Is 3rd gen K-pop over? Big 4 representatives BTS, EXO, GOT7, Blackpink all on 'hiatus'
These third-gen groups, all under the Big 4 labels (HYBE, SM, JYPE, YG), dominated the K-pop industry when they were at their peak
While H.O.T’s Kangta, Lee Hyori from one of the first girl groups Fin.K.L and other first-gen soloists still release music now and then, first-generation of K-pop has completely ended. Second-gen too seems to be on the way out with several groups disbanding or going on hiatus with only the likes of Super Junior, SHINee and 2PM keeping it going. And now, it looks like even the third generation of K-pop that began in the 2010s is past its peak with juggernauts like BTS, EXO, GOT7, and Blackpink that were all under the Big 4 K-pop labels going on hiatus.
With the beginning of EXO’s enlistment era in 2019, their comebacks became especially infrequent with ‘Obsession’ in 2019 and ‘Don’t Fight The Feeling’ in 2021. While they released proper albums, it felt like BIGBANG’s reunion as we did not get any comeback activities or promotional events like music show appearances. We have been getting solo albums like Baekhyun and Suho’s releases but that has been it. While leader Suho hinted at a group comeback, SM Entertainment still hasn’t said anything about it.
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Third-gen representative groups on hiatus
Blackpink is a K-pop group that continues to enjoy worldwide fame without any releases. While Rosé and Lisa made their solo debuts and Jisoo got her first lead role in a K-drama in 2021, the group has been on an unofficial hiatus since 2020 after the release of ‘Lovesick Girls’ in October 2020. Fans and Knetizens are frustrated as the girls are dabbling in every field from fashion to acting, except for releasing music. With the girls also asking fans to wait for them, fans have been slamming YG Entertainment for forcing Blackpink to stay on hiatus and are sure that the girls are going to leave the label after their contract expires.
GOT7 gives hope to groups on hiatus as they made a return after a year. The media believed that the group had unofficially disbanded after they left their old label JYPE and decided to focus on their solo careers. They proved everyone wrong by releasing ‘GOT7’ which broke several records and held concerts to celebrate the comeback. However, as the members shared, with them having established solo careers now, it would be difficult to clear their schedules often for group activities which means the frequency of group comebacks will be less but not zero.
It seems that GOT7 has also given small hope to BTS fans with the sudden news that BTS is going on a hiatus to focus on their solo projects. While HYBE had shared that BTS is not on “hiatus” and there was a miscommunication, the group themselves shared that their solo projects will take precedence over their group activities. The members also got brutally honest as they confided that while they would always be together as a group, they wanted to kick off their solo careers and it would be a while before they made a comeback as BTS.
Why a K-pop generation comes to an end?
While we have third-gen groups that are still active like NCT, BTOB, Seventeen, Monsta X, and TWICE, they only make up a handful of active groups among the 100s that had debuted in the third generation. Others have disbanded like GFriend, CLC, Wanna One, B.A.P, and NU’EST, while some are slowly going on an unofficial hiatus like BTS and Blackpink as seen with iKON, VIXX, Red Velvet, Mamamoo, and the likes. With the fourth generation taking over the K-pop industry now and the beginnings of a new generation evident with the debut of NMIXX, IVE, and other monster rookies, the domination of third-generation groups might be coming to an end. A generation also ends when fans of that era leave due to the K-pop culture being more than just its music.
The fangirling culture in K-pop is quite different from Western music industries as fans do not just listen to music but also enjoy a large amount of content. Being active as a K-pop artist includes talking on Lives with fans, filming reality shows, going on variety and game shows, performing at ensemble concerts and music festivals, promoting their releases on music shows, and much more. Even when a group’s comeback period ends, the idols are active as they daily update their fans and release other types of content. This is why when groups of a certain generation stop being active, even their fans leave or move on to new active groups as fangirling in K-pop is not just listening to the artist’s music.