If you started following K-pop in 2017, it’s inevitable that you know the song Bboom Bboom. But then, the next question you may likely ask is, whatever happened to Momoland, the group that shot all the way to the top of Korean music charts with that viral song? Sit back and read on as we trace the group’s humble beginnings, their sudden success, and their unfortunate and uncertain future.

A JYPE-Inspired Start

Patterned after the success of JYP Entertainment with SIXTEEN which produced the final lineup for the group TWICE, Finding Momoland premiered a year later, featuring 10 trainees from Duble Kick Entertainment (now known as MLD Entertainment) competing to debut in the K-pop girl group Momoland. The first episode premiered on July 22, 2016 and ended on September 16, 2016, revealing the group’s final composition on the 10th and final episode.

During the competition, the contestants displayed their talents in dancing and singing abilities while showing their charisma and personality in order to gain the favor of the judges and the public, survive the search. As mentioned earlier, the lineup of the group was announced in the finale of the show, with the group set to debut under Duble Kick Company, which was represented in the show by producers Rhymer, Duble Sidekick, and Shinsadong Tiger.

So, among the trainees Hyebin, Yeonwoo, Jane, Nayun, JooE, Ahin, Nancy, Heejae, Daisy, and Shinsia, the latter three were eliminated in the final episode, with the seven remaining contestants composing the final lineup of Momoland. From the start, the group already encountered initial problems as Finding Momoland’s Final Mission could not collect 3,000 spectators, which in turn resulted in the delay of the group’s official debut. Suffice to say, while the show had decided on the final lineup for the group, they were not able to amass the needed fan count and finances to support the group’s debut. This included physical copies of their CD, costumes, live stage venues, and music videos. 

Thus, while still amassing the funds needed for the group to properly debut, the entertainment agency booked the new group in free, goodwill appearances to raise their public profile. For example, on October 26, 2016, the group was appointed as ambassadors for the international relief development NGO Plan Korea. While these appearances were happening, the company held crowdfunding events to cover the cost of producing the physical format of the group’s debut release. The company eventually succeeded in raising funds for the group, accumulating more than 10 million won.

A Rocky but Promising Start for Momoland

Finally, the group’s debut showcase was held on November 9. The next day, their debut extended play Welcome to Momoland was released, for which the group made their debut performance of their single Jjan! Koong! Kwang! through music television program M Countdown. As part of their Plan Korea ambassadorship, the group traveled to Phuc Luong Village in Thai Nguyen, Vietnam from December 12 to 16 to encourage Happy Mov students to participate in constructing a kindergarten in the region. On December 27, the six members of the group except for Yeonwoo, who had lower back pain, attended SBS Gayo Daejeon.

The accompanying music video for the group’s debut song Jjan! Koong! Kwang! was uploaded onto 1theK’s YouTube channel at the same time as the release of the single. Bae Yoon Jung of Yama & Hot Chicks—more known as the terror dance mentor in the Produce 101 series who was also a judge in Finding Momoland—served as the choreographer of the video. A dance version of the music video was released on November 14 and a dance practice video was uploaded two days later.

The group’s first EP, Welcome to Momoland peaked debuted and peaked at number 28 on the Gaon Album Chart for the week of November 12. For the month of November of 2016, it was the fifty-third best-selling album, selling 1,915 physical copies.

New Momoland Members and Breakout Recognition

On March 28, 2017, the company decided to add Daisy and Taeha to the group. If the name Daisy sounds familiar, that’s because it is the same Daisy who was eliminated in the finale of Finding Momoland. Meanwhile, Taeha, fresh from her stint in Produce 101 as a trainee of Starship (Sistar, K.Will, and I.O.I‘s Yeongjung who was Taeha‘s co-trainee in PD101 and later joined Cosmic Girls), left her former agency and joined Dublekick and eventually, Momoland. In April 2017, the group released Wonderful Love, which was their first single album. This was followed four months later with Freeze!, their second EP, which featured the single of the same title. While Wonderful Love failed to chart, Freeze! peaked at number 17 in the Gaon album charts after its release, eventually selling more than 2,200 copies. 

The group started 2018 on a great note, pun intended as they released their third EP entitled Great!, along with the single Bboom Bboom. The EP at the start was embroiled in a bit of controversy as a Russian girl group by the name of Serebro claimed that Bboom Bboom is plagiarized from their song Mi Mi Mi. Shinsadong Tiger, the composer of the song, while pointing out that the song does have similarities with the Russian girl group’s single, “the bass line (is) commonly heard in retro house or electro swing genres, as well as the 4-stanza chord.” 

After weathering the first storm of controversy, Momoland was in for a surprise as the song became a viral sensation. The catchy and easy-to-follow choreography for the song that the group used for the video and their live performances prompted online content creators not just from Korea but from other countries such as Thailand and the Philippines to create dance covers that also became viral. Alas, individual members also started getting attention, particularly Yeonwoo and Nancy for their visuals, and JooE for her animated persona that bagged her an ad deal with Tropicana Sparkling beverages. All these factors aligned to propel the group and the song to new levels of popularity. 

