Rating K-Pop Agencies 2019: Part One (CUBE, Pledis, FNC, Source Music, SD, WM, Woollim)

(Side Note: In rating agencies, primary objective is to evaluate agencies’ responses to various issues. Responses are a crucial ingredient for agencies’ and groups’ survival, fame, and profitability.

To a lesser extent, financial aspects might be tackled, but will not be a major factor in rating them.)


CUBE Entertainment

What was once thought of as sidestepping girl group over other, turned to be a back-to-back girl groups’ success for the agency. These moves earned fruitful results, as CLC earned a spot on Billboard’s Social 50 charts. As for (G)I-DLE, they are now on the way for US promotions, plus their status improved upon joining Queendom.

CUBE Entertainment encourages creativity, and that is the value most apparent in them. In fact, CLC’s Yeeun participated in composing lyrics of their songs No, Me, and Devil. Even (G)I-DLE’s Soyeon took part for No. It even provided a soft comeback for the latter group to help them shine further.

Another positive aspect noted is on their consistent scheduling for CLC and (G)I-DLE. As revealed by a VLive, the latter is slated to release its track on January next year, and CLC on March. This will be an added point for them.

While the response to E’Dawn and HyunA was not impressive, it mattered a little. In fact, PENTAGON still has its regular comebacks and promotions, just like PRISM world tours in Americas and Europe. And the agency kept Universes updated on group’s travel status following the flight mishap. Most important is on letting injured members like Kino and Yanan take rest.

For its long-term success, it might be helpful for them to tolerate dating scandals or give positive response. Another suggestion would be for them to create another boy group. They also have to strategize on how to make PENTAGON and CLC stand out further. Finally, on engaging more members to be composers at the same time.

Group(s) Rated: CLC

Rating: 91.67%
Grade: A-
Assessment: Very Good

Scoreboard

  Criterion Points
1 Promotion of groups 4
2 Rolling of comebacks 5
3 Handling boy groups 4
4 Handling girl groups 5
5 Assessment as whole 9
6 Longevity of groups 10
7 Handling issues and responding 8
8 Encourages creativity 5
Uploads videos to 1theK 5

PLEDIS Entertainment

The agency has been confident on SEVENTEEN as its flagship group. In fact, it succeeded in eliciting attention to the group via comebacks, ending in a bang with Hit, and still releasing another new one with Fear. This is on top of issuing statements on health of S.Coups.

Meanwhile, promotions for NU’EST are also being done, and it’s good that they are promoting it in many countries. Despite rigging allegations, their involvement in Produce series helped to promote Nu’est better.

These kinds of engagements rebound well, as reflected in album sales. It would’ve challenged the Big 3 today in terms of being leader. But it has another major problem.

The worst part is on handling girl groups. Recently, Pristin took up what After School left off, without any activities for this year. Its member Rena (Yaebin) once recalled that the group “was working with an album” till they were ordered to disband. Essentially, Pledis wasted opportunities to make the most out of this girl group.

While the agency’s advice to Kyla and her health was the best decision, still they did not make it up for this year with remaining members. This is apparent with Kyla’s clarifications on this issue.

Kyulkyung and Nayoung both hail from I.O.I and Pristin. With both groups disbanded, and because Nayoung was tired of joining groups that disband over and over, she decided to be a soloist in other agency. Four members who left later signed with new agency and re-debuted as Hinapia. And as of this writing, Xiyeon is currently battling depression primarily due to this scenario.

It’s time for Pledis to revamp the way they handle girl groups. Otherwise, this aspect will be their Achilles’ heel once they plan to expand.

Rating: 70.00%
Grade: F
Assessment: Failed

Scoreboard

  Criterion Points
1 Promotion of groups 4
2 Rolling of comebacks 4
3 Handling boy groups 5
4 Handling girl groups 2
5 Assessment as whole 7
6 Longevity of groups 8
7 Handling issues and responding 7
8 Uploads videos to 1theK 2

FNC Entertainment

The year 2019 has been a half-half for FNC Entertainment: half-successful, half-failed as a whole. It failed somewhat on handling groups on hiatus and handling issues with Cherry Bullet. Meanwhile, they succeeded in some aspects, such as handling of Burning Sun issue, promoting AOA via Queendom, and giving N.Flying opportunities to shine via lead song Rooftop.

