How was being a soloist before?
If you’ve been into K-Pop for some years, you surely remember those times when solo artists were almost always under groups in terms of popularity. Because of the foundation of the genre itself or just the lack of representative soloists, the first names that comes to my mind (not necessarily accurate) are Suzy, IU (Korea’s Younger Sister), BoA, Lee Hi, etc.
At least in the Kpop-sphere, women has been dominant. If we get into R&B and hip-hop, we could surely mention some important male names; and with that being said, this affirmation is probably more arguable.
The born of this new generation of soloists have come to change the game, and a number of them have something in common; they come from a K-Pop group, not implying the dissolution of the group.
As I mentioned before, artists like IU has always been successful in Korea, but that’s just the exception. Right now, you have Sunmi as an example of a good transitioning from a GG (girl-group) to a solo artist. As a short indent, right now all the Wonder Girls except Hyolin has debuted as soloist. Some with their old friend JYP (YuBin) and some with a new company (Sunmi and YeEun), but the young blood is also fighting for their place. ChungHa has developed an important fan base in such small time, even Heize with important collaborations with Jay Park and Dean has become a referent.
A good transition
If you do not mind, I will take Wonder Girls as an example for the next explanation, risking showing my bias towards them. An undoubtable sad news was revealed in 2017 by JYP Entertainment. Shortly after celebrating their 10-year anniversary, Wonder Girls would be dissolved. They’re the first group to get into the US market with songs like “Nobody”, “Irony”, and “Tell me” that marked their career as one of the most successful groups in K-Pop history.
With probably one of the riskiest comeback ever in their song “Why So Lonely”, the group composed their first song and performed as a band; implying the learning of instruments, while keeping the characteristic vocals and choreography. In my opinion, that song became one of the best songs in their repertoire.
However, this probably triggered something even more important; the motivation to go for a solo career after 10 years of group work. The desire for individual expression becomes necessary and the Wonder Girls are the perfect example.
One of the former members, YeEun took a totally different route under the stage name HAT:TFELT, with a more indie style of singing mixed with a R&B-ish instrumental. Both of the double-singles released after her departure from the “The Asian Soul” label embeds a magnificent storyline in the sound, making it even more nostalgic; especially when you see the music videos and you can really see the representation of her feeling in the composition.
Probably the most successful ex Wonder Girl is Sunmi, with heavy instrumental chorus and sticky songs, her success as soloist is undoubtable. “Gashina” has been covered by every important artist in some point, and sticking to this concept clearly darker than her work as a Wonder Girl; she has released hit after hit, “Heroine” and “Siren” are no left behind in terms of popularity.
As a personal favourite and again I may be a bit biased, Yubin’s solo is the best one. She was always catalogued as a rapper and releasing a City Pop inspired track was surely a bold move. Considering the work involved behind scenes and the involvement of Yubin on the composition, the aesthetics in this comeback is surely one of the most original. I wish they wouldn’t have copyright problems with the song that was supposed to be released with “Lady”, but be sure that she will get in through the big door as a soloist.
We can see that a pinch of personality affects the result in music. There is hardly a better transition to solo as the Wonder Girls members.
Will this be a trend?
As noted before, this seems to be the trend for those groups who have been working for a long time in the K-Pop scene. Not necessarily to dissolve, but as a puff of fresh air that is always needed. This trend doesn’t discriminate against newcomers such as Jennie from BLACKPINK, who is also debuting in her solo career; LOONA’s amazing marketing strategy in promoting all members through solo songs, etc.
All we can do by now is enjoy the magnificent work these artists are doing, and appreciate the change in the industry, which probably a lot of us have been waiting for.