Let’s be real; the house that Yang Hyun Suk built wins every year. But 2014 felt like a monumental year for the K-pop powerhouse. YG stans unite; haters step back. Let’s take a look at ways YG Entertainment won in 2014.
1.Taking more risks with music videos
What’s K-pop without music videos? YG artists have always pushed the envelope with their visuals. But in 2014, we saw the label challenge the industry and even fans’ expectations. Through collaborations with director Dee Shin, we got social commentary in the form of a near-future dystopia in 2NE1’s “Come Back Home,” a coming-of-age short film that could’ve debuted at a film festival in Akdong Musician’s “Melted,” and a whole series of teasers for Winner which referenced everything from Taxi Driver to French New Wave directors like Jean Luc Godard. More recently, Epik High linked with acclaimed visual artists DigiPedi to explore a vertical format video for a mobile phone generation.
2. Utilizing untapped talents
Taeyang’s always been able to throw down in the dance realm, but fans were treated to something special with the choreography video to “Ringa Linga.” And it was a certified hit, garnering even more YouTube views then the actual music video. We also saw CL, the leader of 2NE1, penning her own songs, creating one of the biggest hits off of 2NE1’s Crush with “MTBD.”
3. Introducing Winner
If you want to talk about untapped talents, you can look no further than the stable of work-hard hopefuls in YG’s idol trainee program. With the reality survival competition show Who Is Next?, these no-names came out of these dark, sweaty practice rooms and into the hearts of a whole new generation of screaming fangirls. The debut album of the newly-established boyband Winner was delayed, but it met with critical and chart-topping success.
4. Setting IKON up for success
The future of the losing team of Who Is Next? was uncertain with the conclusion of the program, but YG followed the show up with another show to appease the aching hearts of “Team B” fangirls, and IKON was created. Some viewers have cried troll as he introduced elimination rounds, playing with the emotions of both fans and group members alike. But at the end of the day, it was great marketing and incited more fan support for a group that fought through two competitions for the right to debut. Also,they picked up a new group maknae in actor-turned-singer Jung Chanwoo, who proved he could hang with the group and pick up ice creams.
5. Letting Bobby show and prove
B.I. is the leader of IKON, but the breakout star of 2014 is Bobby. Fans were introduced to the aggressive rapper as a soft-spoken idol trainee who missed his mom. But on top of the aforementioned reality shows, Bobby was thrown into the fierce rap showdown known as Show Me The Money 3, taking home the win and bringing credibility back to the “idol rapper” title. Since then, he’s had chart-topping hits like “Go” that regularly bang in Korean clubs and was also named a GQ Korea Man of the Year.
6. Solidifying its presence globally
Korean media loves to play up the Hallyu wave and K-pop’s importance in the world’s collective consciousness, but this year it’s been hard to dispute, especially in the arena of fashion. G-Dragon did his usual style guy thing by appearing on the cover of Hypebeast magazine earlier this year, and 2NE1 was all in that Alexander Wang x H&M launch earlier this month. But Louis Vuitton reportedly invested $80 million in the YG brand. (Editor’s note: NONA9ON also happened this year, but its official debut comes in 2015).
Outside of fashion, PSY scored another hit with “Hangover,” accompanied by none other than Snoop Dogg. It was no “Gangnam Style,” but it still got over 100 million views and exposed the world to soju bombs and partying with ajummas. Like, that really happened. Next year looks to be no different as 2NE1’s leader CL looks to debut stateside with Justin Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun. Unnieeeeeeeyo!
7. Bringing the hits, hits, and more hits
All these factors are great, but when it comes down to it, it’s about the music right?
The releases from the YG label have all been so different yet all successful in their own right. The secret may be in YG allowing artists to do them. This rings especially true when it comes to groups who were formed outside the label, like Akdong Musician, who didn’t change their playful folk sound with their debut album PLAY or Epik High, who were told to record their latest, Shoebox, outside the YG facilities to avoid any influence on their sound.
The label’s concept of family also pops up again and again as the label head creates “units” from time to time, pairing up singers from different groups with solo artists. Hi Suhyun just dropped their single “I’m Different” featuring Bobby, who also appears in the Masta Wu song alongside SMTM3 mentor Dok2 in “Come Here.” Finally, who can ignore the success of G-Dragon and Taeyang’s latest chart-topper “Good Boy”?
Longstanding acts can’t be ignored in this realm either, as 2NE1’s album Crush was the highest-selling Korean album on the Billboard 200 charts. Big Bang’s Taeyang saw similar success for Rise as the highest solo Korean act on the Billboard 200, making the album title more like prophecy than anything.
With rumors of a new girl group, the debut of IKON, and the feverish anticipation growing for Big Bang’s comeback, 2015 looks like another banner year for the CEO of YG and his signature cap. What are your predictions for the coming year?