Negatives

Minor problem is on not giving necessary solo debuts for remaining CNBlue members. While Japanese versions of these are in place, it can’t be strictly considered as such.

In addition, their silence on disappearance of Cherry Bullet’s Kokoro and Linlin (plus Mirae) makes matters worse. They only issued statement upon their departure. In the past months, the group adjusts choreography with remaining members. That alone signals something is wrong with the rookie group, yet FNC is not solving this problem.

These things reflect their being unprofessional when it comes to groups like this, similar to what MLD Ent is doing. Better for FNC not to debut another group.

Finally, another hurdle is on FTIsland, especially with Jonghoon’s departure and Hongki joining the military. How will the agency restructure the band to keep it running? We’ll have to see it next year.

Positives

On the other hand, positive aspects need to be mentioned. First, it’s pleasing that FNC promotes N.Flying by giving three lead tracks and fanmeets overseas. They just have to promote it and SF9 further, as they have greater potentials.

Finally, they are renewing contract with AOA and keeping us updated, especially with the group joining Queendom. This sparked public’s interest in them being an eight-member group, and this helped them regain popularity. Quite interesting, since we might expect some developments after their sole comeback. Hope this will be turning point for all members to reunite.

Group(s) Rated: AOA

Rating: 74.55%
Grade: F
Assessment: Failed

Scoreboard

  Criterion Points
1 Promotion of groups 3
2 Rolling of comebacks 4
3 Handling boy groups 4
4 Handling girl groups 3
5 Assessment as whole 8
6 Longevity of groups 10
7 Handling issues and responding 4
8 Uploads videos to 1theK 5

Source Music

Source Music has been home to its sole group GFRIEND. Just like BigHit, it’s amazing that they are steering clear of any issues against the group.

Added to that was the agency’s consistent promotions through the tagline “Go, Go, Gfriend,” a concert tour of the group across Asia.

While no negative remarks against them are reported, the major challenge today is on how to market the group against other more famous rookie and old ones. This is an aspect they have to improve as Gfriend is still lagging behind in terms of overall group popularity index.

It being purchased by BigHit is now offering opportunities for Source Music to expand its lineup and establish international linkages. We’ll see what they can do in the coming years.

Group(s) Rated: GFRIEND

Rating: 96.00%
Grade: A+
Assessment: Excellent

Scoreboard

  Criterion Points
1 Promotion of groups 5
2 Rolling of comebacks 5
3 Handling boy groups
4 Handling girl groups 5
5 Assessment as whole 9
6 Longevity of groups 10
7 Handling issues and responding 9
8 Uploads videos to 1theK 5

SD Entertainment

SD Entertainment is home to its sole group SATURDAY. Although the agency itself is not yet famous, this has the greatest potential to succeed someday. This year, they are one of the most responsive agencies. Big and small agencies can learn something from them.

First is on its clearly-defined succession plan, completely absent in other agencies. When Chaewon left SATURDAY last year to focus on studies, Juyeon filled the void last January. Next is Sunha, who left last March to find another career, and afterwards Minseo was picked. This August, Chohee and Sion left. While remotely possible, expect the agency to pick additional two members.

Second is on its efforts to provide another comeback for the group. In fact, it assigned MakeStar to facilitate this purpose. It’s as if SD Entertainment says to us, “Want comeback? Fund us and then we’ll provide new one.” As of September they reached their target amount, and are on its way for a second appearance.

Finally, they make necessary adjustments on choreography upon change of members. This is the case when the group adjusted WiFi’s choreo upon Sunha’s departure.

The agency’s formula of borrowing concepts from other stars, and stable succession plan will put Saturday on radar alongside other famous K-Pop groups. If they decide to retain the cute concept, one of their songs someday will be a bop and be famous internationally.

