It was back in 2007 that Girls’ Generation first introduced me to K-pop. At the time, I was perusing Asian entertainment sites looking for music videos of Filipino musicians. By happenstance, I found myself in the Korean music section being recommended to watch Girls’ Generation’s debut music video “Into the New World.” Although I wouldn’t really delve any deeper into K-pop until the following year, that was the moment I got to know about the industry now taking the international music scene by storm.
Although I followed K-pop casually since then, I would truly be a follower of it in 2009. I credit one song for making me a K-pop fan: “Gee” by Girls’ Generation. While the song was a bubblegum production sure to give anyone listening to it a huge doses of sugar into their ears, it was catchy, with each of the nine members — Taeyeon, Tiffany, Jessica, Sunny, Sooyoung, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Yoona, and Seohyun — showing off their musical talents complimented by a composition that was different compared to anything else I have ever heard. It also helped that all nine members were really beautiful and innocent-looking in their colorful Daisy Dukes.
It is safe to say that I became one of the millions of Sones that day, members of the fan club for Girls’ Generation. Throughout the years, I followed their K-pop comebacks admiring hit songs like “Run Devil Run,” “Genie,” “Oh,” “Party,” and “Lion Heart.” To this day, “I Got a Boy” is still my most favorite song by them and considered one of my top ten of all time.
Now it is 2017, a special year for Girls’ Generation as it marks their 10-Year Anniversary. I along with many of my fellow Sones are excited for our bias wondering what they have in store for us. There was a recent report that Girls’ Generation will make their 2017 K-pop comeback in late July near their debut date when “Into the New World” was released.
However, this year is also one we Sones antagonize ourselves over because Girls’ Generation’s three-year extension of their contract is coming to an end. This means by either the end of this year or the beginning of next year, they might disband. Hopefully, Girls’ Generation will extend their contracts but 10 years is a long time to go on as a girl group especially in today’s K-pop scene. With newer and hungrier girl groups like Red Velvet, Black Pink, and Twice making a name for themselves, will Girls’ Generation end up stepping back? The other two girl groups of their generation, 2NE1 and Wonder Girls, have already disbanded. Should Girls’ Generation disband too?
At this point in the argument, many Sones are simply agreeing that Girls’ Generation should never disband. However, K-pop fans (as well as the more critical Sones) are scoffing that I can even argue against Girls’ Generation disbanding. The members are getting older and are branching out with their own solo endeavors, some in music, some in acting, some doing both. With each member becoming more independent, what’s the purpose or remaining a part of a girl group?
To truly argue that Girls’ Generation should never disband, I need to answer two questions: “how” and “why.” How can SM Entertainment keep Girls’ Generation from disbanding and why should Girls’ Generation never disband?
How can SM Entertainment keep Girls’ Generation from disbanding?
Even though SM Entertainment is considered the “more prominent entity” over Girls’ Generation, it is the popular K-pop girl group who has the “power” when choosing to disband or not. First and foremost, each member has their own individual contracts. If Sones want to see Girls’ Generation remain as eight members, SM Entertainment will have to bargain a great contract to each member to continue as is.
In order for Girls’ Generation to continue onward as an entity or girl group, it will have to be mostly in name only. As mentioned earlier, each member is concentrating more on solo endeavors so constantly interrupting them with girl group activities is a no-no. This does not mean Girls’ Generation will not do anything as a girl group as they might have comeback specials. However, group activities should this time work around solo activities. Also, it will be Girls’ Generation’s responsibility to keeps fans satisfied when it comes to group endeavors.
With the aforementioned in mind, what SM Entertainment can do to keep Girls’ Generation from disbanding is to do the same thing they did for K-pop boy band Super Junior on their 10-Year Anniversary: assign them their own label. LabelSJ is an independent label from SM Entertainment, though still a subsidiary of SM Entertainment, that wholly manages the affairs of Super Junior. Ergo, the label can concentrate solely on each member’s needs without worry of being stretched thin having to deal with other K-pop acts. This also includes all of Super Junior’s members’ solo activities too.
Girls’ Generation would heavily benefit from having their own independent label outside of SM Entertainment managing their affairs. They can take care of each member’s individual needs given the fact that three members (Taeyeon, Tiffany, Hyoyeon) are pursuing solo music careers, three other members (Yoona, Sooyoung, Yuri) are pursuing acting careers, one (Seohyun) is pursuing both, and the last (Sunny) is making a mark for herself in radio and variety shows.
If Girls’ Generation or its sub-group Girls’ Generation-TTS, were to make comebacks, it can easily work around solo endeavors if they were single albums or planned for special times of the year. For example, Christmas would consider a special time for the girls to come back as a girl group for Sones. Still, it would not precedence over solo endeavors.
Throughout this setup, though, Girls’ Generation will still be in existence. The only difference is that the girl group that worked really hard together to entertain millions around the world as a girl group will now be a singular entity that divides up to take on other facets of entertainment individually.
Why should Girls’ Generation never disband?
When K-pop had its boom in popularity around 2009, it was thanks to the sudden international usage of social media. Thanks to social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube, Korean entertainment labels and agencies found it easier to connect with people internationally, something that was a lot harder to do in the 90s or even in the early 2000s. Super Junior is often recognized as the one K-pop act in popularizing K-pop internationally (since the majority of fans at the time were female). However, Girls’ Generation is primarily cited for popularizing K-pop girl groups internationally.
That fact alone is why Girls’ Generation should never disband. Among K-pop fans, especially those who are Sones, they are the best K-pop girl group in Hallyu history, a title that is often recognized universally. However, it was their contribution to expanding and popularizing Hallyu that makes them more than iconic, but trailblazers and innovators.
If it weren’t for Girls’ Generation and their breakout hit song “Gee,” K-pop girl groups would not be as popular as they are now. Prior to Girls’ Generation, K-pop girl groups, even great ones at the time like S.E.S., Baby V.O.X., and Fin.K.L., were considered second to K-pop boy bands. By extending their popularity internationally, Girls’ Generation not only showed that girl groups could be on par with their male counterparts, but even be better.
Today, many K-pop girl groups recognize the opportunities afforded to them as a girl group thanks to Girls’ Generation. That is why many newer acts, both boy bands and girl groups as well as those who are technically making more in income than Girls’ Generation now, often show an extreme amount of respect. For example, if any of the members of Girls’ Generation were to participate in a music competition variety show, the other K-pop acts will give them ample space because they are “intimidated” by them, as reported by Koreaboo. Even if Girls’ Generation members were in the back row, no other K-pop acts would dare stand in front of them. That is how much respect they are given.
Also, today’s K-pop girl groups at times will cover Girls’ Generation songs, especially the songs off the album that expanded Hallyu into the Americas (“Genie,” “Run Devil Run,” “Oh,” etc.). Just last year, both Twice and GFriend teamed up to perform “Gee” for a special stage performance. Needless to say but it was one of the more popular special stage performances to happen.
Ultimately, there will be a time when the members of Girls’ Generation will no longer continue as they move on to pursuing their own dreams especially if they revolve around starting a family. However, the iconic memory of Girls’ Generation, what they did for K-pop and Hallyu in general, will live on especially if the girl group does not disband even if it is just by name. And the one entity to be thanked for keeping Girls’ Generation strong in the hearts and minds of K-pop will be SM Entertainment. If it’s not for the fans or for what Girls’ Generation has accomplished in their time, that recognition alone might actually be the reason SM Entertainment makes sure they do not disband.
[Featured Image by SM Entertainment/Girls’ Generation Official Daum Cafe]