Welcome to another Seoulbeats Roundtable!

First impressions are said to be invaluable when seeking to catch someone’s attention, be it a potential employer, lover, or fan: K-pop’s visual nature as well as the saturation of the scene means that these first impressions not only count, but are crucial for their future success. However, like everything, it doesn’t always go to plan. An idol group may not immediately catch our attention, so we disregard it and move on, because there is so much more else to see and experience. We may never spare that random group another thought, until something happens, something that gives rise to the opportunity to redirect our attention onto them, and suddenly we find ourselves thinking “hey, this isn’t so bad,” and warming to a newfound object of affection, replacing that initial bad impression with more favourable ones.

Giving someone a second chance can really change things for us as fans, and if enough people give a group that second chance, then that group benefit as well. So, on that thought, the question that we ran by our panel of writers this week was: Which K-pop group or idol have you given a second chance to, and subsequently been impressed by? Or perhaps it was an actor, actress, MC, drama or variety show?

Amy: Okay, I’m not going to lie, I totally disregarded Cross Gene when they first debuted, because…why wouldn’t I?! There are just so many debuting groups and everyone is “special,” which just renders nobody special, and I didn’t give them a chance. But, thanks to watching Big, I was a little curious about Shin Won-ho‘s idol project, so I gave “La-di Da-di” a listen and it’s actually really good. Their lives are somewhat of a mess, but the mini they put out is actually quite catchy.

Jasper: This kind of happens to me a lot. I start out apathetic to most groups and idols until a member shows up in a project I like (most likely a variety show), and I subsequently fall in love. I was generally apathetic to IU when I first got to K-pop until I watched her on Heroes and Running Man and then consequently fell in love after hearing her more vocally potent B-sides. Also, I didn’t get into T-ara until seeing Hyomin on Invincible Youth and learned of their more admirable past efforts.

But probably my most triumphant example would be A Pink. When I first heard of them, I was generally unresponsive to their songs. While I thought the way they handled all the cutesy stuff was smart, “I Don’t Know” wasn’t really my cup of tea and I liked but didn’t love “My My” either. It wasn’t until Answer Me 1997 that I was revisited by A Pink again through Eunji‘s participation on the show.

If you guys haven’t caught on from all my mentions of the drama a every possible opportunity, I got addicted to the show and Eunji’s amazing performance. I mean the girl came out of nowhere! So with a new female bias in tow, I decided to look over her work, and I actually didn’t mind what I heard that time around. I found their Une Annee and most of A Pink’s material in general very reminiscent of my bias group SNSD‘s debut album — which I actually loved by the way — and “Bubibu” was my jam for a while. Now A Pink’s probably climbing up there as one of my favorite girl groups, and I’m anticipating what they’ll come out with next.

Young-ji: As everyone in the team is aware by now, I gave SHINee a second chance, after seeing them live at SM Town in NYC last year.  When they first debuted, everything about them turned me off.  The tight rainbow pants, their noona song and their overly hipster image.  For the longest time, I didn’t understand why this group has crazy fan power — shawols anyone?  Fast forward three years, I’m a genuine fan.

Amy constantly asks me why in second hand embarrassment and I don’t have a real answer.  I just like them and I like that they are also branching out.  Onew with his musical gig, Minho with his drama, etc.  It’s probably illegal for me to be in the same room with Taemin but I don’t mind that they are so young anymore.

I also gave DBSK a second chance recently (I know, a decade after their debut) and they are not too shabby.  This sudden interest again was sparked by seeing DBSK and JYJ live at various occasions; Yunho is fine on stage and Junsu is a great singer.  Too bad I missed their golden days but better late than never, I guess.

At this rate, I may give today’s rookie groups, such as B.A.P a second chance around 2020.  Or maybe I just need to see them live to appreciate them.

Fannie: Seconded on the SHINee. I refused to take them seriously up until “Lucifer” hit me in the face (it was blind fascination Taemin’s “Lucifer” hair that did me in… hey, don’t judge…) mostly because my impression of them up until that point was that they were a group of little boys prancing around in bright skinny jeans, promoting under the name “Shiny” but spelled strangely, best known for a song with the title “Ring Ding Dong” that had really strange choreography.

I became a fan after looking back through their live performances — these boys really know how to perform. I often find that live performance charisma is what makes or breaks my fascination with a group. This makes physically going to live concerts a risky kind of experience for me, because if a group fails to captivate me live in concert, they immediately drop off of my radar no matter how much I’ve obsessed over them through the computer screen in the past.

