Near the end of the 90s, girl groups had two main strategies for success. They would either put forward the pure and innocent image or show off powerful dance skills and go for the more boyish look. The rivalry between FIN.K.L and S.E.S., as well as the appearance of BoA shows this very well.
Back then, there were instances of using sex appeal to gain popularity but it was at a cost. Baby Vox attempted the first limited sex appeal and though they did gain many fans, teenage girls became their enemy.
Compared to then, the public has changed a lot. Now, male fans are not ashamed of admitting that girl groups definitely fuel their sexual fantasies. Females no longer find this repulsive and are even jealous at the sex appeal that the girl groups are able to have and have begun to accept it. The girl group market, which began expanding with Girls Generation and Wonder Girls after 2006, changed to this naturally.
The end of the 2000s marks the most intense competitions between groups like 2NE1, 4minute, After School, and f(x). This gave birth to a whole flood of groups going for sex appeal and even Brown Eyed Girls came over to the dark side with “Abracadabra,” and Girls Generation also came around with “Genie.”
Incredible Competition, How to Set Yourself Apart?
The look of the industry now is reminiscent of 3 years ago. KARA, who debuted with a cute image, is now one of the key girl groups going for sex appeal. 4minute and SECRET are showcasing ‘wide open’ dance moves. Girls Day and Jewelry, who had maintained a friendly image, are now going for ‘sexy’ too.
If sex appeal was what set the groups apart 3 years ago, now it’s just a futile last attempt from the management companies. The last few years saw an exponential growth in the girl group market and now it’s even hard to stay in the market unless you fit in. Many of them debut with the belief in the K-Pop wave movement but the support domestically isn’t at the same level anymore. The concepts that are possible in performances have been exhausted.
It’s easy to say that you must set yourself apart with real skill, but the truth is sex appeal is what sold. There’s no reason to antagonize it but there’s a certain limit to it as well.
2009, Ivy tasted failure with an overexposure of sex appeal. She tried to compete with incredibly explicit dance moves and she was trying to gain back her popularity after a 2-year hiatus in a short time. The storm began with her ‘bed’ performance with 2PM’s Nichkhun, which was not sex appeal but explicit description of sex. 2PM fans became angry and struck back, which led Ivy to close her Cyworld homepage.
There is a very fine line between ‘sexy’ and just straight up ‘sex’ but the response from fans are completely different. What the fans want is for the artists to leave something up to the imagination.
Taking It Off Isn’t Everything
Gain’s new single “Bloom” is an example of how erotic sex appeal can be without nudity or exposure. All she has are shorts and a garter belt. However, her dance moves are well planned out so that they can really appeal to people’s imaginations with simple movements.
The public is not incredibly phased by sexy performances from attractive female singers but too much can create antagonistic responses. They want something subtle, something that makes you imagine rather than giving you everything.