Stellar made their debut in 2011, but it wasn't really until 2014 that they became a familiar name. During their early years, the girls went through songs like "Rocket Girl", "U.F.O", and "Study", which were fun and spunky, but failed to gain traction. Then 2014 came and the girls made their comeback with "Marionette", the song that launched them into spotlight due to the erotic nature of their outfits, choreography, and music video.
Through an interview with No Cut News, the girls sat down for an honest heart-to-heart session, frankly revealing what led to their change in concept and why they continue to promote this provocatively sexy image that gains much backlash.
"Marionette" (February, 2014)
Q: It seems like there may have been many difficulties due to consecutive unsuccessful releases.
Junyool: We didn't have money for rides, and it was a difficult situation to the point that we'd have to share one order of food among all of us. There were many sad instances. Once, we used the practice room that a famous choreography team would use. But if we went early and waited, they would give us looks. But at the time we didn't have money to go to a cafe, or anywhere else to go and wait.
Minhee: It was the cold winter, and to kill time [before we could use the practice room] we played a game of rock paper scissors to determine who would take one step. So this way, we took one hour for a trip that only takes 5 minutes to get there. If we saw a famous girl group pass by us in their vans, we would hide out of embarrassment.
Q: Is that why you decided to take on the shocking skin exposure?
Minhee: We had to put everything on the line. We weren't in a position to think about what will come after. The success of 'Marionette' was going to determine the existence or disbandment of the team.
Junyool: I prepared with the thought that this was going to be our retirement album. I watched other sunbae teams who took on the sexy concept and sharpened my knife.
Gayoung: Honestly, we didn't think ourselves to be sexy. Even our agency wondered if this would suit us. But as we practiced, we realized we could be [sexy].
Q: At the time, you received a lot of backlash for the sexual nature of your concept. What did you think?
Gayoung: 3 of our members took ballet before, so when we first saw our outfits, we just thought "Oh they just look like leotards".
Hyoeun: That's right. We were [comfortable] to the point that we'd run around and play on set. But once the lights turned on, our skin was transparently visible, and it looked erotic.
Minhee: Our music video was especially erotic. We didn't even know it was going to be erotic to that extent. The script just said, 'Lie in bed then sit up' 'Drip milk while you drink as you long for someone'. We were shocked after we learned what all these references had meant, only after reading the comments we received. I guess you could say we were innocent.
Q: So was the result satisfactory?
Gayoung: It turned out really well for us. We got tons of love calls for various event performances and our negative [bank] balance became positive. We also got a car and a dorm. We also got a practice room that we could use all we wanted.
"Mask" (August, 2014)
Q: Thanks to the success you were able to release another song. It seems like you toned down the amount of skin exposure.
Minhee: Instead of sexiness, we wanted to pour our sincerity into the release ["Mask"].
Gayoung: We included in the lyrics why we had no choice but to do the sexy concept for 'Marionette'. We wanted to explain that we did it to receive love from the public.
Hyoeun: But, nobody seemed interested in our sincerity. It was to the point they didn't even know we made a comeback. Those who listened to the track said it was good, but people wouldn't even give it a listen.
Minhee: Because the results weren't good, our promotion cycle was short.
"Fool" (March, 2015)
Q: You changed up your style completely for this one, and there was no skin exposure.
Junyool: Actually we thought 'Fool' was just going to be a side song, we didn't know we would end up promoting with it.
Gayoung: We thought the song wasn't all that good, but the agency pushed us saying that it's a song that makes people think of their first love.
Hyoeun: At the time 'Infinity Challenge's ToToGa was all the rage...
Minhee: That's right. They even brought up that we should wear wide-legged pants that S.E.S sunbaenims wore.
Q: But unfortunately, the results weren't great.
Hyoeun: We were persuaded in the end by the agency, but it didn't turn out well. Later on, we even tried to change our outfit to a sexy one, but it just didn't fit together with the song, so it was a big failure.
Gayoung: 2 weeks after we began promotions, the agency told us "We're sorry" and "From now on, we will follow your opinions."
"Vibrato" (July, 2015)
Q: I was shocked after seeing your teaser image [photo above]. Not just me, but everyone was shocked.
Hyoeun: Honestly, we were shocked too. We didn't do it because we wanted to. Having experienced two failures after "Marionette", we accepted the reality and decided that we needed something that would become an issue.
Junyool: We wanted to get Stellar's music out there. When we didn't have skin exposure, nobody even knew we released a new song. If it's not provocative, there is no response.
Minhee: We were even asked "Why didn't you guys come out again after 'Marionette'?" when we had already made two comebacks after that song...
Q: You're receiving backlash to the level of your "Marionette" promotions.
Minhee: It wasn't a thong like many people were imagining. It was actually a swimsuit bottom, but because a portion of it was covered by the dress, the picture came out looking more erotic than it really was.
Junyool: There's a chance that even those who insult us will listen to our song. And if our song is good, then they could become our fans. And I think that as a woman, we have a right to be sexy.
Gayoung: Rather than trying to explain every time a problem is raised about our sexual concepts, we just want to continue striving forward, trusting in those who recognize our efforts.
Q: But it seems like you still have some worries.
Gayoung: We have to promote ourselves, but I couldn't get myself to upload the controversial teaser image of us on my SNS. But we can't always live doing only what we want. We have to do what the public wants for them to listen to our song.
Junyool: That's right. Of course we do have worries, but every time I go up on stage, the urge to do music continues to grow.
Hyoeun: If a group is not from a large-scale agency, it's hard to gain attention even if the song and concept are great. Because this is reality, it's pitiful when we see teams from other smaller agencies also decide to take on sexy concepts to become successful.
Q: You came back when competition is tough. What is your goal for this promotion?
Gayoung: We really hope it turns out well. The agency told us that if we are able to stay top 20 on music charts for a week, they'll send us on a vacation abroad, we really hope it happens.
Minhee: They say that once you get into the top 20, you don't easily fall back down. If that happens, then we can see [the possibility] of a next album. We really hope we achieve success.
Junyool: If that happens, then I want to hold a guerrilla concert wearing the outfits from our music video.
Q: If "Vibrato" achieves success, will you put away the sexy concept?
Junyool: I want to try a sexy concept that's [more toned down] and just on the level of hearing "It's pretty".
Hyoeun: I want us to promote with a song that we can all enjoy together. Perhaps there won't be excessive skin exposure.
Minhee: It's not that we don't do innocent concepts because we don't know how to do it. We are normally like other women in their early twenties. However, I do hope that Stellar can retain a bit of our color still.