After taking a look back at 2020’s resolutions, it’s time to tackle 2021. At this point, I’m just happy that we’re turning the page on this awful year, so it feels a little presumptuous to ask for anything specific in 2021.
But, this is a long-time Bias List tradition, so I present my ten most fervent wishes for the coming year. Above all else, I hope that everyone is safe and happy and fueled by incredible music.
1. A return to live, in-person events
This one’s kind of obvious, and if I was just stating resolutions in general, it would be for this pandemic to end, people to be healthy and anxiety to lower.
But given that this is a K-pop resolution, I’ll focus on what will happen after we can get the pandemic under control. I hope that 2021 sees idol groups able to perform in-person again. I hope weekly music shows will have an audience once more (and maybe even take more advantage of their “live audience” appeal). And although I’ll be a little surprised if it happens, I will be absolutely delighted if KCON can be held at the end of the summer. I really missed my annual pilgrimage this year.
2. A continuation of 2020’s “retro” trend
I’m loving K-pop’s current retro trend, and I hope it sticks around as long as past trends have. With my luck, it’ll be the one sound that fizzles out early. I certainly hope not, because I think there’s so much more to explore. These influences haven’t even made it into many boy group tracks yet, and they really need to. I’d be okay if 2021 is the year of retro synth-pop.
3. A calming-down of K-pop “stans”
There’s a real toxicity within certain circles of K-pop fandom, and it seemed to get worse this year. Or maybe, this was the year where I experienced more of it due to The Bias List’s rise in prominence. I’m pretty sick of the negativity and the downright meanness of some K-pop fans, and it’s actually soured my opinion of entire fandoms. I hate that that’s happened, and I hope we can all be a little more empathetic in the new year.
And while we’re at it, can I just wave my magic wand and prevent any K-pop related topic from trending on Twitter? I miss the days when K-pop was rarely mentioned in “stan twitter” circles. Seeing all these lame K-pop hashtags trend day in and day out cheapens the whole experience, in my opinion.
4. An influx of interesting new voices in K-pop production
As many of K-pop’s past mega-producers seem to be fading from the industry (looking at you, Sweetune…), I hope that a new generation of interesting voices springs up. Compared to years past, there are way more individual composers involved in K-pop. And, that’s a good thing. But, it’s hard to find those distinct creators that stand out and have a style all their own.
I hope that 2021 gives us some new mega-producers – the kind who instantly get me excited just by seeing their name on the credits of a track.
5. A rebound for 2019’s most-promising rookies
2019’s slate of rookie groups was quite strong, and they all had at least one 2020 track that stood out. But even so, the output from groups like TXT, ITZY, VERIVERY, AB6IX, ONEUS, and even ATEEZ (though they’re a late-2018 debut) felt much more hit-or-miss to me this year. I think I set expectations too high, but I hope that all these groups have a major creative rebound in 2020 and play to the strengths that made them such a force in the first place.
6. Girl groups: stop trying to be ITZY
During the first half of 2020, it seemed like every girl group was trying to replicate ITZY’s immense 2019 success with a girl crush sound. This resulted in so many acts blending into one another. And despite all the effort, nobody harnessed this style as well as Dalla Dalla or Icy.
As I often advise, groups are so much better off finding their own sound and sticking to it, rather than chasing someone else’s success.
7. Boy groups: ditch the dark colors and have some fun
This is pretty much a holdover from last year, but it needs to be said once more. Too many boy group comebacks still try too hard to be moody or deep, when they’d be better off throwing caution to the wind and just having a good time. I’m not saying they should all be prancing around in overalls doing aegyo, but I’d welcome a slick, propulsive sci-fi dance track without layers of lore and badass posturing.
8. Picking the best song as a title track (maybe a return to double title tracks?)
More often these days, it feels like b-sides are stronger than the actual title track. Idol group title tracks have become somewhat cookie-cutter, and it often seems like, instead of promoting the strongest song, agencies choose to promote one that illustrates a specific concept or choreo. I think this is the opposite of what pop music should do. I’d rather see agencies pick the best song and build the concept/choreo around that. But if they must have their lore, maybe more groups should promote double title tracks? That way you get the best of both worlds.
9. A more cohesive energy within K-pop title tracks
This has been a longtime gripe of mine, and continued in 2020. K-pop has developed a fascination with constant seesawing of energy and structure within its title tracks. Whether that’s in the form of a breakdown (usually after the first chorus) or a long, mopey verse, too many tracks have standout moments that are undercut by a sudden drop in energy or switch in tempo. There are ways to make a song sound dynamic without giving the listener whiplash, and I’d like to see composers experiment a bit more.
10. Comebacks from Infinite, SHINee, Bigbang and TVXQ
In a way, these groups are my four pillars of K-pop, and they’re all way overdue for a Korean comeback. I’d like to see SHINee return first before Taemin has to enlist, followed by Bigbang and TVXQ. Then, when Woohyun and Sungjong are discharged, I’d love to hear new material from Infinite before the end of the year (though it’s probably more likely in early-2022). Make it happen, K-pop! (And make the comebacks good, while you’re at it…)