Kim Kwang Soo, CEO of Core Contents Media, announced this week that starting in July, T-ara would be promoting as a 9-membered group.
I would like to preface this by saying that T-ara is by far my favorite Kpop group so I was particularly concerned when this was first rumored about a month ago. I’m not saying they’re the most talented, or the most beautiful, or anything of the sort by any means. All I’m saying is that I like their particular brand of music and visuals the best.
That out of the way, what is this guy thinking? In his official statement, he says that this was done to further improve T-ara as artists as the two new additions will be good singers. He also says that it’s also to create competition within the group such that any member he deems has become lazy or complacent after their 3 years together will be replaced. Not exactly a very subtle threat.
I understand the desire to want to make your artists succeed, but you’re seriously going to pull this after T-ara’s most successful year yet? Despite not winning many awards at the end of year ceremonies to other groups with larger more fervent fanbases, 2011 was T-ara’s year. ”Roly Poly” was the most downloaded song of the year, “Cry Cry” was on or near the top for weeks despite having to compete with the likes of SNSD, Wonder Girls, and IU. Even the random song they released with Davichi “We Were in Love” topped charts in the days following its release. And if that wasn’t enough, early 2012 we saw them dominate weekly music shows and charts with “Love Dovey”. By any reasonable standards, T-ara’s finally made it in the Korean music scene. Their popularity has gotten to the point that in an Android app in which users could vote for their ideal type, their composite score ranked higher than every other group except for SNSD as you can see in the below screenshot.
Now let’s talk about each member’s personal successes last year. Eunjung, in particular, really hit her stride in 2011 with her activities outside of T-ara. She starred in the wildly popular Dream High drama, and also played roles in King Geungchogo, and Queen Insoo, not to mention being cast for the variety show “We Got Married”. Hyomin took on a role in Gyebaek and starred in the movie Gisaeng Ryung. Jiyeon took a break from acting and instead was a permanent cast on Heroes and along with miss A’s Suzy was MC for MBC’s Music Core. Soyeon was a cast member for 1oo points out of 100 , while Qri was also cast in King Geunchogo. Boram also participated in the musical “I Really Really Like You.”
Given all those activities, along with their duties as part of T-ara, it’s no wonder that they’re one of the most overworked groups in the industry. Not only have they repeatedly said that they haven’t had a real break since debut, but articles comparing their schedules to other idols occasionally pop up and the difference is shocking. Eunjung has injured her legs multiples times, probably caused by trying to come back far too early. Jiyeon pulled a ligament in her knee as well and had to be hospitalized for fatigue at least once. While filming Gyebaek, Hyomin was also hospitalized for fatigue. Soyeon recently injured herself as well but still performed on stage with crutches. Read that again. An entertainment agency actually allowed one of their artists to perform while visually injured as you can see in the below picture. Granted, she is the voice of T-ara and they cannot perform without her but seriously? Just let her rest and use a soundtrack.
This brings me to my next point. I have always been an advocate of getting Soyeon more help vocally, which is why while I was initially leery of Hwayoung’s late addition, this meant that Hyomin was freer to be a true lead singer and take some of the burden off Soyeon. That being said, Soyeon is the voice and soul of T-ara’s music. If last year showed anything it’s that their current dynamic worked and worked very well. Soyeon and Hyomin would handle the bulk of the vocal lines, with Eunjung filling in most of the rest but still providing rap with Hwayoung. If he really wanted to make them better, how about letting Qri, Boram, and Jiyeon sing more. Jiyeon is T-ara’s visual and I’m the first to acknowledge that she’s not the greatest singer. However, how about they get a chance to rest and actually, I don’t know, PRACTICE. Isn’t of putting them out for every random event, give them more time to improve vocally. Adding two additional members just marginalizes Qri and Boram even more.
Speaking of Qri and Boram, I am convinced that the only reason they were not kicked out of T-ara was that Kim Kwang Soo at least knew that if he did, T-ara’s fans would throw a fit. They are barely utilized now and will be even less so in the future. He knows he can’t touch any of the girls without repercussions that could eventually lead them to pull what Kara did earlier in the year with their company. That being said, by adding two additional members, he’s done pretty much the only thing he can do to show off his control while still keeping the controversy to a minimum.
At this point, I’m really hoping T-ara actually does pull a TVXQ, but leave as a group. Granted, they don’t have quite the same popularity that the 5-membered group had at the time, but I have no doubt in my mind that any agency would fall all over themselves to sign them. This isn’t SME that they’d be going up against, after all. Even with SME’s deep pockets and behind-the-scenes pressure, they still couldn’t keep JYJ from being popular. If T-ara leaves CCM, that’s game over for them. Their only successful act left would be Davichi, but that’s not enough to sustain a company. Co-ed School? Please, that experiment crashed and burned despite Kim Kwang Soo’s best efforts. He even admitted in an interview he got cocky with Co-Ed because popularity for T-ara came so easily. This latest move of his smacks of a power play and I hope T-ara will call his bluff and just leave.
Despite being an enormous prick about how he’s done it, only time will tell if this move will prove beneficial to T-ara or not. As I said, I was skeptical initially about Hwayoung’s inclusion, but that eventually led to T-ara’s greatest successes. We can only hope this latest move will push the group to even greater heights and that when each member’s contract runs out they either get out while they can or use their popularity as leverage to regain some semblance of control over their schedule.
T-ara 7 Forever