K-pop groups embrace new concepts to reach out to audiences

Groups RIZE, left, and ILLIT, representing the 'fifth generation' of K-pop idols / Courtesy of SM Entertainment, Belift Lab

The K-pop industry is undergoing a notable transformation, departing from its prior emphasis on intricate “worldviews” or “universes” as pivotal elements for the success of idol groups.Until recently, the success of K-pop idol groups was thought to rely heavily on meticulously crafted universes and narratives. However, the landscape has undergone a dramatic change, with idol groups now prioritizing songs that highlight real-life experiences and resonate with widespread public empathy, rather than elaborate worldviews.This raises the question: What has caused the decline of these detailed universes, previously considered essential for success in the K-pop market?The rise of worldview-centric K-pop gained momentum with third and fourth-generation idols, especially following BTS’s global acclaim for their compelling narrative of vulnerable youth and personal development.Inspired by BTS’s success, many Korean entertainment agencies vigorously adopted this strategy, creating detailed universes for their groups which helped them impact the global market.These intricate narratives not only set groups apart but also effectively engaged fandoms by offering a deeper sense of belongingand connection through the integration of music and storytelling.They evolved into powerful marketing tools, generating diverse revenue streams through related merchandise, webtoons, novels, and more.

However, the landscape began to shift with the latter half of the fourth generation and the emergence of the fifth. Newer groups are less likely to be structured around a fixed narrative framework.An example of this trend can be seen in the groups RIZE and TWS. These two bands, often referred to as representatives of the fifth generation of K-pop, have steered away from traditional universe concepts.Instead, they have distinguished themselves by creating unique genres that reflect their individual styles and convey realistic emotions. For instance, RIZE explores “Emotional Pop,” focusing on key themes such as emotions, empathy, and easy listening. Meanwhile, TWS introduces “Boyhood Pop,” capturing the everyday stories of boys.The recent debut of the girl group ILLIT also highlighted this trend, focusing on the authentic feelings of teenage girls without the need for a complex backstory.The most significant reason for this shift can be found in the changing music trends within the K-pop market. Starting with the meteoric rise of New Jeans in 2022, the domestic music trend has gradually shifted toward easy listening.Songs within this genre, which transcend fandom boundaries and achieve mainstream appeal, have continuously succeeded, prompting idol groups to transition from intense concepts to a lighter, more comfortable style.As the music softened, naturally, the concepts of idol groups evolved as well. Intense performances and songs projecting elaborate universes have moved away from being the center of trends, leading to a rapid decline in the prominence of 카지노사이트킹 universe-based idol concepts.

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