K-pop can produce many popular artists, but only some live on to be legends.
Welcome to a Learner's Guide to K-pop and these are 10 Once Popular K-pop Artists That Faded Out. For better clarification, this is a list that looks at K-pop groups and soloists that had either many hits or broke new ground for K-pop, only to fall almost completely out of relevance before 2020. Some groups battled controversy, some disbanded earlier than expected, and some just didn't stand the test of time.
Needless to say, they will always have a place somewhere out there in our hearts.
10.) T-ara (2009-2017) (Hiatus)
The 6 member girl group, T-ara debuted in 2009 with the single, Lie. But their success began with the single, Bo Peep Bo Peep, which charted at #4 on the GAON charts. From here, the group started to grow in the following years with classic hits, Roly Poly and Cry Cry, which even had the growing American SNSD/Wondergirls fanbase, turning towards their direction.
T-ara had interviewed on American magazines and top music critics from even Billboard stated that they could be international successes. However, the path to stardom collapsed altogether in 2012, when rumors began to surface that member Hwayoung, (who joined in 2010,) was being bullied by the other members behind the scenes after she appeared to show to concerts and such with injuries. This made fans angry, especially when the label started to silence the members and cancel promotions to help them lay low. The band continued to promote after this and Hwayoung's departures, but many people abandoned the group and even though some songs did reach #1 in the following years, the group would turn up no music show wins and the songs would remain out of sync with the rest of the world. As if this wasn't bad enough, it was revealed in 2017 that Hwayoung in fact, staged the bullying scandal, and in fact, had been sending the members threats during that period to "claw up" their faces so bad they "couldn't be on TV." Hwayoung, of course, did not leave off the hook but the damage was set, as the same year, the group split from MBK for an indefinite hiatus. Fortunately, their last comeback, "What's My Name," won them their first-ever music show win since before the scandal.
9.) Deux (1993-1995) (Disbanded)
For many people, Bigbang was the group that brought hip hop to Korea. Others would say Epik High or if you look real hard, 1TYM. However, the group to officially start was none other than Deux. Formed under what would later become Banana Culture, Kim Sungjae and Lee Hyun Do released 5 albums in their short career, spanning several important songs that would shape the hip hop structure in K-pop, including their #1 hit, Turn Around and Look at Me. The group disbanded in 1995, saying they planned to test out their solo careers and would reunite the following year. However, these plans were forever shot down when Kim Sungjae was found dead on November 23, 1 day after his solo debut, for what has only been described as either suicide or murder. Hyun Do continued to work in the industry as a producer, and on the 20th anniversary of Sungjae's death by forming 1PUNCH, another hip hop duo that was meant to serve as a successor to Deux. However, this project ended after only 8 months, after a member named One decided to abandon it to join YG. Chances are, if you happen to meet any hip hop influenced artists in Korea, Deux would probably be named as a high inspiration. And with BTS performing Kim Sungjae's solo debut song, "As I Told You," a few years ago, it seems artists really do value their predecessors more than they seem.
8.) CSJH The Grace (2005-2010) (Hiatus?)
When you think of SM's girl group hits, the names that immediately come to mind are S.E.S, SNSD, f(x), and RV. Chances are very slim that today, someone would mention this 4 member, 1 hit wonder. Debuting as the original heirs to SM's coveted girl group throne, Dana, Lina, Sunday, and Stephanie released an album that blew up quite big in Korea. Their track "One More Time, Ok?" mixed with their a capella tracks not used in SM since seemed to make them a strong suit for SM and their push for a more musically diverse label. However, The Grace's luck ran out when SNSD debuted in 2007. The 4 member group was shipped off to Japan for the next 4 years of their career, where their music was not appreciated by SM's Japanese fanbase. After member Stephanie broke her back performing on stage, SM announced in 2010 the group would be on hiatus until her recovery. But, 10 years later, the group still remains inactive, even after Stephanie left the label in 2016. Despite all this, SM has mentioned over the years, as recent as 2018, that The Grace hasn't called it quits as a group yet. You keep telling yourself that SM.
7.) Se7en (2003-present) (Active)
People love YG for its amazing soloists such as G-Dragon, Bobby, and CL. But one soloist that certainly dominated YG for a long time was Se7en. If you're wondering what group he's in? Don't bother looking. Se7en is one of few YG artists to debut groupless, but he didn't need a group to make great impressions on YG. He promoted Korean albums, but also released albums in Japan AND China, and in 2009, Se7en became one of the very first Korean artists to debut in America, with the single "Girls." What could cause an artist like this to fall into obscurity? A LOT of things. Se7en was absent from South Korea from 2007-2009 while promoting internationally. In that time, groups like Bigbang and 2PM, and soloists like G-Dragon were on the rise. Se7en started to rebuild his foundations, even with a rare collaboration with JY Park (JYP and YG working together? Daaaa-) but Se7en set his fate in stone in the year of 2013. During his military service, he and Mighty Mouth's Sangchu left their military base looking to get massages after a long day of work. However, as they tell it, they didn't know that a massage parlor could have two meanings. Whether this is true or not, it was enough to make YG drop the artist upon his return and for many fans to give back a ton of hate. In 2016, Se7en started his own personal label, ELEVEN9 Entertainment, and released a new EP titled "I Am Se7en." However, not even an MV reaction from PewDiePie was enough to save his career, and the album, despite having some pretty decent tracks, has gotten the rare title of "one of the worst Korean albums of all times." His most recent release was a single called Cold, in 2019. Yeah, I didn't think you heard of that song either.
6.) JYJ (2009-2014) (Hiatus?)
Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu may have been willing to split from their other two group members in TVXQ! and SM Entertainment, but they were far from ready to split ways with each other. With help from a close friend, they established C-JeS Entertainment and made their debut as JYJ. Their debut album released in America and featured a collaboration with Kanye West. Their followup Korean debut, In Heaven, was enough to also give them the record of biggest Korean tour by a boy group, until they were later defeated by EXO a few years later. As big as they were, JYJ only had 3 full albums to their name: The Beginning in 2010, In Heaven in 2011, and Just Us in 2014. However, this is something they don't seem too worried about. In interviews, the members have stated that even though their collaborations are great, they find that they like working solo better and see JYJ as more of a treat that the 3 work on every once in a while. Seems like a reasonable choice. However, member Yoochun was involved in sexual assault scandals in 2018. That, alongside a drug scandal in 2019, and his ex-fiancee's involvement in Burning Sun, was enough to make Y drop out of the industry, and leave J and J behind. Will the group move on without him? Only time will tell.
5.) Coed School (2010-2013) (Disbanded)
K-pop boy and girl groups have taken the world by storm, but it's rare you'll ever see coed groups in the mix. Especially one like KARD that can attract massive audiences. But in 2010, MBK Entertainment did just that with Coed School. This 10 member group consisted of 6 boys and 4 girls. Their debut EP featured 3 songs, each of them vastly different: The serious pop track, Too Late, the happy go lucky, Bbiribbom Bberibbom, and the somber ballad, I Love You A Thousand Times. 3 big genres of K-pop covered in 1 small EP. It's likely Coed School would've gone quite far considering their successful debut, but when you have a big group, things are bound to go wrong. MBK announced in 2011 that the group would have two subunits: The all-female group F-ve Dolls, and the all-boy group, Speed. Smart idea, but things started to fall apart once members of the group began to leave and get rotated out. Almost half of Coed School's lineup had changed vastly while in these units, and MBK just didn't want to deal with the struggle of trying to regroup them while they were scattered like this. In 2013, the label announced that the group would remain separated as F-ve Dolls and Speed, saying that they changed way too much to be pieced back together. That same year, F-ve Dolls faded into disbandment, and Speed went inactive in 2016. However, the group and its units live on through some of its members who stuck in the industry, such as Chanmi, who recently appeared on Produce 101.
4.) Wanted (2004-2012) (Hiatus?)
