This has been a prosperous season for the youngest wave of new idol groups. Sparkly fresh-faced groups are slipping into the concepts once enjoyed by their sunbaenim but with hits, views and downloads surpassing anything their trailblazers ever enjoyed. BTS brashly invades Bigbang's space, Twice pops the bubblegum queendom once owned by SNSD, Red Velvet bounces through territory once owned exclusively by f(x) and now... YG's new 2EN1, Blackpink.
With the release of "Wonderland," exiled SNSD fashion plate Jessica Jung fights the good fight, returning without the "Comeback" fanfare of South Korean weekly music shows, undoubtedly due to her rift with KPop's largest entertainment company, SM and its broad blacklisting muscle. After all, SM is making a big push to reap the rewards of the remaining Soshi members with their own solo efforts.
While the song is exactly what you might expect from the American-born Ice Princess of Girls' Generation, and a little disappointingly so, her deserving status as one of the few possible crossover artists KPop has gives her the nod this week.
"Wonderland" seems like the perfectly natural follow-up to her first solo release "Fly." It showcases her perky sincerity and the trademark saccharine voice and diction that make both her and her sister Krystal of f(x) so distinctive and immediately recognizable. The video is a sumptuous medley of Alpine winter scenes, as Jessica, like in "Fly" continues to not only embrace her backhanded nickname from Girls' Generation, but harp on it. If you love Jessica (to the point where you usually call her 'Sica and her face is your YouTube or Instagram icon), this one is a keeper. It just might not be the one that garnishes her as many new fans and in some ways is a somewhat trite step back from "Fly" and its sultry simultaneous release "Love Me The Same." But this is Jessica's sound, apparently, and it's a niche she seems happy to carve out for herself as she balances her recording career with the fashion business that ran her afoul of SM. The Jessica sound is emblematically bright and pretty and hopeful and we wish her nothing but the best.
Meanwhile, as Girls' Generation continues to mature, transitioning fairly smoothly from the aegyo-powered cutesy nine that is now a market cornered by JYP's Twice to a more glamorous and sleeker eight, SM continues to spinoff their members into solo endeavors. First, logically, came SNSD's diminutive powerhouse lead singer Kim Taeyeon and her hit album I, then the California-born Tiffany Hwang's underrated EP I Just Wanna Dance, another Taeyeon hit EP Why, STATION releases from the universally adored Soshi visual and actress Im Yoona, a duet/shampoo commercial from Kwon Yuri and maknae Seohyun, and others. SM and CEO Lee Soo Man are clearly harvesting the millions spent on cultivating South Korea's undisputed leading girl group's members, maximizing their reach by nurturing their varied solo careers.
Recently, Taeyeon performed her own solo concert, a major milestone for an idol singer transitioning to solo status, and released yet another slide of her star power and warm, unmistakable voice, the folk-and-country-inspired "11:11." After a ill-timed Instagram faux pas that left her Soshi future in question, Tiffany Hwang expanded her potential crossover power closer to her hometown with a guest appearance on L.A.'s hip-hop and electronica group Far♦East Movement's new LP Identity. The haunting track called "Don't Speak" might be her best vocal work yet. Tiffany's emotional and surprisingly powerful voice is clearly the highlight of a track that also features mixmaster King Chain. And another STATION release from lead dancer Kim Hyoyeon that recently peaked at #12 on Billboard's World Music chart, the exotic Middle-Eastern infused hip hop number "Mystery".
Here's all four of them, starting with the outcast, the lovely Ms. Jung: