Blackpink at the MTV Video Music Awards in the US this year. They have just topped the US’ Billboard album chart, proving the long-held assumption that boy bands command more sales than girl groups can wrong. Photo: AP
Tamar Herman
Tamar Herman

From Blackpink to Twice, women rule K-pop in 2022 – let’s not go back to thinking otherwise

  • It has been thought for the longest time that girl groups are not able to sell as many albums or tickets as male K-pop artists – this year has proved that wrong
  • Blackpink have just topped the US’ Billboard album chart, Girls’ Generation are back, and groups like Le Sserafim and NewJeans are breaking sales records
Tamar Herman

2022 is going to go down as a year that belongs to the women of K-pop.

Blackpink have just made history by topping the US’ Billboard chart with their Born Pink album and Twice have had hit after hit. Both are embarking on stadium tours.
Tomboy by (G)I-dle has become one of the year’s biggest hits in South Korea and IVE, Aespa, Le Sserafim and NewJeans – who form the core of a new generation of K-pop girl groups – are breaking album sales records.
Older girl groups like Girls’ Generation, Kara, Mamamoo and Exid, too, are still going strong, or are making their own comebacks.
Twice at a concert in Los Angeles earlier this year.

While all-female acts have had moments where they have dominated, it has been thought for the longest time that they are not able to sell as many albums or concert tickets as male K-pop artists.

For years, boy bands – even those that have largely flown by under the radar – have toured in the United States and Europe, while the biggest girl groups have struggled to stage international tours beyond Asia. This year, however, women-led world tours and million-selling albums have become something of a regularity.

Le Sserafim perform during the Seoul Festa 2022 in Seoul in August, 2022. Photo: AFP

Female K-pop acts were once marketed almost exclusively to male audiences, with female fans considered secondary.

Power players in the music business assumed that female K-pop stars could not pull in dedicated, largely female fandoms the same way that male acts could and still do, with those fans maintaining years’-long careers.

While it is true that only a handful – often those that enjoyed sustained success or were musically impactful like Girls’ Generation and 2NE1 – built up dedicated female fandoms, such old-fashioned thinking has been cast aside with a new generation of female K-pop stars who resonate with the full spectrum of listeners.

Girls’ Generation made their comeback in 2022. Photo: Instagram/@girlsgeneration
The assumption that the success of girl groups is driven solely by male fans has been proven wrong time and again. It has very rarely been the case that this is the reason for their longevity, as it is female artists who have the broadest appeal.

Their male counterparts are more likely to become the object of niche – usually wholly female – audiences.

In a year of stand-out music from many girl groups and very few truly groundbreaking songs from boy bands, this has proved true to the nth degree. The women of K-pop have shown they can hold their own on a level playing field in a way that had felt almost impossible until recently, especially when it comes to international audiences.

NewJeans are part of a new generation of K-pop girl groups. Photo: @newjeans_japan/Instagram
This has not been a year without its struggles for the women of K-pop, but it has clearly been one in which the wins have outweighed the moments of hardship.

Things have clearly changed for girls in power, and it is to be hoped they will not go back to how they once were. It is important that misconceptions, such as the idea that only one gender can reach the top of any industry, be put to bed.