After seven years of chart-topping “sexy concept” domination in K-pop, legendary quartet Sistar has announced its disbandment– though on May 31st they will release a final “goodbye” comeback.
Sistar’s early work, which I surveyed in my early months of K-pop fandom in 2012, didn’t suit me. Brave Brothers, that wildly uneven producer, gave them a lot of lowbrow dance numbers which, in their cheesy way, might be considered “fun”, but K-pop provides so much material that’s way more than just fun, I wasn’t eager to revisit their bootyshaking club routines.
That summer’s “Alone” marked an impressive step forward in moody artistry, foreshadowing some of Brave Brother’s later, greater work like “Sleepless Night” (9Muses) or “Someone Like You” (Dal Shabet). But “Alone” was up against “Volume Up”, the track that represented the artistic highwater mark for 4Minute, and while “Volume Up” scored some success, “Alone” was a monster hit, so I was a bit peeved about that.
After “Alone”, Sistar cranked out megahit after megahit. Singles like “Touch My Body” (which infamously penetrated American consciousness through an episode of “Family Guy”– a dubious distinction, to be sure), “Loving U”, and “Give It To Me” made them digital monsters, even if their physical album sales never grew strong enough to make them all-round competitive with the likes of SNSD.
It was summer 2015 that saw what surely is Sistar’s highwater mark, with the Duble Sidekick produced summer monster jam “Shake It”, the perfect distillation of the group’s aesthetic and the biggest girl group hit of that highly competitive summer:
Last summer’s moody comeback was rather less successful; more surprisingly, Hyolin’s latest solo comeback “Paradise” was a big flop. One year-end awards show I scanned through drew some tart comments from Sistar fans who felt their heroes were getting screwed out of stage time in favor of the ubiquitous new darlings Twice and other present gen superstars like GFriend. So perhaps this announcement is not a complete surprise. Still, it feels sad to see such a venerable part of the K-pop scene suddenly retiring.
Sistar is fairly lowbrow. But their endearing kookiness goes a ways to sugaring comparisons between Hyolin and B*y*nc*. And frankly, this is another hard reminder of my late realization of just how cruel the ups and downs of K-pop stardom are to those artists who are not with the Big Three. I mean, those artists have their own problems– but at least, generally speaking, their companies seem eager to keep the team going until the last penny can be milked. That looks like what’s happening with 8NSD now, but even if the pennies aren’t as freeflowing as they used to be, we’re still getting treats like Soyeon’s “Don’t Say No” or Hyoyeon’s “Mystery”. Maybe Hyolin’s solo career will revive and thrive– truly, autumn was a poor time to release “Paradise”. But it’s hard to think how, two short years ago, they were on the very summit of the mountain.
This will be an emotional time for their fans so, even though I was not a huge enthusiast, they have my tender consideration in their hour of sadness. Sistar’s legend will, undoubtedly, live on.