Have you ever started getting into a group, falling in love with their discography, finally memorizing their names, and then suddenly…you wake up and their company announces they are no longer signed? Yes, this happened to me with GFriend. And I’m sure others have similar experiences.
K-pop is a fast moving industry where survival is never a guaranteed—not even for a Big Three company (looking at you CSJH The Grace). It’s even harder for those from smaller companies, where sustaining a momentum is harder due to resources and mismanagement (hello After School and, until Produce 101, Nu’est). Sometimes, it seems that for every group that debuts, a groups disappears into the aether.
But as the GFriend example alludes to, a group disappearing through disbandment isn’t a surety either. F(x) and SNSD are examples of groups that have been inactive that some may say they are disbanded or otherwise say that they are on a “break.” Or, if you’re SM Entertainment, live in a different world that refuses to acknowledge that members have left the company. Some groups just fizzle out and loose the interest of the general public—Teen Top comes to mind, as does Boyfriend (without googling, what happened to them?)
A group that gets the Sistar treatment, where the members leave the company under good terms and have a final goodbye song, ending their group on a good note, is rare in K-pop. Thus, this month, we ask the writers: if you were given the authority to revive a group, which group would it be and why?
Pat: Once upon a time, SM Entertainment had a four member girl group . This group was conceptually the sister group of TVXQ and shared the group’s charisma and stage performance skills. However, they languished until they puttered out into the halls of K-pop’s forgotten.
If I could, I’d revive CSJH The Grace.
This is a group ahead of their time. Aside from spectacular vocals that blended amazingly when they sang acapella, I reckon they were the original girl crush group. Stephanie, Dana, Lina, and Sunday didn’t conform to the usual K-pop girl groups of that time; not girly-girl like their contemporaries, or outright sensual, they were confident in their skin. And no matter what their song—be it “The Club,” or “Dance in the Rain,” “My Everything,” or “One More Time Okay?”—they brought their vocals and easy movements.
Unfortunately, they were ahead of their time and the general public didn’t pay attention to them. It didn’t help they were constantly shipped to Japan, forcing their momentum to halt. While there was some good Japanese hits (hello “Piranha”, song of my heart), they did not find any true success in either markets. SM Entertainment tried to make CSJH The Grace happen—from constant appearances, songs featuring stars like Rain, and good tracks that highlighted their sensual maturity—but unfortunately, some things weren’t meant to be. While debuting in 2005, they would fizzle out by 2007 in South Korea, and 2009 in Japan.
If they were to be revived in this day and age, I truly believe they’d receive a better reception.
I will finish by saying this: CSJH The Grace crawled so that Mamamoo could run.
Renee: I was fairly new to GFriend’s luscious discography when it was announced that the group would be disbanding earlier this year. Some K-pop splits you can just spot from a mile away, but GFriend’s came largely as a surprise. The group was very productive and experimental in the last year, both musically and stylistically, and with their label’s successful acquisition by HYBE, all seemed to be going well.
The production value of their videos was amped, new producers stepped into the mix (HYBE founder Bang Si-hyuk himself helped produce their latest tunes), and more behind-the-scenes content was being released than ever before. There was some concern that being acquired by a bigger label would alter the group negatively, but I actually thought it charged them with just the right amount of refinement and resources to stay relevant.
In hindsight, I suppose all this was more of a last-ditch effort than genuine interest to bolster GFriend to wider success. Needless to say, news of their disbandment came as a shock. I can only guess the reason was financial (even though I’m sure HYBE has more than enough to keep them afloat) because it just doesn’t make sense otherwise. The members were in their prime, the music was growing, and the videos were quietly stunning. But alas, K-pop is a ratings game, and them not pulling enough traction equals doom, I guess. What a pity.
I’m sure a new GFriend album would’ve given us an exciting blend of sweet and robust, but until then (yes, I’m still holding out hope for an independently produced track) those of us in-wait will just have to listen to Walpurgis Night on repeat.
Lo: If I’m reforming a group, the only true option for me is the Wonder Girls. While I’m not a fan of their earlier work, their post-Wonder World output is unmatched. Reboot and “Why So Lonely” proved just how capable Sunmi, Ha:tfelt, Yubin, and Lim are as composers and lyricists. The quartet had sales, had critical acclaim, and seemed ready to take them into their third peak of fame, then poof! They were gone.
And I understand the desire to go their separate ways and explore new sounds. After all, Sunmi, Ha:tfelt, and Yubin’s solo work has been incredibly diverse and incredibly personal. They could not have made the music they did had they chosen to stay together, and I respect their decision to gracefully part ways after a 10 year run. It just hurts that their best line-up got cut so short.
But oh, the thought of them reforming! Five years apart, five years to sharpen their skills, refine their talents, find their voices, and then to take that knowledge and work together again. Honestly, they remind me of Queen: all four of them are great songwriters, but it’s when they work together that they reach their full potential. Yes, four. Reboot is one of the best albums of the 2010s, and Lim was a writer on both my favorite (“Candle”) and the weirdest (“Oppa”) tracks, in addition to other incredible songs with members, such as “Iron Girl”.
A reunion would have so much to offer! So many ideas, so many combinations. Sunmi’s moody pop against Ha:tfelt’s lyrical depth against Yubin’s glamourous hip-hop against Lim’s melody’s, with age and the wisdom therein. It could not be anything but incredible.
Celina: The girl group I would bring back is Miss A. They were one of the first K-pop acts I saw, and I immediately fell in love with their sassy attitudes in “Bad Girl Good Girl.” While none of them were the strongest singers, they shone when it came to their choreography. I loved looking up their live performances. I was amazed at seeing them sing while handling difficult choreography. They also had great songs for every comeback. Even the Side-B songs on their albums were high quality, and I personally loved all their albums. As a smaller girl group, I was able to see each of them get a chance to stand out with the music and dance routines.
Regardless of what personal issues they faced with each other, they made great music together. As a fan, their break-up was really drawn out and torturous for me. There was a long wait for their last comeback which happened in 2015 and they did not officially break up until late 2017.
Obviously, Suzy became a big star out of everyone and decided to focus on her acting career and her own solo projects. I still follow her and the others with their current solo careers. I guess it is wishful thinking at this point for them to settle their differences, and put together even just one more song.