatian not going one step further and achieving even more in the industry. They’ve already made a mark with “That Man Opposed” – it’s going to be interesting to see where they go next.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Hello. I really like this article. 🙂 I think you did a good job telling off Theodore Riley (IDEK if his name is Theodore but I’m calling him that anyway haha)! I actually like Rania’s vocals as well, but I guess they got dirtied by the dirty anyway. Haha! Anyway, can you make an article for Brave Girls, X-5 and Block B? I don’t understand when they aren’t on the list because Brave Girls has exceptional vocals, X-5 is totally awesome imo and Block B’s songs are catchy as hell. And while we’re at it, put in B1A4 who already managed to get a huge fanbase just a few days after they debuted with OK! 😀 Thank you.

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