In the world of K-pop, there remains unsettled battles of New Generation versus Old Generation, Fandom versus Fandom, and Bias versus Bias Wrecker. But no matter what side you choose, you have been or will be affected by PDS, Post-Disbandment Sadness. If you have veteran status as a K-pop fan, you have seen the rise and untimely fall of many talented influential artists, groups, and duos. As a newbie, you have likely heard of these artists but have never really listened to them, and are wondering what the hype is all about.
The history of these stars is not just one for the books. Rather, they have left a fiery legacy with footsteps followed by world-renowned, chart-topping artists of today. These artists have received accolades for introducing unique music styles that were “ahead of their time” that now serve as the inspiration for upcoming idols. From fierce stage presence, high album sales, and consecutive music wins, their successes are innumerable.
However, all good things must come to an end. Many of these K-pop groups faced severe difficulties in keeping up with the music industry, which led to their unfortunate disbandment. Nevertheless, these veterans have not lost their touch. Let’s take a look at some of their proudest moments.
The five-member girl group from Cube Entertainment started off on a blazing path with career-defining pop hit “HuH” in 2010. “HuH” peaked at #3 on Gaon Singles chart, making it their most downloaded single. Their high-energy, colorful, and sassy concept encouraging “girl power” characterized much of their discography, attracting many female fans. However, these girls were no strangers to shaking things up. They revealed a new sexy mature sound with “Volume Up” in 2012 at their first KCON performance in California.
Then once again, they showed off their dynamic appeal by displaying a vulnerable side with a more somber emotional hit, “Cold Rain.” Though this ballad was relatively underrated, many fans consider it their best song, where the members paired spine-tingling, painful lyrics with beautiful, simple piano notes. Following “Cold Rain,” they shocked the industry with yet another concept flip with bass-boosting, hip-shaking “Crazy,” which left a crazy impact as one of the most memorable songs in K-pop history; launching the Crazy EP to #1 on Billboard’s World Albums chart. There is a “fifth year curse” in K-pop, in which groups usually break apart after their fifth year together, but 4Minute showed no signs of defeat by releasing continuous hits as they neared their end, almost making their seventh-year anniversary.
Best known for creative versatility, 4Minute is a great group to listen to for songs that relate to any mood. We recommend adding “Crazy” to your exercise playlist perfect for motivating anyone to get up and groove.
2.) Sechs Kies
Credited with being one of the most successful first-generation boy groups, Sechs Kies (ZEKS-KEES) took over the industry in 1997. Sech Kies showed they were no amateurs by introducing funky dance hits, head-banging punk, and charismatic R&B all on their second album Welcome to the Sechskies Land. Their powerful debut awarded them Bonsangs in 1997 from the Golden Disk Awards, KBS Music Awards, and Seoul Music Awards, the list goes on. Following the success of the album release, they announced their first concert in Seoul, selling out in a matter of hours. Their popularity rose on a steady incline, awarding them Bonsang wins from the 10th Seoul Music Awards and the Best 10 Artists award at MBC Music Awards.
At the height of their career, they suddenly announced their disbandment with minimal details in 2000. Excitedly, sixteen years later, they held an unexpected reunion concert. Fans were notified only five hours in advance, but 6,000 still attended. In 2017, they celebrated their twentieth anniversary with a nationwide concert tour in Korea. Despite the hiatus, Sechs Kies are back and better than ever with a new modern sound still winning over the hearts of fans across Asia.
As trailblazers of “boy band” culture, they expanded the musical palate of Korea introducing R&B themes and setting themselves apart from just being “stars” but as “idols” with coveted success. Their love for music reached deeper than just album sales, they used their platform to make a difference. They gave an unforgettable performance as one of the first K-pop artists to perform in North Korea for the “Peace-Friendship Music Concert” in efforts to improve South and North Korean relations.
Check out their remastered album The 20th Anniversary to listen to their top hits over the years.
During the same era as Sech Kies, S.E.S grew to be the hottest, best-selling girl group after their debut in 1997 awarding them the New Artist of the Year award from Golden Disk Awards. Before 4Minute, they were also known for diversifying music genres, challenging groups to follow to keep up with their indescribable potential. Their first album I’m Your Girl showcased a cutesy pop, love song image, but their innocent persona was quickly shifted to a more mature, refined sound in their third album, Love. Title track “Love” presents an upbeat tempo, highlighting the vocalists’ exciting range, while “Twilight Zone” features auto-tune and smooth mellow R&B pop. Their next album, 2001’s A Letter from Greenland, is a favorite for many older listeners since it showcased the groups new jazzy sound. Second single “Be Natural” is known by today’s K-pop audience for being remastered in 2014 by Red Velvet, a girl group from SM Entertainment, the same label as S.E.S.
