Every major entertainment company in South Korea brings a certain flair that dictates the distinctive sound of their representing artists. For instance, last week we learned that S.M. Entertainment brings the cutesy pop sound complete with unique concepts, high production value, and difficult choreography.
But, this week we will be learning about badass YG Entertainment, home of some of the biggest K-pop groups and some of the biggest personalities.
Founded in 1998 by Yang Hyun-suk, he originally found fame as one of the former members of the old-school rap group, Seo Taiji and Boys. The group was well known for revolutionizing the Korean music industry by popularizing hip-hop, an element of music that is wildly used in K-pop today. One of Seo Taiji and Boys biggest songs is easily ‘Come back Home’ and features YG Entertainment founder with one incredible 90’s orange jumpsuit. Yes, that’s him in the orange jumpsuit and oversized ski goggles (90’s was a dark day in fashion, okay?!).
Who knew that the usually stoic Yang Hyun-suk would found one of the most fierce K-pop music labels ever. After Seo Taiji and Boys disbanded in 1996, Yang Hyun-suk focused on establishing YG Entertainment and released his first solo album under the label. It was no surprise that YG Entertainment continued with a heavily hip-hop/rap sound that has stuck with the record label since.
YG Entertainment’s first major artists was solo male artist, SE7EN, who was known for having smooth vocals that matched incredibly well with his strong R&B style that was popular during the early 2000’s. SE7EN’s style was well mastered and perfected within YG and was a popular sound that was used by the record label until the late 2000’s. He helped YG Entertainment reached major charts and is considered one of the ‘classic’ K-pop singers that helped create the genre itself (like TVXQ in S.M. Entertainment).
But, nothing could ready the K-pop world (or the music world, frankly) for the kings of K-pop, BIG BANG, who debuted in 2006. BIG BANG is NOT just a K-pop group, but a revolutionary music group that have sold millions of albums both physical and digital, millions of YouTube views on all their music videos, countless awards, and just endless everything. Male groups in K-pop strive to reach 1% of the fame that BIG BANG has achieved, but many groups fail and rightfully so. With hard work, dedication, endless hours practicing and creating music, BIG BANG has risen to the top of every music chart and is known as one of the greatest international pop music artists.
BIG BANG, a five-member group, definitely started out small, but grew international fame with the release of ‘Fantastic Baby’, see below, in 2012 and countless other hits, including BANG BANG BANG and FXXK IT.
What made BIG BANG such a hit was that each member was equally talented and even produced well received solo albums. But, the top two solo careers go to BIG BANG leader, G-Dragon, and main vocalist, Taeyang. The two created wildly different music, but both were loved by fans alike. While Taeyang brought the R&B flair (learn more about him by clicking here), G-DRAGON brought the endless hip-hop hits complete with emotional, meaningful lyrics. The two even collaborated on multiple songs, including 'Good Boy'!
Thanks to BIG BANG’s huge success (still present today), YG Entertainment skyrocketed as one of the wealthiest record label companies and ever since the company has reigned supreme. However, YG Entertainment wasn’t done producing hit K-pop groups, because in 2009 the queens, 2NE1, debuted. In a way, 2NE1 was the female equivalent of BIG BANG and became an instant success.
2NE1 is a four-member girl group and are known for bringing the badass-ness that was missing from the overly ‘aegyo’ or cutesy girl groups. To help them rise to the top, YG Entertainment even had them collaborate with BIG BANG in the song, ‘Lollilop.’ 2NE1 definitely took risks and forced YG Entertainment to take a different direction, but the group definitely exceeded their expectations with the hit song ‘I am the Best’ released only two years after their debut. The song became an international hit and an anthem for all the ladies out there!
However, if I had to pick my favorite song from this revolutionary girl group it would definetly be another one of their hit songs, ‘Come Back Home,’ a homage to, you guess it, Seo Taiji and Boys’ hit song back in the 90’s.
After 2NE1’s messy disbandment in 2016, YG Entertainment was left with a void and missing that dynamic girl group that made it so popular. But, that was soon filled with another four member girl group that rose to stardom almost instantaneously, BLACKPINK. It's no surprise that BLACKPINK was an instant success, the four members each were distinctive with unique vocals, rapping styles, and attitudes to make them stand out amongst the, once again, cutesy girl group crowd.
BLACKPINK embodies the modern approach to YG Entertainment’s original hip-hop edge that made the recording company famous. And the new approach was greatly received from YG fans and music fans across the world. The group has something so cool about them that made fans want to know more. After only a year since their debut, BLACKPINK is already breaking records with their latest single ‘As If It’s Your Last’ reaching 70 million YouTube views faster than any other K-pop group!
YG Entertainment still is reaching a new feel, direction, and look that isn't just focused on hip-hop and it shows in their other, sometimes less known, groups WINNER, iKON, and even first generation K-pop group, SECHSKIES, who debuted in 1997 but went on hiatus for 16 years.
But, maybe YG Entertainment’s most unique group is a brother, sister duo called Akdong Musician or AKMU. The pair have harmonic voices that line perfectly with their quirky music styles and beats. Each song brings a different feel for the listener, whether it reminds them of past heartbreak, unrequited love, or just to enjoy dancing and life itself! The pair regularly write, compose, and direct their own music and music videos giving them the creative freedom necessary to pull of their daring hits. It’s no wonder that AKMU are quickly becoming well-known in a usually pop and visual obsessed industry. Who can deny that AKMU know how to have fun with one of their best singles, ‘How People Move.’
What YG Entertainment does so well is that it enables its artists to express themselves, both their good and bad sides. The artists are able to write, compose, and produce their own music and do not have to fall under that ‘cutesy’ exterior that plagues so many other groups in other entertainment companies. Instead, the artists are encouraged to be themselves and act their age both in their music style and personal style. With that comes great responsibility, and although YG Entertainment is no stranger to controversy, no one can deny that they pull it off really well. If you had to take one thing away from this, I hope it is at least that YG Entertainment is a music industry that focuses on music and emotion, rather than looks (although, that might change in the future, who knows?).
What do you think of YG Entertainment’s music? Let me know in the comments below!
Stay Kurrent. Stay K-pop.
Note: No images or media owned by me