Throughout the history of K-Pop, various groups have been known to add new members to their existing line-up to adapt to the demands of the K-Pop industry. But how does adding new members fare for the groups that have done so? Does it bring more recognition and success? With their thinking caps on, OH!Press sat down to express their insights.
People come and go. That’s a norm in everyday’s life, and that includes a business slash entertainment industry that we all love, K-Pop. This time we will discuss about adding more member(s) to a group but I’d like to keep it general and simple.
Before we begin, let’s differentiate two types of groups relevant to our discussion. Type 1 group is a common/regular group or in our word a nugu and type 2 group is an established group. A group is not established if they have yet to achieve sizable amount of recognition and success with a strong fandom following, or public, or both to support their endeavour.
So why do companies/labels add members to an existing group? This usually transpires to less known groups from smaller companies. Recently, MBK has announced that two new members will be added to DIA which is now a 9-member girl group. An unpopular girl group, and a relatively small company. Let’s take Red Velvet for a comparison: Yeri was added to Red Velvet five (5) months after the group’s debut. This is a rare occurrence because it is unusual for a big company like SM Entertainment to add a new member to their group.
Is there even any correlation between those two? Yes, there is. Regardless of SM Entertainment status, they added Yeri to Red Velvet at a very fitting time. The group is still young and not yet recognized by many, and you can’t really find fault with that move as it works well without any visible drawback. Only a small hiccup like temporarily divided fandom but that is long gone. As for DIA, before the two new members addition they’ve added Eunchae, who was supposed to be one of the lead vocals for the group. The plan backfired as she doesn’t get that many singing parts and the group’s main vocalist (at that time) Eunice barely sings. Most of the singing parts are for either Chaeyeon or Yebin. Here’s the tricky part: Chaeyeon hard carried the group, but she can’t really sing. She’s not in the group for that purpose.
What went wrong there? What’s the point of adding Eunchae to the group? It brought more harm than good to DIA members as with more members are added in, the lesser the chances for them (minus Chaeyeon) to shine, and that is the price that they have to pay. Having many members also means that you have to split the income even more. More pressure for Chaeyeon to put food on the plate, lesser prospect for her friends to actually live an idol life.
Company/label factor comes into play here. MBK is a mere shadow of their past CCM days. Since rebranding, they have yet to achieve any kind of success, other than Chaeyeon succeeding in Produce 101 and debuting (again) as I.O.I member. Beyond that, they pretty much spent more than they can earn. With not enough income to properly sustain the group, DIA is suffering. Terrible concepts, cheap wardrobe, mismanagement, old school marketing ploy, and many more are concrete proofs of the misfits. People don’t take MBK seriously any longer due to frequent mishaps, and they’re slowly becoming a facepalming stock within K-Pop community. Sorry not sorry but Davichi and T-ara (soon) made the right moves.
If you can’t even manage one member properly, why bother adding more burden on yourself? Without proper planning, adding new members could bring more harm than good.
When we think of circumstances in which members are added to groups, a negative connotation generally arises from the infamous case of T-ara (which we have written a previous Press Talk on). Many also attribute After School’s rotational concept of adding members to being the reason for their decline in status over the years.
However, K-Pop’s second generation has also proven that it can work. Whilst it’s true that fans are displeased by adding members to their favourite group, it has happened harmoniously before. When Hyuna left and Yubin was added to the Wonder Girls and when Hyelim replaced Sunmi, although the fan reception was negative, both Yubin and Hyelim became essential members to the team. Their natural transition translated into friendship between all 6 long-standing members. Both Yubin and Hyelim continued with the group until their very last days.
