Grading the K-Pop Agencies 2023: STARSHIP ENTERTAINMENT

Before I take a brief look at many of K-pop’s smaller agencies, there are a few that I have more to say about. Consider these “bonus” write-ups — shorter than the “big four” but longer than a paragraph or two could cover. 

As usual, the thoughts below are my own and aren’t privy to any insider information. The purpose of these articles is to determine how well K-pop agencies are serving their artists and fans. There will be plenty of subjective critique.

The Good

Starship Entertainment continues to vie for a spot among the industry’s biggest agencies, and that bid gets more credible each year. With girl group IVE on their roster, the agency is now home to one of the biggest acts of the moment. Unsurprisingly, Starship focused a lot on IVE this year. We got two albums (a full and an EP), Japanese material, CMs and solo collaborations. They’re striking while the iron is hot, and that’s absolutely the right thing to do.

The rest of Starship’s line-up is looking a little sparser, but CRAVITY continue to be a reliable seller and the agency has compensated for Monsta X’s military enlistment era with successful units and solos.

The Bad

Apart from IVE’s tremendous success, the rest of Starship’s roster seemed to suffer a big downturn this year. With members exiting the agency and no new music, the future of WJSN is in total flux. I can’t help but think they’ve gotten pushed aside in favor of newer groups, and that’s a shame coming off their success in last year’s Queendom.

Monsta X is currently inactive as a group, leaving a big hole in Starship’s line-up. Wonho is serving in the military and Jeong Sewoon has been inactive beyond a couple of OSTs. To be honest, there just hasn’t been much going on with Starship this year!

The agency’s song selection has also seemed to dip in quality this year. While we had a few definitive standouts, their discography felt far less bulletproof than it did in 2022. Take IVE, for example. Despite three title tracks on their newest EP, none matched the heights of an I Am or After Like. I worry about where their music might be going next. Just because the group is currently at the top of the charts doesn’t mean Starship can get complacent and churn out forgettable fluff.

Admittedly, I’m not following the inner workings of this agency all that closely, but I’m not seeing any concrete plans for the next generation of Starship artists. IVE and CRAVITY are still quite young, but it feels like we should be seeing another big (boy?) group from Starship soon. After all, their current roster is quite sparse and they can’t hitch everything they’ve got to IVE. I’m shocked they didn’t send any trainees to Boys Planet this year and use that series as a launchpad for guaranteed success. That’s worked for them in the past. Why change their approach?

2023 Grade: C

What I’d like to see in 2024:

A return to the high level of musical quality control we saw in 2022
New music from WJSN! (this is the second year in a row I’ve written this…)
A new boy group debut that can match the level of IVE’s success

Previous years: 2022 // 2021 // 2020 // 2019 // 2018 // 2017

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.