Goodbye, SISTAR: our thoughts & memories

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By Ana Clara Ribeiro and Kushal Dev

The Queens of Summer are officially gone. SISTAR had their last comeback on May 31th with the song “Lonely,” which we’ve mentioned before on our Weekly Faves. While it’s sad to see one more iconic girl group disband, especially one that didn’t give any signs it would, the best way to say goodbye to Hyolyn, Bora, Soyou, and Dasom is to celebrate and remember the good things, just like they did in their last music video. KultScene’s writers Ana Clara Ribeiro and Kushal Dev talk about their favourite memories of the group, what they liked about them, and their feelings about the disbandment.

Their Mark

Ana Clara: If K-pop were high school, in my opinion, SISTAR would definitely be that group of hot popular girls that all the boys want to date and all the girls want to be like or hang out with. Even the name of the group alludes to the idea of sorority and female friendship. I’ve always been amazed at their dance skills (that leg lift on “How Dare You,” oh my God), Soyou and Hyolyn’s vocal abilities, and how they dance and sing so well while always looking flawless and smiling non-stop in the highest heels! I mean, is there anything they can’t do?

But more than that, I think what made them unique was the union of all these traits plus the “summer feels” in their music and videos. There are lot of groups who do sexy concepts, but SISTAR distinguished from the others because they weren’t just sexy; they were unapologetically “Queen Bees” and they had fun with it. It’s not like they were shaking their awesome bodies and being all gorgeous only for the pleasure of their viewers; they were actually enjoying themselves and bringing the party with them, wherever they are.

Actually, the fact that SISTAR is disbanding even in spite of no signs of decadence basically reinforces the metaphor of the Queen Bees of high school. It’s like they’re graduating. We may not know what are they gonna do now, but at least they’re saying goodbye with honors, leaving an untouched impression to their seniors, and having a blast in their last vacations together in Macau.

Kushal Dev: K-pop groups will come and go, and new fans will, at least at the current rate, pile into the genre in higher and higher numbers. Just like 2NE1, Wonder Girls, and KARA, SISTAR is another group that cannot be forgotten, even after their disbandment. As a girl group, they really are nothing short of legends — who else can have nine straight title tracks go number one? No one in recent memory, that’s for sure. SISTAR is, as a friend of mine told me in her despondence after reading the disbandment news, the icon of the Korean summer. To represent an entire season, to push out of the genre of K-pop in any context and be able to contribute to the larger culture, that is what makes a group not only a K-pop group, but also a force of nature in itself.

There are very few groups whose charisma, prowess, sex appeal, and talent flow so naturally — onstage, in music videos, or even live, as many fans have claimed. It’s not just their music that has launched them so far upwards; they make their beauty and glamour look effortless. Not every Brave Brothers song is a hit, not even Black Eyed Pilseung hits the Melon roof — the hits don’t make SISTAR, SISTAR makes the hits.

And it’s important to keep in mind that the group, often compared against the generation’s most formidable competitors Girls Generation and 2NE1, came from nowhere near the Big 3. Starship Entertainment might be a notable name in the K-pop industry now, but it was SISTAR that put them on the map. Compared to the Wonder Girls or KARA or anyone of the like, SISTAR came from relatively nothing, and to be able to stand next to them as comparable equals is legendary and forever impressive.

Even in their disbandment, they continue to redefine standards for girl groups around them. As we all know, girl groups are falling left and right these days, often without any sort of warning, last release, or promotion. 2NE1 and Wonder Girls received some praise for doing a last song release, but neither promoted, and only 2NE1’s “Goodbye” even received a music video.

SISTAR, on the other hand, never fails to outdo the rest (and, if you don’t know me as a writer, I say this as a diehard Blackjack and a casual Wonderful). Of all of these groups, SISTAR maintained all four members to the end and released a last song, with a music video, and a full week of promotion. They not only sang their title track “Lonely,” but performed multiple medleys of their hits across broadcast stations last week. The entire K-pop community should applaud SISTAR for setting the bar so high, as we can only hope that on the fateful day that our faves fall apart, they do something as special as SISTAR did for their fans in their last days together.

Also on KultScene: Artist Spotlight: Sistar

Personal Memories

by Alejandro Abarca

AC: “So Cool” was one of the first K-pop songs I heard, and the first song from SISTAR I came across. I have so many good memories about it, it’s hard to chose only one. As a Brazilian person, I can’t help thinking of the funny jokes people make about this song, due to the fact that “so cool” sounds like a pejorative way to describe a specific part of the human body in Portuguese, and joking about the fact that this is a polyglot song since we can hear Korean, English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

However, as someone who joined the K-pop fandom years after “So Cool” was released, I remember my impressions when I heard this song for this time and I was so elated by the contagious rhythm and those amazing girls that seemed “so cool” — actually, a little more cool than my ignorant mindset would expect from an Asian group. This song and music video were among the things that opened the doors for me to explore, research, and understand K-pop better.

“Shake It” is another song that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen without reminiscing important moments of my life. When I had my first contact with it, I was a little more advanced in my “K-pop journey” and I remember paying attention to the melody and production, taking notes about how the song calls down on some old Motown songs and about the number of hooks. I’m not saying “Shake It” is the greatest song in the world (especially because I later discovered that they had released something extremely similar before, “Touch My Body”), but for some reason it came to me in a moment where I was beginning to see K-pop as a real movement that involves the work of so many people (writers, producers, choreographers, directors, singers), and not only a bunch of loud electronic beats with random people jumping with colorful clothes. It’s one of the songs I’ve listened the most during that moment, and it’s a personal memory that I will always cherish.

