ILLIT vs Babymonster: Which do experts prefer?

Babymonster / Courtesy of YG Entertainment

The K-pop scene has witnessed an exciting rivalry unfold as new girl groups ILLIT and Babymonster shattered previous sales records with their debut albums.ILLIT’s “Super Real Me” initially set a new high by selling 380,000 copies in its first week following release last month. This record was quickly eclipsed by Babymonster, whose self-titled debut sold 401,000 copies in just seven days, surpassing the previous record held by NewJeans with 311,000 copies two years ago.This rivalry isn’t just about sales; it’s a direct competition between two of South Korea’s largest entertainment companies — HYBE backing ILLIT and YG Entertainment behind Babymonster.Adding to the intrigue, each group is personally produced by the heads of their companies, Bang Si-hyuk of HYBE and Yang Hyun-suk of YG, making this battle a significant clash of K-pop titans.While Babymonster has dominated in album sales and YouTube views, ILLIT has made a significant impact on music charts in South Korea. Their debut track “Magnetic” topped the charts on SBS MTV’s ‘The Show” and Melon’s daily chart, indicating strong domestic popularity.In contrast, Babymonster’s tracks have not fared as well on the domestic charts, though their YouTube presence remains strong. Despite their impressive chart performances, the debut albums of ILLIT and Babymonster have received lukewarm reactions from experts. Music critic Lim Hee-yoon said, “Both HYBE and YG are representative K-pop agencies, but both teams are somewhat disappointing.”

Kim Do-heon, another critic, said, “While ILLIT’s music is superior to that of Babymonster, both groups’ albums have too many filler tracks.”ILLIT and Babymonster are often compared to their label predecessors, NewJeans and BLACKPINK, respectively. Lim noted, “ILLIT seems to be targeting the pre-teen and early teen demographic, continuing NewJeans’ concept.”Meanwhile, Jeong Min-jae said, “ILLIT has significant differences from NewJeans in details and the development of their songs; their music incorporates more elements of mainstream pop music.”On Babymonster, critic Kim said, “Babymonster certainly continues YG’s identity but appears overly conservative.”While experts predict Babymonster may succeed internationally, they have generally given ILLIT higher scores domestically.Jeong said, “It seems HYBE has successfully captured the contemporary trends and the desires of the younger generation, which they learned through NewJeans and Le Sserafim, and showcased through ILLIT.”Kim Do-heon reflected on ILLIT’s strategy: “ILLIT appears to be a vague compromise that came out of various demands within HYBE for a new girl group, a realistic model answer that couldn’t escape the influence of NewJeans.”Interest within the K-pop industry is high for both teams, though opinions are mixed. An anonymous K-pop agency executive said, “While Babymonster needs to show charm beyond BLACKPINK, comparing the debut timings of the two teams, it doesn’t seem easy yet. ILLIT, on the other hand, shows that HYBE’s producing capability is 슬롯게이밍 at its peak.”

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