If you thought that the injustice faced by Gugudan and the lackadaisical degree of support still being experienced by Weki Meki and DIA are so enough to give you sleepless nights, you definitely don’t know the entire story of Pristin. The group, composed of produce 101 alumnae Nayoung, Roa, Yuha, Eunwoo, Rena, Kyulkyung, and Xiyeon plus three other members Yehana Sungyeon, and Kyla was off to one of the most promising starts – not just for groups with former I.O.I members but for any idol group in general. They debut with guns blazing, winning awards and getting invited to perform in big events with more established artists.
And then, in true Pledis fashion, the support sputtered. The members started begging off from promotions, and after only just a little over three years since they debuted, they officially disbanded. Just like that.
For a group that showed so much promise even before they debuted, it remains a mystery and just a plain sore issue among fans and even casual observers as to why Pristin ended up that way. So, here’s a trip back in time to remember what actually happened to this initially promising group. Don’t worry, it’s a quick trip since their history only started in 2016.
From the start, there was already a lot of anticipation for the group Pledis was forming. The members Nayoung, Roa, Yuha, Eunwoo, Rena, Kyulkyung and Xiyeon competed together on Mnet’s survival television show Produce 101, which aired from January 22 to April 1, 2016. In the show, five of the members were eliminated, while Nayoung and Kyulkyung became part of the final line-up for the project girl group I.O.I, which made its debut on May 4. Just like Kim Nayoung of what was going to be Jellyfish Entertainment’s Gugudan, all seven members actually gained a lot of public attention because of their all-around skills. These were very capable contestants who joined the show with skills to boot! Although it can be argued that seven is too many for one company and that it is a bit obvious that they were sent to the show to raise the awareness of the public on their impending activities, it cannot also be denied that all seven members definitely weren’t just space fillers.
Aside from Kyulkyung (who was at that time pushed to international audiences as Pinky), members like Nayoung and Xiyeon went on to be recognized for their leadership skills and pointed commentary. In the end, Nayoung placed 10th and Kyulkyung placed 6th, making them members of the project group I.O.I.
(Credit: MBC WORLD)#Pristin #Yuha #WeeWoo #KPOP #Fancam pic.twitter.com/oFko2reNqL
— 50 SEC FANCAMS (@RM_BTSSS) December 23, 2022
On the other hand, Pledis officially announced the formation of a group to be known as Pledis Girlz on March 23, 2016. The group held concerts from May 14 to September 10 where one member performed weekly, with the exception of Nayoung and Kyulkyung, who were promoting with I.O.I at the time. Although some I.O.I members opted to promote with their respective groups (Mina and Sejeong with Gugudan, Yeojung with WJSN, and Chaeyeon with DIA), somehow Pledis did not deem the importance of Pinky and Nayoung to start promoting with Pledis Girlz.
On June 27, they released the promotional single “We“, which was written by Roa, Eunwoo, Sungyeon and Xiyeon. The music video for the song was used to introduce the members’ profiles. They then held their last concert as Pledis Girlz on January 6, 2017, and then renamed to Pristin, a mashup of the words “prismatic” (bright and clear) and “elastin” (flawless strength). I.O.I finally disbanded on January 25, which then already allowed Nayoung and Kyulkyung to devote 100% of their energies to their group. On March 21, Pristin debuted and released their first mini album Hi! Pristin, accompanied by the title track “Wee Woo“. They became the first rookie girl group to perform their debut song on a live broadcast during Mnet Present and was also part of the line-up for the KCON festival held in Japan on May 19. A remixed version of “Black Widow” was released as the album’s second and final single, which the group performed on a few music shows in order to conclude Hi! Pristin‘s promotions.
So, how did the debut fare? Very well. Hi! Pristin entered the Gaon Album Chart at number 4 and at number 10 on the Billboard’s World Albums Chart. As of June 2017, the album had sold 42,299 copies, which is not too bad at all for a debuting girl group not from the Big 3.
On June 3, Pristin performed at the 2017 Dream Concert at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. Two months later (which makes it five months after they debuted), the group’s second mini album Schxxl Out was released on August 23, along with the single “We Like“. Schxxl Out debuted on the Gaon Album Chart at number 4 (same rank as its predecessor), number 5 on Billboard’s World Albums Chart, and at number 116 on the Oricon Albums Chart (Hi! Pristin peaked at #157 in Oricon).
Many expressed that We Like Woo is a bit redundant, considering it sounded similar to the group’s debut single Wee Woo. But then, two arguments in favor of Pristin: 1) If it worked the first time, why fix it? I mean, Wee Woo was very catchy and if the follow-up comeback can be as catchy in the similar thread, why not go with it? Better to save the group from a sophomore slump than to insist on an altogether different sound that may end up sabotaging the group (i,e, Gugudan with Chococo), right?
2) Pledis was on track with establishing the “Pristin sound”. It’s one of those things that experienced companies are known to be good at: Make sure the initial singles of the group would help in establishing that distinct sound that would make any listener go, “That’s a (insert group name) song!” Give a a catty “Hey hey” intro and I would automatically assume I’m going to listen to an AOA song. Start with a disco background mixed with a sophisticated sound that never gets into girl crush category and I would say that’s an Apink single. Sweet melodies with hard-hitting dance breaks? That’s got to be Gfriend! By the time We Like came out, it did feel like Pristin is going for the very repetitive but catchy sound. While people would comment, “Why do they just keep on repeating du-du-du-du-du-du in the chorus,” chances are they were also the ones who commented “Why do they just keep on repeating wee woo, wee woo, wee?” That’s the distinctly Pristin sound!
