K-pop idol groups fading from the limelight through disbandment shortly after their debut is a sad but common reality. However, there are a few groups that had things to their advantage at the start but still struggled in terms of popularity and eventually lost their battle against irrelevance. Here are four groups that, unfortunately, we may not see much of anymore.
This one is gonna hurt a lot of K-pop observers because HOTSHOT was definitely one of the most talented groups in K-pop. If you need more evidence to prove this, look no further than Produce 101 Season 2, where you can watch Ha Sungwon finishing in the top 11 of the program, and therefore securing a spot in the project group WANNA ONE, while Noh Taehyun being in charge of the choreography of his group’s staging of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. Oh, and don’t forget that first evaluation performance of the two to Block B’s Very Good. Based on that, you can’t really help but wonder why HOTSHOT, with overly talented members and all, became lukewarm and eventually faded into disbandment.
But Produce 101 Season 2 was not the only program where HOTSHOT’s members were able to display their talents. While Sungwon and Taehyun participated in Produce 101, another two joined another idol survival show, The Unit. Timoteo, who happened to be an SM trainee and was slotted to join EXO, ended up 10th in the show. It was a spot short of the final nine members who made up the show’s project group UNB. On the other hand, Hojung ranked 3rd and therefore promoted with UNB from April 2018 to January 2019. The thing about UNB was that initial plans were for the group to promote for seven months initially and if they proved successful, the project group’s activities would be extended for 25 months. The two EPs sold more than 46,000 copies each, which made people scratch their heads as to why they ceased their activities after only more than nine months.
As for HOTSHOT, they weren’t really popular to begin with, despite having outrageously talented members. They eventually got the boost they need with Taehyun and Sungwon’s exposure in PD101 S2 that their last release in 2018 fared better than their previous releases. However, it should be noted that this EP, Early Flowering, did not include Sungwon, as he was still with WANNA ONE until December of 2018. The EP was released a month before. Which begs the question, “why?’ Didn’t the company want to milk Sungwon’s newfound fame to the group’s benefit?
The group’s last song I Hate You (which was included in Early Flowering) would have greatly benefited from the push that Sungwon could have provided, had he been included. But then, Star Crew might have already envisioned a solo career for him post-WANNA ONE and may have already given up on HOTSHOT. What is more curious is that they included Hojung despite him still promoting with UNB. Moreover, Star Crew gave Taehyun his first solo project, an EP in January 2019 after promoting with JBJ from October 2017 to April 2018.
Finally, in March 2021, Star Crew formally announced the group’s disbandment, after more than two years of the group’s inactivity. Just like that.
SUNGWOON DANCING TO WATCH OUT BY HOTSHOT IT HAS LITERALLY BEEN 100000000 YEARS IM CRYING A LOT 😭😭💖💖💖 #하성운 pic.twitter.com/DjQmBJZtzl
— rory🌙 #4everWithGWSN (@wannalov3) April 5, 2022
Essential song: Real talk: Not one song in the group’s six-year-old discography really gave justice to Sungwon’s vocals, Taehyun’s dance moves, and Yoonsan’s rap skills, all of which are top-notch. Take a look at Step by Step and I’m a Hotshot for their better songs.
Where are they now: Military enlistment was last heard of three members: Junhyuk enlisted in the military in January 2020, Hojung in May 2020, and Yoonsan also enlisted in 2021. Timoteo contributed a song to the Mr. Boss OST in 2021 and has been a guest in a couple of TV shows. Meanwhile, Taehyun and Sungwoon have launched solo careers. Sungwoon has also signed with BPM Entertainment (agency to Soyou, Huh Gak, three former members of GFriend, and Sungwoon’s PD101 castmate Samuel) and is set to release his latest EP with his new agency in February.
This is one group that did not really count on a lot of factors save for the songs that were meant to bring the group to the top. The six-member group was the first talents created by Windmay Entertainment, a company established by former JYP employees who had previously worked with Miss A and 2PM. The name of the group is actually short for “Higher than Super” which according to the group means that the goal is to come together as a group to enhance their strengths as individual supermen. The group also alluded to the similarity of their name to the cartoon character Snoopy who has a cute side, with their intense nature reflected in the word Super. So, Snoopy + Super = Snuper!
The six members of Snuper are quite interesting as well, which may have assured the group of at least a bit of public interest. Taewoong, the leader and rapper, was born in Japan to a Japanese dad and Korean mom and was a child actor before training as a singer-idol for a full seven years. Suhyun, the group’s main vocalist, named himself after his favorite actor Kim Soohyun and trained under Jellyfish Entertainment before shifting to Windmay. Sangil, the group’s other main vocalist, was working in a cafe when he was scouted for Snuper. Since his debut in Snuper, he has joined various singing and reality competitions such as The Unit, King of the Masked Singer, and Mr. Trot.
