Because seriously, why not Dal Shabet? No, they're not my favorite girl group. They're not even my favorite mid-level girl group that I feel needs to get more attention (that title would have to go to either Fiestar or poor, mismanaged Rainbow, friends).
Their library of releases is strange and sometimes head-scratching. The music video for "Hit U," for example, involved shooting and murdering a terrible (and abusive) former lover and his friends and/or associates. The pink-splattered blood leaks out of the villain as the video closes, Jiyul sitting calmly on the bed, gun in hand. Um. Justice? The girls take another turn at crime during their gun-obsessed era, with "Mr. Bang Bang," the most ill-conceived robbery ever filmed, Kpop or otherwise. They even show their hostages their choreography, guns in hand, of course. By the end of the video, the authorities are so entrapped by the girl's beauty and charisma, and their own greed, that they join in on taking the money. Again: Justice.
Which it to say, Dal Shabet may be the most bonkers girl group in a bonkers industry. You'll never know exactly what you're going to get from them but you're always going to be confused in the best ways possible.
And sometimes they hit gold.
Like "Hate, Don't Hate." Ignore, for a moment, the alien invader(?) music video, and remember the brilliance of their retro warehouse version, which placed our idols in the midst of the working class. The tension of the two worlds alone would make this video memorable. But Dal Shabet's expressions and sometimes lack of expressions, interactions with the workers and the workers interactions with them, really plays with the idea of image and Kpop music videos, making it one of the best music videos of 2012 and maybe ever.
Incoherence is key here. But so is controversy. Men's right's groups (just as absurd in Korea as here in the US of A) were indignant over some of the sexual aggressive lyrics of "Be Ambitious," and felt as though they were making light of military service with the buffoons depicted in the video. Right now, "Joker" has been reinstated at KBS' "Music Bank" after a change in lyrics, because some of the original lyrics may have sounded too much like intercourse. And don't get us started on that butt shake and those crotch grabs. But controversy can equal attention, right? Salaciousness can often lead to stardom. So, again, I ask you, why not Dal Shabet?
Could it be that their comebacks are so wildly divergent from each other that a more casual fan has trouble grasping onto what this group is all about? Could it be that the individual members haven't broken out on variety shows or on dramas to the level of some of the more major girl groups? Are they missing their Suzy or their Hani or their Jimin? Is it the agency? Or maybe just the bad luck they experienced in 2014, with Subin's car accident and Woohee's collapsed lung?
Or maybe Dal Shabet is fine where they are. Their situation isn't exactly dire and they've had more success than some groups. Not everyone can be on the top of the mountain at once, can they? Then it wouldn't be a mountain. It'd just be a hill. And no one cares if you conquer a hill.
You have to hand it to Dal Shabet. Even their strangest songs are fun to listen to. They're not here to make art (though sometimes, perhaps inadvertently, they do), They aren't here to redefine the Kpop landscape. They're all about pop. And they're working very hard to make that pop. Subin even contributed to all of the songs of their latest album and has been listed as a producer. How cool is that?
Yes, I can't name all the members and sometimes I lose track of who's who (though admitedly, GaEun = my bias). "Joker" is a fun, sexy song but has copyright infringement written all over (bonkers!). And I must repeat: Dal Shabet is not my favorite girl group. In all honesty, they may not even be in my top ten.
But is "Joker" on my playlist? On repeat? Along with "Hit U" and "Hate, Don't Hate" and "Big Bad Baby?" Absolutely.
So why not Dal Shabet? You tell me.
Timothy Moore writes from Chicago. He blogs at Read My Blog Please, and edits at Ghost Ocean Magazine. His biases are T-ara, Block B, Nine Muses, Brown Eyed Girls, and Girl's Day.