Summer is a high time for K-pop girl bands to dominate the Korean pop scene often claimed by their well-established male counterparts.
This summer, a wave of rising-star girl bands is aiming to claim the highly-competitive summer record market left open by the exit of a number of heavyweight girl groups last year.
The years 2016 and 2017 saw a string of successful, so-called second-generation girl groups disband, including Kara, 4minute, 2NE1 as well as Sistar and Wonder Girls.
Those groups debuted in the late 2000s and were the second generation of K-pop girl groups to garner international fame after their predecessors, the first generation girl bands, like S.E.S and Fin.K.L, pioneered the market in the late 1990s.
Two-year-old hip-hop group BLACKPINK, from YG Entertainment, is among the most prominent female acts looking to dominate the scene this oncoming season.
Returning from a one-year pause since their last single, the quartet dropped last week the EP “Square Up,” led by the title track “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du,” a hip hop song with a trap beat.
The song produced by YG’s in-house producer Teddy Park comes with an addictive refrain, “Hit you with that ddu-du ddu-du,” and a finger gun dance that matches the shooting sound. The track features a powerful hip hop dance performance, highlighting the swagger of the rare K-pop female hip hop act.
One of the other tracks, “Forever Young,” is a song fit to play against the summer backdrop. “I like ‘Forever Young’ the most. The more I listen, the more I like the song that brings back the mood of summer and a summer beach as well as a road trip,” Thai member Lisa said in a press conference last week.
The latest record release was a rare big step for the girl band, who are nicknamed “YG’s jewelry box” for their scarce supply of records and TV appearances.
Another successful girl band, TWICE, announced this week their return to the K-pop scene with summer-season dance music “Dance the Night Away,” which is set for release on July 9.
The single is the first music release by the leading girl group of JYP Entertainment since its last well-performing EP, “What is Love?,” unveiled in early April and a key test of whether TWICE will repeat its dominance of the summer record market last year with EP “Signal.”
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Also in the pipeline is female sextet Apink who is gearing up for the release of another EP featuring their trademark angelic image, “One & Six,” on July 12.
The first record release since the group’s last EP “Pink Up” a year earlier is likely to be a major test of whether the seven-year-old girl band can stand the test of time, which hit other big-name bands, like 2NE1 and Sistar, as well as the dormant Girls’ Generation.
Group AOA came early to the summer K-pop scene, releasing its fifth EP, “Bingle Bangle,” in late May as a six-member act following the departure of member Cho-a, with the title song of the new record, also “Bingle Bangle”, registering as a moderate hit.
The sultry girl group season is also likely to bring out a string of other high-profile female names to the scene, including the forerunning Mamamoo and Red Velvet as well as new faces, like GFriend and Fromis 9.
That makes this summer a major barometer gauging the prospects for the longevity of most of the current-generation girl groups following the key market shake-up last year, a local critic said.
“Mamamoo and BLACKPINK, I think, have passed the test to some extent although BLACKPINK’s chart-ranking songs — ‘Ddu-Du Ddu-Du’ and ‘Forever Young’ — did not show major progress from its last single ‘As If It’s Your Last,'” K-pop critic Lim Jin-mo said. “In contrast, Red Velvet’s recent performances since ‘Red Flavor’ and ‘Bad Boy’ have been insipid.”
“This summer season is going to be a sort of arena where the fate of the new-generation girl groups will be put to a test. Those who survive will stay on, but those who don’t will not,” he said.
Lim cited “tight cohesiveness” among group members and their “musical competence” to appeal to the public as the two decisive factors shaping the K-pop scene for female acts this summer.
Source: Yonhap News