The comeback just about every single K-pop fan in the world was on tenterhooks for has finally happened – after three years of waiting, BIGBANG has finally dropped new material. It is unquestionably great, but boy did they keep us waiting!
Also making a recent musical return is BoA, whose new release is her first since 2012.
But BIGBANG and BoA are not the only K-pop acts that have tortured us with their absence of late. So join us now as we take a tour through a world of acts that most urgently need to release new music – before we lose our minds!
Much water has passed under the bridge since Se7en enlisted for his compulsory military service in March 2013. Once one of the biggest artists on the K-pop scene, the solo star has since become something of a periphery figure. The singer, who once stood toe-to-toe with Rain as arguably the biggest male solo star in K-pop, lost a lot of momentum as a result of an illicit visit to an “adult” massage parlor in 2013, which quickly turned into a major scandal.
Things just got worse for Se7en in the wake of this impropriety. He broke up with his girlfriend, the actress Park Han Byul, after a 12-year relationship. Then, following his discharge, it was announced that talent agency YG Entertainment would not be renewing his contract.
Se7en has since announced that he will launch his own entertainment company and self-promote his work. The word on the street is that he still remains on good terms with the folks at YG. He has already signed up to take part in the musical production of “Elisabeth,” but all is still quiet on the comeback front, and he has not released anything since February 2012.
With so much time having passed since his last album release, with the scandal still fresh in many fans’s minds and – crucially – without the backing of YG, much will be riding on Se7en’s next comeback, assuming that it actually comes to pass. It’s worth remembering that he is capable of tracks such as this:
But with Rain still AWOL from the music scene, K-pop is still without a male solo champion, hence the current slew of idol group solo releases. Legions of female fans would surely welcome Se7en’s return, but he will need to make his comeback sooner rather than later. Three years plus is a very long time in the world of music.
The ghost of 2012 continues to haunt T-ara, even three years on. Whichever side of the fence you are on, you cannot deny the fact that the alleged bullying scandal that led to ex-member Hwayoung‘s departure from the group (a full breakdown of that here) still dogs T-ara to this day. Since 2012, T-ara has lost another member (Areum), and the groups previously prolific output of music has slowed somewhat.
Much hinged on last year’s “Sugar Free” comeback, but even that was dogged with controversy, with web users leveling plagiarism charges at both the track itself and the promotional artwork.
This year has seen an almost unending slew of much-younger girl groups debut, and the challenge for an act like T-ara, who debuted in 2009, is to stay relevant.
Although there have been several successful post-2012 solo projects, the biggie is the full-group release, and even though it has been only eight months or so since the group’s last song, T-ara, arguably, needs to return fast. This act’s next release needs to be big, controversy-free, and eye-catching, because the girl group scene is now more competitive than ever.
The H.O.T boys broke hearts across Asia in 2001 when they officially disbanded after a short but explosive career that involved them taking much of Asia by storm – and basically writing the book on what it takes to be a top-level K-pop idol group. But in 2012-2013, the group broke hearts all over again, when, after extensive consideration, a mooted comeback eventually came to naught.
However, amid the most recent spate of 90s acts making their comebacks, H.O.T has been conspicuous through its absence. This is despite the fact that members of the group remain active in the K-pop industry, with Tony An preparing to debut a girl group and (comparatively) recent solo releases from the likes of Kangta and Moon Hee Joon, the latter of whom is an almost ubiquitous television presence nowadays.
Acts like Shinhwa and Jinusean have been making impressive returns with some top-quality material in recent months (honestly, this is a seriously catchy song).
Add this to the successful g.o.d comeback last year, and it does not take an Einstein-level intellect to realize that the current K-pop scene is basically crying out for the H.O.T boys to take back the scene they so dominated in the mid-late 90s. Given the continued enthusiasm for 90s artists, perhaps no comeback would be quite as seismic.
The other boyband that tortured us with its absence from the “Saturday Saturday Is a Singer” lineup last year, Sechs Kies has been teasing a possible comeback for some three years now. The most recent hint was dropped in October last year, with Eun Ji Won stating, “I know that the members are currently talking about a reunion. If everyone else were up for it, I would definitely join in.”
However, only a few months later, Eun Ji Won’s representatives poured cold water on rumors that tracks had already been laid down on the group’s comeback material, saying that the star was still “undecided” about the whole idea of taking part in a reunion.
Another act that pretty much defined the Korean music scene in the 1990s, fans are still holding their breath on this one, as it seems that if Eun Ji Won could just be brought on board, this comeback, once extremely unlikely, could actually happen.
If you are a fan of powerful female vocalists, this young lady will be at the top of your comeback wish list. After her “K-Pop Star” appearance in 2011, Lee Hi signed with YG Entertainment and made an explosive start to her professional singing career with the album “First Love” in 2013, including these two instant classics:
Since then, however, things on the Lee Hi front have been too quiet for the liking of most fans. Sure, there have been the collaborations with other YG artists, including the vocal power/cuteness avalanche that was HI SUHYUN.
However, for a solo artist who first appeared on the scene in 2011, it seems somewhat strange that Lee Hi still only has one album to her name. YG may have a lot more on its hands with the current BIGBANG comeback and the much-anticipated CL United States debut release, but this is an artist with vocal talent in spades, and her comeback simply cannot come soon enough.
It is the court case that is tearing all K-pop fans up with frustration – the members of B.A.P versus their talent agency TS Entertainment, with the two parties locked in a legal dispute centering on financial issues.
