As we mature into the era when extremely popular project groups begin to dissolve and the artists are left to forge a new path to hang on to the popularity they’ve earned, we’ve seen a few different strategies being used to continue forward. Those idols already in groups either go back to their original members, often boosting their popularity as planned, or go back to their companies and figure out a solo career using their years of experience and an existing fan base as a starting point. New idols, those that had not yet debuted prior to their survival show wins, are a little more interesting to watch as this is a whole new world for them and there is no safety net.
Kang Daniel, the first place winner of Produce 101 Season 2 and former member of Wanna One, fits into that latter group. He started as a trainee with B2M Entertainment and after a pretty quick separation, moved to MMO Entertainment. After winning Produce, he promoted with Wanna One under YMC Entertainment for the duration of the group. He was active on a couple of variety shows and did some modeling without the other members of Wanna One earning himself a sizable fan base. He’s a solid talent with the vocals, dance, and looks to back up all the hype and he is well known in the industry for his brand recognition and marketing power.
After Wanna One, it was announced that Kang Daniel would continue as a solo artist under LM Entertainment – however, it came to light that the company had signed joint contracts selling his exclusive contract rights to third parties without his consent and he sued to be released from their management. After several trials, he won. He now has his own agency, Konnect Entertainment, to manage his promotions and he released his solo debut EP in June of this year to wild success, garnering the record for highest physical album sales for first day and first week for any solo artist.
All of this being said, I am very interested to see how his solo career goes. Despite how wonderfully he has been received by the public, I have my concerns. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kang Daniel. But in this world of Kpop, it is very, very hard for a solo idol to maintain the momentum that more diverse groups see. It’s much more challenging to change up your concept, it’s more difficult to show variety in your music, and all of the pressure to stay perfect lays squarely on your own shoulders. These idols train as a member of a group, they strive to be a part of a team and Kang Daniel did very well as part of Wanna One. I’m cautiously optimistic that he’ll be able to handle going at it all alone, but I have my fears.
To put it bluntly, I don’t want to get bored with him and that is a real possibility.
For now, I’ll enjoy his new single and hope for the best in the future.
Touchin’, Kang Daniel