[Feature] Pandora’s Box – A Detailed Look Into Kara’s Past Part 2
Last time we covered some of KARA‘s early history, starting with their debut to their first major success in “Mister.” Today we will end out look into KARA’s past by having a look at their more recent history, their association with “Invincible Youth,” why “Step” kept me pre-occupied for 10 months, the whole contract saga of 2011 and finally finish it off by looking at their more recent activities. Hope you enjoy this as well.
Invincible Youth, The G7 with KARA at the Core
A long long time ago, idol based variety shows were all the rage. Shows like “War of the Roses,” “Star Golden Bell,” “X Men” and “Love Letter” were the stages for many idols, much loved by viewers and a weekly source of entertainment for fans. However by 2008 these shows were beginning to fade into the nether with the rise in what is commonly called the “Real variety shows.” Idol shows made way for new less scripted shows like “Infinity Challenge,” “We Got Married,” “Family Outing” and most importantly for this article, “Invincible Youth.”
Invincible Youth was a farming life show, where a group of seven female idols came together to learn about life in the countryside. Amongst this group of seven was KARA’s Goo Hara. If you were a Kara fan back in the day then this would have been slightly perplexing. As we mentioned before, Han Seung Yeon was the go-to member for variety shows and when I first heard about this show in planning, I expected her to be involved in it. Instead we ended up with Goo Hara. Personally I had my reservations, but then again I had my reservations about the show as a whole as I didn’t believe idol based shows could continue to survive in the current variety show climate.
Invincible Youth, The G7 with KARA at the Core Cont.
Thankfully, I was very wrong because both Hara and the show were an amazing success. The show did what a lot of older idol based variety shows failed to do, in that they provided fans and viewers with a realistic view of these idols, one that isn’t hidden up by the glitz and glamour of stardom. We also saw the girls evolve over time, from being complete countryside novices to experts with a shovel.
Amongst all of that, Goo Hara in particular stood out quite prominently. Since this was her first major variety show appearance, she didn’t have any expectations to fill and was given free reign to do as she pleased. This turned out to be great as she turned out to be an amazingly interesting character that could fill in a lot of roles while never seeming overbearing or overstaying her welcome in any way. The success of the show and Hara also helped KARA as a whole, helping to keep up their momentum following the success of “Mister” and “Wanna.”
Invincible Youth, The G7 with KARA at the Core Cont. Cont.
But that isn’t the end of the “Invincible Youth” story. The first season eventually ended as the members became more and more busy, and it became impossible to arrange schedules for all the members to appear on the show. The show ended in late 2010. However a year later, “Invincible Youth” returned for a second season and KARA was once again involved, this time Kang Ji Young joined the crew and was hoping to replicate the success of her fellow group member.
I previously wrote a detailed first impression article of “Invincible Youth Season 2” and looking back it now, it’s almost bitter sweet to see how accurate a lot of my misgivings about the show were. The show eventually got cancelled after a lot of issues and a constant barrage of poor ratings. Kang Ji Young would show glimpses of the character that made Hara so great in Season 1, but eventually she just didn’t leave a lot of impact on the show. The show is also probably the last of the pure idol based shows on the main terrestrial broadcasters. It’s the end of an era in that sense, and at the very least KARA was involved in all of it.
Step, a 10 Month Long Addiction
This one is an interesting segment, especially for me personally. KARA’s “Step” was a song that was released in August 2011. It has the distinction of being the first song KARA released after their contract debacle in early 2011. In that sense the song is a fairly important part of KARA’s history, but the song has a much more personal meaning to me, a meaning that resulted in an almost year long addiction and obsession with the song.
Some brief explanation needs to be done here. I’m a bit of a gamer; I used to play plenty of games in my younger years. In more recent years my gaming time has drastically come down thanks to a lack of free time, but there is one game that I still play on occasion and that is a game called “Audio Surf.”
“Audio Surf” is a game that can be described as “surfing along with music.” Think Tetris with music and you’re roughly there.
I’m a big fan of this game, I’m also a fan of K-Pop in general, and finally I hate being defeated, especially for songs that I really like. A quick look at my profile(Warning this goes to an external site) page will show that I hold the throne/highest point score in a lot of K-Pop songs. It will also show that my most played song is “Step” by KARA. As you can see by the global score charts for “Step”(Warning External Site), this song is fiercely competed for by a lot of people.
Step, a 10 Month Long Addiction Cont.
When “Step” initially came out, the first thing I did was load it up on Audio Surf and play through the song. Suffice to say, it was amazing. I tend to judge a lot of songs by how nice they are to play on Audio Surf and frankly “Step” is still the best song to play in that game. It’s got great pacing, an interesting layout of blocks, and the song itself never gets tiring to listen to.
For the first couple weeks, I would constantly try to regain 1st position on the score board. Then one day I lost the position to a player that got a staggering 311,910 points compared to my lowly 250k points.
So began the almost 10 month struggle to regain my place on top of the score board. I would load up Audio Surf and then spend a couple hours doing nothing but playing “Step” on repeat end after end. It was the ultimate addiction and obsession. The sense of relief and exhilaration from regaining the top spot will probably be one of my most sacred memories for the rest of my life.
In some ways it’s funny to think how a single song and a single game could have such a emotional impact on me. I doubt I would ever get that kind of thrill playing Audio Surf again given the general dwindling of the player base over the last couple years, but I have no regrets. I have now held that “Step” record for 228 days and counting. I doubt anyone will beat it now (External Site).
The Beauty and the Contract
You can’t really talk about KARA’s past without avoiding the rather sticky issue of contract disputes. In an ideal world, group and agency would get along as one big happy family filled with flowers, butterflies and cake. Unfortunately in the real world, groups are bound to agencies by contracts and sometimes circumstances change such that one of the parties believe that the contract is now unfair towards them.
In early 2011, KARA shook the entertainment industry when certain members revealed that they wanted to terminate their contracts early. The whole issue is rather long and frankly I wouldn’t be able to do it justice in this article. It’s probably best to go read our news articles at the time, including the status update article, resumption of activities and Gyuri’s thoughts about the whole ordeal. Long story short, the situation was solved amicably by both sides and KARA continued their activities.
The Present and Beyond
We now come full circle to talk about KARA’s recent history. For the last couple years, KARA’s primary focus has been the Japanese market. In some ways that has been a mixed blessing for domestic fans such as myself. While it is great to see KARA do well overseas, it’s somewhat saddens me that we didn’t see a lot of the group in the domestic market. Their variety show appearances have been minimal and the rate at which they released songs in Korea was pretty much a trickle.
Their recent songs also lacked a special something. While songs like “Pandora,” “Runaway” and “Damaged Lady” were fairly decent, it seemed to lack some of the specialness I felt with their previous songs. Their “Full Bloom” album will also be the last domestic album with the second line up of KARA members.
There is plenty of other historical moments I didn’t discuss in this article. It was getting long enough as it is without delving into every bit of interesting history. What the article hopefully made clear thou is that KARA has left a lasting legacy on the industry and fans a like.
*Lordbordem is the writer that cures his boredom by occasionally writing long and snarky articles on Soompi. He also once went head to head with a Koala. He lost.