There’s also Woosung, who is the tallest in the group and has earned a reputation for his athletic prowess by winning the 60-meter dash in the ISACs three times. Sangho, the main dancer, was Sangil’s co-worker in the cafe and was also discovered there. Finally, there’s Sebin, the main rapper who is also the maknae and like Taewoong, was also a child actor before training to become an idol. He joined The Unit with Sangil.
Snuper’s last Japanese comeback was on August 8th, 2019 with Come Over, while their Korean comeback was even earlier, on October 8th, 2018 with You In My Eyes, which is is actually a re-release of a B-side from their Blossom EP. Perhaps their most popular songs are Platonic Love, Back:Hug, and You=Heaven, which are all produced by Sweetune, and thus have that retro-disco sound that should have assured the group of a cult following.
And that they did, but unfortunately, the group didn’t really garner traction in the Korean market. Their fandom, Swing, did not expand much in Korea, while the group became more popular in Korea. The group didn’t really face controversy, save for this one outfit guffaw when Starlights, VIXX’s fandom, pointed out that the outfits for their “It’s Raining” promotions resembled VIXX stage outfits too much. Other than that, Snuper pretty much had consistent comebacks and has actually toured overseas, performing in countries like Canada, the UAE, Russia, and Mexico.
naaaah i prefer snuper😎😎 pic.twitter.com/8Jw1LTbda5
— Jessi ♡︎ (@_im_jessunia_) March 28, 2022
So with members who sort of guaranteed international success (those Japanese members are moneymakers, for sure) and songs produced by Sweetune, architects of a number of career-defining songs for Infinite and Secret, why has Snuper not experienced breakthrough success even after six years? It may all be attributed to the inexperience of the company when it comes to promoting an idol group. With so much competition going on with the third generation of idol groups, there must be something for a group to specialize in so that they can be set apart from others. Otherwise, they will just blend in with other groups, which may have exactly happened to Snuper.
Essential songs: According to fans, the group’s three best songs include Platonic Love, Back: Hug, and The Star of Stars.
Where are they now: There has been no official disbandment announcement from the group’s agency and most members are supposed to be focusing on their military service. Member Sebin has been promoting with the group Omega X since its debut in June 2021.
Cross Gene is another group that somehow found success in Japan but not in Korea. This boy group started off very promising in 2012 with six members. The multiple ethnicities of the six members also may have made followers of k-pop music very curious, making their first release peak at a very respectable number 8 on the Gaon album charts. So, what exactly went wrong? It can be argued that the things that the group had to their advantage were also precisely what caused their popularity to not quite take off, at least in Korea. Thus, sad to say that to the newer fans of K-pop, the mention of this group’s name will elicit a few “nugu?” reactions.
As mentioned earlier, Cross Gene was a highly anticipated group to debut. The group’s agency, Amuse Korea, is originally a Japanese company that had Cross Gene as its first project in the Korean market. The company announced in 2012 that it will debut a group with members from Korea, China, and Japan. Among the members is Shin Wonho, who has already made TV appearances and ads, and Terada Takuya, who has been with the company as an actor and model. Thus, when the group debuted, there were three South Koreans (Shin, Sangmin, and Yongseok), two Chinese (Casper and J. G.), and one Japanese (Takuya). The difference in nationalities of the members also became the reason for the group’s name, as they are supposed to be a cross of various genes that will form one perfect group.
Six months after debuting, J.G. departed from the group to start a career as a solo artist, and Amuse immediately replaced him with Seyoung. Takuya was also relieved of his position as a leader and was replaced by Shin. After the member and position changes, the group debuted and promoted in Japan throughout 2013 with a debut single in February, a digital single in March, a concert in May, another digital single in August, a special photobook CD weeks later, two more concerts also in August, a Japanese website in September, three more Japanese digital singles, and three more live shows before 2013 ended. This meant that after debuting in Korea in June 2012, the group has not had any activity in the country since then.