S.E.S maintained a sophisticated image in their 2002 comeback album Choose My Life. Different from the mix of bright uptempo and atmospheric honeyed tracks on the album, the single “U” introduced a different concept. The music video pictured the girls in powerful, action-packed cinematic scenes with an electronic beat, featuring catchy lyrics and intense dances. Their final album was released in 2002, titled Friend, as a mix of their greatest hits and one new song, “S.ll.S.” The funky, dance-centric melody distracts the listener from the dark undertones in the video, hinting at an unexpected disbandment to ensue. Although disbanding in 2002, as a tradition for old school K-pop groups, they officially reunited in 2016, almost twenty years after their debut, to release a celebrative project. They held fan meetings, starred in a reality show to reconnect with fans, and released a full twenty-year anniversary special album, Remember. If that wasn’t enough, they also held a two-day concert in Seoul, allowing fans to relive their glory days right alongside them in December 2016.
S.E.S being labeled as queens of K-pop is deeper than just a title. Their unlimited vocal range, It-girl attitude, and undeniable visuals, set the standard of who upcoming idols aspired to be. As trailblazers, they executed many genres of music flawlessly, thus setting the stage for groups to come; to never settle for the basics. The sound of mainstream K-pop has changed significantly over the years, so plug into S.E.S’s third album, Love, for a nostalgic journey through time.
Best, Absolute and Perfect is the most fitting name for this powerful six-member boy group. As the name implies, the boys entered the scene with one of the best debuts in history with powerful anthem Warrior EP in 2012. “Warrior” featured intense “battle-like” stomps in the commanding choreography, grabbing everyone’s attention. The pretty boy image remained ideal in K-pop visuals, but B.A.P was determined to set themselves apart from the mainstream standard as the fearless bad boy type. MTV Korea referred to their debut performance as “powerful and charismatic,” and fans agreed as the EP charted at #10 on Billboard’s World Albums chart. The next three EP’s to follow maintained the same high energy, making it a perfect addition to an action-drama movie soundtrack. Although it was never picked up as an OST, their fifth EP One Shot allowed them to live out a traitor-themed riveting on-screen short film in One Shot’s Music video. The EP received the #1 spot on Billboard’s World Albums Chart in 2013.
They revealed an undiscovered soft side in their first full album First Sensibility in February 2014. Lead single “1004 (Angel)” demonstrated their emotional reach and track “With You” served as a love letter to fans, promising the eternal bond between B.A.P and their fandom, BABY. That song would prove to be a somber anthem at the time of their steady approaching disbandment. At the end of their successful continental tour B.A.P Live On Earth 2014 , the members filed a lawsuit against their label, claiming foul treatment and unfair profit distribution withholding their income. The lawsuit dragged along, leaving B.A.P without any promotional activities for a year. However, their bond with BABYs was so strong that they continued to release their own solo songs and operated a fan café account to stay connected with fans during the hiatus.
In 2015, they reached a settlement with TS Entertainment and resumed activities, awarding them a music show win on Music Bank for their eighth EP’s title track “Young Wild and Free.” From their 2016 EP Carnival to 2017 album EGO, they released a selection of colorful, upbeat hits highlighting their expansive vocal capabilities and beautiful lyric craftsmanship. They finally ended their contract as group B.A.P in February 2019. Usually disbandments are bittersweet moments, but for these members, it marked a new beginning to never allow anyone to take their passion for music away from them. The members are currently pursuing solo careers, most notably B.A.P’s former leader Bang Yongguk with new album titled BANG YONGGUK. The album includes twelve emotional tracks varying from romantic ballads, deep self-reflection, and a head-banging hit to scream along at the top of your lungs.
We choose our favorite songs based on how they make us feel. Music touches us emotionally and moves us to dance, work out, cry, or reminisce. It sets the tone for special days in our lives, coincidentally telling stories we’ll remember for a lifetime. For K-pop fans throughout the years, it doesn’t matter how much time has passed since listening to one of these artists. When they listen to one of their songs, they will always remember what was going on in their lives in that moment and the pain from their disbandment.
Nevertheless, fond memories of cheering on their bias, waving a treasured light stick, and sleepless nights spent keeping up with comebacks will flood their minds at the same time. Before the sad, inevitable end of the contracts of some of our favorite artists today, why not cherish their talent now and never allow our support and love for them to be past tense? Here’s to the K-pop groups you’ve loved before and will always love!
Cover Image: B.A.P
Written by Serena Jackson