SD Entertainment’s efforts bear good results. And here’s another good news: the branding index for a month lists their group as one of the 50 most famous in Korea.

Some things must be improved here. As they expand internationally, they have to translate most of their posts in English. This will be a lot of help to reach out to fans. Second is on consistent uploading to 1theK, as this is the point where their song WiFi became famous. Finally, their group has to involve themselves in various shows like Queendom and Masked Singer.

Group(s) Rated: SATURDAY

Rating: 93.33%
Grade: A+
Assessment: Excellent

Scoreboard

  Criterion Points
1 Promotion of groups 5
2 Rolling of comebacks 5
3 Handling boy groups
4 Handling girl groups 5
5 Assessment as whole 10
6 Longevity of groups 10
7 Handling issues and responding 10
8 Uploads videos to 1theK 2
Language barriers 3

WM Entertainment

As to ONF, we have to see some developments on promotions. Despite being in the scene for three years, they are tagged as underrated. WM has to improve on this.

WM had its best shot on Oh My Girl, with its two lead tracks being streamed more. In fact, the group even managed to bag music awards, and Koreans gave favorable responses on their music.

The agency even apologized for lack of immediate response on Jiho’s health issues, and pledged to update fans with her health status. It helped also that they permitted the group to join Queendom. This resulted in Oh My Girl being recognized as one of the most famous girl groups this year, and helped a lot for them to discover new concepts.

Rating: 89.09%
Grade: B+
Assessment: Good

Scoreboard

  Criterion Points
1 Promotion of groups 4
2 Rolling of comebacks 5
3 Handling boy groups 3
4 Handling girl groups 5
5 Assessment as whole 8
6 Longevity of groups 10
7 Handling issues and responding 9
8 Uploads videos to 1theK 5

Woollim Entertainment

As of this writing, INFINITE is still inactive, not to mention Woohyun enlisting in the military. Woollim also has to push through in giving Golden Child necessary promotions.

With regards to girl groups, they are at their best. Consider Lovelyz, who are being given chance to shine this year through a single promotion, letting them join in Queendom, and giving solo debuts for Babysoul and Kei. Also, they started adding new group called Rocket Punch, and are aggressively promoting it. This signals their readiness to expand with different approaches.

Another positive development was on malicious comments. As stated by the agency, they are continuously pressing charges against those who do. That alone is a very positive step to protect the mental health of their artists.

Rating: 87.27%
Grade: B-
Assessment: Satisfactory

Scoreboard

  Criterion Points
1 Promotion of groups 4
2 Rolling of comebacks 4
3 Handling boy groups 3
4 Handling girl groups 5
5 Assessment as whole 8
6 Longevity of groups 10
7 Handling issues and responding 9
8 Uploads videos to 1theK 5

For our Part 2, stay tuned for our review of RBW, Starship, PNation, Fantagio, Off the Record, Polaris, and OSR.

Lovelyz’s Kei (김지연) – I Go: MV Review

On our roll of reviews, we will pick another soloist, this time Lovelyz’s Kei in her song I Go. This is the first time we review a soloist from that group. Sorry also for not reviewing Babysoul, but we will do it this time with Kei.

Using her real name Kim Jiyeon signifies her readiness to embark on solo projects. Will she cling on to the styles used by her group, or attempt to draw her own style? Let’s see here:

(Side Note: As of present, Queendom recently ended its episode. There they tried different genres, and showcased their talents. This helped a lot also for them to be known more. Wishing the best of luck to the group!)

Storyline

As she goes backward with time, it becomes dark, and as she finds out later, she is being thrown in a series of flashbacks. This kind of throwback tells of her in a paradise, later being trapped in a dark dimension in the other side.

The throwback recalls her visiting various beautiful places, the latest touching a painting of the other place. Meanwhile, the cloud arrow tells of her going to fields where auroras can be seen. The story ends with the girl holding a bright orb. As she holds the sun, everything shines brighter.

Viewers will have a good deal on MV as it features clocks, nature, and piano. Hope this sparks interest for viewers to be nature lovers and be time-conscious.