As hard as it is to imagine a Wonder Girls without Yubin and Hyelim, it’s also almost impossible to think of a Super Junior without Kyuhyun. Kyuhyun is the strongest vocalist in Super Junior. And even though he joined a year after their début, his identity in the group is as important as any of the other members. KARA is another example that highlights the importance of the addition of members. KARA originally rose to popularity as 5 members, with Jiyoung and Hara joining after Sunghee left. And later when Nicole and Jiyoung left, Youngji became another member. The image of KARA as 5 was so strongly prevalent, it became hard to adapt to a 4 member KARA, although they were originally 4. But from Nicole, Jiyoung, Youngji, Kyuhyun, Yubin to Hyelim, all these people aided in bringing the spotlight back to their respective groups. Although controversy remains for some members, arguably Youngji, their identity as a member of their groups became a recurrent image in their celebrity careers.
On one hand, you have a bunch of groups it has worked for, but on the other, there’s T-ara and After School, where member discord and differences in determination have become an issue. A K-Pop group’s identity does generally include the number of members. Although I was originally a Wonder Girls’ fan, I would still be equally skeptical and perhaps against it, if a group I was a fan of added members after their début.
With Yeri’s addition to Red Velvet and her arguable contribution to the group, there still remains a closeted divide in the fandom. And with the most recent case of DIA, there is both potential for growth and failure. However, with Kim Kwangsoo’s management of the company, it’s easier for most to assume the worst. It’s perhaps a matter of time and case-by-case scenario. We just have to wait and see if DIA can survive and continue to strive.
It’s difficult for me to form a definite opinion on this without dissolving it to “the circumstances matter”. And truly they do. It depends on the group’s success at the moment to determine if adding a member is worth it. Granted, new additions will inevitably split the fandom. There also isn’t any guarantee that the new addition will add anything new to the table.
In Red Velvet’s case, Yeri had always been a planned member. Some people speculate that she was added during Ice Cream Cake era because she was still too young by Red Velvet’s debut era. Despite being a certified Red Velvet fan, I will not hesitate to admit that she hasn’t made a huge impact if we’re talking about talents. Red Velvet was well balanced before her and she is not the best at anything. However, she has solidified her place in the group and has some sense of variety (as was shown this year during Rookie’s promotions). Either way, we can never be too sure what SM had been planning for the group. And this situation is even more complex when you take into account the fact that Red Velvet had one of the most rushed debuts of the new generation.
With news of DIA adding two new members, one has to wonder why. As they are right now, they still lack popularity. The group is sometimes called Chaeyeon and the backup dancers, and it’s true. Unless their company plans on giving the other girls equal opportunities, adding more members, only to be overshadowed by Chaeyeon, is useless and will bring absolutely no profit. Let us not forget that this is the same company that added Hwayoung to T-ara and we all know how that turned out. At this point, we can do nothing but wait and see…
Adding new members to groups have provided mixed results in previous history. What needs to be discussed is the impact it has on existing and new members. There must be pressure on the original members to keep a high standard in every aspect of being a stock-standard idol. Further social, financial, and work pressures fall on the new members because it’s difficult to find their feet at first. Regardless of whether the whole group gets along or not, it’s hard not to be in competition with each other, especially when the newbies are playing catch-up. This situation is common for younger groups. For older groups like the Wonder Girls’, the KARA’s and the Super Juniors’ of the day; the impact isn’t as large because the groups already achieved relative success. The new members who joined later on might have even rejuvenated the ageing group. Overall, life is tough when there are any additional members or line-up changes, the pressures that everyone bares needs be addressed even though it’s inevitable.
Generally speaking, I would say that it’s not exactly the best idea to add new members. Unless the group is really young (i.e. when Yeri was added to Red Velvet early in their career), or the group is unestablished and doesn’t really have a significant following, I think it should be avoided. Many fans, at least in my experience, can get incredibly attached emotionally to a group. They become comfortable with the members and the dynamic that is present within the group. Throwing another member in can often be hard to accept when you’ve grown so used to the group as is, and that can cause backlash among fans. Not to mention I feel like many times the addition of members has been almost pointless as they often bring nothing fresh or new to the table performance wise.
That’s all from us and leave us a comment down below! Thank you for your time~