Reigning girl group ¡°Girls¡¯ Generation¡± is ahead of the game, for now.
By Han Sang-hee
The local pop scene is sizzling with an array of girl groups, both old and new, and the competition is expected to heat up with each band presenting distinctive sounds, fashion and personalities.
Girls' Generation and the Wonder Girls have been the top girl groups for the past two years, but now their thrones are starting to look a bit shaky as new groups loaded with new tricks have appeared.
The nine-member Girls' Generation, of SM Entertainment, released their new album ``Genie'' in June, donning a marine and military style for their new look. They have been topping charts on Internet music Web sites and music programs aired on television.
Despite the success, the group's image has been smeared by several incidents: First there was the rumor regarding an album cover that depicted a Japanese fighter jet; then the discord between band members; seen from clips taken by fans during rehearsals; and finally a plagiarism dispute, an allegation which later turned out to be false.
The Wonder Girls, of JYP Entertainment, on the other hand, are busy in the United States as the opening act of the Jonas Brothers' U.S. tour. The group was originally scheduled for 13 concerts, but after the girls surprised both fans and organizers with their witty handling of a technical delay, they were offered to open the entire 45 concerts.
Photos and clips of the five girls performing on stage dressed in their colorful retro outfits and matching wigs have captivated fans both here and abroad, giving a boost of pride and confidence to JYP head Park Jin-young.
Up and Coming
Meanwhile, other groups have started to attract fans, featuring different styles and sounds.
Among the most popular is the four-member 2NE1, created by the makers of Big Bang, YG Entertainment.
Comprised of Dara, CL, Bom and Minzy, the group's debut under the moniker ``21'' was not an easy one, as netizens found a singer going by the same name. The agency quickly changed the group's name to ``2NE1.'' Despite the incident, the group has been soaring in popularity, dubbed ``the girl version of Big Bang.''
The group's first mini-album hit No.1 on online music charts, gathering pre-orders of 50,000 copies even before its release. Their documentary, ``2NE1TV,'' featuring Big Bang members and YG Yang Hyun-suk himself, is aired every Wednesday on the cable channel Mnet.
Unlike Girls' Generation and the Wonder Girls, 2NE1 is known as an edgier group, with provocative outfits, lyrics and moves. While most groups focus on pretty, sexy looks and dancing in formation, YG's band jumps all around the stage, showing off their individual styles through clothes, accessories and dance moves.
While 2NE1 is busy climbing the competitive ladder of girl groups, others have joined in, including 4 Minute, After School and T-ara.
Having debuted last month, the five-member 4 Minute is gaining popularity with their recent track ``Hot Issue.'' Claiming that they will captivate fans in just four minutes, the group is the youngest among the other bands, with all members born in the '90s. Bearing a former member of the Wonder Girls ¡ª Hyun-ah ¡ª gave them a head start in attracting the attention of music fans, and the group is slowly catching up to the pack with catchy songs and their ``candy funky'' style. The group was also appointed as the goodwill ambassador for the Seoul Character and Licensing Fair.
After School, who recently made headlines for plans to collaborate with singer Sohn Dam-bi, is another aspiring girl group heading to the top of the charts. The six-member group is based on the concept of a school, with plans to ``graduate'' and ``admit'' members throughout the group's career. Early this year, Sohn briefly joined the group, while 21-year-old Uee was accepted as a new member. Like many other groups, After School stresses the importance of individual members having projects outside of the band, such as Uee's appearance in the drama ``The Great Queen Seondeok.''
T-ara hasn't even made their debut yet, but the six-member collective has garnered interest among fans and various companies. The group's agency, Core Contents Media, announced that seven companies have been in contact about commercials, but a decision has been taken to wait until the band's debut to make any deals. Meanwhile, two members of the group, Bo-ram and Ji-yeon, will appear in the upcoming horror television series ``Hon'' on MBC.
Forming the lineup of T-ara was difficult, as the band saw several members leave, but the group will finally make their debut on television program Radio Star July 29.
So why the recent surge in the number of girl bands? Many fans today tend to focus on a single member, which makes it easier for them to like the whole group, while others prefer to choose their favorites. But, either way, it is a win-win situation for the bands.
``Even having only one popular member can bring a synergy effect to the whole group. Agencies are looking to bring more variety and allow fans to choose their favorite members,'' a former manager of a girl group told The Korea Times.
Another entertainment insider added that now many members tend to broaden their horizons by jumping into acting, modeling and even hosting television shows.
``Then they come back and work as a group. It's hard to succeed in everything, but that's the risk many members and agencies are taking,'' he said.