We’re back with another SB Exchange for you, featuring Starship Entertainment’s flagship group, B-E-S-T Sistar!

I first encountered Sister when someone posted the MV for “So Cool” onto tumblr with a description of the dance: the Fart Fanning Dance. Intrigued, I watched the video and oh-my-god-why-do-they-sound-like-12-year-olds-that-ah-ah-ah-part-is-going-to-make-my-ears-bleed-oh-look-ajusshi-fans-why-does-this-look-like-some-clean-version-of-a-playboy-photoshoot. Needless to say, my first impression of Sistar wasn’t the best.

In fact, their success with “So Cool”  baffled me a bit–they didn’t interest me in the least, but hey, different people different tastes. My indifference was so great that I hardly even noticed Hyorin until I realised that I kept hearing people go on and on about her voice, and decided to check it out for myself. Well, the praise isn’t unfounded, that’s for sure.

But my interest in Sistar was truly piqued when the released “Alone.” It’s so different from their past releases, and it showed me a different side of the group as a whole, which was something I wasn’t expecting. That got me thinking about what else there was about Sistar that I was missing, and thus I have called upon Justin, Michelle and Bethany to fill me in.

1. What is Sistar’s appeal to you? Is it their “sexy” image? The Voice of Hyorin? You really like Brave Sound?

Justin: Sistar’s appeal is they aren’t cute, and they are confident. This kind of confidence image is kind of hard to find among girl groups. I mean there’s 2NE1, Miss A, and 4Minute, but for every confident sexy group you can probably find 2 cute groups. I’m not saying cute is wrong, but I like a switch up every time. Sistar not only has a concept of confident, but they have stage presence confidence. When they perform, they mean it. I don’t think I have ever seen Sistar half ass any performance.

Along with their image, I like Sistar’s music as well. I especially like the Alone mini album and “My Boy” is one of my favorite songs of 2011. I don’t really care too much for Brave Sound, but if it’s good, it’s good.

Bethany: I’m not really a hardcore fan of Sistar, but I do follow their activities pretty regularly, mostly because of Hyorin. I feel like the entire group’s vocals just has a different feel because of her, and because of that, their songs generally interest me more than other girl groups’ songs. I’m not really into the whole “sexy” concept they have going on and I hope that one day, Starship will move away from that, but the vocals are really the only thing that interest me about Sistar.

Michelle: To be frank, I’m not really drawn to Sistar in that ‘fan’ way. Rather, they to some degree, fascinate me, ever since I saw “Shady Girl” and googled them. Throughout my somewhat distant followings, I came to like a fair bit of their music (“Shady Girl” is still a guilty pleasure of mine). Hyorin though, is deserving of her fair share of praise — she is an excellent performer — seeing her live has convinced me of that. Personally, I think Sistar is perfectly capable of something outside the “sexy” image. What Starship doesn’t seem to realise is that by naming them “Sistar” and giving them a rather obvious ‘older sister’ image leaves them a lot of leeway to go into other concepts and also allows access to a larger demographic. However, Starship hasn’t taken advantage of that and thus far, the girls have a mostly older, male following. Sistar has their fair share of talent to showcase and songs like “Push Push” and “So Cool” just don’t do them justice. I hope that they will go down a different path — perhaps “Alone” is the beginning of that, and maybe it’s these hopes that make me keep an eye on Sistar.

2. Speaking of Brave Sound, Brave Brothers has thus far produced the majority of their music and all of their title tracks. Though Sistar’s case is not unique in that there also are plenty of groups out there that have that one composer producing material for them, would Sistar be able to do well promoting music composed by someone different?

Justin: I think they would do well with other composers, but at the end of the day it’s all up to the members themselves. If they can market and deliver the song then that’s success for them. Sistar can get the worst composition and lyrics, but if they can make it work, then that’s the end goal.

