The Great GG Face-Off
Girls' Generation's Tiffany Hwang and former group mate Jessica Jung release debut solo albums within same week, sparking rivalry
Showdowns in K-pop don't get more epic and intense than Tiffany Hwang versus Jessica Jung.
Hwang's a vocalist in Girls' Generation (GG), while Jung is a former member who was unceremoniously booted out of the mega-popular K-pop girl group in September 2014 for prioritising her fashion endeavours over music.
Nearly two years on, the 27-year-old singers, each armed with her solo debut, are facing off in a battle for chart positions, album sales and YouTube views.
Their EPs were released within a week of each other - Hwang's Ariana Grande-esque sensual electropop-ish I Just Wanna Dance on May 11 and Jung's cheery, bubblegum pop offering, With Love, J, on May 17.
This month, Hwang will hold her first solo concerts in Seoul, while Jung will stage her first solo live showcase in Bangkok.
Korean media outlets have been playing up their rivalry, based on the fact that Jung's acrimonious exit from GG two years ago had somewhat split the octet's fan base.
Another main reason all eyes are on their rivalry boils down to, ironically, their similarities.
When Jung was still a part of GG, she and Hwang were the group's only Korean-Americans. Both have pretty Barbie doll looks, are fluent in English and were even born in the same hospital in San Francisco.
Predictably, the girls were quizzed about each other during recent interviews.
Jung, who is signed to Coridel Entertainment, a Korean record label owned by her Korean-American businessman boyfriend Tyler Kwon, had nothing but praise for Hwang.
"I think my face-off with Tiffany must be entertaining for onlookers," she told news portal Naver.com.
"I have listened to Tiffany's music and seen her music video. I think I saw a lot of Tiffany wanting to express herself.
"Rather than view her as a rival, since (Tiffany) came out with a different style of music, I would like it if people had fun listening to and watching (both of us)."
In an interview with website Nate.com, she hinted that all is good between her and Hwang.
"When I first heard the news of (Tiffany's solo debut), I was curious about what kind of image (my) friend would come out with," said Jung.
"Now that I've seen it, it's really cool. I hope she promotes (it) wonderfully. I don't normally get attached to results, but wouldn't it be good to do well?"
Likewise, Hwang had words of encouragement for Jung, albeit conveyed in a more subtle manner.
"Being onstage requires so much effort and hard work. As a fellow singer, I hope all singers will do well," Hwang told Star Daily News.
"I want to tell everyone that they've worked hard."
M susses out each of their strengths in the three most crucial areas...
I Just Wanna Dance and With Love, J both conquered charts in South Korea and around the world, with Hwang outperforming Jung slightly.
According to The Korea Herald, Hwang's album topped the charts in 14 countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.
It also cracked the Top 10 in Europe and North America, including countries such as Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Sweden.
In the US, it reached No. 3 on Billboard's World Albums chart and No. 10 on the Heatseekers Albums chart.
Jung's album was No. 4 on the Billboard World Albums charts and No. 16 on the Heatseekers Albums chart.
MUSIC VIDEO VIEWS
On YouTube, however, it is the reverse scenario.
Jung's video for her upbeat lead single Fly has chalked up more than 11 million views, while Hwang's electropop jam I Just Wanna Dance is lagging behind, with more than 8.8 million views.
Fly has more of a "wow" factor, simply because it is Jung's first appearance in an MV in almost two years.
Despite her hiatus from the scene, she clearly has not lost her dancing skills. She has also shed the aloof, ice queen image she was known for in GG and is now a rebooted bubbly, relatable Jung - and we're loving it.
Hwang delivers a run-of-the-mill K-pop video, one that interweaves dreamy, stylistically-shot close-ups with scenes of her flaunting her nifty footwork in front of a bunch of dancers.
It's not bad, but it does not break new ground. We would have liked it more if Hwang did something so unexpected we momentarily forgot that she is a GG member.
Here, Hwang has the edge over Jung in that her agency, showbiz giant SM Entertainment is home to other huge acts like EXO and Super Junior.
While Hwang managed to snag her first solo win on a music TV chart show - SBS MTV's The Show - Jung encountered several setbacks during her promotional activities.
For example, her appearance on a radio show was cancelled after a communication breakdown between her agency and the radio show's production house.
Fly was also banned by TV and radio broadcaster KBS because it made specific brand mentions (to luxury cars Crown Victoria and Mercedes-Benz) in its lyrics that made it "unfit for broadcast".
VERDICT: TIFFANY HWANG