Since their debut in 2010 Nine Muses have gone through eleven changes to their lineup. Only three original members remain to this day and yet they continue to promote. The group’s latest single Drama is actually their most successful to date. Changes to group lineups are not uncommon in K-pop and have had varying effects on each group that have had to deal with it. The effects of these changes do not only affect the group though, as fans see their favourite group being dismantled and rebuilt within a short time. This can change their perception as they feel a loss of essence in the group.
First and foremost, losing a group member is always hard. Whether it’s the most important or least important member, their loss will be felt immediately in the live performances. K-pop performances are built around perfectly synchronized choreography where each person has their part to play. When one of these people is taken out, the system must be broken down and built up again with other members taking over. Whether the group leaves a gap in their dance like 2PM post-Jay Park or reboots it like EXO after Luhan and Kris left, the difference is palpable.
Fans watch their favorites perform but notice new movements or gaps in the dance. What was once one of the most fluid things known to pop music becomes jarring. The K-pop dance changes.
Of course, the majority of groups move towards replacing their lost member before they even have to think about rejigging their choreography or line distribution. Most companies have floods of trainees desperate for their chance to shine in the company’s flagship group. Each of these trainees will be as talented, beautiful and charming as the members that were chosen to debut in this group. Despite their readiness, plugging the trainees into an already established group has difficulties that have nothing to do with talent.
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The longer a group has been together the more they come closer and the more fans grow to know each member and their personalities. The group dynamic becomes important on and off stage. When one member is plucked from or dropped into the group out of nowhere, this dynamic changes for the fans and the group itself. The most obvious example of this is T-ara and the trouble they had with former member Hwayoung. Ignoring the allegations of bullying and their various likeliness of truth, the members did seem to be more awkward with Hwayoung since she joined. The fans didn’t take to her too much as she hadn’t been given any good parts until Day By Day. It all culminated in a messy scandal which has essentially ruined T-ara’s career in Korea (but not China).
Something like what happened with T-ara was bound to happen with a group that was unlucky enough. The apparent bullying isn’t really the issue but one of a changing group dynamic is, a loss of the original essence of the group. This feeling, which groups like Girls’ Generation were built off, of a family performing together, is a powerful one for a fan. They can feel part of it as they cheer them on as a group and as individuals. Along with this fans can also feel protective of their family. So when it is changed, such as when Jessica left or was removed from Girls’ Generation, fans feel personally wronged. They may not stop supporting their group but the energy they had will start to simmer.
I know this because 9 Muses have been my favourite K-pop group for the past year or so. When Sera and Lee Sem left, however, I felt my love for them slip. How could I continue enjoying their music when my two favourite members have left? Forgetting my biased opinion of them, replacing the incredible, individual voice of Sera and the domineering rap and visual of Lee Sem would be seriously difficult. Even if they could be replaced adequately, it would be even harder for fans like me to forget the importance of these two members to the group.
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Once Drama was released, all was forgiven. Despite new members Sojin and Keumjo not fitting the Nine Muses image. Despite having only eight members. Despite this being their first single since Figaro not produced by Sweetune. Despite all this Drama is an absolute Nine Muses smash hit. The song sounds like a trip to the carnival at hyper speed, which bursts and drops unexpectedly. All this while keeping the signature Nine Muses sound and feel, thanks in most part probably to Erin’s rap which like, Sera’s voice, stands out amongst many similar sounding voices all over K-pop.
Drama made me realise that ultimately we’re all in this for the music. Individual members’ personalities may entice us to particular groups but without good songs we won’t really ever love that group. It also made me think that change isn’t so bad when it comes to pop music. Without the hindering ideals of authenticity pop music can deliver whatever it wants by whoever it wants. So new members can help a group grow and change to suit however this growth affects them. New voices, faces, and dancers can reinterpret older songs in their allowing a group to constantly reinvent itself.
One last thing. If you plan on making your very own K-pop group anytime soon, do not put the number of members in the name of your group. You don’t want to end up like Eight Muses.
How did you feel when your favourite group lost a member? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.