Red Velvet (July 9), EXO (July 18), Girls’ Generation (August 4), NCT Dream (August 17).
These are the comeback dates of some of SM Entertainment’s idol groups. On the outside, it looks like SM has made it a goal to target this summer and send out its best and brightest. However, some in the industry point out that when looking at music charts, music show rankings, and being topical, having overlapping promotional periods may do more harm than good for idol groups. SM is sure to know this, so why did they plan out their idols’ comebacks in such a way?
A representative explained, “The album release dates were set independently for each group, taking into consideration factors like title tracks, music videos, concepts, and concert plans. Each of the four groups had their comeback dates set based on their group’s schedules.” Girl groups prefer to release summer albums, and that’s what Red Velvet had in mind with the release of “The Red Summer.” Their title track “Red Flavor” has been enjoying a long run on music charts, with some calling it “The perfect summer song.”
Following them came EXO with a surprise comeback. Though they had been dropping hints of a summer comeback, an official date wasn’t set till July. EXO had also prepared a summer concept for their fourth studio album “The War.” The album title not only represents EXO’s world view, but it literally means “It’s hot” in Korean as well. The title track “Ko Ko Bop” is a rhythmical reggae-pop song that goes well with the summer season. Red Velvet and EXO both set out to promote for approximately a month and their overlapping schedules meant that they often stood as rivals on stage for various music shows and on music charts.
Girls’ Generation’s focus was on releasing a special album for their 10th anniversary. The group debuted on August 5, 2007 and to commemorate the milestone, Girls’ Generation released “Holiday Night” online on August 4. Though their results on the charts were below expectations, their comeback was a hot topic because it was for their 10th anniversary. A representative stated, “Because we have many idol groups under SM, we often have groups with overlapping promotional periods. We believe that this summer, Girls’ Generation was in the spotlight because it’s their 10th anniversary.”
And last but not least is SM’s youngest group, NCT Dream, who will make a return on August 17. Having made their debut last August, NCT Dream is a six-member group of teens with a youthful image. NCT Dream’s first mini album “We Young” has a “Summer Boy” concept and the representative explained, “NCT Dream has a strong base of teenage fans, and they set their comeback date to fit within the summer vacation period.”
Girls’ Generation promoted for approximately a week. By the time NCT Dream makes their comeback, Red Velvet, EXO, and Girls’ Generation will have wrapped up most of their promotional activities. It looks like an idol group can promote for as little as a week now, and an industry source stated, “Idol groups having shorter promotional periods can be a reflection of how fast trends change in K-pop and on its music charts.” Music critic Kim Yoon Ha added, “Nowadays, promotional activities for idol groups aren’t just music shows. They also appear on variety shows and this means that idols have to take on a large amount of activities in a short period of time. Most groups these days will be active for about three or four weeks so as to not overexert themselves.”
SM isn’t the only agency that has its idol groups make comebacks close to each other. This is something that happens in YG and JYP as well. Kim Yoon Ha explained, “In large agencies, they have quite a large number of groups and also have to juggle individual activities, like drama schedules and solo albums, as well. Therefore, it becomes difficult for them to evenly space out the schedules of all of their artists.” Some describe seeing idol groups from the same agency competing against each other as “in-fighting,” but a representative from SM stated, “Idol group activities aren’t only targeted at topping music charts or winning music shows. We just hope we provided an opportunity for people to listen to a wide variety of music this summer.”