Let them go. You need to let them go. Who? All of them. Big Bang, Wonder Girls, Epik High, 2PM, U-KISS, Girls’ Generation, all of them. Famous and unknown, good and bad, it’s time to say “Goodbye” to the Wonder Girls and to the hallyu wave in general. It’s over. The tremor at the bottom of the sea in the Korean music industry that triggered a massive tidal wave of popularity and style is gone. It was just that: a wave, singular. It’s time for fans to let go and for idols to step down from their pedestals and become people once more.
You’re bewildered. I can tell. I was too when this most morbid notion occurred to me. It was brought on by the engagement of Sunye, leader of the Wonder Girls, and I don’t know why but I find her act very brave. I guess it’s because she was declaring to the world that she was no one’s “girl” any longer. In a world where the hottest scandals revolve around idols who date–let alone have sex–a celebrity validating her status as a grown, mature female in a dignified way is astonishing to me, and it sounds rather like a denouement to her career.
Now, JYP can’t stress enough how this won’t be the end of the Wonder Girls, but it should be. Let it JYP. And the same goes for all Wonderfuls, including myself. If ever there was a sign of someone hanging up the towel and calling it a day, it’s the leader of a group calling quits to the crazy whirlwind of drama and mess that is an idol’s life by anchoring herself to something stable and concrete, doing something non-idols do, which is settle down. And that got me thinking.
This is the end. JYP and fans can say how they’re just going to do solo promotions and come back. Just like AJ from U-KISS, who went to college for one semester and then came back. Just like Kangin of Super Junior, who went to the army and came back. Just like the entire idol group Shinhwa, who left the scene altogether and came back as a whole. But the fact is that they shouldn’t and, hopefully, they won’t for their own sakes, at the very least. If they truly wish to remain celebrities and to produce music as a career, they must adapt and grow, and K-Pop cannot let them do that.
So when CAN we let them all move on finally? I mean, will 40-year-old SONEs still be cheering on the next comeback of the 50-year-old GIRL group SNSD? No. At some point, the signs start showing that you just can’t squeeze any more Rain out of these idols. The group, the songs and the popularity all start to unravel simultaneously. But how does one tell? How do we initiate that emotional heartbreak?
Answering that are the groups of old, the stuff of legends, who have become just that in the K-ingdom: legends. Factors upon factors contribute to the breaking up of music groups, the biggest of which being age, money and time. Kangta of H.O.T. says that the group disbanded over what turned out to be a small misunderstanding, but because they were all so young and naturally immature, it was blown way out of proportion. Yunho remarks again how crucial of a difference age makes when it comes to deciding financial matters when he reflects on the history of DBSK. He specifically comments that their split into DBSK and JYJ did involve the trio trying to break out of SM Entertainment‘s contract for, among other reasons, money. Meanwhile, the girl group S.E.S. ended their time in the spotlight on their own terms, stating that when their contract expired after five years, they realized it was time to move on, so they did and left the stage, their fans and their careers on a high note. Same thing happened with the boy group Sechskies, whose lead singer Eun Ji Won was the first one to suggest a parting of ways. He said that during their last performance, it was too much to take in and that they were all tearfully regretting the decision, but looking back, he realizes that it was the right one to make.
In light of that statement, I want groups like Big Bang and Girls’ Generation to break up.
I’m writing this article from the afterlife now because I have most certainly been stoned to death and hung in effigy by VIPs and SONEs, but I stand by my statement. As the wise Eun Ji Won once said, it is the best time in their career for them to bow out and exit stage right. Big Bang leaving on a high note would definitely be a swan song to remember, given how tumultuous their careers were before “Alive” and how they were on the verge of breaking up with a bad reputation. Thankfully, they’ve won back the fascination of the world and their good name, so naturally, the best and hardest thing to do would be to disband. But I’m not delusional. I know they won’t, but I feel like everyone should consider Seo Taiji and Boys, who did exactly what I suggested. (Besides, would G-Dragon go on to be the next YG? Hmm, possibilities.)
As far as Girls’ Generation is concerned, they’ve failed and will continue to fail at recreating the success of “Gee” and “Genie.” Ever since “The Boys,” they’ve done nothing but release and promote music that has plainly marred their record of records, and has, at the very least, “confused” even the most faithful of SONEs with what they’re trying to do. Also, can one consider the logic of trying to develop the image of a mature woman when your group is called GIRLS’ Generation?
For good measure, let’s also add Super Junior to the mix, who face the same problem as their female counterparts, but add the fact that their replacements have already been established and show no signs of going anywhere any time soon. I’m talking about EXO, the new Super Junior, and how they can’t get the time, attention or material they need because Super Junior refuses to admit that they’re old news. Just like the Wonder Girls, their leader Leeteuk has left, once again reshaping their drastically withering group dynamic. And with the other members’ enlistment dates approaching and their increasing amounts of individual activities, it’s only a matter of time before they just fizzle out. The question is, will they leave on their own terms or be forced to step down?
And for all the people I’ve hurt with my opinion, please think about how precarious the word “goodbye” is in the music industry. Of course, a break up can sometimes mean something more final. Justin Timberlake isn’t planning on doing anything with his ex-members any time soon, and lord knows if the DB5K rumors will ever amount to anything more than rumors. But we can still hope. Recently though, to the delightful surprise of all Americans, Beyoncé reunited Destiny’s Child for the Super Bowl halftime show. The Spice Girls and Take That reunited last year to perform at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, both relishing in the joy of all their old fans who had grown up while they were gone but had never forgotten the place they had in their hearts. But who knows? Maybe these K-Pop groups will never break up and they’ll carry on decades from now, like Maroon 5 or U2?
In a place as fantastical as the K-ingdom there’s something karmic and hopeful to be said about a culture that’s marketed the word “comeback.” Imagine yourself years from now. Imagine where you’ll be in your life. Imagine your daily routine, interactions with your spouse, a typical good and bad day. And then imagine that you suddenly hear that your favorites are coming back just one more time – just One. More. Time. – allowing you to revel and reminisce on all the CDs and merchandise you bought and went broke over, all the live performances and music show wins you watched at outrageous times depending on where you lived, all the quizzes you partook in, all the fan wars, all the fanfiction you read/wrote, all the scandals, all the song lyrics and fan chants – oh the fan chants – that you memorized faster and harder than your social security number and homework assignments. All of that will come flooding back to you and you’ll cherish them all the more. But first…they have to leave. First, they have to go.
And you must let them go.