As years fly past, more idol groups have resorted to disbandment. In 2017 alone, about 13 groups went their separate ways to continue as soloists, actresses, actors or leaving the entertainment industry.
Some inactive groups that have been missing in action for long periods of time are yet to call it quits. Such members are promoting under their group name, but it is unknown whether it is their personal or agency’s preference. It could be argued that despite the lack of group promotions, the years are still added to their shelf life as a group.
Is there any difference between a mutual and forced disbandment? Or should members continue to ride on the fame their group name had achieved?
OH! Press Team digests and discusses the critical angles that need to be raised.
In light of SISTAR’s surprise disbandment last week, fans saw a top girl group ending their career as team. SISTAR was arguably past their prime, but by all means were still one of the strongest performing groups. As as a senior group, they would only promote one release a year; but it usually performed well. Regardless, the members have their fair share of solo activities. But they still decided to disband despite their success, because of different goals. Judging by the members recent individual promotions, they should not struggle post disbandment.
What is unfortunate is that most groups usually disband due to financial struggles and lack of success. The groups who are on the brink of disbandment have it worse. Inactive groups who haven’t officially disbanded also struggle except for more popular members. The difference is they are still promoting under the group’s name. However, only the more popular members are likely to survive on their own while others may struggle or leave the industry.
Overall, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter how successful a group is during the twilight of their careers. If they want to separate, they should. Yet, it is better to disband on their own terms rather than being forced to do so.
For many people, the job they take in their twenties, is just a guide in the right direction in obtaining their dream career. And I see being an idol as exactly that. It’s potential for great exposure and money that can lead onto a successful career as a soloist, actor or even variety position. Whilst the case is a little different for dancers, inevitably most idols dancers find a path of their own in the entertainment industry after their idol career.
For most of us, it’s hard to admit that inevitably there’s a day when our bias group parts ways. This may be forced by companies, who no longer see value in the group, or may be on the mutual consensus of all members. With male groups, enlistment is one of the setbacks they’ll face. And whilst I choose to believe in the bond of my bias group and their promises to be back together, there’s part of me that acknowledges the possibility that too many things will change within the four year period. Inevitably, those words with just become empty promises. If they do choose to part ways, it’ll just be time taking its course.
However, back to the point about groups post disbandment, my opinions on this isn’t whether or not I accept this natural process, but whether or not I view this process as beneficial to the individual idols. Most idols rely heavily on the idol tag and their group name to obtain acting, MC-ing, or even singing collaborations. With the exception of the rare few that have exceeded their group name, the idol tag is exactly why they’re able to beat out more experienced and trained individuals to become leads. Even the top idols actors, have veteran co-stars who are able to overpower their acting. Unfortunately once the group name is no longer attached, there’s no longer an excuse for mediocre acting or even MC-ing. They must start from the pool of actors with the same experience as themselves and fight for the role. The automatic lead roles, just aren’t as common. And this is why most idols, unfortunately face larger setbacks after disbandment than not.
People go on and on with their praise for Shinhwa for not disbanding after all the years, and whilst it’s true not everyone can be Shinhwa, I believe their scenario is most beneficial. Still containing the idol tag for their solo careers, whilst only making a barely promoted comeback once every few years. I, however do acknowledge that if an idol group doesn’t see a bright future in being on the same stage anymore, disbandment is the best closure for fans. But I’m still the kind of person that would rather hold onto the hope that there’s a possibility of reunion in future than not.
I’ll be talking about the J-pop side of things. I feel like groups should disband and go solo on their own accord, not a decision done by the label. Personally, I think that J-pop groups do a good job with balancing their solo and group activities without neglecting one or the other so I really don’t see a reason for a group to disband over solo work, unless they all decided it’s for the best.
As some of you may know, °C-ute from Hello Project will be disbanding next month on the group’s 12th anniversary. They began to discuss the future of the group around the group’s 11th anniversary and were thinking about either leaving both Hello Project and °C-ute, to go on hiatus, or to to just break up the group which they ultimately chose in the end. Their dream from the start of °C-ute was to perform at the Saitama Super Arena. They will finally be performing there on June 12 as they have found it as a fitting place to disband afterwards. I think it’s fine for a group to disband when they are in an agreement with each other and respects everyone’s decision. Most of the members have been under Hello Project for 15 years and all of them in °C-ute for 12 years – they were pretty much in the industry since they were in elementary school. After disbandment, Mai will take a hiatus from the entertainment industry (she’s been in Hello Project since she was 6 years old), Saki and Maimi will pursue acting, Chisato will continue variety shows, and Airi will continue being a professional singer.
AAA (co-ed group), who’s been around for the same years as °C-ute, is still continuing their group activities while doing solo work. I feel like the members of AAA have established their name as a solo artists that they wouldn’t need to ride off of AAA’s name. But I think they have a really close relationship so I don’t think they’ll disband the group until they feel it’s right. Nissy, Naoya, and Sky-Hi are well known in their solo fields. Misako, Shuta, and Shinjiro usually release solo projects from time to time with Shinjiro flying to Los Angeles frequently to attend University there. Chiaki left the group back in March since she’s getting married and is currently pregnant.
I think having the ability to go and do solo work while in group can mean two things, the member either ends up loving their solo work more than their group activities, which can lead to them leaving/disbandment, or they’re more likely to stay in the group. Of course, this all depends on the label you are in and if they allow the members to venture off, which they usually do. Seeing a group reach 10 years in Japan seems to be the norm most of the time and that’s due to a group’s dedication to fans and to music. Japan doesn’t seem to have a slave contract/trainee debt, so I think the pressure from a label to stay in a group doesn’t really happen as well.
In my opinion, the group members’ wants and needs is the most important factor. If they want to go their separate ways, then so be it. It is completely natural for even the best of friends to drift apart. One must also consider the fact that most of these people do not come together on their own, and are forced to join a group with people they do not know. It is not guaranteed that they will always get along. And even though they should maintain a professional manner when entertaining fans, they should also not get hate for not having a ‘real bond’. The idea of ‘real bonds’ in K-Pop to me is a hoax; it is an over-exaggeration of expectations set by fans who wish to see their favorite idols fulfil some sort of fantasy. It is not bad actually (we all want our favorites to be close) but it just isn’t realistic.
I personally like how SM Entertainment does things. Members of their groups are allowed to branch out and perform their own individual activities and then when the need arises, they come together to release material as a unit. That is why SM groups last so long in the industry and it is very rare to hear their groups actually disbanding instead of just going on a hiatus (although let us not get into the number of people who eventually leave their groups – I do not wish to open that can of worms). But not every company has the resources and the roster of successful groups to back them up like SM does. Company leaders have to be realistic, and so must we.