The first half of 2014 was not packed with activity for the group’s Korean fandom either, as the group spent the first months of the year in the US to film a movie. Finally, Korean-based Cross Gene followers saw some activity when a visual teaser for their Korean comeback was released on April 6. Finally, a few days short of a two-year absence in the Korean music scene, the digital single Amazing (Bad Lady) was released on June 9. Casper had to beg off from promotions though, as he had an injury during preparations.
thread of kpop songs you probably forgot about (2007-2015)
first up!! cross gene – la di da di pic.twitter.com/QaLuHoGPzD
— bbbbbbbbb 🌈🦄 (@deviIdoyoung) October 28, 2019
The song was passable, albeit going a bit under the radar as it doesn’t sound as flashy as their other previous songs. However, the group got a lot of buzz because of the song’s choreography, which involves a number of movements that were deemed by some TV stations as too racy for public exhibition. One such move involves the members motioning their golden-gloved hands in front of their crotch area in a circular motion. Another move involved the members raising their hips from a lying position. Now, if that’s not a sure-fire way to get the Korean TV censors’ tongues a-wagging, nothing will!
Another thing Cross Gene did that was the opposite of the common practice was that they translated their Japanese singles into Korean. In 2014, groups like Girl’s Day, Apink, and INFINITE, among others, debuted in the Japanese market by releasing Japanese versions of their Korean hits, and after charting with these songs, they finally came up with original Japanese songs. The opposite happened to Cross Gene, who released a Korean version of their Japanese hit Shooting Star as a follow-up to the controversial Amazing.
But while this era produced three singles – Amazing, Shooting Star, and Billion Dollar for Korea, the boys did not forget about their Japanese fanbase as they continued to conduct live Japanese performances and participate in music festivals in Japan. This continued in 2015, with the group starting the year with a Japanese single, Future. The single charted high in the country’s Oricon Charts, cementing the group’s popularity in Japan. The group did stage a comeback for Korea, the highly addictive and catchy Play With Me, which peaked at number 7 in the Gaon Album Charts. Then the group returned to Japan to release a new single.
Despite the obvious preference the group (or the company?) showed for conducting Japanese activities, the group still enjoyed relative success in Korea, where after three and half years since debuting, they successfully sold out their first Korean concert on December 23, 2015.
In 2016, it was revealed that Casper has left the group. Two years later, Takuya also left the group to focus on his modeling and acting careers. Before the pandemic hit in early 2020, it was revealed that Yongseok and Sangmin have not renewed their contracts with Amuse. But nothing has been formally announced in relation to Cross Gene’s disbandment, as the three have since then enlisted in the military.
Hi this is your annual reminder that Cross Gene is the most underrated group in the history of kpop pic.twitter.com/271Nqmjo1b
— ᴄᴀᴍ⁷ (@_yoongs_) June 8, 2020
So, suffice to say that Cross Gene did not really live up to their potential in Korea because of their company’s decision to be more active in the Japanese market at the start of their careers. By the time they chose to increase their promotional activities more in Korea at the same level as their Japanese promotions in 2017 to 2019, they had to share the spotlight with new groups.
Essential songs: The group’s debut single, La-Di Da-Di was catchy and is among a few K-pop debut singles that actually charted in Gaon. You cannot hear Amazing without remembering the iconic controversial circular crotch choreography. Finally, that “ppa ppa ppira ppa ppa ppira ppa” hook of Play With Me’s chorus is the stuff of legends.
Where are they now: With Seyoung’s formal announcement in December 2020 that he has left the group and not just the company, Cross Gene is down to three members – Shin, Sangmin, and Yongseok. And with the latter two not signed to Amuse anymore, expecting them to successfully conduct reunion projects with Shin once they all finish military service may be unrealistic.
The story of Dal Shabet is a rather sad tale of finding direction a tad too late and not striking while the iron is hot. Moreover, it is a bit unjust that the group had to endure bullying and harassment from a fandom of another group. All in all, this underrated group had tons of missed opportunities and was a victim of a series of unfortunate events that they don’t really deserve.
Dal Shabet debuted in 2011. It was a year that also debuted Brave Girls, Rania, and Apink and had groups like SISTAR and Girl’s Day started cementing their popularity. While Apink had cornered the public that longs for the cutesy and innocent concepts the 1st girl groups popularized, Dal Shabet had a shaky situation from the start. The thing about the group’s debut single, Supa Dupa Diva is that it was a “love it or hate it” kind of song. While its supporters propelled it to rank decently on music shows like Music Bank, where it went on to peak at 5th place, its haters declared it as not just the worst debut song, but the “worst song ever.”
But then, music industry people later voted for it as 2011’s second most addicting song with the second most popular choreography. Even unforgiving k-netz announced their change of hearts.
In August 2011, the group announced that their first comeback would be “funky” and the hate they received for releasing an incomprehensible debut single was added as their concept photos for the comeback. They were deemed “too sexual” for live television, which prompted the company to overhaul the concept to a more quirky and cutesy one with just a touch of naughtiness. Dal Shabet scored its first top 10 single in the Gaon Charts with Bling Bling.