Orange Caramel is another one of those groups that I hated conceptually at the start (and it was such a departure from After School as we knew it) but over time, grew to love. Grown women doing aegyo typically makes me want to gag, but there’s just something magical about Orange Caramel that I can’t get enough of. They’re just so over-the-top and silly (and they have so much fun with it) that it’s sardonic, in a way. And somehow that manages to make everything okay.

There are a lot of “faces” in K-pop I used to hate (e.g. the Yoona, Sohee, Hara, UEE types) that I’ve also come around to accepting over the years for various reasons (personality, acting ability, modeling ability, etc.). Perhaps I just don’t have the same expectations out of the genre as I used to; “cult of personality” idols that pop up don’t even phase me these days, it’s just what I’ve come to expect out of the K-pop norm.

Amy: Wait, Fannie, Lucifer is what did you in?! LUCIFER?

Fannie: Yeah… well… like I said though, it was mainly Taemin’s hair (and the androgyny as well) that fascinated me in the first place, not so much the song itself. And then after that, I started to go back and look through their previous works.

Hair is a powerful marketing device! And the companies know it, too. I’m willing to bet that Jia‘s bright pink hair played a factor in making people pay attention to miss A even prior to debut, as was Amber‘s boyish image for f(x), and G.O.‘s mustache for MBLAQ.

Paloma: I feel you Fannie, I feel you.

This happens to me 90% of the times, so I’m not really sure where to start. When I first got into K-pop I basically thought I had enough learning all the Super Junior‘s members names as to pay attention to any other groups. Then someone tried to introduce me to MBLAQ and I ignored them because I thought I had that front covered with 2PM (you know when you’re new to K-pop and all the boybands with less than 10 members look the same to you?), and something similar happened with B2ST. I also waited until Taemin’s flawless hair came over to like SHINee (there just something about his hair in “Lucifer,” Amy, I swear).

But I guess U-Kiss would be the better example of this, mainly because I went from totally ignoring them to watching all their varieties in one week. I blame their material, though, because I only became a fan after they released “Neverland,” which is awesome, and I’m still not that much into their previous releases. I still think Xander and Kibum are fantastic and wanna cuddle them, even if that sounds creepy.

But basically everyone who released something or debuted in 2011 is now under my radar; and for all of those did it this year, just like Youngji said, I’ll come back to you in some years.

Jasper: Oh I definitely feel where you’re coming from Paloma! (about belatedly appreciating the 2011 debuts, not necessarily about Taemin and his hair; sorry guys…).

Maybe it was because 2011 was the year I really got into K-pop and so I wanted to focus on the established groups I already knew at the time (which were basically just SNSD and a few other lucky groups), but I really couldn’t care less about the rookies back then. 2011 in general didn’t bring up much notable rookie groups in the first place, so my impression of all of them as a whole was lackluster at best. But I guess the quality and hype of this year’s rookie groups made me look back at all those rookies I originally dismissed, and I actually liked some of what I found. From the previously mentioned A Pink, to B1A4 (who’s now one of my favorite boy groups), to Block B and Boyfriend, my impression on the 2011 groups are slowly but surely changing. I’m now even getting into Rania now that they had their comeback, and I’m just left pondering on what I originally missed out on.

Gaya: In defence of “Lucifer,” that was the song that truly got me into K-pop: I don’t think I would have become the kind of fan I am today were it not for that song. And I loved Taemin’s hair too, especially his long fringe (though I don’t think it helped his eyesight much). I think I was the only one happy to see it come back, a shade or so lighter, for “Sherlock.”

I know there’s been talk of 2011 rookie groups, but two 2012 groups have caught my attention after a second glance. The first is BtoB, I wasn’t really looking forward to “Wow” after their more serious prior efforts, but I was hooked from the first strum of that guitar–blame it on the ’90s,nostalgia, I guess. I listened to their EP Press Play, and had the goofiest grin on my face the entire time. I really enjoyed it, and hope they release more material like this–not necessarily ’90s stuff, but something more lively.