Michelle: Honestly, I really doubt that a switch in producers will lead to instant success. Just like how a bad song sung by a good singer doesn’t make it a good song, a bad song produced by a different and perhaps better producer is still a bad song. While Brave Brothers hasn’t been producing anything ground-breaking as of late, I can still say that he has potential, if any of his past work is proof of that. To be honest, it’s hard to say if it’s their producer that is stopping them from achieving anything greater. Sistar has potential in the form of raw talent and they do have a good producer supporting them, what it boils down to then is what material they end up promoting. It’s hard to say if they’ll continue with the direction that “Alone” took and even if they do, if they’ll perform it well. Changing producers may give them better material, but it could quite easily backfire. I suggest that they stick with Brave Brothers — especially now, when things seem to be picking up a little.

Bethany:  I agree with Michelle — Brave Brothers really hasn’t been impressing me lately, so I actually would love to see Sistar perform some music produced by another producer. I don’t think that taking on some different music would guarantee their success any more than performing music by Brave Brothers, though. I’d like to see them step out of their comfort zone — Sistar has a few very similar-sounding songs, but now is probably not the time to do it because the risk is a bit great. “Alone” didn’t really stand out to me, but I actually noticed Sistar because of Hyorin and Bora‘s “Ma Boy,” which was produced by Brave Brothers, so I’m willing to give him some credit.

3. Sistar seems to often cause some controversy of some sort, to the extent that I sometimes think that it may be their concept. Would you say that causing a stir has become Sistar’s trademark? Could they continue on successfully while avoiding controversy?

Justin: I don’t really think they have caused any controversy at least any that I personally know, and if there were controversies then it’s just people making a big deal out of nothing which is quite typical among K-pop fans. *roll eyes*

Michelle:  From what I have seen thus far, the controversies that float around Sistar generally have something to do with the sexual nature of their promotions. The dance moves, the too-short dresses. I wouldn’t say controversy runs parallel to Sistar, it’s a consequence of what their management has them doing. While we could say that any publicity is good publicity, Sistar is a group that has reached the point where they may need to strip themselves of those controversies. If they were nugus, striving just to keep their head above the water, hoping for somebody to remember their name, then maybe causing a stir as they have done so in the past is necessary. However, they really cannot keep doing this, not when they are in a position where they have an opportunity to propel themselves to greater heights. A scandal doesn’t earn you fans, Sistar needs to impress. They seem to be heading in that direction lately with “Alone” which has a much more sophisticated feel to it and that is indeed pleasing to see.

Bethany:  I, for one, don’t have problems with Sistar’s concept. I think that if they execute it well, they convey the “sexy” concept in a relatively classy way. It seems to have worked for them so far, and while I’d like to see them step out of the box some more, I’m perfectly fine with their concept as long as they’re not being trashy. However, if they rely completely on their “sexy” concept to appeal to fans, I’m not okay with that. As artists, I’d like to see some kind of musical development and appeal besides the sky-high stilettos and mini-dresses from Sistar. And it’s a well-known fact that “sexy” concepts can’t go on forever — at some point, SISTAR is going to have to break out of that routine if they want to develop their success more as a long-term group.

4. The Bora-Hyorin combination that SISTAR19 presented proved quite popular amongst fans and non-fans alike. Do you think there are any other subunit duo combinations that are also viable, or you personally would like to see happen?

Justin: Nope, SISTAR19 was perfect. “My Boy” was perfect. Everything about SISTAR19 was perfect. I would not want to see any new subunit duo besides SISTAR19 unless the new combination can crank out songs like “My Boy.”

Michelle: It was really “Ma Boy” that really got me into Sistar and looking back at it now, I feel that SISTAR19 was something of a necessity. Had Starship not chosen Hyorin and Bora — the two most popular members of Sistar — to promote what was a great song in “Ma Boy”, SISTAR might not be looking at the amount of attention they have currently. I do believe that Dasom may have more to show for what she currently stands as, and Placing her alongside Soyu or Bora may give her some space to demonstrate the extent of her ability. To be frank, I’d be wary of putting any other member next to Hyorin, simply because she might end up outshining her fellow(s) — and that is not something we necessarily want in a subunit.

Bethany:  “Ma Boy” was definitely a smart move on the part of Starship. The song was catchy, the dance eye-catching, and basically Sistar’s popularity took off after the release of that song. As for other sub-units, I don’t think that it’d be smart for them to have any right now. They seem to be doing just fine as a group and I’d like to see more material from the four of them as a whole first. And Michelle’s right — I don’t have a specific combination of members in mind for a potential sub-unit, but Hyorin should be kept out just because she would probably outshine the other members and that would just make the popularity levels even more uneven than they already are in Sistar.

5. And finally, the requisite question about Hyorin going solo. There are myriad reasons for why she should, so why hasn’t Starship Entertainment got onto that yet? And is there any reason why she shouldn’t go solo (or not for the time being, at least)?

Justin: No I don’t think Hyorin should go solo because solo artists are so hard to become successful. I mean think about it, how many successful solo artists emerged from the past year or two verses successful idol bands? Exactly… so that’s the main basis on why she isn’t solo, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t do solo projects. She can every now and then branch out on her own, and she has, but she still Hyorin from Sistar.

Michelle: Whether or not Hyorin should go solo is a difficult question to answer. She has the ability to go solo, that’s undeniable. The attention she would bring to Sistar may also prove to be beneficial. The problem though, may lie in potential tensions within the fandom. If Hyorin comes to be more well-known as a soloist than as a key member of Sistar, what happens then? I feel that if Hyorin did go solo at this current point in time, whatever hype she generates may not propel Sistar as a group to greater heights. Indeed, Hyorin may become a very successful soloist, but one member alone can’t pull a group up; say with 4Minute — Hyuna is certainly a good choice as a frontman, but she alone isn’t capable of carrying the rest of the group forward. A group really isn’t successful if most people are focused on one member. While it’s true that idol groups are indeed very formulaic, they are still groups and essentially need all the members in order to function at their best.

Bethany:  I recently wrote an article about Hyorin and there were a few comments on it by Seoulbeats readers about this, which seem pretty accurate to me. Basically they said that Hyorin would probably not enjoy the same level of popularity if she went solo, and for now, I agree. Maybe after she gains more of a reputation, more opportunities for her to go solo will be offered to her. Or maybe she doesn’t want to go solo. Who knows? Also, I’m worried about what will happen to Sistar if Hyorin does decide to go solo — there’s no way she can balance a group career and solo career at the same time (on a regular basis anyways, not occasionally like Hyuna and 4Minute), and without Hyorin, Sistar’s vocals are only average at best.

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Actually, I find there to be a fair bit of cute in Sistar’s MVs and performances, but it isn’t an all-out aegyo-fest and is quite subtle, which is something I like about the group. Granted, there are some times where it sets my teeth on edge (hello, “So Cool” MV), but it sits well with other songs like “Shady Girl” (which I also love), and they never really do go overboard with it, which is only a blessing, and can even forgo it, like with “Alone.” But their confidence is definitely their greatest asset–they seem so into whatever they’re doing, and even if I don’t like the material, I can appreciate the effort they put into performances.

It never really occurred to me that Sistar was an “older sister” group (maybe because I’m old). That is a concept different from other band concepts out there, and can how that image can be used to their advantage–in fact, “Alone” may be a step in that direction, a bold sexy concept that not many girl groups can pull off as successfully as Sistar has. They’re sexy, but not raunchy, and that is a great combination with which to appeal to a mass audience.

As for Hyorin, I think that a solo career after Sistar has wound down would be the natural conclusion. But I do worry for her voice–she sings the vast majority of Sistar’s tracks, and her voice is rather raspy when speaking. It even comes through in “Alone,” a song which does go easy on her vocally, and I admit that it sounds painful at times to my ears. If she keeps going on like this, I don’t think she’d be able to properly sustain a solo career with potentially damaged vocals, and I hope someone at Starship is looking after her, because right now she is their greatest asset.

Overall, this comeback has been great for Sistar musically, commercially, and image-wise, and I hope that Starship Entertainment can continue to give this group concepts that have more substance and less shock value. Not a complete lack of it, because I do think that that kind of boldness and daring is a very Sistar quality, but they can definitely tone it down a bit, like they have with “Alone.” I think they can become more successful without shedding their “sexy” image, but I agree that they will have to bring more to the table if they want mass appeal, which I hope is what Starship is aiming for, rather than being content with having a large Ajusshi fanbase.

So, readers, what are your thoughts on Sistar? Are there any concepts and/or musical styles that you would like to see Sistar tackle? Leave your comments below!

(Starship Entertainment)