20130923_seoulbeats_spicaxunni2Another day, another idol reality show. Have your box of tissues out, and this time, bring your wallet out too, because if this doesn’t make you want to support girl group SPICA you need your eardrums checked. For those who can remember, SPICA emerged onto the K-pop scene in 2012 with “Potently” featuring fellow labelmate Lee Hyori. They followed up with a handful of singles and EPs, but none met decent commercial success. This time, in Lee Hyori’s XUnni, they turn to Hyori for help in producing their albums.

SPICA was a group touted for their skills. All of them had very decent musical careers before entering SPICA. Leader BoA was a vocal trainer for Infinite, Rainbow and Kara, member Bo Hyung was set to debut in 2NE1, Jiwon was part of a group with UEE, Hyosung, G.NA and Yubin, another member Narae was on Superstar K, and finally member Juhyun was featuring in songs for her labelmates.  Their talents were recognized by quite a few K-pop review sites, who praised SPICA for them for their skills, most notably their outstanding voices and maturity. The question that was and is still on people’s lips is this – why is this group failing to hit it big? After watching OnStyle’s documentary titled Lee Hyori’s XUnni, it’s obvious yet heartbreaking at the same time. They are a group that can do the following, but fail to sell.

We all know how important having an image is, and for SPICA it’s made painfully clear how not having a unique image that suited them well had hurt them since debut. This is a group that has been living on a diet of failure over the past year, and the lack of confidence shows. When mentor Hyori brought them in for a photoshoot, the documentary showed clearly how inexperienced and unconfident they were in themselves, despite debuting for more than a year. From their bodies to what to wear, how to wear it and how to pose, they showed an utter lack of confidence. Member BoA had never worn anything that showed off her chest before (think brassiere-like), because she had body issues surrounding that. I’m not saying that showing off your chest is a prerequisite for being confident, but rather that this lack of body confidence can be a very big stumbling block in the way of a rookie idol, and is something any decent management company should provide help for. Body confidence in oneself, no matter what shape or size the idol is, is important for a good performance. Hyori convinced her to try it in one photoshoot, and the fear was merrily dashed away once she saw how good the photos were. What had her company been doing?

20130828_seoulbeats_spicaThe other members had their own issues as well. It wasn’t just about the photoshoot, but the way they talked about themselves, their clothing choices and their music just pointed to a lack of confidence. They looked really lost as well, with them being unable to answer even the question of what their identity as a group was. My goodness, Bo Hyung cried while presenting ideas for their music video to a really small group of people, she was so nervous.

Once they went through boot camp by Hyori and her army, their image as idols improved dramatically. Their individual uniqueness and also, a semblance of coherence in group identity, became much clearer, and when that did their confidence level rocketed sky-high. Check out their latest music video, Tonight, below and you’ll see what I mean:

Perhaps it’s because this documentary was sponsored by OnStyle, but a huge part of the time was focused on fashion and style, as compared to actually teaching them how to sing better. I am in two minds about this, because it seems crazy that just a change in image can make such a huge difference in the perception of an idol group. This makes the appreciation of K-pop groups seem focused on looks, i.e shallow. But at the same time, this emphasis on fashion was phrased really positively, together with having confidence in oneself. When talking about fashion to SPICA, it was always about discovering what suited them and what would make them be more confident in themselves, rather than bodily imperfections. I never heard a single word of body-shaming.

20130923_seoulbeats_spica3The theme of the whole show can be summed up in one word: confidence. Other than fashion, the programme was geared specifically towards breaking through barriers. There was this section where they gave each member a mission, but the mission was tailored for each member’s fears. And it was really suitable. This girl afraid of performing alone were sent to sing in subways at peak hour, and BoA, who was afraid of dancing, was sent to learn a new dance and get approval from this dance instructor. It sounds like a once-off incident, but the difference in them before and after these confidence missions is stunning. As a group, they were given special boot camps with important people in the K-pop industry, for example Ahn Youngmi for gags, Tiger JK for rapping, and even had a special variety set constructed for them to simulate a variety show atmosphere, all to boost their confidence.

But you see, all these measures work because the girls themselves are quality. The short performances they gave throughout the series always had me breaking out in chills, and turned the documentary from a run-of-the-mill one into something very special. Performances you should definitely check out are them performing their self-composed songs, as well as one of the members busking in the subway. Totally made me sit up and pay attention.

Watching this documentary really explained the surprise I had after watching “Tonight”, their latest track. The change, in terms of personal confidence and self-image, is so huge! Hyori really needs to be given kudos for the amount of personal investment she put into this show. Although we always doubt the truth in documentaries, the changes here are just too drastic, and the amount she did for this group nothing beyond amazing. From makeup to hair to clothes to poses to photoshoots to filmings to concept meetings… You get the idea. Hyori and fiance Lee Sang-soon were there for SPICA every step of the way. She really threw everything she had into this, bringing in her own designers, stylists, makeup artists, choreographers, producers, and own friends into this endeavor.

SPICA’s shining so bright now, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited for a K-pop group.

(YouTube, OnStyle)