Lately, a lot of vocal groups have lost signicant members and not only survived, but used the shake-up to refocus and reload. Significant examples include SNSD parting ways with Jessica Jung (with mixed results), f(x) parting with their visual then maturing to a sleeker, more mature trop-house blend, Dal*Shabet and Brave Girls lost two members and immediately released their best singles ever, Beast (now Highlight) lost a member but also a name in their battle with their former company, and recently Winner lost their main vocalist then dropped what could be their best work yet. When you lose a lead vocalist of the caliber of Heo Sol Ji (Solji), considered one of KPop's top voices, can you move on?
I guess it was up to one of KPop's leading supergroups to punch through KPop's recent obsession with cute and coy and deliver a bold, fiercely sexual in-your-face ass-shaking anthem. With doe-eyed youngsters from GFriend to Twice to Pristin to even Red Velvet batting their eyelashes and driving up the hit counters on YouTube, iTunes and Spotify, Girls' Day returns from a nearly two-year hiatus and smacks everyone upside the head with their new track "I'll Be Yours" from the E.P. Everyday #5. But is it a hit?
From the "Why You Love KPop" folder: Yet another group loses key members and comes out swinging with perhaps their best work ever. This week, it's songwriter Brave Brother's little sisters, Brave Girls. They'd slapped us upside the head after a two-and-a-half year hiatus and completely new lineup with their sultry triphop hit "Deepened" in 2016, followed by the schlockier "High Heels" and now, back to solid, flawless R&B sung with irresistable bad English and unabashedly bold and sexy choreography with "Rollin'."
For reasons unknown to me (and most people), Pledis Entertainment decided to let their iconic sexy concept group After School and its unique, quirky and popular subunit Orange Caramel lay fallow after the predetermined retirements of their leadership, first Kahee, then Jung Ah. They then dumped all of their resourses incubating the thirteen-member cutesy boy band Seventeen at the expense of their other, more compelling and mature male group Nu'Est.
Once their dual maknaes Umji and SinB turned 20, the mission became clear. Upgrade and modernize South Korea's innocent young sweethearts, Yeoja Chingu, better known off the peninsula as GFriend. The group, resembling a sisterhood of Utah mormon virgins, known for their precise "power choreo," adorably immaculate image, and saccharine over-produced bubblegum burst onto the scene from their tiny little company Source Music in 2015, and quickly won over the hearts of South Koreans.
Sometimes it's easy to think of KPop stars as cultivated celebrities, meticulously crafted, dressed, trained and polished by their companies, given what to wear, how to stand, dance, sing, even what to say. And in most cases, for better or worse, that would be true, and despite the growing numbers of disgruntled, blacklisted, or shunned KPop stars, most don't complain much, given their bee-line to fame, and hopefully a little pocket change if not outright fortune.
Since their last album, Lion Heart, the members of KPop's most successful girl group, Girls' Generation, must have some time on their hands. As outlined by our piece on the Soshi Diaspora, there've been solo and collaborative efforts by Tiffany, Yoona, Hyoyeon, and Seohyun, but the most prolific of the octet by far is their "baby leader" and lead vocalist Taeyeon, who has already released two EPs since Lion Heart, and now her first full length LP My Voice.
Once again, after another game-changing and universally praised album that seemed to save their status as KPop's cool kid girl group, the future of f(x) is murky after a recent temper tantrum by Amber on Instagram, complaining about what seemed to be her monolithic company, SM. The members solo projects and growth as musical artists has offered their fans hope for a promising follow up to 4 Walls. The latest glimpse of their enigmatic maknae only enhance that glimmer of hope.
After an impressive emergence, DSP Media's all-in bet to return to relevance, the co-ed quartet, K.A.R.D returns with the second of three planned "pre-debut" singles, "Don't Recall." Considering DSP's recent track record of clumsy disbandments of Kara and Rainbow, they could not have asked for a better reception. K.A.R.D kicked off the week as one of the hottest iTunes downloads on the planet. If their next release is this successful, we'll have to stop talking about how much we miss Kara and Rainbow.
This month, SM's cherubic quintet was thrown to the pop-loving masses once more with another batch of cute but oddly disruptive pure pop, their new E.P. Rookie, and its cheeky title track. Since their inception, Red Velvet has rocketed in popularity, and now one of KPop's top three girl groups, along with Twice and Blackpink, dishing out edgy classics like "Ice Cream Cake" and "Dumb Dumb". "Rookie" is the latest that string, but with an unexpected childish boisterousness one would expect more from Crayon Pop. Are these the same kids that did the timeless "Automatic?"