The group had a run-on with fans of another group before the year ended, which left a somewhat bad taste to everything. It all started at the end of December 2011 at the SBS Gayo Daejun, when Dal Shabet and B1A4 had a collab stage. There was a lot of touching between the groups, which caused Bana, B1A4’s fandom to spread rumors about Darlings (Dal Shabet’s fandom) harassing Banas. The rumors heightened during the Idol Star Athletics Championships when rumors circulated that Darlings assaulted, kidnapped, and raped Banas. Police interfered and revealed that no such incidents took place. Happyface Entertainment released a statement about the rumors, imploring people to stop. And B1A4 fans took things a step further by hacking Dal Shabet’s website. Visitors to the website were met with pop-ups asking why Banas were being harassed by Darlings.
150506 Dalshabet (달샤벳) – Hit U pic.twitter.com/ppGs1gwfBM
— 매일 걸그룹 노래🎶 (@everydayggsongs) April 4, 2022
Serri responded to the rumors by posting requests on Twitter for people to stop spreading lies and rumors. More harassment incidences happened before Serri and the company threatened legal action. Then things died a natural death (or maybe people got scared?).
2012 had the group return with the powerful Hit U, which became Dal Shabet’s first album to reach number one in the Gaon Charts. But two months after ending activities for the comeback, the group’s leader Viki left the group to pursue a solo career. She was quickly replaced with a new member, Woohee. Serri then assumed leadership of the group as they staged their comeback in July with the single Mr. BangBang. By November, Dal Shabet staged another comeback with the EP Have, Don’t Have, and up to this point, the group had relatively been quite successful.
It was in their summer 2013 comeback that Dal Shabet had their first brush of controversy as TV stations announced that the lyrics to their single Be Ambitious were unfit for public broadcast due to sexual content, and therefore they would not allow the song to be played in their shows or allow the group to promote it in their music programs. Happy Face Entertainment did comply by changing the lyrics in questions. However, weeks after, a men’s rights group ‘Man of Korea’ filed an injunction to completely ban the further distribution of the song claiming it deprecates Korean men who are subject to the country’s mandatory enlistment. Days later, Man of Korea and Happy Face came to an agreement with the former dropping their injunction request.
In 2014, the group went full-fledged sexy with their comeback B.B.B, which they first performed in the celebrity military reality show Real Men. By this time, the girls were quite popular throughout the country, but a couple of medical incidents affected some members. Subin got into a car accident in May 2014, where she had to undergo surgery for injuries. In September, Woohee was also hospitalized for a collapsed lung.
2015 saw the group embroiled in another controversy as the title track of their comeback Joker was banned by KBS because of its explicit choreography, with the song’s lyrics pointed out as being suggestive. You see, the English word “joker” sounds similar to the Korean expletive “jot kuh” which refers to the enormity of the male anatomy. Considering the group’s previous single B. B. B., which stands for “Big Baby Baby”, people were quick to point out the sexual innuendo “Joker” implied.
The end of 2015 revealed that Jiyul and Kaeun would be leaving the group, which would reduce the member count of the group to four. The group staged their comeback on January 5 with the retro-sounding Someone Like U, which actually charted in Japan and China. Nine months later, they released FRI. SAT. SUN. This would be the last comeback of the group.
In 2017, Happy Face Entertainment announced that Subin will be joining the reality television series The Unit, but because of schedule conflicts, she was replaced by Serri and Woohee.
However, before the year ended, the company announced that members Serri, Subin, and Ahyoung decided to leave the company after their contracts expired. Ahyoung transferred to SidusHQ, Serri was eliminated from The Unit and placed 23rd, while Woohee placed seventh and secured herself a place in the show’s female team.
Since then, the group has held a photo exhibition and a mini-concert in October 2019, with six members, including Jiyul and Kaeun. But then the company has already become more focused on promoting its new girl group, Dreamcatcher. Due to this, a lot of supposed Happy Face support for Dal Shabet has been diverted.
Essential songs: Dal Shabet definitely has a great discography Mr. BangBang, B. B. B., Pink Rocket, Have Don’t Have, Joker, and Someone Like U are all catchy AF.
Where are they now? All members are pursuing acting careers, with Subin and Serrri the only ones also doing a lot of music work.
With a good number of programs featuring the “golden age of K-pop” such as Jaejae’s MMTG, Ms. Back, and Mamadol, it is a fervent wish for these groups to experience a return to popularity because they truly deserve it.
Featured Image credit: Cross Gene Official Twitter