Spica's Identity Crisis


Five-member girl group, Spica, has produced some of the most innovative music of any girl groups in the past two years. They also lack anything resembling a cohesive identity. Spica recently released their first all-English single, “I Did It.” But is this the right move for a group that lacks definition?


From Bold to Hesitant

There are really only two established options for girl groups in Kpop, and Spica debuted as neither. They weren’t flashy enough to be called “sexy,” and didn’t pander to the camera enough to be “aeygo.” Instead, Spica brought gravitas to Kpop. Every song on the Russian Roulette album felt weighty, felt heavy. It was a focus on music and raw emotion that is rarely seen in Kpop. It’s not normal for a debut group’s album to lead off with a song titled “Anger.” Their 2012 debut album was bold, it was dark, and it was brave.

But, contrary to what 2NE1 would have you believe, being different doesn’t always connect with a fandom. “Russian Roulette” peaked at 36, “Potently” at 50, and “Painkiller” at 60 on the Gaon chart. That should have been enough for a debut group. And though Spica’s debut was met with critical acclaim, when the fans did not materialize, B2M obviously felt the crunch. Just eight months after the repackaged Painkiller album, Spica returned with Lonely. Already the edges had been sanded down. Spica was still presenting a mature package, but they lacked the darkness that set them apart in their debut. Spica had taken a dangerous step towards an anonymous mediocrity, a safe middle-ground. They were never going to set themselves apart with “Lonely.”



Enter Lee Hyori

In 2013, B2M organized a mentorship between labelmates Lee Hyori and Spcia, the latter benefiting tremendously. The single, “Tonight,” was a return to vocally powerful music, and their first top ten song on the Gaon chart. Hyori and husband collaborated and produced the song, and Spica also seemed to take a page out of Hyori’s book with more of a “sexy” concept. It seemed as though B2M saw the Lee Hyori connection as the way forward. Finally they were getting somewhere. In 2014, Spica realeased “You Don’t Love Me,” a ‘60s style jazz number unlike anything they had ever done before, but very much like Hyori’s most recent album. An extension, almost. The song was brilliant, quirky, a joy to listen to. But Spica’s identity was becoming harder and harder to locate. Which might explain why their best song since debuting only reached 16 on the Gaon charts. Somehow, Spica had slid backwards.



The Way Forward?

Which brings us to their most recent single, “I Did It,” the group’s first all-English release. It's a bizarre direction for a group that has no strong English speakers. Their performance on Good Day L.A. was an early test for Spica. Although they sang well, they brought little entertainment to the stage. All five women swayed their shoulders with smiles on their faces, hardly a fierce performance for a song about girl power. And sure, America likes girl power, but how is Spica going to stack up against charismatic performers like Beyonce and Pink? Not well, based on Good Day L.A. Had Julie Chang not shepherded the group through their brief interview, it could have been disastrous.

Unfortunately, this English tour feels like a Hail Mary pass from B2M. The music is strong, but the promotion sets Spica on an island, disconnected from their small, but loyal, Korean fanbase. Spica can awkwardly say, in English, "We love our American fans," but it doesn't hid the truth that they have been marooned in America with a sexy image that few will ever see. If "I Did It" doesn't blow up the music charts, B2M will make another change.


140808 Good Day LA - SPICA - I Did It by emperornuneo

Which is disappointing. Spica is too talented to be jerked around like they have. And though hindsight is 20/20, it’s hard not to look back and wonder what if. What might have happened had B2M allowed Spica to maintain their original identity? Would they have found their fanbase?

And where will the group end up? Can these women-turned-chameleons navigate their way back to Korea, or will America be their final death knell? B2M has been playing Russian roulette with Spica for far too long. Eventually they’re going to get the bullet.

Zander Stachniak is a southern-born, Chicago-based writer who first discovered Kpop through ShoutCast Radio. His biases are f(x) and Block B.

1 comments:

  1. If you haven't watched their erformance at KCON, you should. What you call "searching for an identity" also translates to a versatile discography in their arsenal. Not many kpop girl groups could pull off the performance they did at KCON because 1) most kpop girl group have one style of song so in a concert setting it gets repetitive and 2) I can't think of any kpop girl groups with the individual vocal talent and relatively even line distribution to pull of a performance like they did with "Painkiller." SPICA's image and performance style definitely fits the US market better than Korea, but that doesn't mean they have to change it. I would argue the kpop is changing little by little into SPICA's style with it's recent emphasis on vocal ability rather than "dancelines" and "visuals." Even the music shows are getting tired of the lip syncing antics. SPICA's on the right track. They aren't trying to be overnight successes on the US like many small minded people think they are. They're testing the water and starting off slow, unlike previous kpop efforts. They'll keep plugging away little by little like most homegrown US talent does. All the while still working on growing their fanbase in Korea.

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