Why 2017 Is a Pivotal Year for K-Pop

Courtesy of SM Entertainment
Girls' Generation

2017 is already a pivotal year for K-pop -- and we haven’t even reached the end of January yet.

The month saw two of K-pop’s most influential girl groups, Wonder Girls and 2NE1, come to an end, while 2016’s wunderkind girl group I.O.I held their final performance on Jan. 22. Although there’s nothing definite when it comes to K-pop, there’s sure to be a lot of big moments throughout the year. Along with anniversaries of some of the biggest K-pop successes, like “Gangnam Style” turning five in July, 2017 is gearing up to bring a lot of changes to the K-pop world.

The girl groups that already announced their breakups likely won’t be the only K-pop acts to disappear by the end of 2017. With the industry’s norm of seven years between an artist’s debut and their contract expiration dates, some heavyweight idol acts are in precarious positions, like f(x), INFINITE, Sistar, and miss A. Each act has left major marks on K-pop: INFINITE’s 2012 hit “The Chaser” remains one of the most dynamic K-pop songs ever, while f(x)’s experimentalism, miss A’s unconventionality, and Sistar’s sultry summer tracks set them apart from bubblegum girl groups. Several other popular acts, like Girl’s Day, ZE:A, and Teen Top, also face unknown fates as they near their seventh anniversary in 2017.

But while the year will likely leave some older acts in the past, new ones will turn up to fill the space. Releasing “unofficial” singles prior to debuting is a new trend being used to promote rookie K-pop acts. Groups like Loona, Pristin, and K.A.R.D have already released “pre-debut” singles, while Woollim Entertainment’s ambiguous W Project recently introduced members of the company’s next male and female acts.

Several high profile soloists also have plans for 2017: former 2NE1 member Minzy is in the midst of preparing her debut, while I.O.I’s Kim Chungha revealed last year that she will also pursue a career as a soloist. Meanwhile, January saw miss A’s Suzy, Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun, and VIXX’s Ravi pursue their first solo ventures.

And, while less exciting than generational shifts in the music industry, there will be plenty of anniversary celebrations. The most globally important one will be, of course, the fifth anniversary of Psy’s viral phenomenon “Gangnam Style” on July 15, and BIGBANG’s iconic “Fantastic Baby" will also turn five.

2017 also marks the 10th anniversary of some of K-pop’s biggest acts, including Korea’s most popular girl group Girls’ Generation, and one of the country’s first pop bands, FTISLAND. Other popular acts -- like AOA, VIXX, Lee Hi, EXID, Ailee, BTOB, Girls’ Generation subunit TTS and Nu’Est -- will mark their fifth anniversaries this year.

And, of course, K-pop’s tempestuous nature means we’ll just have to wait and see what surprises 2017 brings.