Every comeback has a special thrill for a fan. You’re excited to see what else your group is capable of, what they’ve created for you. The expectation that you have is that each comeback is going to do something innovative and interesting and unique, and if it doesn’t? Disappointment. That’s what I want to talk about today.
Comebacks Redefine Expectations
A Kpop comeback is distinct from the return of a Western artist in one big way. When a Western artist releases new music, there’s an expectation of consistency. If they diverge too much from their signature sound, they’re seen as “selling out.” This is not as big of an issue now as it used to be, but I recall when I was kid the word “sell-out” used to get thrown around constantly.
In Kpop, however, change is crucial. The Kpop industry is evolving all the time, and there are new groups debuting every day. This means that, in order to stand out, you have to do something creative. As much as we love to stand up for rookie groups that don’t get enough attention, the reason that they are often swept away with the others is because they’re doing something that everyone else is doing.
When an established Kpop group comes back and their comeback sounds exactly like their last one or their outfits look like they may have been recycled from a previous comeback, we get critical. We expect them to change and grow and we are wary of companies that try to profit off a successful formula.
Staying the Same Isn’t Viable in K-Pop
So what does it mean when a company is using a formula? Take for instance (DISCLAIMER: I LOVE THIS GROUP. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT.) EXID. For years, EXID used the exact same formula for each of their comebacks. Hot Pink, Up and Down, and Ah Yeah all sound very similar because they follow the same pattern of disjointed chorus from verse. In all three, the power vocalists sing the bridge to the chorus and in all three the chorus is a repetition of the title. Additionally, in all three their outfits are very distinctly sexy and the music videos employ similar neon color schemes.
It worked great for Up and Down so Banana Culture did it again for Ah Yeah, and it worked even better for that! So they did it again for Hot Pink, but that one didn’t do quite as well, but they figured they’d give it one last shot with L.I.E. and by then it was clear that the formula was no longer working. (Source)
Fans get bored. Or rather, they feel like they’re being let down. The magic of a comeback is the excitement of seeing your group take on a new sound and look and own it. If they’re always doing the same thing, releasing the same music, wearing the same clothes, you feel like they’re not really trying.
Idols Give You the Confidence to Transform
So why does it matter? Why should it matter whether or not TWICE gets all new outfits for FANCY? Why should it matter that The Most Beautiful Moment in Life was nothing like Dark & Wild? Because it influences the fans.
Your idols are…well, your idols. They inspire you, they motivate you, they give you confidence and reassurance. For some people that may seem silly but for a lot of others in the Kpop community, it is a very real thing. Seeing Kpop idols transform their look and sound and feel powerful doing so gives you the encouragement you need to do so yourself.
Growth and transformation are a part of being a person and being told that changing is a natural and expected part of life is a positive thing. You are most yourself when you feel confident in who you are regardless of what you’re wearing or what you’re into and comebacks, in all their constant change, encourage you to see that for yourself.