So going back to the group, after August 2017, there was radio silence despite them closing 2017 with rookie and new artist nominations and awards from Asia Artist Awards, Mnet Asian Music Awards, Seoul Music Awards, and V Live Awards. For a group that garnered a lot of attention only to have one of its members’ on hiatus as the last piece of news is blatant mismanagement. Finally, on May 8, it was announced that Pristin would not be having a comeback but instead would be debuting a sub-unit called Pristin V, consisting of members Nayoung, Roa, Eunwoo, Rena and Kyulkyung. Pristin V made their debut on May 28, 2018 with single album Like A V. Which slapped hard.
The, radio silence once again.
Then finally, on May 24, 2019, four days short of a year after the debut of Pristin V, Pledis Entertainment announced a Pristin comeback.
The company announced the group’s official disbandment. Pledis Entertainment announced that while Kyulkyung, Yehana, and Sungyeon would stay with the company, the remaining seven (Xiyeon, Rena, Roa, Kyla, Eunwoo, Yuha, and leader Nayoung) have left their stable.
What happened to Pristin? Two things.
And that was it! The short, bitter, and complete history of Pristin! So, what happened?
1) It’s just Pledis being Pledis – a company that freezes with success.
In other words, a company that doesn’t know how to manage their groups. As in they dont know how to captialize on what they have, as seen in After School and NU’EST. I mean, people were practically holding on to the last thread of belief they had with the company when SEVENTEEN thrived despite the group continuously being under their management. People thought, if Pledis can succeed with SVT, they can do it as well with Pristin. But then, Pledis showed utmost consistency when they didn’t know how to keep NU’EST‘s newfound fame after their phenomenal return to public consciousness after the members’ PD101 Season 2 appearance.
But it seems the company gets frazzled when their talents find success. The company just doesn’t know what to do with successful talent! It’s a good thing that SVT are practically self-producing, as it is like 99% sure that if the group was left to Pledis’ devices, the company wouldn’t have the strategy on how to prolong their success. Suffice to say, SVT not only survived but thrived because Woozi kept on making songs, S.Coups and the rappers kept on supplying raps, and Hoshi is quick to implement choreographies once the songs are done. Nayeong and company (and by extension, JR and his boys) were mostly dependent on Pledis, a company that doesn’t do strategy at all.
2) Pledis doesn’t know how to deal with imperfect members.
As early as October 2017, it was announced that Kyla would take a break from Pristin activities due to health issues. She returned temporarily to the United States to focus on her recovery. But then we’ll never know what happened once she recovered because she wasn’t included in the Pristin V sub-unit and the group was eventually disbanded. All the while, Kyla had already gone back to studying in high school! She did express sadness in her social media accounts with regarding her wasted years as a trainee in Pledis for 7 (read: S-E-V-E-N) years, but when your agency doesn’t know how to deal with you, then what are you gonna do?
The same thing happened to Kyulkyung, when she left for China and just never came back to Korea. Pledis has sued her for unlawful termination of her contract (she didn’t leave with the seven in 2019) because she just let her contract run as she wasn’t active in Korea anyway. So, for whatever reason, Pledis suddenly remembered her and sued her. But then, girl is making bank in her home country, so I guess she’s just letting things run their course. In other words, not deal with Pledis and the Korean market at all. After all, her last activities in Korea did leave a bitter taste in her mouth.
Pledis Entertainment Files Lawsuit Against Kyulkyung For Alleged Breach Of Contracthttps://t.co/XcNjuE03MZ pic.twitter.com/n7NgSqEzVm
— Soompi (@soompi) March 25, 2020
This brings us to Pledis’ lousy treatment of Kyla and Kyulkyung. As mentioned earlier, Kyulkyung’s last activities with Pledis and Pristin was with Pristin V and by this time, even fans were getting mad at Chinese idols for a number of reasons. With a good number of Chinese members usually leaving their groups once they become a bit popular around the world and the awkward relations between China and South Korea led Korean fans to conclude that Chinese idols are opportunistic when it comes to their careers in Korea and that they eventually quit once they get a certain level of popularity. And when push comes to shove that Korea and China get into disagreements, that these Chinese idols will always be loyal to China and altogether forget that they would be nobodies had it not been for their Korean companies and fans. Thus, when Kyulkyung became the “center” of Pristin V, fans would usually be quiet or turn their back when it’s her turn singing but would immediately explode into applause and cheers with the other members.
On the other hand, there was Kyla who kept on getting hate comments about her weight as soon as they debuted. It would be fair to say that people were just brutal to her when they commented that no idol look that heavy on camera or have such wide thighs. Even the Korean press would not take pictures of the group when she is in the center and would only resume taking pictures once a member covers Kyla by stepping forward and “hiding” her.
On both occasions with Kyla and Kyulkyung, Pledis Entertainment didn’t do anything. It was almost like not only did they pretend that nothing was happening, but they actually consented to everything by turning a blind eye and a deaf ear.
So yes, should we really be surprised that Pristin actually disbanded after only three years? Unfortunately, all these factors combined to the detriment of the group. So now, we have nothing else but only best wishes to the members who have gone on with their lives.
Featured Image: Screengrab from Pristin debut track teaser on Youtube