Looking Back at Last Year’s K-Pop Resolutions — Did 2020 Deliver?

Oh, you sweet summer child… making resolutions for 2020 without knowing that your true wishes would be as simple as “I want to be able to go out with friends,” “I want to eat in a restaurant,” or “I want to travel farther than my own backyard.”

Putting aside the craziness of 2020, my Bias List tradition of K-pop resolutions continues. Tomorrow, I’ll reveal my ten resolutions for 2021. But as usual, it’s time to look back at last year’s wishes and see if any of them actually came true.

Feel free to look back at 2020’s resolutions in detail before continuing!


1. A renewed focus on mental health

Did 2020 deliver? — Maybe…?

I mean, 2020 was a big year for mental health in general. It feels like idols are becoming freer to address their own well-being in a public way, though it’s impossible to know for sure without being in their shoes. Still, I’ve been happy to see certain performers granted a “mental health” hiatus. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that you don’t have anything if you don’t have your health.


2. More unique concepts, less generic tropes

Did 2020 deliver? — Not really

Yes, there were exceptions here and there, but by and large 2020’s K-pop offerings were quite predictable. Boy groups did their moody, blustering boy group thing. Girl groups did their cutesy, girl crush thing. There wasn’t a whole lot of diversity in the idol world this year, and I’d really like to see that change in 2021.


3. Let psy-trance (or better yet, techno!) be the new K-pop trend

Did 2020 deliver? — Nope

In fact, pys-trance seemed to be only a brief step on the way to 2020’s retro synth trends. Stray Kids jettisoned it entirely, and my wish for the resurgence of high-energy techno elements still feels like a pipe dream.


4. Girl groups: find a middle ground between cute and edgy

Did 2020 deliver? — Sort of… if you forget the first half of the year

So many early-2020 girl group releases felt interchangeable, as the “girl crush” trend took hold of the industry. But as the year went on, retro sounds gave way to tracks that felt much less affected. Everglow, Twice and GFriend led the charge, and I really hope this has sparked a change in the kind of material agencies give their biggest girl groups.


5. Boy groups: bring back the funk!

Did 2020 deliver? — Not as much as I’d like

By and large, boy groups continued their preferred combination of angst and/or badass posturing. There is a glimmer of hope, as the second half of the year revealed more upbeat fare (Golden Child, DRIPPIN, TXT, BAE173, etc) than usual and BTS’s Dynamite took hold of the charts. Yet, the retro synths that highlighted several killer girl group tracks haven’t really made their way into the boy group catalog yet. Will that happen in 2021? It can’t come soon enough, in my opinion.


6. Give the survival series a rest

Did 2020 deliver? — Yes…?

I mean, yes we had I-LAND and the godawful elimination system of Road to Kingdom, but those didn’t feel as omnipresent as the Produce franchise always did. It was kind of nice to have a year without Produce and its many cash-in groups. I don’t think survival series are over, but I do think they’ll become more niche.


7. Less pandering to international audiences (and America, specifically)

Did 2020 deliver? — Oh, definitely not!

While the pandemic made it impossible for idol acts to perform overseas, K-pop’s export-driven market is still firing on all cylinders. More and more, it feels like the industry’s biggest acts are targeting western markets and tailoring their sound to please that palette. In my mind, all this does is water down the aspects that made K-pop unique and fantastic. I may be in the minority, but I don’t want to hear English-language versions of K-pop tracks, and I’m much more likely to seek out music from Korean composers than teams of Americans. If I want to hear what America has to say about pop music, I’ll just turn on the radio.


8. More inter-agency idol group variety series

Did 2020 deliver? — Not really

I don’t recall any big-name series that brought idol groups from different agencies together (Road to Kingdom doesn’t count because that was a complete and utter mess), and with Covid restrictions this wasn’t really possible anyway. I’m still hoping for the return of great idol variety concepts.


9. Give me a summer to remember

Did 2020 deliver? — We’re heading in the right direction…

I mean, summer of 2020 was definitely “memorable” in its own way, right?

Lockdowns aside, the music of this past summer felt stronger than the past couple of years. And more importantly, it actually sounded like summer music, bringing back the upbeat tempos and breezy arrangements that are so well-suited to the season.


10. The triumphant return of Sweetune

Did 2020 deliver? — Not at all

Apart from some under-the-radar work with KEEMBO, Sweetune were pretty much absent in 2020. Quite frankly, I’m worried that they’ve just packed it in. With retro trends so popular right now, there’s no reason why agencies shouldn’t be clamoring for their work. Everyone loves nostalgia, and enough time has passed since Sweetune’s heyday that their return would likely be welcomed by many.