Mayday, Mayday. This is an emergency broadcast. Sistar is in danger. We repeat, Sistar is in danger. This is not a drill. S.O.S. Save Our Sistar, because they are sinking!
Sinking? Wait, how can Sistar be in trouble? They’re one of the biggest names in Kpop! Sistar won the MNET Best Female Group award and a Digital Bonsang for “Touch My Body” just last year! Which is funny, actually, because those awards cover up the disturbing truth: Sistar’s sales in recent years have been all ebb and no flow.
Take a look at Sistar’s sales from their last six albums, and the digital downloads from their lead singles. Sure, their singles peak at number one (for the week, which isn’t that impressive), and they win awards. But the steady decline in sales does not lie. Neither does that fact that in 2014, the year in which Sistar was supposedly the Best Female Group in Kpop, their album came in at number 100 on the yearly Gaon chart. That’s right; they barely made it on the chart at all. Unfortunately, and at the risk of overusing our nautical puns, Sistar is a sinking ship.
How did this happen? Let’s rewind a few years to the early days of Sistar, when their potential seemed unlimited. The group’s breakout album So Cool, had put them on the charts, and Alone, the follow-up EP, solidified their place as superstars. But it was after that, in 2012, that Sistar attempted their first true summer-fun release with the single, “Loving U” (to call it an album would be over-generous; Loving U contained two new songs and five remixes of older material). There’s little doubt that this was a money-making strategy; most summer singles are designed to increase the bottom line and give the artist extra exposure without overly taxing the group. And “Loving U” was no different. It was their first time working with Duble Sidekick, and it was a hit! The album (sic) sold over twenty thousand copies and the single was downloaded over three million times. These numbers were similar to Sistar’s full-length album, So Cool. Such success from a release that was clearly surplus to requirements was unfathomable. The management at Starship must not have known what to do with themselves.
For Sistar’s next album, the full-length Give It to Me, they went back to Duble Sidekick (prior to “Loving U,” Sistar worked mostly with Brave Brothers), hoping for more of that amazing success. But the magic was gone. What had been an upward trend was reversed. The album sold hardly more than their two-song summer album, and digital downloads dropped by more than half. Clearly it wasn’t Duble Sidekick alone that was responsible for the success of “Loving U.” As it turns out, what Sistar had managed to sell in the summer of 2012 was not music, but the very idea of summer itself.
It was at that moment that Sistar and their management team made a very important decision. They could either try to restore Sistar to the group’s former glory (which would mean experimenting with new music and concepts, and a long road filled with a lot of hard work), or they could throw the towel down, find a nice spot on the beach, and work on their tans. Sistar chose the latter, and they’ve been stuck in an everlasting summer ever since.
In 2014, Sistar released two EP albums, Touch N Move and Sweet & Sour (with a total of eight new songs between them). And they timed their releases for July and August, the middle of Summer. This wasn’t a fluke. Sistar was actively trying to recreate their success with “Loving U.” Times two! The format was simple: 1) find a light-hearted and fun song by Duble Sidekick or similar; 2) find a gorgeous summer location for a music video, like Hawaii or Saipan, or just a really nice pool; and 3) show a little summer skin and do a summer butt-shake. It was a great idea, in theory. But in practice, Kpop fans quickly grew tired of the routine. Summer should be fresh and fun, never formulaic.
Sistar, it seems, hasn’t gotten the memo yet. By all counts, “Shake It,” their latest release, is following the same dull format. The song sounds like all their others (a light-hearted and fun song by Duble Sidekick). Just listen to this medley performed on Yoo Hee Yuel's Sketchbook to see what we mean! The women of Sistar show some skin and do a rather unenthusiastic butt wiggle. The biggest difference between “Shake It” and previous summer releases is that there’s no beach or pool in the entire video! A pink, leopard-print fire truck, however, still screams summer. Actually, the art direction is the only positive thing going for “Shake It.” We love the colors, especially in the comic styling when Sistar dances in the box (and unfortunately, that’s the only reference we get to the early teasers of comic book villains). If Sistar had produced a song with anywhere near as much creativity as they got from their music video director, we’d be having a much different conversation right now.
Is “Shake It” going to buck the downward trend and re-establish Sistar’s dominance? Absolutely not. This is yet another disappointing release from a group that has been coasting (another nautical pun!) on their success since day two.
And that’s why we’re ringing the bell. Sistar is a ship in distress. Once a brilliant and talented Kpop group, it would be a real shame for Sistar to fade away now. But if they don’t make some big changes, and soon, we’ll be waving goodbye to Sistar as they slowly sink into irrelevance.