2004 was probably a crucial year for YG, with Jinusean nearing their military period and 1TYM to enlist the following year. With this in mind, YG formed a 4 member boy group called Wanted, and released their album, "Like The First," in July. As you'd expect from a YG album, this
was a major success and the group was nominated for the best boy group of the year at the Mnet Asian Music Awards. You probably are confused about why a YG group would be irrelevant, considering the type of music they produced. Well get ready to feel angry as to why: In August 2004, the group's leader, Seo Jaehyo was on his way to the studio to record their next album. However, the driver of the vehicle nearby ended up being drunk and slammed into their vehicle. The car ended up being the vehicle of TVXQ, and while the band members and both drivers made it out with minor injuries, Jaehyo, unfortunately, passed away. Rather than people feeling upset about this however, stans were EXTREMELY angry that the driver of JAEHYO's car would be "careless" enough to crash into the TVXQ vehicle and risk their lives. If that wasn't bad enough, it cost the band members their award and their YG contract in the following years. Wanted would only come back twice in their career, with two albums in 2007 and 2013, but signed under Warner Music Korea. Their last comeback featured a collaboration with IU, but as it appears, not 1 song of theirs carried past the 2nd gen.
3.) MBLAQ (2009-2015) (Unknown)
This electronic pop and R&B group has a sound that is hard to forget for those who experienced the 2nd gen. Through their career, the group won several awards and nominations for best newcomer, best rookie, best singer, and in 2012, won the Best Korean Artist Award. After members Lee Joon and Thunder left in 2014, the group only followed up with one EP, Mirror, in 2015, before going silent for reasons unknown. In 2017, theirlabel, J. Tune Camp, folded as a company, with no official statement as to what became of the group. Will MBLAQ ever reunite? We can only imagine at this point.
2.) SS501 (2005-2010; 2020?) (Unknown)
Ever watch Boys Over Flowers? Have you ever seen Ji-hu and thought "DAMN he should be in a boy group?" Well actually, he already was in one at the time. Back in 2005, DSP Media created this 5 member boy group to compete with SM's new TVXQ hit. And for the most part, the group had quite a cultural impact on South Korea, introducing the modern trends to the country before SHINee's debut a few years later, and won Best Artist awards in 2005 and 2008, and even after their split in 2011 and 2012. Alongside KARA, SS501 kept DSP at the forefront for several years. But in July 2010, the group announced that they would be parting ways from DSP as a whole. Unable to find a label to take all 5 of them, however, they were forced to remain on hiatus, with leader Kim Hyun-joong vowing their return. In 2016, 3 of the 5 members debuted under CI Entertainment as Double S 301, which had quite a reduced fanbase compared to the full group 6 years back. In 2018 and 19 the group said they were in the early stages of discussing a reunion comeback under the label, but no such news has been entirely confirmed. I guess the group will forever live on through the solo careers they lead now.
1.) RaNia (2011-2017) (Basically disbanded. No question about it.)
Surprised? You must be. But however long it takes you to believe it, RaNia actually had ALOT of popularity at the start of their career. The group was formed by the American artist, Teddy Riley, and was slated to represent the 3rd generation of DR's Baby V.O.X empire. Their debut song, "Dr. Feel Good," was originally a Lady Gaga track that Riley saved specially for their debut. The initial response was bad, considering its provacative choreography, but with the following comebacks between then and 2013, the group grew big enough to have an American album in the works, and land them deals with Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz, and MTV for an American series. All things that don't come everyday for many groups. So what went wrong? Well, all roads seem to lead to DR itself. Riley announced that he planned to separate from the group in 2011, saying that he did not trust DR and their shady dealings, and even went as far as to set up a Rania contract with SM Entertainment as a way to convince the girls to join him somewhere that would be better and safer. But they never took it. Several members left, with most of them having something to say about DR, and by 2013, the label was running low on money to continue the group. In 2015, the group introduced African American member, Alexandra Reid, as a last resort, but it became clear that this was a gimmick only when she was made leader despite not being taught Korean, the band name was changed to Black Pearl Rania, and her presence in music and on stage was reduced to solely cameos. As of 2018, all members from the 1st and 2nd lineups have departed, and as of 2017, the group has not had any more comebacks, but plenty of members have been introduced. Their last EP, Refresh 7th, was only paid for with money from their special compilation that was only able to get 1 country release. While I've stressed the possibility of other inactive groups on this list returning, the possibility of Rania ever having even a single comeback is slim to none. And with new rookie group K-TIGERS ZERO signing to DR Music last month: God help them.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, it took 2 days to make. Is there an artist you think I missed on this list? Tell me what you think down below. Hopefully, I can do more top 10's like this in the future, so let me know if there's anything I can do better.