Thus, the song slowly but surely climbed to the top of the charts, from its debut at number forty-eight on the week of January 20, 2018, to number eighteen on its second week, until it peaked in March 2018 at number two. While it was only their albums that used to enter the charts, Bboom Bboom was their first song to enter the digital charts. It was eventually certified platinum by Gaon Chart in August 2018, with more than 100 million streams. It was the first by a female artist to be certified platinum and only the second to receive this certification, the first being Love Scenario by iKon, which happens to also have been released in the same month in 2018.

The success of the single also prompted the group to try promoting overseas, with promotional events held in Japan from February to March. The group also signed with King Records for the release of the Japanese version of the song on June 13. As for the music video, the girls were featured in what appears to be a home shopping TV show. As of press time, it has amassed more than 537 million views on YouTube alone, while the dance practice video has been viewed more than 102 million times. 

Bboom Bboom also gave the group its first music show wins, with a record number of 12 consecutive weekly nominations and two wins in Inkigayo. The song also won twice in M Countdown (which was the first win for the group on January 11 and the second win happening more than a month later on February 22) and once in Show Champion, The Show, and Music Bank.

So then, the question was, how can the group and the company capitalize on their sudden rise to stardom? After five months, with Bboom Bboom still charting quite high, the group released their fourth EP Fun to the World, with the single Baam! The song was not as commercially successful as its predecessor, although music critics thought it was actually an improvement from Bboom Bboom. The EP peaked at #6, while the single went as high as #13.  Interestingly, as its chances may have been cannibalized by Bboom Bboom, Baam! did not give the group any music show wins.

As for the song’s music video, it features the group in backdrops depicting the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, France, Mexico, Egypt, and the United States, as a sort of tribute to the areas where the group made a killing with Bboom Bboom. As of this article’s writing, the MV has accumulated more than 225 million views.

The Start of Momoland’s Decline?

On March 20, 2019, Momoland released their fifth EP Show Me, which featured the lead single I’m So Hot. The cracks in the group started showing as I’m So Hot did not include Daisy and Taeha. The song only managed to peak at #81 in the Gaon Digital Charts, though it managed three music show wins. 

More causes for concern among the Merries (Momoland’s fandom) started appearing as the group’s first Japanese studio album, Chiri Chirialso did not have Yeonwoo, aside from Daisy and Taeha. In a sudden move, the group and MLD Entertainment (which has changed its name from Duble Kick, thanks to the group’s success), signed a co-management agreement with the Philippine media company ABS-CBN Corporation. The group made several appearances in Philippine TV shows, although the three were still nowhere to be found.  

Alas, the event Merries were most afraid of happened the following month, as MLD Entertainment announced the departure of Yeonwoo and Taeha from the group, although they also mentioned that they were still in negotiations with Daisy about her future in the group. The year ended with the group releasing Thumbs Up, their second single album. Daisy was not part of the single, its MV, and promotions. Although the album peaked at #4 in the albums chart, the single only managed to chart at #137. The group still won in M Countdown on January 9, 2020. 

Momoland’s Uncertain Future

While the group was still at the thick of promoting Thumbs Up, Daisy issued statements claiming  that Finding Momoland was rigged. In an interview by KBS with Daisy and her mother, the member on hiatus said that she knew she was going to be joining the group even if she was eliminated in the show’s finale, as the company’s executives met her the next day and told her that she will be be included in the group after promotions for the debut EP end. Also, she claims that she was charged by MLD Entertainment to appear in the show and the company has asked for payment of 70 million won for her inclusion in Finding Momoland

MLD Entertainment responded to Daisy’s allegations by releasing a statement that refuted all her claims. The agency further said that they will be taking legal action against Daisy. After five months, the agency announced that Daisy had left the group, as if we don’t know that yet. 

On June 11, 2020, the group released Starry Night, a non-promoted “special” EP” which didn’t really fare well, as expected as it wasn’t promoted. On the same month, the company announced that announced that the group have signed a contract with ICM Partners with plans to enter into the American market. Since a lot of plans have been shelved because of the pandemic, any activities stemming from that contract have yet to materialize. Moreover, the group’s management contract with the Philippine media company ABS-CBN has remained in limbo because aside from the pandemic, the media company also lost its franchise to operate its main business, a television station. Thus, earlier plans of the group releasing an English-Filipino language EP via the company’s record label Star Records, as well as Nancy headlining a drama are all in limbo. 

On November 17, 2020, the group released the third single album Ready or Not, containing the lead single of the same name. The song has THE Psy as a lyricist. The song had a lackluster performance on the Korean charts, as the EP peaked at #25 and the song only reached number 81.

It is unfortunate that Momoland was not able to capitalize on the phenomenal performance of Bboom Bboom. The unstable member lineup may also have turned off a good number of fans, which can only be attributed to the company not taking proper care of their talents. With more or less zero activities this 2021 for both the group and all members, we can only wish 2022 will be the year the public finds its way back into loving Momoland once again.

Featured image: Momoland Ready or Not showcase. 사진기자머길, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons