Edited by Yoon
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
The 1st generation K-pop groups, also known as the “start of the idol groups,” refer to teams that debuted in the late 1990s. The best examples are H.O.T, Sechskies, S.E.S, and Fin.K.L. Most of these groups disbanded after five years. But many of them have reunited to make their comebacks as the 90’s vibe became a new trend from about 4 to 5 years ago. In the mid-to-late 2000s, the 2nd generation groups began to debut. From then on, K-pop idol culture became more than the preserve of teenagers and started enjoying global popularity. Bigbang’s “LIES,” Wonder Girls’ “Tell Me,” and “Nobody,” and Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” are great examples. The 2nd generation groups received love from the public and started showing up in various programs such as variety and reality shows.
Afterward, a slew of groups made their debut, and all of them chose relatively solid concepts than before. Examples include EXO’s superpower concept, BTS’s storytelling/messages, and TWICE’s bright, cute and energetic images. Now, these concepts grew even more concrete with the 4th generation groups, and the groups’ targets became very clear but narrower. Rather than concentrating on the songs’ popularity, labels mainly focus on imprinting artists’ skills or images. This article introduces two groups, one male and one female, that represent the 4th generation groups.
ITZY – ICY
From the time they made their debut to the time they dropped three albums, ITZY has projected values that are important to Generation Z. This can be seen in their lyrics: “I love myself (DALLA DALLA),” “I’m following my dream, I know what I want (ICY).” and “I wanna be me (WANNABE).” When the same message is repeated three times in a row, listeners are naturally tired out. But such fatigue was overcome with colorful performances and recent variations such as “Mafia in the morning.” Following Wonder Girls’ retro concept and Miss A’s girl crush images, ITZY doesn’t just stick to a single “female figure” but shows off the confidence that encompasses today’s generations.
And of all their songs, “ICY” is the most lively track that cynically and honestly conveys the message. The fact that most of the chorus is filled with chants catches our ears, and the aggressive beat in the intro makes the song even more dynamic. Although the composition and progression are inconsistent and dispersed, the overall speed is just right, and each part is appropriately highlighted. The song is frantic and busy, but that draws the listeners’ attention. Of course, ITZY didn’t forget to capture the charm of “seeing music” with the choreography composed of unusual movements and the natural expressions combined with the fancy subtitles in the music video. It was a great attempt to “differentiate” IZTY from the rest of the group.
TXT (TOMORROW X TOGETHER) – Run Away
TXT is the group that currently has the largest output and overseas reactions among the 4th generation boy groups. In the boy group scene where hip-hop and intense performances are predominant, TXT deals with adolescents’ refreshing and tender emotions. In addition, Big Hit Music’s excellent production, unique concepts, and stage designs are combined to differentiate the group from the others. The members’ decent skills support this harmony, and they are continuing a remarkable career. The group expresses the confusion of adolescent boys, who are sensitive to everything, want many things, change their views of the world, and face self-reflections. Even if the theme is about a simple emotion, they either use specific or somewhat forced analogies, concentrating on expressing it in their own language. Rather than winning “majorities’ supports,” which was considered an essential element of music, the group focuses on “expressing one’s feelings in one’s own way.” This is probably the biggest reason for their success.
Following their debut song “CROWN” (Korean title is “One day, horns grew out of my head”), “Run Away” (Korean title is “Waiting for you at platform 9 and 3/4”) is one of the group’s “long-titled” songs. [This includes “Can’t you see me (The night the world burned down)” and “Blue Hour (You and I found in the sky at 5:53)”] As you can see from the Korean title, the song borrows a concept from Harry Potter. And lyrics like “Bibbidi-Bobbidi, the train is about to depart,” “My wand,” and “color the classroom with this sky blue magic” strictly follow the theme, completing the fantasy concept. In some cases, the superficial portrayals and failure to support the concept become a hindrance. Still, the unique lyrics and retro synth sound enliven the song’s charm. The passionate melody that comes out as soon as the chorus begins sucks you as if you’re watching a fantasy movie. The members’ vocals perfectly suit the mood of the track. Also, their breathing and expressions are very similar, making the group sound like one artist regardless of members’ position as vocalists or rappers. Not only the title song but the entire album deals with the perils of adolescence. Even after that, TXT continues to show a similar emotion in their music. This is Big Hit Music’s biggest strength and an essential factor in the current K-pop idol market.
Editor Yoon: I love music, especially K-POP, and I dream of becoming an A&R person, lyricist, artist, etc. I will cover various articles, including song reviews, artist reviews, and K-pop market analysis.
Translator Kim Hoyeun: If you are a fan of K-drama, K-movie, and K-pop, I am your guy. I will continue to provide you with up-to-date K-entertainment news.