The Wonder Girls have had an eventful career with numerous member changes. Hyuna leaves after “Irony,” Yubin joins with “Tell Me,” Sunmi leaves after their American debut with “Nobody,” Lim is added, Sunye gets married and later leaves, Sohee leaves for an acting career, Sunmi rejoins after her successful solo comeback from what was seemingly her retirement. Despite all this, Wonder Girls reached heights few K-pop groups reach, with hits such as “Tell Me,” and “Nobody” in their discography.
JYP Entertainment made it official that the quartet would be disbanding, with Sunmi and Yeeun leaving the company while Yubin and Lim will be staying signed with the company. For this week, we ask the writers: did you expect the group to disband after their successful releases of 2015 and 2016? What will the legacy of the Wonder Girls be? Which songs and/or albums will you remember them by, and are there any lessons to be learned from the group’s decade-long career?
Madi: Don’t quote me on this, but Reboot and “Why So Lonely?” didn’t perform as well as expected right? I’m not exactly sure why JYPE decided to rebrand them as a band (I can understand why it was an option) in the first place. Honestly, I thought it was a good idea for them but, as mentioned, I just don’t think they did as well as projected and well, here we are.
Reboot, for me, regressed a little too far back in time. I think that’s a major flaw with JYPE. If the company isn’t following idol music trends, they’re putting out music that sounds like it should have been released during and before the ’80s. Generally it’s not a bad thing, but it’s a good idea to have a mix because some of the younger fans probably won’t appreciate the older sound compared to some of the adult fans would. It might have been a charm JYPE was trying to play and it possibly backfired.
I floated in and out of following Wonder Girls to be honest, but I tried to keep up with their releases as much as I could. They were a female group that kept my interest whenever they were on my radar, because after S.E.S, the only females I care about is As One. So when Wonder Girls came to the scene, I was totally on the “yes, give me more of this!” train.
I pretty much loved most of their releases, but I think the song I enjoy the most besides “Nobody” is “Like This”. It’s definitely that feel good track that makes you want to dance.
What I have noticed, sort of, is that there seems to be a small return of a Goodbye Stage which was an occurrence when groups and/or artists were disbanding or stopped putting out music. We got that final single with 2NE1, and now we have Wonder Girls’ last single. It feels like a proper goodbye, then “we disbanded, ok thanks bye.”
Laverne: Wonder Girls was the group that cemented by K-pop interest so it’s hard to hear that my favorite girl group is disbanding. I absolutely loved Reboot and it was one of my choices for 2015’s best albums. That said, Madi has a point that the Wonder Girls’ stylistic choices do not fit into current K-pop music trends. I wonder if, perhaps, the members were at a different company that didn’t cater as much to mainstream K-pop, whether they would have been able to continue as a group.
But that’s probably just wishful thinking from a fan as the fact that some members stayed and others didn’t seems to point to the members wanting different things. I’m most excited to see the eventual return of HA:TFELT and find out in which direction she takes her artistry. Hopefully she’ll have more creative reign and return sooner rather than later.
Angela: This is basically a farewell to my teenage years. I remember when kids at school would spontaneously break into the dances for “Tell Me,” “So Hot”, and “Nobody”; they’re still classics that come up at karaoke. So I think part of my investment in Wonder Girls since then has been the fact that they were one of the big idol groups to listen to growing up.
But I also don’t think they’ve picked up enough new fans over the years; their base seems to be made of primarily people around my age who will look back fondly on them. And while I really enjoyed their reboot as a band, I can see how it may have been overlooked by other K-pop listeners who were not interested in the retro. So maybe…it’s time? Ten years is a long run and all good things come to an end. I’m more interested in seeing how their careers will evolve as individual artists from here on out.
Margaret: “Nobody” was my first exposure to K-pop back six years ago, when I was in sixth grade. Some of my classmates were singing and dancing to it during recess, and it immediately started a major trend as everybody would dance to the point moves in the chorus all the time — in our classroom, in the cafeteria, on the playground, you name it. Admittedly, I wasn’t interested in K-pop at the time, but from time to time again, I would revisit their music video and performances of “Nobody” on Youtube. At the time, I had thought that they were the most popular girl group on the K-pop scene (but they were also the only girl group that I knew of, so I don’t know how valid my opinion was).
