Dropping a pre-release single before the main album has become a common strategy for many companies in the K-Pop industry — especially among 4th generation artists. Music labels across the globe have used this tactic to build excitement for an artist’s album release. But is this approach as effective as many think in the world of K-Pop “comebacks?”
As most K-Pop fans would already know, a “comeback” refers to the release of new music, even if the artist or group hasn’t been on a break. Agencies carefully plan these comebacks, each with a unique concept influencing everything from the act’s name to their clothes and choreography. Essentially, a comeback is a promotional cycle for every mini or studio album release an artist has.
boa lamenting about how short album promo periods are nowadays pic.twitter.com/vINR7SHINl
— 💥 (@N3GADOLA) July 21, 2023
Traditionally, K-Pop companies focused promotions on a single track — the album’s title track. Unlike many Western artists who release multiple singles before an album, K-Pop likes to keep everything under wraps until the full album is released.
However, this has come to change with the aim of global appeal. K-Pop labels have started adopting the method of releasing pre-release singles in an attempt to build hype around an album. This strategy seems to have its critics, with fans being the first to express their dislike of the method.
unpopular k-pop opinion probably but unless you’re a big group, the pre-release formula does NOT work and ruins comeback hype. 90% of groups need to stop doing it pic.twitter.com/ptkyjE14b1
— . (@fcknlisa) January 12, 2024
One prominent issue is the potential confusion it can create. When a pre-release single is accompanied by a high-quality music video, it sets a certain level of expectation and excitement akin to that of a main title track. This often leads to a situation where fans, especially the more casual listeners, might mistake the pre-release for the main event.
Consequently, when the actual title track is released, it might not receive the level of attention or enthusiasm it deserves, having been overshadowed by the pre-release.
Another point of contention is the accessibility of these pre-release singles. In an era where streaming platforms like Spotify dominate music consumption, the absence of these singles from such platforms can be a source of frustration for fans.
mr vampire on streaming platforms now pic.twitter.com/xftZo98dcI
— . (@thyonIy) January 8, 2024
Furthermore, there’s a conversation about the quality of these pre-release tracks. Fans have high expectations, often anticipating that these singles will showcase the same level of creativity and polish as the title tracks. However, when these pre-releases come across as more akin to B-side tracks — lacking the hallmark quality and innovation usually associated with K-Pop title tracks — it can lead to disappointment.
Most fans seem to agree that the effectiveness of pre-release singles varies based on how they’re handled. For example, NewJeans and BLACKPINK successfully treated their pre-releases like main singles, maintaining high hype for the album. If you ask a casual listener, not many will be able to tell you that songs like “Ditto” and “How You Like That” are actually pre-releases.
[ARTICLE] #NewJeans ‘Ditto’ is considered a representative success story
These days, K-pop singers’ pre-released songs are becoming as popular as their title songs. For fans, the ripple effect of the pre-release song is so great that it is said that “there are two comebacks!” pic.twitter.com/1PYGg5x3eH
— 𝙉𝙚𝙬𝙅𝙚𝙖𝙣𝙨 𝘽𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙨 (@NewJeansBrands) April 9, 2023
Funfact: “how you like that” by blackpink popularized the pre-release trend in kpop industry. pic.twitter.com/BLEEt27HHX
— blackpink on repeat. (@bponrepeat_1) December 14, 2023
Meanwhile, JYP Entertainment‘s strategy for ITZY‘s BORN TO BE album faced criticism. The group released two pre-release singles and solo tracks for all members, resulting in seven music videos over 22 days. While this thrilled existing fans, it overwhelmed casual listeners, causing confusion about the main title track and its release date.
kpop promotions have turned into such a cluster fuck lately bc companies just do whatever, like nobody knows what itzy’s title track is supposed to be
— 🐦⬛ (@ashfixation) January 3, 2024
64 pre releases later we finally got the album! https://t.co/3AdYZQiWQT
— malin ❄️ (@yutasversion) January 8, 2024
With this in mind, pre-release singles can be a double-edged sword in K-Pop. When done right, they build anticipation and engage fans. However, overdoing it or failing to clearly distinguish these from the main title track can dilute the impact. The key lies in striking a balance between generating excitement and maintaining clarity for both dedicated and casual fans.