Oct 24, 2016

Cube And FNC Present Their Additions To The Fourth Generation: SF9 & Pentagon


The past two or three years or so have really marked the beginning of a new generation in K-pop, with most major music companies putting out their future moneymakers and the scene sort of shifting as many older groups have either split up or are on indefinite hiatuses. There aren't many groups who debuted in 2010 or earlier who are still frequently putting out new music, and those debuting in 2011 or 2012 have either made it big or faded into nuguland. I'd say it was around 2013 when I started feeling a new wave of K-pop groups coming in, but the past two years especially have truly marked the start of a new era of K-pop. YG has debuted Winner, iKon and Blackpink, SM are spending money on Red Velvet and NCT, JYP has made a name for themselves again with Got7 and Twice, Starship with Monsta X and WJSN, and other companies have made huge profit with hit groups like BTS, GFriend, Seventeen and Mamamoo. Not to mention all the groups that have been given their first "little sister groups" like Infinite and Lovelyz, Vixx and Gugudan as well as B1A4 and Oh My Girl. You see where I'm getting at right? These days are obviously a good time for companies to debut their future investments, and FNC Entertainment and Cube Entertainment are not lagging behind.

Both companies actually debuted new groups fairly recently, as Cube did with CLC and FNC with N.Flying. It's fair to say that both groups have performed underwhelmingly, and that's actually mostly because their companies don't seem to know what they're doing with them. FNC seems to be only having eyes on AOA who are clearly doing good. Well, not all of AOA since member Youkyung (who played the drums in AOA Black; if you can remember that AOA once had a band unit) recently left the company, and their oldest group FT.Island are left to promote themselves, basically. N.Flying haven't made a name for themselves at all despite debuting three years ago, and this made me skeptical that this company could or should manage another group.

For Cube the situation is probably even worse, since literally everyone is leaving the company. A Pink, whose current company originally was a subsidiary of Cube, recently parted ways and have now nothing to do with each other, and all of 4Minute but Hyuna left earlier this year as well. Just a couple days ago it was further announced that Beast are not renewing their contracts and are looking to promote elsewhere (possibly starting their own company), and it's hard to imagine that Cube once was on the way of becoming one of "the big 3" back in 2011-2012. For that reason this recent debut is especially important for the company's future, and even more so considering CLC's lack of impact. However it's hard to have high expectations since they've managed to lose all of their big acts in recent days.

Thus the topic of this debut is approaching; the debuts of FNC's and Cube's newest boy groups. One thing they have in common is that they, like many up and coming idol groups these days, participated in pre-debut reality shows.

This isn't anything new at all as pre-debut reality shows existed even back in the "golden" days of K-pop, with hugely influential groups such as Big Bang was part of one before they debuted. However it seems like they're getting more and more common since many of the newer groups were on these kind of shows, such as Monsta X, Twice, Seventeen, iKon, Winner and most famously I.O.I. As the idol market is extremely saturated it's really not that strange for companies to want to create some kind of following prior to a debut, and reality shows have proven to be quite effective as well in building hype and anticipation. Both of FNC's and Cube's new groups participated in reality shows, neither of which I watched, but with slightly different approaches. FNC had two pre-debut groups take part; one dance-based group and one band, and the viewers got to decide who would debut first. As for Cube it was an individual competition with members being eliminated, but for some reason they decided to debut all of the original 10 members anyway, making me wonder what the show's intention really was. Nonetheless there are now two brand new groups that are ready to take on the world; SF9 and Pentagon. 

SF9 stands for "Sensational First 9" and debuted first on October 4th with "Fanfare", and are actually FNC's first male group that aren't a band. Unfortunately it shows. It took a few years before FNC got it right with AOA and chances are these boys will be around for some time before they gain larger momentum as well. There is really nothing special about this debut, from the terrible generic and unoriginal "hip-hop" dance track, which is a genre I'm really getting tired of seeing in K-pop, to the video and performance.

I might be slightly biased already from the start because I don't particularly like FNC and their way of managing their acts, but the members of SF9 aren't attracting me regardless. The rapping is not that great, the singing is average and the the choreography is lackluster. I also have a really hard time just listening to the song because the production quality of it is not very high and you'd think FNC would have enough money to hire some decent songwriters and producers. Same goes with the music video which I don't get at all, as it seems to have neither a plot nor purpose and just seems to be a collection of random scenes. It gives off quite a cheap feeling too which again is weird because FNC has the money, but for some reason they decided to not spend it on this debut. I know I'm coming off as harsh and I agree that perhaps they don't deserve to be shamed like this but at this point I consume way too much K-pop to have time and energy to listen to groups that give me nothing. Let's just say I look much more forward to the upcoming debut of their band rather than this.

Song: 1,5/5
MV: 2/5

Here's where I'm going to be contradictory because I actually don't dislike Pentagon's debut that much at all, despite it not being too different from SF9's. Pentagon debuted on October 9th, only a few days later, and from an objective standpoint this debut is probably just as eye-catching as the other one. That meaning not very eye-catching at all. It's pretty much the same story here; a "hip-hop" dance track with a instrumental beat drop and rugged-looking boys acting tough in front of the camera. This trend in music among boy groups has to go because it's making it hard for me to like any new boy group, but at least this song is much better than "Fanfare". "Gorilla" actually has a good production behind it and the melody and beat drop are much more comfortable to listen to. The vocalists are quite impressive too, with the big name being Jinho, who for a long time was a known SM trainee who never got to debut and finally switched companies. I'm truly happy for him to finally debut and his voice is much welcomed into the world of K-pop. Other known faces include Hongseok; one of the trainees that almost debuted with iKon but didn't make the final cut, who gets another shot at fame.

The MV is not as impressive though, even though it's slightly more high-budget than the one above. It's still a pretty standard dance video with lots of choreography and individual shots of the members in various dark and gritty sets. They try and play it up a bit with the lightning and camera angles, but at the end it's still a pretty boring video that doesn't do much to set Pentagon apart from other groups. The choreography is quite good though and they all seem to be good dancers, but it's not a video I would watch on repeat just for the sheer pleasure of it. I will say though that I will keep an eye on this group because I do see potential, and especially I see a company who's desperate to earn back some credibility, so I do think Cube will invest as much as they can into this group. This group also has its fair share of ridiculously good looking guys so at least there's that if the music bit doesn't fully work out (like my relationship with Got7).

Song: 3,2/5
MV: 3/5

Overall I'd say that these two debuts didn't wow me particularly much, and I think that in both cases it will require a lot more work if the two companies want to see them succeed. Right now I think that Cube has the upper hand but who knows what the future will hold. What do you think about SF9 and Pentagon? Did any of the groups catch your eye?

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