Now I am no expert in Korean law, but the chances are this case may well drag on for some time, and you can be sure that until it comes to a head, the chances of a B.A.P comeback are slim to none. Fans may speculate about what could happen when the matter is solved, but until these protracted proceedings end, making music will be the last thing on the minds of everyone involved.
The problem is that B.A.P, even among what is now an immeasurable ocean of all-male Korean acts, is a fantastic group, almost peerless in many regards. The recent release “1004 (Angel)” was arguably B.A.P’s most mature and sophisticated track to date, and that is no small feat considering this is an act that has put out songs like:
Even non-boyband fans have a hard time disliking a group this talented. The sooner they get out of the courtroom and back into the recording studio, the better for everyone.
When D-Unit first appeared in 2012, you had a feeling that this was a group destined for bigger things.
Three-member girl groups are relatively rare in K-pop, and yet rarer are three-member acts that primarily focus on dance music, rather than ballad numbers.
After making a strong debut in 2012, the year after saw the act drop two top-drawer pop numbers, in the shape of the Beenzino collaboration “Thank You,” and quite possibly the most infectious dance song of the year, “Talk to My Face.”
The year ended on a sour note when it was revealed that member UJin had left the group. The remaining two members enlisted the help of ex-Seeya member Soomi for their most recent release “It’s You,” but the group still officially only has two members. More worrying is the fact that things have gone disturbingly quiet on the D-Unit front ever since late 2013.
The group’s album “Affirmative Chapter 1” remains essential listening for any serious K-pop fan, but the time for a comeback is now long overdue.
Oh for a Chapter 2, D-Unit.
In her time, a one-woman sexual revolution, Uhm Jung Hwa was without any doubt the defining female figure in Korean music circa the end of the 1990s. A prolific recording artist until the early 2000s, she wrote the book on how to be alluring, and many of her hit songs, such as “Rose of Betrayal” and “Festival” have been game-changers. In 2008, she announced her first song for years, “D.I.S.C.O,” which featured T.O.P, a veritable overdose of sexy.
Since then, though, Uhm Jung Hwa looked to have put her music career on indefinite hiatus, focusing on her movie and drama output instead.
It is possible that many had given up hope of ever seeing the queen of sexiness return to the K-pop arena altogether. Until late last year, that is. Uhm Jung Hwa performed two of her songs on the “Saturday Saturday Is a Singer” special on “Infinity Challenge” and, despite the glittering array of stars who turned up for the event, single-handedly stole the show.
The weeks that followed saw both tracks re-enter the charts, including “Invitation,” originally a hit in 1998, but still the last word in seductive pop to this day.
Uhm Jung Hwa’s representatives stoked the comeback flames earlier this year, suggesting first in January and then again the next month that a new album may be in the pipelines, but, with the star also involved in a range of acting projects, finding time to prepare, record and promote the release may prove a challenge.
“Rainbow?” you may say. “Didn’t they just make a comeback?” And you would be right. But hear me out on this one. Before this year’s “Innocent” album, Rainbow fans had had to wait almost two years for a release. Then, just two weeks after launching lead song “Black Swan,” DSP Media, the group’s talent agency curtailed all promotions.
The thing is, before the 2013 two-part studio album “Rainbow Syndrome,” fans had been holding their breath for a release for another two-year period, with silence on the Rainbow front since 2011.
To rub salt into the wound, DSP seems to have issues when it comes to choosing the right lead tracks from Rainbow albums. Fans quite clearly want this kind of thing:
But they instead they get this:
The problem is, Rainbow has been recording lead track-worthy songs, songs that have the potential to become the next “A,” only to have them buried somewhere or other on their albums. Tracks like this:
Even the latest album had the song “Mr Lee,” which would have been a much better lead track than the plodding mid-tempo and hook-free “Black Swan.”
After putting a stop to the “Black Swan” promotions, DSP said in a statement that Rainbow would return “new and improved,” but the question is – when? Labelmate act KARA is now set for a summer comeback, so the earliest fans could hope for is autumn or winter this year, but even that would seem wishful thinking for all but the most extreme of optimists.
The group’s members are doing well enough for themselves – Jisook has become a power blogger, a photographer, and a reporter on KBS show “Entertainment Relay,” and Woori is currently making a decent job of her first acting gig on the MBC weekend drama “Flower of the Queen.”
Meanwhile, Hyunyoung has her modeling and collaboration project work going on and leader Jaekyoung continues to get TV gigs. But the failure of the most recent comeback feels quite ominous, and if this group is not to just fade away into K-pop history, it needs a very strong comeback very soon.
There is no K-pop fate worse than being a Rainbow fan.
On second thoughts, I take that back. There is one fate distinctly worse than being a Rainbow supporter – being an A-JAX fan. Rainbow’s male DSP labelmates, formerly known as DSP Boyz, have not released an album since 2013, and member Jaehyung has just been conscripted into the army.
The thing is, A-JAX is actually quite a good boyband, and arguably better than many of the current crop.
This was a more-than-solid debut track:
And with songs like “2MYX”
and “Hot Game”
…the A-JAX boys have proved on more than one occasion that they are not wanting in the talent department. However, with one member in the army and a KARA comeback imminent this month, the chances of new material from A-JAX any time soon seem very narrow indeed.
If you are an A-Light, you truly have my deepest sympathies.
Now you’ve read our list, it’s over to you, Soompiers! Which K-pop act do you want to see make a comeback soon? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
timmydee is a music geek with a penchant for pop, an enthusiasm for electronica and a hankering for hip-hop. When he isn’t writing for Soompi, he is remixing your favorite K-Pop tracks – with sometimes astounding (but often catastrophic) results.
*The views expressed in this article solely reflect those of the author and do not represent Soompi as a whole.