Review as whole

Gleaning from the MV, its meaning can be drawn up from the broken pieces of time. This meant that time is not being of importance, or that we desire to be free, and not being bridled by time.

I do appreciate her hollow voice, which carries us throughout the whole MV. Also, the finale proved to be moderately tuned even if it started with her high note. However, even in slower mode (unlike that of Lovelyz), she won’t convince me to cry for it unlike their previous lead track.

For a bit of improvement, they have to provide a description in Woolim Ent or 1theK YouTube page.

Advocacy

Noteworthy was on Woolim always featuring 1theK logo at the beginning and end of the MV. As of now, Woolim and RBW (and to lesser extent FNC) are consistent in this act.

We will add some changes starting in this review: (1) Uploaded vids featuring 1theK logo will earn extra five points, and (2) if said 1theK video is prominently featured in YouTube, extra five points will be given also. If these are not complied, no points, but these will not be pull-down factors.

Joketime

On the other hand, I find the title a bit funny. If it be misheard in Korean, that would be awful. I Go, if misheard, will be Aigoo (아이구). It’s as if you go, then later on tell “Geez!”

Review by others

TheBiasList has a particular interest over Kei, being the member who gives more than required effort. Being more like Lovelyz’s b-side track, it would’ve been better if Woolim gave more solid material for her, like doing a pattern from BoA’s work. Worse, this wastes her pleasant voice and lacks sense of direction as the song paints her as very serious.

Being a vocalist of Lovelyz, KPopReviewed told that Kei has to add some spice to stand out, which she did. While instrumentals are “classic,” the “fantastic” feel from Lovelyz is present in this MV. Had she picked a very serious performance, this will drag her down. Negative point was on too many spoilers at the end, which tend to be messy.

TweetNewscaster’s Overall Rating: 90.53%
Grade: A-
Assessment: Very Good

Scoreboard

Aspect   Criterion Points
Storyline 1 Storyline 5
Storyline 2 Consistent theme 5
Appearance 3 Colorful/color fits emotions 5
Appearance 4 Good taste 5
Appearance 5 No Halloween, Easter, etc. 5
Appearance 6 No astrology featured 5
Appearance 7 Less horror featured 5
Appearance 8 Not too revealing outfits 5
Music 9 Exciting/Expresses emotions 4
Music 10 Not too deafening 5
Dance 11 Learned easily even by beginners
Dance 12 Not too sensual
Lessons 13 Moral lesson clearly stated 4
Lessons 14 Impart something beneficial for viewers 5
Other Matters 15 Sense of humor/expresses emotions 5
Other Matters 16 Make it to mainstream media 1
Other Matters 17 Review by other sites 4
Other Matters 18 Review of MV as a whole 3
Other Matters 19 Uploads video to 1theK 10
Features 1theK logo (Bonus points) 5
Prominently features 1theK vid (Bonus points)

Lovelyz (러블리즈) – When We Were Us (그시절우리가사랑했던우리): MV Review

We are now going to do a review of Lovelyz with their song When We Were Us.

As can be noticed, their agency Woolim Entertainment and 1theK provided different titles for this song. While in Woolim itself, the title was Beautiful Days, in 1theK it is titled as When We Were Us. Most reviews opt for the former title. But for simplicity, we will opt for the latter title.

I only came across Lovelyz when I was about to make a misheard lyric last year. This group focuses on drama genre, that is not too slow and not too emotional, but totally exciting in itself.

They need to be featured more in the sea of K-Pop, hence, this MV review. Hope this will help them become relevant amidst so many comebacks. You may watch first their video before proceeding to review:


Storyline

  1. Video must have a storyline – 5 points

The storyline revolves on how they cherish memories, and leaving bad memories behind.

1theK, in its YouTube page, provided a short storyline for this:

Title track ‘When We Were Us (Beautiful Days)’ was arranged to fit the season with the cool and refreshing sound by maintaining the existing color of Lovelyz. The charming synth sound and the sentimental voice of the girl band was expressed with the lyrics about the most beautiful moments, showing the emotional color of Lovelyz.

