In 2012, over 100 new groups debuted, marking the rise of rookie group debuts. Yes, over 100 groups. No, many of them haven’t survived. The girl groups who have debuted post-2012 are unable to climb the wall of popularity because they come from small companies. There are, though, surprise success stories, i.e. when EXID blew up over a fancam of Hani singing the now mega hit, Up & Down. Rookie debuts have yet to slow down. Whether it be going with the most popular concept of the time or doing something completely different, groups have come and gone.
The reign of older girl groups dying out
A majority of the girl groups we’ve seen debut between 2007-2010 were able to make it big upon release, or shortly after. Because girl groups were a rarity back then, the public was able to fully digest what they were offered. Over time, the older girl groups have either disbanded, don’t make comebacks often, or simply lost the popularity they once had. Fans have seen KARA lose three of its members, 4Minute officially disband, and T-ARA, SECRET, After School, etc.’s popularity fade away.
Companies are preparing for the older groups to eventually lose their power by creating and debuting girl groups at a speed not seen in the past. Despite the Big 3 debuting girl groups in the past two years, they are currently preparing for their second round of new girl groups. Though close debuts have been seen before (i.e. Wonder Girls and miss A, Girls’ Generation and f(x)), with the amount of girl groups being released by smaller companies, the competition has heavily increased.
Using the innocent concept as a cheat code
Aside from the Big 3, companies that have only had one group or none at all have also started to push their new girl groups onto the public. Source Music, a company that only housed GLAM before their disbandment, put out GFriend in January of 2015 with their mini album, Season of Glass, and title track, “Glass Bead”. Intense debut promotions would be the stepping stone for the immense popularity they have now. Their debut along with many others cause the innocent concept to have been resurged, and many companies took advantage of it.
Girl groups that debuted with innocent concepts include (but are not limited to) Lovelyz, GFriend, CLC, OH MY GIRL, APRIL, DIA, and gugudan. Out of all these girl groups, one has hit it big, two have had steadily increasing popularity, and the rest are just experiencing their moment in the spotlight. Companies push the innocent concept due to its simplicity, with groups wearing school uniforms and singing about their first love. There have been some companies who managed to sexualize this concept, i.e. the controversial choreography from Year 7 Class 1’s song, “Always”, but that is another article in itself.
Because so many groups are debuting with the innocent concept all at once, the public starts ignoring these debuts in favor of something that goes against the grain. This trend won’t die out until someone strikes that gold mine, which usually only takes a year or two (R.I.P. the sexy concept of 2013-2014). Again, until this happens, expect most girl groups who are slated for debut this year to be the essence of innocence.
Can these new girl groups “make it”?
Because of the influx of debuts, numerous girl groups, even from second tier agencies (i.e. CUBE, Woollim, DSP, MBK, etc.), have yet to hit it big. Arguably, when older groups completely fade out, these groups should have a chance for success, right? By that time, another generation of girl groups will debut. Some may be experiencing success now, but the competition will increase as the years go on. It’s up to the public to choose who will become popular and who will remain in the dust; as the involvement of non-fans in K-Pop has increased over the years.