Note: In this article, Gen 3 refers to groups that debuted after EXO (EXO themselves is part of Gen 3 themselves). Gen 2 refers to everyone who debuted between the debuts of TVXQ and EXO.
A few comments on the differences between Gen 2 and Gen 3
If you’re new to Kpop, you might have the heard the terms, “Gen 2” or “Gen 3” or even “Gen 2.5” thrown around. But what truly separate the two gens? There are some key differences between the two.
- Globalization: I don’t think this needs to be explained much. Gen 3’s Kpop is a lot more globalized than Gen 2’ Kpop ever was. If Gen 2 Kpop started to crack the ice on internationalization of Kpop with TVXQ (Japan), Kara (Japan), Wonder Girls (America, but not really), SNSD (Pan-Asia but especially China with Yoona), then Gen 3 Kpop broke a giant hole then dived in and swam laps. They did things which were previously thought to be impossible dreams possible, from many record-breaking world tours to Western’s awards nominations. Granted, many of these achievements are done by one group (BTS), but the fact that these achievements have been accomplished lay down a strong foundation for other groups to do the same.
- Social Media: Social media is a lot more accessible and lot more prevalent in Gen 3 than in Gen 2. While this has led to things like more interactions with fans, globalization (see above), it has also led to some very negative consequences. An increase in social media presence has also mean an increase in outlets for the immature fans of Kpop. This is the reason why Kpop groups these days treat the opposite sex like the plague, lest the delusional stans rip the groups to shred. Here’s a video of Jungkook (BTS), SinB (GFriend), and Eunseo (WJSN)’s graduation ceremony where they were standing next to each other as the media took pictures of them”. The entire time, Jungkook either looked at the ground or straight ahead at the cameras, treating SinB and Eunseo to his side as if they were the Blair Witch, and if he looked at them something terrible would happen. Meanwhile, SinB and Eunseo only talked among themselves (they are best friends after all). This is why interactions between opposite-sex groups at variety shows, music shows, etc. are so much rarer these days, unlike in the past to the one of the most memorable Kpop ads of all time by 2PM and SNSD). Social media is also the reason why many Kpop groups have to try their hardest to be socially “woke”, while barely understanding the complicated issues involved, just so their stans can go around being “proud” of how “woke” their faves are.
- Catering to fanbases: 3rd Gen Kpop produces a lot more content that are exclusively aimed for their fanbases than in the previous generation. Vlives, exclusive-group variety shows (IZ*ONE must have like 30 different ones), InstaLives, etc. This obviously not only help with the aforementioned globalization of Kpop, but also helps to give groups these days a bigger and more stable fanbases as a whole compared to 2nd Gen’s groups. This has allowed even mid-tier groups of Gen 3 to be able to hold tours and concerts and ensure that they have fans (contrast this with the fact that Sistar could barely fill their first concerts with a couple of thousands of people). This has also directly leads to:
- Differences in physical sales: Gen 3’s groups as a whole has higher physical sales than gen 2’s groups, a difference that is very noticeable by some simple comparisons of GG sales. Physical sales of WJSN’s latest comeback (this summer) cracked 100K, something that even peak Apink could not do, despite the fact that WJSN is nowhere near as big or as well-known as Apink was at their peak. fromis_9’s most recent comeback sold more than 50K in physical sales, which is double of the highest physical album sales of Sistar, despite again, Sistar being infinitely more known and famous and iconic than fromis_9. IZ*ONE’s physical sales outperform both peak SNSD’s and 2NE1’s physical sales, despite the fact that again, both of the latter groups are way more well-known than IZ*ONE. As JYP once stated that the best indicator of a girl group’s health is its physical sales, it is clear that in this generation, with this type of physical sales that only boy groups could pull off in the past, it is much easier for a mid-tier girl group to survive, as girl groups can now still make money and thus keep going without needing to disband even without the Korean GP’s attention, something that only boy groups can do previously.
- GP’s awareness: However, as a tradeoff to Gen 3’s strategy focusing more on their fans and thus being able to build bigger fanbases as compared to Gen 2’s groups, Gen 2 groups have much higher GP’s recognition compared to Gen 3’s groups as a whole, because Gen 2’s groups generally focused a lot more on getting recognized within the general GP, because that was how they make their money. They went on variety shows a lot more often than Gen 3’s groups (everyone, from the elite tier to the nugus, went on variety in Gen 2), acted more often and acted in bigger Kdramas than Gen 3, and had more CFs than Gen 3 (as an example, Jennie had around 7-8 (Individual + Group) CFs from June of last year to this year). Yoona had 20 (!!) in the first half of 2012 alone . Hyeri had 28 individual + group CFs in 2016 alone. (Please don’t give me the bullshit that goes “OMG, Jennie has deals with Chanel and all these luxurious brands. She just doesn’t want to take all the other CFs, but she has a shit ton of offers”. My responses to that would be a) 2nd gen idols also have higher-end endorsements (Yoona had Kors, Pandora (jewelry), and Innisfree for example), b) Jennie has a luxurious fashionable image, one that mainly appeals to the successful young sector of the GP, a minority sector while Yoona and other 2nd-gen it-girls have much more approachable images (Suzy: “Nation’s First Love”, IU: “Nation’s Little Sister”, etc.) that allow them to appeal to a much broader part of the GP, and c) luxurious brands/fashion are not inherently better than any more common brands, in fact, more people will know and use the common brands.) This directly leads to:
- Differences in digitals: Because of their advantage in GP’s awareness (and also partly because streaming culture has taken over for downloading culture), Gen 2 as a whole has higher digitals sales and higher digital chartings/peaks than Gen 3. T-ara sold 4M digital copies of “Roly-Poly”, SNSD won 9 straight times on Music Bank with “Gee”, 2NE1 sold 3.9M digital copies of “I Am The Best”, etc, stats that are simply unmatched by any groups in Gen 3. It’s just not at the top either, the trend stayed the same even to the mid-tier groups. Rainbow had two songs that sold 1M+ digitals, and several more that had above 500K+ digitals, numbers that Lovelyz can’t hope to match (they only have 2 songs above 500K+ digitals and 1 above 1M+ digitals) and other mid-tier Gen 3’s groups can only dream of. Most Gen 3’s mid-tier groups can barely even chart on the day of their comeback, much less crank out a good digital sales numbers.