Thanks to the success of their 2016 mega-hit “Why So Lonely”, the Wonder Girls went into 2017 more popular than they had been in years. So, naturally K-pop fans everywhere were shocked when the iconic group announced their disbandment in January.
Perhaps what was more shocking than the disbandment itself was that OG members Yeeun and Sunmi decided not to renew their contracts with JYP Entertainment, ending a business relationship that goes back over a decade.
Yeeun had long been predicted to go down a similar path to SM Entertainment’s BoA by taking a role like, Creative Director in the company, while Sunmi had two incredibly successful solo releases under JYP setting up her future as a formidable K-diva. So, why leave?
While Yeeun, a talented vocalist, songwriter, and producer should have little problem maintaining a music career wherever she goes next, the jury’s still out on Sunmi.
The 24-year-old has never been known for her singing skills, and for a long time had a negative image for leaving the Wonder Girls at the height of the group’s popularity to go and study, only to return to the industry as a soloist a few years later.
Her surprising success as a solo act was all down to having the right songs and concepts at the right time. While Sunmi’s own star quality certainly played a part in her popularity (you can’t buy charisma like hers - you either have it, or you don’t), the genius of JYP Entertainment can’t be discounted, especially when J.Y. Park himself produced her first single, “24 Hours”.
Current reports claim that Sunmi is now in talks to join MakeUs Entertainment, a relatively small agency best known for signing R&B group Urban Zakapa last year.
Moving from a giant like JYP to a smaller agency like MakeUs Entertainment makes me wonder if Sunmi’s decision is all about who can support her the best. In a span of four years, she only had two solo releases under JYP, and two releases as part of the Wonder Girls - a pretty small workload for a young K-star of her stature. Compare that to HyunA, who in the same time-span had three solos, five group releases with 4minute, and one sub-unit release as part of Trouble Maker. Or Ga-In, who had three solos, two albums with Brown Eyed Girls, an EP with Cho Hyung Woo, and even appeared in a big budget movie.
See the difference?
Despite the size of JYP Entertainment, we can’t forget that the company only recently reclaimed their position as part of ‘the big three’ thanks to TWICE. JYP’s focus will now be on maintaining TWICE, building the growing GOT7, getting DAY6 off the ground, and preparing new idol groups - specifically, a girl group built around Jun Somi. While I still think that not keeping Wonder Girls together is a bad decision, if only for their name value alone, I can see why it’s turned out like this.
A Sunmi without JYP is hard to imagine, but hopefully the full, undivided attention and support of a smaller agency will do wonders for her solo career. As long as she chooses the right second home, there’s no reason why we won’t see Sunmi this time next year with another hit single and a slew of other opportunities, like variety and acting, that she just couldn’t get under JYP.