Welcome to Fan Chant, a weekly column for K-pop fans, stans, and newbies alike. Each week, I’ll be rolling out interviews, lists, and all kinds of content to keep you in the loop on the latest and greatest from our friends in Seoul and beyond. Also, make sure to subscribe to my companion newsletter!
At its core, I simply believe that being a K-pop fan should be fun. Think about why you got into your ult group — whether it was the music, the thrilling music videos, or the immaculate vibes between members, odds are there was something that made you smile and want to keep tuning in. For the chronically online among us — myself absolutely included — it’s easy to get caught up in release goals, voting, and the ever-present charts that circulate fandoms.
This week, I found myself thinking about that last point; charts can definitely be helpful and insightful, but they’re also sometimes an outdated way of looking at artists and their work. Like awards shows, it’s always nice to see faves getting the kind of accolades they deserve, but wins and losses shouldn’t be the be all and end all when it comes to supporting artists we love.
Similarly, for any American K-pop fans, it’s good to remember that a whole world exists beyond Billboard charts or annual (often archaic) awards shows. Thanks to my TikTok algorithm, I was recently put onto some of the charts that reflect South Korea’s domestic data, specifically MelOn and Genie. As someone who gravitates way too easily to boy groups, the data was majorly eye opening: 2022 listeners are super here for the girl groups.
What Are the MelOn and Genie Charts?
The MelOn and Genie charts reflect listeners on these two South Korean streaming platforms. Like the social accounts that update us on Spotify data, these charts report numbers from users who are streaming away on these sites — the latest stats from MelOn, for example, boast over 28 million users on the platform. Like Spotify, MelOn users can stream and download music. They can also create ringtones out of music, which is adorable and enviable. Genius, meanwhile, is the second-most utilized platform in South Korea.
Naturally, it should come as no surprise that BTS hold most of the long-time records on both platforms, MelOn in particular — “Spring Day,” you will always be famous! “Dynamite,” you came and did what you had to do!
What Are These Charts Saying Lately?
The most recent update of combined data from the above charts is illuminating. There are so many different ways to frame the ways we consume music, and an interesting one is by zooming in on the idea of Unique Listeners. While there may be fandoms with larger and more enthusiastic followings, Unique Listeners is one way to examine domestic popularity.
On the mid-September 2022 chart, of the top 15 songs, 13 (!) are from girl groups. This includes legacy acts like Red Velvet and Girls’ Generation alongside relative rookies like NewJeans and LE SSERAFIM. Zooming out, of the top 20 songs, 16 are entries from girl groups.
What’s exciting about this trend is that listeners are clearly not experiencing any girl group fatigue. This could be for a number of reasons, but people seem to be in agreement that the ladies of K-pop have been rolling out diverse enough concepts that people from all audiences can tune in to many different acts for different reasons. ITZY are still peak girl crush, while TWICE always deliver on the bright pop they do best. The refreshing girl-next-door energy of NewJeans and the perpetual glamor of Red Velvet exist in different boxes; meanwhile, experimental work from aespa and NMIXX drags us into futures of their own individual designs.
Take a look at NMIXX’s very first comeback: “DICE” premiered a mere two days ago, and it’s already approaching 30 millions views on YouTube. This group debuted in February (of this year!), and listeners are already hungry for what’s next. Good news for people keeping an eye on the septet: Their latest, ENTWURF, is now available.
At the end of the day, there’s room for everyone, and charts shouldn’t always be analyzed as much more than a place for interesting insights into what people are enjoying these days. So keep streaming, keep vibing, and keep loving the acts you love — and for the girl groups out there at the moment, keep slaying.
This week has a lot to be excited for: At midnight Eastern time tonight (6:00 p.m. on September 22nd KST), Crush will be releasing a new song quite literally titled “Rush Hour (Feat. and Starring j-hope of BTS)” — as it should be! The teaser indicates that the new song from the P NATION artist and beloved BTS member will be a bop, and includes some energetic choreography.
Meanwhile, later this week, SEVENTEEN’s JUN will share a solo track titled “Limbo.” The concept photos are very much serving “Howl’s Moving Castle If It Also Featured Vampires.”
— 세븐틴(SEVENTEEN) (@pledis_17) September 21, 2022
Running List of Artists My Cat Has Met Over Zoom and Never Thanked Me For:
Stray Kids (NEW!)
Song Rec of the Week:
In the spirit of girl power, let’s all just take another listen to “SUNSET” from NAYEON’s wonderful solo EP. I’m still fairly new to the world of TWICE, but I absolutely adored this mini-album.