Trapped in fandom, ‘boy groups’ lose their throne to ‘girl groups’
There has long been a saying in the Korean music industry that “boy groups have fandoms, while girl groups have mainstream popularity,” but even taking into account this adage, boy groups are currently in crisis. Originally, this saying was common because girl groups had weaker fandoms than boy groups, and therefore won with mainstream popularity, but now even girl groups have powerful fandoms. Not only BLACKPINK and TWICE, but also rookie girl groups such as aespa, NewJeans and LE SSERAFIM have sold albums by the millions, recording as million-sellers, and BLACKPINK boasts a strong fandom of 1.5 million people, enough to hold a world tour that draws that many fans.
Jung Min-jae, a popular music critic, criticized, “Does it make sense to sell a million or two million albums without a hit song?” calling it a “really deformed phenomenon.” In fact, fans buy albums in bulk to collect photo cards inside and apply for fan sign events.
Looking at the top of Melon’s monthly chart over the past year, the only boy group song is Big Bang’s “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.” There are only a few boy group songs that catch the eye, such as Taeyang’s “VIBE” featuring BTS’s Jimin and Suga and Psy’s “That That,” and all 3-4th generation boy groups such as Seventeen, NCT, Stray Kids, and TXT were classic on the music charts. In online communities, there are many posts such as “boy group songs don’t get clicked easily” and “I don’t listen to boy group idol songs other than my favorite idol group.”
In particular, as powerful fandoms of boy groups with weak domestic popularity have emerged abroad, they have presented flashy performance-oriented songs that can appeal to overseas fans, with Stray Kids being a representative example. Kim Do-heon, a popular music critic, analyzed, “Since boy groups have a lot of fandom-oriented consumption and have achieved tremendous results, they have ended up making songs that satisfy fans, rather than trendy songs that appeal to all audiences. And this has raised the entry barrier for boy groups.”
Experts say, “It is now the time for a hit song to come out from a boy group.” Critic Jung Min-jae said, “Due to the activities of boy groups until now, it means they have gained many overseas fans and opened up overseas markets, but it seems that it is now time to pay attention to the domestic market.” People in the music industry are also aware of the need for a hit song that can secure popularity. Psy also recently told members of the boy group TNX that he has raised, “Let’s try to make more easy-to-listen and popular music that everyone can enjoy now.”