Fatouma: The first song I listen to a group is usually make or break for me, in terms of how much attention I will pay towards them following the first impression. I think only a handful of groups, like Big Bang and DBSK, have ever passed this test with flying colours. But I do give second chances to a lot of groups, especially when I hear good things about them or in some cases, find a member appealing, personality or apperance-wise. Sometimes, I need another medium, that isn’t music, for me to get into a group, which is how I got into Infinite. The first song I heard from Infinite, was “The Chaser” and I hated the high-pitched singing of Sung-gyu and Woo-hyun, so I ignored them, but then I stumbled upon their variety, after hearing a lot of people sing praises for their variety, and fell in love with the group’s dorky personalities and group chemistry. I’ve grown to like some of their songs, even though I can’t get myself to enjoy Sung-gyu and Woo-hyun’s vocals.

Some groups, like Block B, have to release new, better music for me to get into them. I was lucky to be into K-pop at the time of Block B’s debut, and checked out “Freeze” after I learnt that Zico had an underground background, and hated the song upon first listen. I ignored them for a while until I heard people raving about their sophomore album Welcome to the Block, and decided to listen it in full and now I’m eagerly anticipating more music from them, and might even try to listen to the rest of their debut album. I think the best thing for a fan to do is to be open-minded and willing to forgive and forget idol groups if they come out with a terrible album, and start off fresh with their new music.

Ambika: Bringing it back to Taemin’s hair, his androgyny actually threw me off of SHINee for the longest time. I started K-pop with Super Junior in 2010, and suggestion of SHINee’s “Lucifer” would always show up. I gave it a shot and immediately thought that there was too much makeup and hair for me to handle. Boy, I didn’t know what I was in for in K-pop. Now those things are normal. But, after seeing the SHINee boys on variety shows, especially ones like 1000 Song Challenge, I warmed up to them quite a bit, to the point where they’re now one of my favorite K-pop groups.

But a group that I really didn’t like on first impression was SNSD. The first song I saw from them was “Gee,” and while I could see the hook and attraction of the group, they just weren’t my style. It wasn’t after seeing the girls on variety shows showing personality–mainly their appearances on Running Man and Star Golden Bell–that I actually started to show some interest and gave their music another chance. While the group is not one of my favorites, I don’t dislike them like I did before.

Come to think of it, Star Golden Bell was probably the variety show that made me think twice about several groups. While I need good vocal talent to strongly like a group, good personalities always endear them to me. So a variety show that had frequent rotations of idols was a good introduction. It was also from there that I looked into Beast and MBLAQ, subsequently finding myself delving into both groups’ discography and variety appearances and finding them satisfying listens and watches.

Dana: For me, it was definitely Sistar.  Man, I really hated those girls when they first debuted.  I thought that “Push Push” was a terrible song, and absolutely nothing they did after that made any sort of impression on me.  I even wrote an article that called every song they’d ever released a “gimmicky, cheesy, cheap, over-the-top, sexified disaster.”  Aside from grudgingly acknowledging Hyorin‘s vocal prowess, I thought the group was being terribly mismanaged, getting slapped with one horrible Brave Brothers’ song after another, and relying far too much on tasteless sexuality over…well, pretty much everything.

But then “I’m Alone” happened, and it was like seeing the light.  Was it a completely new SISTAR?  No; a good chunk of the choreography still involved them drawing an inordinate amount of attention to their asses, but the song and subsequent performances were enough to make me change my stance on them bit by bit.  Assuming that they can keep going on this trajectory (and I really, really liked “Loving U” as well), they’re definitely going to stay on my list of groups to keep my eye on.

Salima: Shinhwa is easily the one group I’m glad I gave a second chance to. I wrote them off for a long time as some guys who did old school music–that left me super uninterested in them. My friend called me up one day and said, “You have to listen to ‘Venus’!” And I was like, “Meh. Maybe later.” But after watching Shinhwa Broadcast some months later, I don’t know how I ever got through K-pop without them! I’ve already talked about this before, so I won’t bore you by repeating myself, but they’re definitely a group I’m glad I gave a second chance to.

On top of that, Shinhwa’s fans are really cool. Since it’s tough getting some of the newer K-pop fans into an older group like Shinhwa, they’re always excited when new listeners join the fandom. And they’re always willing to patiently answer questions like, “Uh…what is a Changjo??”

Natalie: The idol group that I ended up giving a second chance was none other than Exo Planet. When Exo first appeared back in December 2011, I scoffed at them. I had absolutely no interest in SM’s new pet project or Kai and his crotch-grabbing ways. I didn’t expect big things from them and I quickly grew irritated with Kai and Exo’s numerous, pointless teasers. But then, suddenly, right before their debut, I somehow fell in love with Exo. On the night of their first showcase, I stayed up with some other writers into the wee hours of the morning, lurking in the Exo tag on Tumblr for fan accounts and updates, fangirling in my head. And while Exo and their fandom has put me through far too much turmoil, I still love the group, and I nearly cried when Exo-M recently won the award for Most Popular Group at the Mengniu Annual Billboard Music Festival (seeing Lay, my bias, tear up onstage nearly did me in).

