When Blackpink ended its nearly year-long Born Pink World Tour in Seoul in September, uncertainty surrounded the popular K-pop girl group’s future after its contract with YG Entertainment was assumed to have expired. It has yet to be announced whether the group, which consists of members Jisoo, Rosé, Lisa and Jennie, has renewed contracts with the agency. Amid the silence, rumors have swirled regarding the Blackpink’s fate as its singers, all of whom have massive international followings, put more focus on solo endeavors.
At the end of September, Lisa held a three-day cabaret residency at the Crazy Horse in Paris. Jennie played a key supporting role in The Weeknd and Lily Rose-Depp’s controversial HBO series The Idol and officially released a “special single,” called “You & Me,” in October. Jisoo, who won an acting award for her lead role in the K-drama Snowdrop is said to be starring in an upcoming movie. Rosé, who reportedly renewed her contract and is releasing new solo merch, attended the star-studded LACMA Art+Film Gala in Los Angeles on Nov. 4.
Widely considered the biggest K-pop girl group in the world, Blackpink was the first Korean act to headline Coachella in April, after first making its U.S. music festival debut in 2019. The group topped the Billboard 200 chart with their second studio album, 2022’s Born Pink, and its latest 34-city, 66-date world tour was the highest-grossing effort by an Asian act.
Amid the speculation, Jennie appeared to offer hope for fans looking forward to more Blackpink in the future at the group’s finale concert. “Thank you Blinks for all your love and support,” the 27-year-old artist told fans, who are officially referred to as Blinks, according to the Korea Herald. “We will continue to show the best of us as Blackpink.”
With Blackpink activities seemingly on the backburner as contract negotiations remain “ongoing,” according to YG, there’s been a swath of rising K-pop girl groups in the last few years, including NewJeans, ITZY, LE SSERAFIM, STAYC, aespa, Dreamcatcher, NMIXX and XG, to name a few. (The nine-member powerhouse girl group Twice — eight-year K-pop veterans who debuted in 2015 — exist in their own stratosphere, along with fellow mainstays like Red Velvet and Mamamoo.)
“We’re definitely living in a moment where girl groups are doing really well in the K-pop space. Girl groups are definitely thriving,” Tamar Herman, K-pop expert and author of BTS: Blood, Sweat & Tears, tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Groups like NewJeans, IVE, LE SSERAFIM, (G)I-DLE, they all have had amazing years and so have so many others.”
Herman explains that “there’s this perception in the media, by and large, that Blackpink dominates regularly and without Blackpink, the K-pop industry is going to die, which is true to some degree. But Blackpink doesn’t often have comebacks and they don’t regularly promote in K-pop spaces. They’re more associated with the fashion world or acting.
“There’s definitely this feeling of, ‘They were these girls for so long, what’s going to happen to them now?'” Herman says. “But I don’t think a lot of people are like, ‘Oh no, we’re never going to have a top girl group again,’ because there are so many other girl groups that are thriving.”
Meet some of K-pop’s rising girl groups.
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An anagram of “I’m Fearless,” LE SSERAFIM debuted in May 2022 on Source Music, a record label under the Hybe Corporation umbrella, which includes Big Hit (BTS, Tomorrow x Together), Pledis (Seventeen) and BeLift Lab (Enhypen). The quintet’s full-length alt-pop album, 2023’s Unforgiven, charted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 (the title track features legendary guitarist Niles Rodgers). The group recently partnered with Blizzard for a new song, the bright girl power-themed “Perfect Night,” pegged to the video game Overwatch 2.
With members ranging in age from 15 to 19, NewJeans — a five-member group from ADOR, a label also in the Hybe family — exceeded expectations when it surprise-dropped its Y2K-inspired debut R&B-pop track “Attention” in July 2022. The song has amassed more than 300 million streams on Spotify alone. Representing the Gen Z, Tik-Tok-savvy generation, NewJeans’s success was instantaneous.
The group followed up with several catchy chart-topping hits, including “Hybe Boy,” “Ditto,” “OMG” and “Super Shy,” many of which have made it onto “best of” lists at NME, Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone. And despite their youth, the members are already credited songwriters, contributing lyrics to the aforementioned hits. The five-piece, who was fresh off a No. 1 album with their Get Up EP this past July, performed at Lollapalooza weeks later, making history as the first K-pop girl group to take the stage at the Chicago festival.
An acronym for Star to a Young Culture, the six-member STAYC debuted in November 2020 under High-Up Entertainment, a smaller independent K-pop label. Members Sumin, Sieun, Isa, Seeun, Yoon and J achieved success when they peaked at No. 1 twice on the Korean charts for 2021’s Young-Luv.com and 2023’s Teddy Bear. Fans have been waiting for STAYC’s first full album, but in the meantime, they’ll have the Japanese single, “Lit!,” out Dec. 6, to look forward to.
The sextet, who recently finished the American leg of their first solo world tour in October, expressed gratitude to overseas fans, who they call SWITH, proving K-pop transcends borders. “I really feel that people can become one through music and the fans are so cute,” Sumin tells Yahoo Entertainment.
Adds her groupmate, Yoon, “Every time I come abroad, I’m so thankful that we have music to communicate with one another, even if the language and culture between each country may be different. Even if they don’t understand, they sing along.”
IVE’s most successful song to date, 2022’s “Love Dive,” was South Korea’s best-performing single of 2022 and led to the group’s first entry in the top 10 on the Billboard Global (excluding the U.S.) chart. The song also won IVE its first major awards for Song of the Year at the Asia Artist Awards, Golden Disc Awards, MAMA Awards and Melon Music Awards. The six-member group, whose music often embraces positivity and self-love, has yet to officially tour the U.S. on its own, but IVE was one of last year’s most buzzed about K-pop acts, and things are only looking up.
Like many K-pop groups, Kep1er was formed through a reality survival competition show, Mnet’s Girls Planet 999. The group officially debuted in January 2022 with “WA DA DA.” The song’s accompanying music video garnered more than 163 million views on YouTube. The nine members hail from South Korea, Japan and China and Kep1er’s first album, First Impact, crushed sales records for girl group debuts with 200,000 copies sold worldwide. Kep1er’s future, however, is unclear as its contract is said to be over in July 2024.
Rookie sensation Fifty Fifty debuted in November 2022 with its viral hit, “Cupid,” released in February. That led the foursome to collaborate with American rapper Kaliii on “Barbie Dreams,” an original song on the Barbie soundtrack. Fifty Fifty’s quick ascension was soon met with legal drama, with the group filing injunctions against its label over contractual concerns. In the aftermath, three of four members’s contracts were terminated. Keena is the sole remaining member. The plan is to continue Fifty Fifty, with three additional new members.
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