As we Hallyu fans dig through the rumble caused by Hurricane Burning Sun, I have looked to see if the foundation of YG Entertainment is safe. Honestly, it’s not looking too good.
To be a YG stan is to be waiting long months, if not years, for the next comeback. Taeyang had four years between his “Rise” and “White Night” albums, a similar wait between GD’s albums and has anyone had any word on Daesung‘s Korean album?
Regardless, this tends to make a YG comeback an event, something to clear the calendar and stalk social media if you’re a fan and a chance for you to brace yourself for the oncoming storm if you aren’t. I say this as someone who got swept in it during BigBang’s “MADE” comebacks.
While he has thankfully improved over the years, YG still has the reputation of holding his artists’ music to a certain level, thus making the downtime between comebacks more significant than other groups such as EXO or Monsta X. Even so, making BlackPink, who is a very active group, wait two years before they released a full album is a bit extra for him.
It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if YG thinks that once groups emerge from his head and into the K-Pop world fully formed, they’ll automatically be BigBang levels of excellent from the start. He continues with the belief that anything less than groundbreaking and face-meltingly amazing warrants time in the dreaded YG basement and/or massive reworking.
Take AKMU and Lee Hi. While amazing artists, he has no idea how to work with them. Chanhyuk of AKMU has stated a YG director once worked with them but the pairing didn’t work so YG let them work without further interference. As for Lee Hi, Tablo and DJ Tukutz of Epik High produced her “Seoulite” album under their then label, HighGrnd. YG doesn’t know how to do things on a small scale, only big events that sweep the world.
So what does this have to do with their future? Because he doesn’t have those “Event Artists.”
A great example of this is CL. When 2NE1 officially disbanded, fans were disappointed but eagerly awaiting what that held for her. We all expected CL to rightfully take her spot as Queen of YG with the solo comeback of the year … And we’re still waiting for it!
Yes, she did make her acting debut in “Mile 22” (staring Mark Wahlberg and Iko Uwais) and did perform at the closing ceremony for the 2018 Seoul Winter Olympics. But she’s only released a few singles since 2NE1’s disbandment and even fewer videos for those singles. Why? She has the star power, the skills and an eager fanbase, but she remains on the sidelines, a golden opportunity wasted.
On the other hand, we also have G-Dragon, who is another heavy hitter for team YG. He released his 2017 album, titled “Kwon Ji-Yong,” before his army enlistment. However, while he is a prolific artist, he is also known to tirelessly pour over all of the details of the album. Honestly, with Seungri’s involvement in the Burning Sun scandal and TOP still shying away from the public, I don’t really expect any BigBang member to release anything in 2019. Maybe a few concerts and fanmeetings, but any EPs or album releases? It’s unlikely.
Right now, he’s putting his full power behind BlackPink but there’s only so much they can do before they burn out and even less YG will allow them to do. To make matters worse, we still haven’t had word on his latest group, Treasure Box, and their debut. Epik High and Psy have gone on to start their own labels, with Psy notably assembling his own Murders Row of artists.
What makes this more annoying is YG has really talented artists on the bench right now and could do very interesting things with them. We’ve seen glimpses of this with the MOBB project (a subunit with ikon’s Bobby and Winner’s Mino), and Lee Hi and AKMU’s SooHyun joining up on the single “I’m Different” (also featuring Bobby). He has CL and One on the bench as well. With the talented roster he has, he could very easily do a subunit or small solo project (something similar to his past “Eyes, Nose and Lips” series), but it seems unlikely.
I’m not saying that he’s months away from going bankrupt. What I am saying is he’s in a vulnerable spot right now and needs to think carefully about his next move, especially with other companies on his heels.