An idol I’m glad I gave a second chance was Kai from Exo-K. At debut, I didn’t like him. At all. I found him to be cocky and a spotlight-hog. I didn’t understand why he was promoted so much when all he could do was dance. But over time, he somehow won me over. I ended up making him my K bias (alongside Chanyeol) after falling in love with his shy, awkward personality, which is so different from his oversexed onstage persona. And I won’t lie — I find him delicious. That boy is so hot.

Nicholas: Seeing a news article on Rain made me realise how much he has been missed while in the army, as well as how my impressions of him had changed with time. When I first got into K-pop, I could never get why he was so big both with Korea and the world. A dancing guy with reasonable singing? Seriously over-rated. However, the more I watched his performances, and heard his back catalogue, I realised it was not so much what he did but more of how he did it. Most covers of his songs, or our attempts at it in a karaoke lounge, are so try hard they verge on the point of parody. However, the same thing done by Rain, just seems to ooze cool and natural sexy. Strangely, the same song seems to easy to imitate we all do it hoping to have the same effect. Funny how he strikes such a clever balance.

Another reason was his attitude towards his success. While most artistes who have made it on such a stage tend to sound like the success was sort of entitled, Rain tended to come across as more fair in his judgement, believing it to be a multitude of factors (hard work, global fan support,and just being in the right place with the right support). Such a balanced perspective probably helped him retain the humility that makes him endearing to fans.

But to sort of conclude, most of the responses to this article have tended to be of most acts’ sophomore or side releases. While this probably highlights how we should judge acts on later releases, or their other surprising abilites, and how quickly K-Pop acts work to fix problems, whether quality (early Beast), identity (BTOB) or image (Sistar), it also shows very much how tough K-pop is as a business where acts are written off as soon as they start for want of a flaw.

Bethany: I think that it’s pretty clear with the ever-changing concepts of all the K-pop groups out there today, we’ve all changed our minds about a group before. As for me, I’ve definitely disliked more than just one group upon first glance and learned to like them as time went on. The most recent groups that I’ve changed my mind about are KARA and U-Kiss, since both groups have been releasing better material this year. KARA was actually the first K-pop group I came into contact with in eighth grade when a girl showed me their music video for “Honey.” They seemed to be too cutesy (I was in my alternative punk rock phase then) and the music video itself was boring. When I became a K-pop fan, the girls had just put out “Mister,” which I wrote off for being too sexy. However, KARA really caught my attention this year with “Pandora,” which had a sleek quality that I hadn’t seen in their songs before. I really liked Nicole and Gyuri as well after watching a few of their interviews, and even Hara grew on me with her bubbly personality and cuteness.

As for U-Kiss, it was much more of a stop-and-go fan attitude for me. I didn’t like “Neverland” (unlike many of my fellow writers), loved “0330,” wasn’t so hot on “DoraDora” (with the exception of Kiseop‘s abs), and wound up being sucked back into them with “Stop Girl.” I think that instead of giving U-Kiss a second chance, I just give them a free pass for bad music because I really love how hard they work and the attitude of their fans. Sometimes with them, you just gotta cross your fingers and hope for the best!

Johnelle: In K-pop, the group that I gave a second chance to is definitely Beast. I’m pretty bad about sticking to first impressions and their debut was so lackluster that I was beginning to believe and understand why they got the nickname they were given. Their song “Beautiful” is what got me taking a second glance at them. I enjoyed the song and its promotions, but still wasn’t a Beast fan until Fiction and Fact.  Fiction and Fact was a great album with most songs being better than average.

As for other areas of Korean entertainment, someone that I really didn’t like, but gave a second chance to was Jung Hyun-don.  He was really unpleasant on We Got Married, so I disliked him.  But getting to know him better as a comedian through watching him on all his shows, especially Infinity Challenge, I’ve come to understand that he’s not so bad a guy.  A lot of the misconceptions I had about him and what I thought was his personality were more so part of the character he was playing in the show.

(Images via Eithtoo, Ceci Magazine, Elle Girl Magazine, SM Entertainment, Nega Network, Sure Magazine, W Magazine Korea, J. Tune Entertainment)