KD: I really didn’t know about SISTAR until their explosive hit “Alone,” only a few months after I got into K-pop, but I was definitely interested after watching the music video and hearing the song. Just like the experience that many other fans had, SISTAR totally crept up on me — as I was falling head over heels for 2NE1 and Girls’ Generation, SISTAR kept hitting me with good songs, starting with “Alone” and then with “Loving U” months later, when I started to realize that, with consistent jams, the group is worth my full and undivided attention. Most of the K-pop world realized that around then, which is why a K-pop summer couldn’t really be a K-pop summer without SISTAR from then on.

I don’t remember why, but I remember the day that “Touch My Body” came out as a horrible one for me, and I was so stressed about God knows what (probably school or some petty high school BS), sitting in front of the computer screen when the video came out at 11 p.m. EST. I clicked on it excitedly, only to be completely uplifted by the song’s immediate and explosive catchiness. In the days of “rookie rookie” and “knock knock knock knock on my door” (I am saying this also as a fan of both Red Velvet and TWICE), it’s hard to come by songs you absolutely love on first listen. And SISTAR, on that difficult day, gave me exactly that — a song that, in precisely one listen, made me excited about K-pop and music in general.

I also remember spending the rest of the summer trying to sing the song’s acoustic version, which they put out later on and had me hooked for awhile. Anything SISTAR did was outright iconic — the best memory as a STAR1 is being able to watch them become icons and come into that role within the industry.

Also on KultScene: Disproving the 7-Year Curse: The Slow, Painful Death of 2nd Generation K-Pop Girl Groups

What Could Have Been

AC: It’s a shame that SISTAR is disbanding right now, because musically speaking, I think there are still a lot of things they could explore. When SISTAR released “I Like That,” I was surprised because I thought it sounded different from their previous stuff, and now I just wish they could have continued from there. I would have loved to see how they matured artistically as a group. SISTAR had some of the best vocals in K-pop and tons of charisma and stage presence; they still had a lot to offer.

Also, since they have always stuck cohesively to their concept, it wouldn’t be that difficult to plan their next moves because there would be no drastic changes to be made in their trajectory. They’re not young enough to do an “aegyo” concept for the first time (neither did they need it), so they wouldn’t have any option but to release more sophisticated music. That probably wouldn’t be profitable (and it explains the disbandment), but as a fan, that’s something I really wanted to see.

KD: While fans (including myself) typically associate SISTAR with the sun kissed, summer beach girls they have been these past few years, people forget that their initial concepts were nothing like that, and the hit that rocketed to top tier status, “Alone,” was very far from that kind of thing (after all, “Alone” was released in April, and was one of SISTAR’s few non-summer comebacks). A lot of international STAR1’s and Knetz (Korean netizens) alike were wondering what a return to non-summer SISTAR would be like, as fears that the group would eventually wear out the summer concept moved through the fandom once in a blue moon.

I would even go so far as to postulate that maybe “I Like That” was a response to that discussion — while it was still a summer comeback, the concept and its aesthetics were relatively closer to “Alone” than anything else. While I am so, so happy to see them as the summer icons they are, SISTAR could have possibly done more outside of one comeback (or a comeback with a follow-up remix mini album) a year between the months of June and August. For an industry-dominating girl group, summer simply might not have been enough time for them to leave as much impact as they could have. In my opinion, sky was the limit for them at their peak, and I wonder what else they could have done.

But I am happy they stuck to what made them great and didn’t try to do so much that they turned their usually positive reviews into mixed ones, or alienated/tired fans out with too many promotions. A summer SISTAR was, perhaps, the optimal SISTAR, and I am more than willing to accept that and be proud of it as their dedicated fan.

The goodbye

AC: Now that I think about it, the music video for “Lonely” is perfect to end a story like SISTAR’s. Their music and videos were always supposed to be fun, and it’s very honest and touching that their last focuses on the ephemerality of life, as if they recognize that fun times and summer always come to an end.

The scene in which Hyolyn and Soyou take a picture together made me feel very emotional, it was a beautiful metaphor for capturing a memory of something that will never come back, be it youth or just a nice moment in time. For me, the music video conveys honesty, vulnerability, lucidity, and is a harmonic and heartwarming end to a story told in the totality of their music videos, as if Hyolyn, Bora, Soyou, and Dasom waved goodbye to us saying that no matter how great their journey was, it will as well be forgotten.

KD: It was nice to see “Lonely” be an actual music video, with closeup shots and everything — videos that are entirely random-clip-compilation tend to leave a lot to be desired, and leaving more to be desired in a disbandment video is never a good thing. All I could think of as I watched the music video for the first time was, “this is the last time I’ll ever watch a new SISTAR MV. Ever,” and it made me infinitely frustrated and sad.

I saw many comments and tweets about the ending of the video, the beach group photo scene in which the members’ smiles quickly became frowns, causing fans to cry and get the feels. But for me, it wasn’t that part that twisted up my insides, but the part right after, where the video cut to a black/white picture of them, overlayed with the text “SISTAR” right above it, staying stationary for a few seconds before the video ended completely. That last picture felt final, the ending page of a book, a “thank you” bow of some sort concluding their past seven years of hard work and success together.

SISTAR — you four are incredible, and you truly are one of K-pop’s most successful and respectable groups. With a clean disbandment, you will likely (hopefully) have everyone’s respect as you go your separate ways. A group like SISTAR will probably not come around for a very long time (if ever again), so I can only bow my head in sadness (bittersweet, but still sad), as I say a final goodbye. No matter what Dasom says at the end of “Lonely,” SISTAR is truly special, and fans will remember them year-round, throughout all four seasons.

by Alejandro Abarca

What are your thoughts on SISTAR’s break up? Let us know 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.