As should be readily apparent by now, I have a lot of K-pop homegurls.  When I’m tired of being a graduate student (which is almost always), I like to think of fun things that I’d rather be doing with said homegurls instead of studying: shopping with Tiffany, getting my nails done with Lim Jeong-hee, taking Joo-hee’s new dog for a walk in the park.  But whenever I feel like having a mimosa and some snarky conversation, there’s no one I’d rather do it with than singer Ivy.

And lucky for me, Ivy has finally announced, after a years-long hiatus, that she is ready to make a comeback under a new agency and begin promotions anew.

Surprised?  Maybe you should be.

I first encountered Ivy back in 2009, when MNet was broadcasting her thirteen-episode reality show Ivy Back.  The singer raised some eyebrows and dropped some jaws due to a comment she made in a December episode; advising her industry juniors, Ivy said, “Whenever I see someone who can’t sing become a singer, I feel like they only became a singer because they want to be a celebrity.  If you can sing well, then be a singer.  If you can’t, don’t.”  In all of two breaths, Ivy managed to call out a sizable chunk of Korean idols (coughSonDambicough) while saying exactly what a great many people (myself included) had been thinking.  Of course, Ivy’s comment would have been a lot of hot air had she herself not been a fantastic singer with enormous potential — but that’s why she was able to say it and get away with it. Welcome to the Homegurl Club, Ivy. Welcome.

But making snarky (yet undeniably true) comments about the state of the K-pop industry is not the only thing from which Ivy has been able to walk away from relatively unscathed.  Indeed, Ivy is kind of like the cockroach of the K-pop industry (although she’s a very pretty and talented cockroach, it must be noted): the industry and (at times) her own carelessness have tried multiple times to destroy her, but somehow she just keeps coming back.

After a modest debut in 2005, Ivy managed a breakthrough with her 2007 album Vol. 2 – A Sweet Moment, but her success was short-lived; though the lead single “Sonata of Temptation” performed very well on the charts, the accompanying music video was hit with a plagiarism accusation that effectively banned it from any and all television broadcasts. But that was admittedly the least of Ivy’s problems: the latter half of 2007 saw her caught up in a vicious sex-tape scandal, during which she was blackmailed by an ex-boyfriend to the tune of $45,000. This ex-boyfriend, known in the media only as “Yoo,” claimed to be in possession of video and nude photos of Ivy that he would release unless his demands were met; eventually, a warrant was put out for his arrest. Notably, said tape or photos have never been proved to actually exist, but the controversy caused the singer to postpone the resumption of activities for an extended period of time.

Compounding the sex-tape scandal was the accusation that “Yoo” was not Ivy’s only boyfriend during the time they were together.  Rumors began to aggregate that Ivy had two-timed not just anyone, but fellow singer Wheesung for eight months.  Though this has been unconfirmed by both parties, netizens have fused together bits and pieces of evidence to suggest that the cheating ex-girlfriend of whom Wheesung spoke once on a radio show was, indeed, Ivy.  Certainly didn’t help her case that Wheesung looked particularly displeased as Ivy accepted the Anycall Digital Daesung at 2007’s Golden Disc Awards; what was perhaps the best thing to happen to her in 2007 led to more fervent netizen speculation that the rumors were true.

And it gets worse still: after finally making a comeback under a new management company in late 2009, the music video for Ivy’s song “Touch Me” was hit with the MOGEF banhammer for being too sexually suggestive, and problems between her old agency and SBS and KBS made it impossible for her to properly promote her song at the outset.  Additionally, recall that late 2009 was also the time during which she made her infamous “If you can’t sing, don’t be a singer” remark.  One might wonder, given everything that she had gone through, why she might choose to invite yet more criticism by indirectly insulting half of her industry juniors; my hypothesis is that Ivy probably assumed that she had hit rock bottom and that things couldn’t get any worse.  Might as well just run your mouth whenever there’s a camera pointed in your direction; what is there to lose?  And also, she was 100% right about what she said.

Though she was able to wrap up promotions without incident in early 2010, things didn’t much improve for Ivy, as she was immediately slammed with another minor scandal: due to a censorship error on her show Ivy Back, her social security number was broadcast, leading to identity theft.  Happy New Year, Ivy!  Maybe once this whole identity theft thing blows over you can get back in the saddle, yes?  Yes?

Or maybe not.  In January 2011, Ivy sued her agency, STOM E&F, for the right to terminate her contract, citing career neglect and failure to properly compensate for activities as the principal reasons for the lawsuit (to which I say, they are neglecting Ivy in favor of whose career, exactly?).  It bears repeating that this is the agency for which Ivy left her former agency (the one that couldn’t play nice with KBS and SBS) in 2009; guess STOM E&F, too, didn’t live up to expectations.  Predictably, the lawsuit dragged on for the better part of the entire year, but it was finally announced in September 2011 that Ivy had emerged victorious and successfully severed ties with STOM E&F.  At last, a positive settlement for a singer in a court case.

Free to seek out another agency, Ivy updated her personal blog this past week to announce to patient fans that she was ready to take the stage once again.

Okay, so just because Ivy has announced that she is ready to make a comeback doesn’t necessarily mean that one is on the horizon; on most news portals, she’s still listed as being under her old agency, and the process of signing a contract, getting into the studio, and churning out some top-notch material is undoubtedly going to be time-consuming.  All the same,  it’s good to see that Ivy has finally been able to put some of her past difficulties behind her and is ready to tackle the industry afresh.  Some might disagree (and I certainly don’t intend to make light of Ivy’s many alleged transgressions) but I’d say that there aren’t too many singers whose careers can survive a sex-tape scandal, a cheating scandal with a fellow (and much beloved) idol, multiple battles with MOGEF, and a lawsuit — all of which have, in the past, been enough to damage the prospects of a number of stars with potential.  And yet, somehow Ivy hasn’t fallen into total oblivion, been driven out of entertainment by pitchfork-waving netizens or (perhaps the most likely scenario) given up on her career entirely.  Can’t deny it: Ivy’s got chutzpah.  And I’m sure her absolutely killer voice doesn’t hurt, either.

No matter how long it takes for her to get up and running, I’m really looking forward to Ivy’s comeback — and I sincerely hope that it doesn’t come at the expense of her badassery.  Although Ivy’s many scandals are nothing to laugh at or dismiss easily, it’s almost refreshing to see a Korean pop star who isn’t a perfect facade of sugar, spice, and everything nice 24/7.  Ivy keeps it real, and I hope that she can use her past experiences to continue to grow as an artist and a singer.

What say you, Seoulmates?  Are you looking forward to some more Ivy in your life?

(Naver, Naver, Sports Chosun, Hollywood Grind)