Out of hundreds of idol groups being launched every year, it is believed that only a handful survive the first year. That figure is reduced to the number of fingers on both hands if you consider how many continue to become household names and amass not only a national but international fandom. After all, not just any group can be at the level of BTS, EXO, Girl’s Generation, TWICE, or Blackpink.
So, for groups that miss the goal of gaining worldwide popularity, what options do they have aside from disbanding, getting signed by another agency, or shifting careers to acting or being a television personality? There have been reality shows whose sole aim is to give “has-been” idols the spotlight in the hopes of revitalizing their careers. Here’s a look at a couple of them:
The Unit: Idol Rebooting Project
The show, which ran from October 2017 to February 2018, had the concept of giving idols who have already debuted before in not-so-successful groups a second chance. The show eventually formed two unit groups (one male and one female) of nine members each with the aim of providing them a fair chance to demonstrate their talents that they may not have been able to display before for in their old groups.
For the female groups, it was Euijin of SONAMOO who got top ranking by the end of the last episode. For the men, it was U.KISS’ maknae, Jun, who got the most votes.
Euijin was joined by eight other contestants, including DIA’s Yebin, Dal Shabet’s Woohee (who became the leader), April’s Hyunjoo, soloist NC.A, The Ark’s Suji, Spica’s Jiwon, Hello Venus’ Yoonjo, and Laboum’s ZN to form UNi.T, which was promoted for six months and released two EPs. ZN was not part of the group’s second EP, as she returned to Laboum after the group’s first EP.
As of the moment, only Yebin and ZN have returned to their groups, while Woohee is currently active as an actress. Euijin has left SONAMOO’s agency, TS Entertainment as of early September to sign with Mellow Entertainment, a new agency established by Lee Jung Min. He had previously been in charge of managing groups like Wonder Girls, 2PM, 2AM, and miss A at JYP Entertainment.
— The Seoul Story (@theseoulstory) October 13, 2017
On the other hand, Jun was joined by Bigflo‘s Euijin (not to be mistaken with Uni.T‘s Eunjin), Big Star’s Feeldog (who was the leader of the group), Madtown‘s Daewon, Hot Blood Youth‘s Marco, Hotshot‘s Ko Hojung, Newkidd‘s Hansol, A.C.E‘s Chan, and IM‘s Kijung to form UNB. The male group was promoted longer, only disbanding in January 2019. As of the moment, only Chan is active with A.C.E while the other groups are on hiatus or have been disbanded. Marco was in the news months ago when he confirmed rumors of dating MOMOLAND’s Hyebin.
Another show, Miss Back ran from October 2020 to January 2021 on MBN. It featured seven female idols who previously debuted with girl groups but slowly faded away from the limelight.
What made Miss Back different from similar idol “survival programs” that always emphasized competition was that the show did not eliminate its contestants. The members were able to compete in good faith to win “life songs” or songs written . This allowed the contestants to display growth and put them in the spotlight without having to crush the dreams of the other participants.
Baek Ji-young, Yoon Il-sang, and Song Eun-i became mentors. And weekly appearances by idol guests such as EXID, 2NE1’s Dara, and Junggigo made the show extra special.
The contestants include 9MUSES‘ Sera, After School‘s Raina, Crayon Pop‘s Soyul, WA$$UP‘s Nada, Stellar‘s Gayoung, Dal Shabet‘s Subin (who went by Dalsoobin throughout the show as a nod to her girl group origins), The Ark‘s Yujin, and T-ara‘s Soyeon, who was featured in episodes 1-3 only. Soyeon dropped out in episode 4 after confessing that she felt the other contestants were more deserving of the spotlight provided by the show than her.
The program also provided the contestants with time to tell viewers of their struggles and concerns as former idols who were in groups that were somehow treated unfairly by the Korean public. For example, T-ara‘s Soyeon talked about her group’s bullying scandal where the girls ended up getting cleared, but too late. 9MUSES‘ Sera also narrated about being publicly humiliated (as their pre-debut activities were filmed in a documentary).
The Miss Back cast are FLAWLESS like I would much rather see kpop veterans on a show than teenage trainees on Produce shows 😭😭 pic.twitter.com/GE6u19Z9fK
— ࿏ kyle ࿏ (@kyleshabet) January 10, 2021
The show ended with the ladies having been given the spotlight weekly and Dalsoobin recording the final solo song. The other contestants have been busy with individual careers, with Sera running a YouTube channel, Soyul being the wife of H.O.T’s Moon Heejoon, Gayoung managing her own cafe restaurant, and Raina was last seen in June with four other After School members in Jaejae’s popular YouTube program MMTG, performing live stages of the group’s two hits, Diva and Bang.
But then, the public may be divided as to whether these second-chance idols really deserve a new lease in their careers or if their time is really over. After all, a lot of audiences still adhere to the idea that if an idol did not reach household name status, there may be several factors that went against them. They may have been under a no-good entertainment agency that exploited them or didn’t really support their full potential. It may also be that they figured in a scandal or an issue that turned their fans off and facilitated their fall from grace. Finally, it can also be that they were already criticized in the past as being not-so-good idols who may have only relied on their looks to get in idol groups. But if we are to look at the two programs, there may indeed be second chances for idols who want to jumpstart their careers anew.
Featured Image: Screenshot from “Miss Back” Ep. 1/ Youtube