Almost every K-Pop fan wants to see their bias go solo, but are solo debuts really all sunshine and rainbows? In a recent video, former K-Pop trainee and industry expert Gina Maeng revealed that solo debuts can actually be incredibly stressful for idols and soloists—and here’s why.
Over a period of 12 years, Gina Maeng trained under JYP Entertainment, multiple Kakao Entertainment divisions, and more. Originally, she was set to debut as a solo artist, with JYP Entertainment telling her she’d become the “Korean Jennifer Lopez” or “Korean Janet Jackson.”
Sadly, however, her dream never came to fruition—though she is currently thriving as a travel writer, K-Pop lyricist, and YouTube creator over at Gina Everywhere. She also remains a trusted confidante to those she knows who are still in the industry, which is why she knows just how stressful solo debuts can be.
Gina started by explaining that debuting comes with numerous concerns, to the point that almost every situation can present problems. Whether you’re busy or not busy, talked about or not talked about, the former trainee shares that everything tends to feel stressful. She went on to name some other common causes of stress, including relationships with fellow stars, relationships with agencies, and—perhaps surprisingly—solo debuts.
“Some singers are stressed about which song they should put out as their first single, second single,” explained Gina. Worse, some stars even “get suicidal about it.” The former trainee says she’s received many phone calls from K-Pop stars at Seoul’s Hangang Park who are incredibly nerve-wracked by the experience.
But why? Gina went on to say that while it may not seem like a big deal, she does understand why artists get so stressed about choosing their solo singles. While artists in a group can shoulder responsibility together, all the pressure falls on just one person when it comes to solo debuts. “It’s your song,” she explained, “That song is coming out with your name, and… it could mean life or death for this artist.”
In his “BE-hind Story” interview earlier this year on BANGTANTV, BTS‘s V opened up about the pressure of releasing his upcoming solo mixtape for the same reason.
I try not to feel pressured, but since it’s my own work I couldn’t help feeling the pressure. Because, albums unlike mixtapes, I can share the pressure with our members. But creating an album that I have to take full responsibility for was a bit…
“If you don’t really care and you’re just all carefree and happy-go-lucky with whatever decision your company’s doing,” says Gina, “good for you and your mental health.” Of course, many artists aren’t able to remain this resilient, especially when their artistry comes into play. Gina shares that it’s similar for idols in groups too—”You want to have some credit for your artistry, right?”
Red Velvet‘s Joy is another artist who recently opened up about how challenging it’s been to debut as a soloist with her first remake album, Hello.
This is my first time debuting with a solo album. What I had previously done as five members, I am doing alone now. It’s much more difficult than I thought it would be.
That said, the former trainee thinks that “this kind of stress is a good kind of stress.” Ultimately, Gina says every job comes with stress, and it’s impossible to be on top form mentally all the time. “In the end,” she explained, “It all comes down to you being strong enough or relaxed enough to handle it all.”
It’s harder, I think, to be relaxed than to be strong. Strong you can just will it, just power through, but to be really relaxed, it takes… a lot of luck, I think.