The K-Pop scene is a saturated market that has many big-named groups like BIGBANG, EXO, Super Junior, and SHINHWA among many others. In-between those groups, there are some decent songs from groups and singers that get lost in the competitive fray, have disbanded, or never heard of at all by international fans. Often, these groups release decent to extremely good songs, but they often get zero recognition. In an effort to call attention to these groups and their music, we at Kcrush want to share some of these songs and artists. While history may have forgotten many of them, we believe that what’s old can be new again through this series.
Black Pearl “GoGoSsing” (2010)
Black Pearl debuted in 2007 and had strong potential with songs like “Finally… It’s You.” The group had singers with lovely voices and strength that made them perfect additions to the OST-circuit. “GoGoSsing” was a departure from their R&B songs and ballads as it showed their cheery pop-side that resonated well with K-Pop fans in 2010. Given how 2010 was also one of the best years in recent K-Pop history with many memorable and, as some say, historic year, “GoGoSsing” didn’t stand out as much, but it’s still a solid song that’s worth a listen today.
BMK “Left Abandoned” (2003)
BMK, also known as Big Mama King (Kim Hyun-Jung), is not only a singer, but she’s a lecturer for various schools also. She’s appeared on I Am a Singer and has released three albums between 2003 and 2007. Her song “Left Abandoned” has a Soul heart with loads of passion. Her strong, steady voice draws the listener into the music. Everything about the song is BIG, which is fitting for someone who goes by Big Mama King. Each note will leave you wanting more.
BPPop “Never Ever Let Me Go” (2013)
BPPop debuted with the J-Pop-esque song “Today.” The cutesy tune didn’t fit them well, but their comeback song “Never Ever Let Me Go” was perfect in every way because it highlighted their vocals and vulnerability. The only crime that occurred with this song was that no one paid attention to it and it slipped by unnoticed. If another group like Gfriend or APink sang it today, the song may be the hit it should have been. BPPop was a victim of a terrible debut song and lack of strong promotions, so if they were still around today (they haven’t “officially” disbanded, but core members left years ago) and this song was the hit it should have been, it would be interesting to see the type of group they’d be.
Bubble Sisters “Bubble Song” (2003)
“Bubble Song” was a good song that featured amazing vocal abilities and recalled musical eras gone by. The song could have been a standout, instead, the song got lost due to Bubble Sisters’ black-face controversy. In the MV and during live performances, Bubble Sisters donned black-face that completely underscored the quality of music the group had (and they had a killer version of “It’s Raining Men”). Today, the MV lives on as an example of cultural insensitivities and is still a conversation topic pointing to how far we still need to go to leave ignorance behind. Despite the controversy, Bubble Sisters are still around with a different lineup.
Girl Friends “Listen!” (2006)
Girl Friends was a duo made up of Cool’s Yuri and Roo’ra/Diva’s Chae In. Yuri and Chae In were friends during their years in their respective groups and wanted to come together as a duo. The wish to release music together resulted in two albums: Another Myself and Addict to Times in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Both albums had R&B and dance flare, but neither charted well despite the music quality within songs like the bright, poppy “My Love Story” and rock-infused “Cider and Cola.” If you watched Reply 1997, you’re familiar with “All for You” as stars Seo In Guk and Eunji (APink) sang the song for the OST. Girl Friends had a version of the song prior to the OST release. Girl Friends’ version has slower pacing, but the familiarity of the tune is enough to pique interest.
Released in 2006 on the album Another Myself, “Listen!” has some Latin sound that accentuates Yuri and Chae In’s vocals nicely. The song is edgy and summery, giving it a timeless quality. The rap breaks fit nicely in the song, but the chorus is fun and pleasant to hear.
M.I.L.K “Come to Me” (2001)
Many think M.I.L.K was signed to SM Entertainment; this is incorrect as they were signed under an SM sister company, BM Entertainment. The group experienced short-term fame between 2001 to 2003 and disbanded when Bae Yumi departed the team. They had one album: 2001’s With Freshness that produced the lead single, “Come to Me.” Besides, “Come to Me,” the group also had strong singles in “Crystal” and “Sad Letter.”
“Come to Me” is one of those songs that captures the sound and feeling of the early 2000s. Its quirky instrumentals and soft vocals have a calming quality despite it being a pop song. “Come to Me” is a reminder of simpler times before the K-Pop Machine really came alive and exploded in popularity.
Purplay “Love and Remember” (2013)
Purplay is an odd inclusion to this list that mostly includes music that’s pre-2010, but they are worth mentioning because they were a group with potential that was wronged by a controversy that was beyond their control thanks to their choreographer “stealing” a dance from I.aM.mE dance crew, an issue that caused International K-Pop fans to be in an uproar and encapsulating Purplay in a whirlwind of hate. Besides the dance, weird dolphin laugh, and orgasmic grunting during the dance break, “Love and Remember” was a solid debut song that featured excellent vocals, amazing chorus, and music that set them apart from other 2013 rookies.
Sugar “Secret” (2004)
Sugar existed between 2001 and 2006 and had several releases in Korea and Japan. The now-defunct group had some familiar faces on its roster including actress Park Soojin, Japanese singer and actress Lee Ayumi (also known as Iconiq and presently Ayumi Ito), and singer and actress Hwang Jungeum. During their run, Sugar experienced moderate success in both countries, but for international audiences, their success is lost.
With a strong discography on their side including songs like “Shine” and “Tell Me Why,” their 2004 song “Secret” captures the era of which it was released while still sounding relevant to today’s music thanks to its dance-heavy track and catchy chorus. While it lacks powerhouse vocals, it’s still enjoyable even today.
U;nee “Call Call Call” (2005)
U;nee’s story is one of the saddest in K-Pop. When she debuted in 2003, she was touted as a dance-pop singer with many talents: She sang, dance, and rapped on her songs, and she had natural beauty to help with her all-around appeal. Her debut album, U;nee Code, was well-received by the media and public, and a star was born.
According to her mother, U;nee suffered bouts of depression due to the pressures of fame and took medication for her condition. Her company allegedly compounded her mental health by forcing her to undergo plastic surgery to change her breasts and face prior to her 2005 comeback with “Call Call Call.” Her company wanted her to have a sexier appearance to match her new image as an R&B singer, and it’s at this point fans theorize that U;nee’s fate was sealed with the image change and dark nature of the “Call Call Call” MV. The latter is unfounded speculation. In 2007 prior to her new album Habit’s release, U;nee hanged herself following a depressive episode according to her mother. She did not leave a note.
Since her death, the single “Call Call Call” and the accompanying album are considered her best work due to the diverse sound and growth exhibited in it. It’s a shame U;nee didn’t get to show off more of her talent.
There are more groups and songs to come! Stay tuned each week to see what else we dig up.