Let’s Discuss: Why Does ZE:A Get So Little Love?

ZE:A is one of the best, most consistent idol groups out there today. The group has several amazing songs, and some duds, but since their debut in 2010, ZE:A has struggled to place in charts to reach the fans.

Even its recent song, Breathe, has gained little attention.

The group has filmed over 20 music videos since debuting, featured in countless songs. Four of the nine members: Kwanghee, Hyungsik, Siwan, and Dongjun, are pretty well known for their acting and variety skills. They’ve appeared in popular shows and movies like The Heirs, Star King, The Moon That Embraces The Sun, Real Men, We Got Married, To The Beautiful You, and A Company Man.

With individual members so popular and the group so prolific and talented, it’s always bothered me why ZE:A isn’t more well received. This past April, the group was ranked as having the 33rd largest fanclub in South Korea; that’s no small feat when there are so many idol groups. YG’s upcoming boy group, WINNER, ranked #26.

This could be a simple matter of larger companies filling up the idol scene and promoting their members better than a smaller company like ZE:A’s, but that’s not the case. Star Empire Entertainment was founded in 2000 and produced not only ZE:A and Nine Muses, but also popular groups Jewelry and V.O.S.

The group is popular enough to rank on the idol fanclub chart (it’s harder than it seems – JYJ, Secret, and SISTAR were at the bottom of the list, despite their popularity). People know the names of some of the members. Several of their albums ranked within the top ten charts, but the group has never won an award on one of the music shows like Inkigayo. They’ve debuted in Japan pretty successfully and have unit groups, but ZE:A still struggles.

So what’s going on?


I’ve also thought about it as the group doing too much, without being exceptional in any single way.

The group’s debut song, Mazeltov, was okay. That’s me being extremely nice — I rewatched it and thought that it was a bit of a mess. But the group made up for it with the follow up track, All Day Long. Songs like Here I Am, Heart For 2, Aftereffect, Phoenix, Step By Step, and my personal favorite, The Ghost of the Wind, have proved that the group can create great, catchy songs.

But not charttoppers.

Popular, but never popular enough. That seems to be ZE:A’s “claim to fame.”

The popular members are popular, but not popular enough to bring ZE:A into the spotlight as a group. The songs are good, but never can compete to be number one. The company is a good one, but doesn’t have the ability to promote ZE:A as much as a bigger company would be able to.

The group tries extremely hard, but it’s like ZE:A is climbing a never-ending staircase. ZE:A’s almost reached the top, but when it pauses for a moment or two to catch it’s breath, another idol group comes out with something that slips ZE:A up.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be changing. Every time a new ZE:A song comes out, I, and other ZE:A fans, get excited. Ghost of the Wind really should have been “the” song for ZE:A. But it wasn’t, primarily thanks to too much competition – EXO, B.A.P, f(X), and BEAST were all promoting at the time of Ghost Of The Wind’s release.

Based on the fact that it hasn’t happened in four years, it’s unlikely that ZE:A will produce a song that gains enough attention. The songs are catchy, the vocals are good, but they seem to be missing that special thing that makes certain releases from less popular idol groups shoot to popularity.

Considering this, it’s sad that ZE:A’s debut song wasn’t all that great – some groups debut with such a great concept that fans can’t help but pay attention, like B.A.P. Groups like VIXX and INFINITE debuted with strong songs, and then gained momentum to propel them to become current front-runners of K-POP.

But ZE:A’s first song was, as I said, less than exciting, and the group has been around for so long that people know that they’re there, but just don’t really care.

It must be incredibly hard for ZE:A to work so hard day after day, knowing that there will always be more groups to compete with. ZE:A lost it’s chance for a solid debut back in 2010, and it seems that no matter how hard the group tries, it all seems futile.

Rather than saying the flooded idol market or something like lack of talent or a small company is to blame for ZE:A’s failure to gain attention, I think that apathy is ZE:A’s biggest enemy.

We know it, but we don’t love ZE:A. We listen to the songs, watch them entertain us, but there’s no real connection. Something’s missing in the relationship between ZE:A and fans, and until the group does something to change that, it will always lag behind other, newer, K-Pop acts.

Hopefully something will happen that will propel ZE:A into the spotlight that they deserve, or at least allow people to acknowledge the talented, hard-working  group.

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  • MindsMuses

    I’ve been a fan of ZE:A since the very beginning, discovering them when Star Empire first aired their two predebut shows, Empire Kids and Empire Kids Return. They were definitely a little shaky back then–no doubt about it–but it’s their teamwork and diligence that really got my heart set on following the group. Mazeltov was horrible, the whole fandom can agree on that. It was really upsetting to see all their hard work being completely crushed by that song and having their talents being out shined by that unneeded auto tune. A lot of people couldn’t take the group seriously after that..people left the fandom, and I don’t blame them to be honest.

    Then why did I stay? Because even though the song was horrible, I still knew those guys worked their asses off to get to that point. Taeheon, Junyoung, and Kwanghee all trained for 8+ years. Minwoo auditioned for numerous companies (even made it into JYP) before finally settling on Star Empire after Junyoung scouted him out. Heecheol worked jobs in Seoul to support himself because he didn’t want to burden his family. Siwan dropped out of Busan University to chase his dream of being an idol. Kevin left a well-known company in Australia to pursue his singing career. Dongjun and Hyungsik, the last two to officially join the group, were scouted through singing competitions.

    And they weren’t some group of random trainees that were thrown together by Star Empire. Kwanghee and Junyoung met in the bathroom of a school uniform fashion show. They became close friends and Kwanghee invited Junyoung, who was a trainee under a different agency at the time, to join Star Empire. Junyoung in turn invited his high school friend, Taeheon, to join the company . Some time after, Kevin auditioned for Star Empire, joining Junyoung, Kwanghee, Taeheon, and some other person to create a 5-member group. Their debut, however, continued to get pushed back due to financial problems and eventually the project was dropped. Kevin and Kwanghee initially left the company. Kevin went back Australia, and Kwanghee got his PS done (SE apparently has a rule against getting PS while under contract or whatever). About a year or so later, an opportunity arose for another group project. Junyoung convinced Kwanghee to come back to SE, and begged Kevin to come back to Korea. Junyoung also scouted Minwoo, and Dongjun/Hyungsik/Siwan/Heecheol later joined.

    It’s friendship that brought the group together, and I strongly believe that it’s brotherhood that is keeping them together. A few days ago Minwoo tweeted that ZE:A is happiest as nine. Yewon, who is also in SE, said she envied them. Yet I see so many people say that ZE:A “lacks chemistry” and that the members “don’t seem to be close.” If they would just take 5 minutes to watch any non-perf related ZE:A video, they’d see how close they are. But people don’t. People already have their opinions of ZE:A based off of news articles about the popular members and their unwarranted dislike of Kwanghee.

    That’s why the ZE:A fandom has yet to grow. People won’t take the time to know them because they think they already do.