  1. Theme must be consistent and clear – 5 points

The soft light theme is consistently featured in the whole video.

Lessons

  1. Moral lesson must be clearly stated – 5 points

The moral lesson that can be seen in this video is on reminiscing memories, and welcoming every morning as if we own the future.

Added moral lesson that might not be noticed is when a member waters the plants. This represents relationships that must be nurtured everyday to grow. Otherwise, it will wither and die.

  1. They must impart something beneficial for their viewers – 5 points

Viewers might find historical value on old cameras, as featured in 0:40 – 0:42.

They might also find the same with hard copy of pictures at 2:19 – 2:21. This lets us recollect on how our parents and grandparents collect pictures they take. It is given that while we can take pictures and collect it instantly, our parents had to be patient when dealing with these kinds.

Other Matters

  1. Ability of the song to make one reflect – 7 points

Recently changed this criterion in order to fit well with the slow nature of the song. Being the case, this is seen on members sitting and thinking, telling viewers to do the same.

  1. Ability of the song to make it to mainstream media – 1 points

Pardon for the score, as I am certain that this won’t make it to TV and radio.

  1. Review by other sites – 5 points

KPopReviewed noticed that no news of the girls has been heard since their previous song. With summer fast approaching, it is expected that many artists will release tracks for this season.

Positive side for the group include their “refreshing” tones and light scenes. Lovelyz also struck the balance between their trademark soft songs with so-called “retro synth-pop.” Another positive aspect is on their performance, which is more “feminine”.

It also made an observation that it anchors to the past tracks, which may be “intentional”, particularly on the solar system rolling, and a member holding pictures. However, downside, the music might not be worth remembering when looked upon as a whole.

TheBiasList appreciated Woolim Ent’s efforts “to curate music that stays true to its artists’ personas.” That is, they refused to sway to popular tracks, and sticked to what would define their group well.

The blogger favorably rated the group, appreciating their cute and popular music, recalling their throwback to their debut. Lovelyz dealing with this kind of genre stood the test of time. Even if without greater impact, it is still valuable as a “solid addition to an incredibly distinct singles run.”

  1. Review of the music video as a whole – 5 points

I find the tune somewhat similar to their previous song Lost N Found. Just listen to the chorus.

Honestly, at the bridge, I can’t help but cry. I don’t know why, but the tune gave me a painful feeling.

I also find the music video and the music very calm and refreshing. Hope K-Pop fans might consider adding these, as the group presents a different side of the said genre.

On dances, I have to rate it less one point, as they lacked the exciting factor, which is supposed to keep the MV more alive.

  1. Other factors
  • Shares concepts from GFRIEND – 5 points

As to GFRIEND, they drew inspiration from their soft light concept and memories concept. It can be seen throughout the video. On the soft light, GFRIEND has the darker side, while Lovelyz has brighter side.

Another thing noticed is they both have a cake, where one member blows it.

  • Shares resemblance with other groups – 5 points

At 0:31, Mijoo resembles GFRIEND’s Sowon or MAMAMOO’s Solar:

At 0:48 and 3:44, Jin resembles Wendy of Red Velvet:

And at 1:46, Yein resembles Minju of IZ*ONE.

  • Features the 1theK logo – 5 points

Lovelyz is part of 1theK group.

Talk about having a worldwide K-Pop content, and ability to unite different agencies. They did not only feature it at 1:17 – 1:20, but also at the end of the video. This is presented as a small icon at lower right side:

Other groups under this family can follow suit, if they don’t want to feature it everywhere in their MVs.

TweetNewscaster’s Overall Rating: 93.04%

Final Words

Lovelyz presents a different side of K-Pop, particularly on the genre they chose.

This rating reflects the favorable response from reviewers, and I hope this will inspire the group to do more.

It would be better for them not to change their specialty, which will help them be distinguished with other groups we have now. Meanwhile, it’s just on timing, and time will come that they will be further recognized in this genre they chose.