Fast-forward to when I did get into K-pop two years ago in early 2015, Wonder Girls wasn’t actively promoting at the time. I also was more interested in boy groups, so they really weren’t on my radar. When they released Reboot, I didn’t take that much notice into them, aside from the fact that their style and sound had drastically matured since their “Nobody” days.
It was when they released “Why So Lonely” this summer that I really started taking an interest in them (the song is still such a jam). The retro band concept really suited them, and I particularly enjoyed the chill vibes of their song. It also seemed that the public really loved them and they had gained many fans from their recent comebacks, so it came as a shock when I found out that the first K-pop girl group that I had ever heard of was disbanding. Nevertheless, like Angela said, ten years is a long time and they’ve made major headway in the K-pop industry, so I wish them all the best in whatever they choose to do!
Qing: Honestly, I didn’t know if Wonder Girls would make it past their hiatus in 2013-2014. So when they returned with Sunmi back on board and the gem of an album in Reboot, it was pretty much a K-pop miracle. Madi and Angela have suggested that retro was not so well-received by listeners, but from what I know, their past two comebacks had strong chart performances, which indicates that even if they didn’t pick up newly dedicated fans along the way, they’ve managed to garner popular interest.
For me, Reboot didn’t just do a throwback to the ’80s; it took elements of the music of the era and made a sound that was Wonder Girls’ own. K-pop is an avenue through which I learn about different musical styles and eras, aided by great album reviews like Lo’s Reboot one. So for me, rather than feeling like the new musical direction was going too far back, it was a way to get to know music I never had the chance to experience before.
I am sad about the disbandment, but I think the girls have reached a point in their career where they are ready to move on to other ventures–Yeeun has definitely found a good home in Amoeba Culture. Also, something I’ve always appreciated about JYP is that he mostly parts with his artists on good terms, and the departed members like Sunye often stay in contact. Neither he nor his company try to burn bridges, and it gives me hope of future collaborations taking place.
I’ll always remember them by “Nobody”, of course, but also “Tell Me”, “So Hot”, “Please Be My Baby”, and a B-side, “Saying I Love You”. My ultimate favourite is “Why So Lonely”. I think it says something that so many of their title tracks were such hits. And one thing’s for sure — summer will never be the same without Wonder Girls.
Lo: I have put off jumping into this thread, because I AM PISSED. Which is weird, because normally, IDGAF when groups break up. They’re groups, it’s what they do. But this hurt. This really hurt. And honestly, no, I didn’t expect it.
No, “I Feel You” and “Why So Lonely” didn’t hit the sales of “Nobody”. But they did sell over 800,000 and 1,000,000, respectively. Not their peaks, but come on. “Why So Lonely” topped the Gaon charts. There are groups that would murder for those sales figures. Plus, their reemergence coincide with the ultimate rarity and coup for girl groups: they made their own music. And as a result, no, they did not have the mainstream appeal they once did. However, they still had a fairly significant cult status, and critical acclaim, so the idea that they weren’t selling enough . . . I don’t buy it. I doubt we’ll ever know why they disbanded, but we will know that the world lost a lot of good music when that happened.
And I’m holding out hope that the Wonder Girls will reunite in the future, and bring some of that music with them.
Cjontai: Now that some time has passed since the news, I’m actually okay with them disbanding. It’s most likely due to how things ended. JYP wrote a simple and kind statement wishing the girls luck. I also didn’t see anything about the members unfollowing anyone on social media, and nobody dished dirt. It was the ideal breakup where everyone peacefully departs sans passive aggressive pettiness.
I felt a little bad seeing some netizens trying to blame Sunmi and Sunye, though. They separated on good terms. Why is that so hard to accept? Do people really think the only reason anyone quits a group is out of selfish motives? They were ready to move on; that’s really it.
Wonder Girls had an enviable career. Most girl groups can only dream to have what they did — a string of unforgettable hits over several years. If this wasn’t the case, perhaps I’d feel worse, but I’m cool with this. We got some banging albums to remember them, so thank you, Wonder Girls!
And that’s it from our writers! What were your favorite songs from the Wonder Girls’ and what do you hope to see from the members in their future solo careers? Sound out below!
(Images via JYP Entertainment)