In 2013, Dongwoo and Hoya of Infinite collaborated on the mini-album “Fly High,” which earned the duo chart-topping success. Right out of the gates, Infinite H showed a polish and maturity that can be difficult to find even in established groups. “Special Girl” was an insanely singable heartwarmer. But the subtle, insistent beat of “Without You” really gave the subgroup room to shine, voice being the driving element of the song. The video, too, is a gorgeous display of color against black and white, truly a must-watch. Infinite H is due for a comeback in the first half of 2014, and we can hardly wait. Keep your eyes on relative newcomers Dongwoo and Hoya.
Girls’ Generation TTS
With “Twinkle,” Girls’ Generation TTS (which is short for TaeTiSeo, the first syllables of Taeyeon, Seohyun, and Tiffany’s respective names) set the standard for subgroups. It was probably a given that they would be hugely successful when they came out in May of 2012, but that doesn’t take away from the stellar song, costumes, and chemistry of the trio that made them more than just a small corner of Girls’ Generation, they became unique, essential, and very much their own group. With shades of the US hit, “Lady Marmalade,” TTS takes a more Jazz-inspired approach to Kpop that highlights the impressive vocal prowess of their members. We’ve said before that SM would be wise to bring Girls’ Generation to America using this subgroup, and that’s not just because America would warm to three members easier than nine. On their own, Girls’ Generation TTS stands strong. With more of a push from SM, they could be unstoppable.
The formation of subgroup Sistar19 was a shrewd move. By capitalizing on the immense popularity of Hyolyn and Bora, Starship Entertainment found a way to bottle success. Because, let’s be honest, everything Hyolyn’s voice touches turns to gold (it’s too bad she hardly spoke in season 2 of Dream High). “Ma Boy” was probably the sexiest song of 2011, bringing us the unforgettable body roll. And though “Gone Not Around Any Longer” was a little less fun, it was still jam-packed with power and potential. Our only concern is Hyolyn’s ability to eclipse fellow-member Bora. It’s probably why Hyolyn made her solo debut in late 2013, a move which didn’t bring the success we would have expected. Which is why we’re keeping our eyes on Sistar19. Starship would be foolish not capitalize further.
GD & TOP
G-Dragon is a genius. There. We said it. At the tail end of 2010, he and T.O.P, his Big Bang compatriot, formed the duo GD & TOP. More R&B than pop, GD & TOP had three chart TOPping (get it?) singles, “High High,” “Oh Yeah,” and “Knockout.” The collaboration works perfectly here because both men are lyrical masters and because their voices compliment each other; TOP’s deeper baritone with G-Dragon’s soft manic touch. With both men as prolific as they are, it’s almost surprising that they haven’t brought back GD & TOP, even as a summer project, or an album between solo albums and Big Bang concerts. Still, a comeback of this subgroup seems inevitable, and, with how much the both of them have grown these four years, it could be something revolutionary.
2yoon goes country with “24/7,” and it’s surprisingly catchy. While subgroups like Sistar19 were formed to capitalize on their most popular members, 2yoon was formed in 2013 to bring attention to 4Minute’s Gayoon and Jiyoon, who were slowly being overshadowed by the unprecedented popularity of megastar, HyunA. “24/7” has a fun video with a fresh concept that utilizes a cast of dozens. This is to the group’s benefit, but also to their detriment. Using popular comedians to decorate the video, at times, supplants 2yoon from their desired stardom and places them, yet again, in the background. But we believe in Gayoon and Jiyoon, and believe in them as a powerful duo (Gayoon, in particular, should be a superstar). Hopefully, Cube Entertainment will give the subgroup another chance, and trust them, this time completely, at being stars of their own show.
T-ara had just gone through the worst year of their collective lives after the high-profile bullying scandal that culminated in Hwayoung leaving the group in 2012. T-ara N4 came to the scene several months later, in 2013, and many thought the subgroup, consisting of the group’s most popular members, Jiyeon, Eunjung, and Hyomin (and also new member, Areum, who later left the group), was formed to take the heat off of the tarnished T-ara name. The Jeon Won Diary of the song’s title is actually based off of a popular 80’s Korean show, and, like any T-ara project, this one comes with multiple videos. The dance version though, is where the song’s real message comes to life. T-ara N4 is not apologetic here for sins real or imagined, they’re defiant. Instead of wilting under scrutiny, they sing, “Why do you care?” And then, fists punching at the screen, at us, the viewer, they question, “Why you hating?” over and over again. No matter how you feel about T-ara or what you believe really happened within the group (we’ll never really know), it’s hard not to feel exhilarated by their sheer audacity. With “The Jeon Won Diary,” T-ara N4 cleverly uses an old TV show to send a thinly-veiled message to their most aggressive critics. In the face of crippling rumors, at the three minute fifty second mark, Jiyeon may say it best, “Mind your own business.”
“Catallena” was our Music Video of the Month for March, but we’ve had our eyes on Orange Caramel for much longer. Nana, Raina, and Lizzy of After School first came together as a cohesive subgroup with the release of the irresistible “Lipstick.” Previous hit “Shanghai Romance,” though competent, lacked personality. It was a video about, of all things, ping pong, that established an identity for Orange Caramel. They are quirky. They are fun. And embracing that concept has allowed them to create their own aesthetic. Everything, from the giant bows to the jumpy dance moves to the sparkling orange jerseys somehow feels consistent even when approaching the absurd. The next Orange Caramel comeback will be nothing if not insanely fun!