History of K-Pop: Brown Eyed Girls

History of K-Pop: Brown Eyed Girls

The K-Pop industry is especially difficult for female artists, even when they leave a long-lasting impression on the genre. It’s a huge feat for a group to survive the seven-year mark, and an even bigger feat to do it with all the original members still part of the group. Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, 2NE1… these huge groups were not able to survive fully intact, even after massive success. But there is one group who has overcome it all, and that’s Brown Eyed Girls.

That being said, we haven’t gotten any new music from the group since 2015, and they have been on an extended hiatus since. Earlier this year, the news finally dropped that they would be returning to the music scene within the year–extremely exciting news after four years of nothing. With just a few days left until their return, this month’s history of K-Pop focuses on the legendary accomplishments of Brown Eyed Girls. 

The Origin Story

Traveling all the way back to 2006, we’ll find the inception of the group who would eventually break through the industry as Brown Eyed Girls. Nega Network, an independent label certainly not well known in the industry, began work with leader JeA. What makes the creation of the group so unique is that JeA hand-picked all of her members from the start. Miryo was selected on the basis that she was a very well-known rapper in the underground hip-hop world, already working as the main female rapper in a group known as Honey Family. Narsha was chosen based on JeA’s recollection of her singing prowess, and final member, Gain, was selected by the first three members after being eliminated from Battle Shinhwa. The four members trained for three years together, even holding some small concerts in that time.

Their debut came in March of 2006 with ballad track “Come Closer,” leaving an impression on the industry as the girls chose not to appear both in the music video or on any music shows, giving them the nickname the “faceless group.” Though the album received good recognition from critics, it wouldn’t be counted as a commercial success by any means.

They released a couple of singles between the first and second album, Leave Mrs. Kim, but nothing quite took off at that time. Their style was distinctly focused on R&B ballads, which were becoming less popular on the K-Pop scene as EDM music began to take over. It was during this time that the Wonder Girls’ smash hit “Tell Me” was released, once again overshadowing the group and causing their releases to go fairly unnoticed in comparison. It became clear that it was time to switch up the plan. 

The Musical Shift

When 2008 rolled around, the group released their first mini-album, With Love; the title track “LOVE” scoring the group their first music show win. There was a clear shift in musical style with this release, with a much more generic EDM-focused melody used instead of their ballad themes from the previous two years. The track also landed on the list of top hit songs in the first half of 2008. Commercial success followed, with their second mini-album, My Style, and title track “How Come” bringing the group their first trend.

Of course, 2009 is known as the most famous year for Brown Eyed Girls, with their single “Abracadabra” achieving mass success, taking the entire K-Pop world by storm with the release. There were controversies attached to the original release of “Abracadabra,” critics stating that the themes in the music video were far too provocative and suggestive. Even still, the track brought a number of music show and year end awards, with the dance becoming a national craze that was eventually even featured in PSY’s choreography for “Gentlemen” (which also featured Gain.) 

After the success, the members began branching out into acting, variety and solo debuts. The first to debut solo was Narsha, releasing her debut album of the same name in July 2010. Gain followed in October with a clear change in musical direction, and JeA was also working on different singles during that time. Most notably, Gain participated in We Got Married with 2AM’s Jokwon in 2010, becoming one of the most popular and recognizable couples on the history of the show, even to this day.

It wouldn’t be until 2011 that the group would return fully in Korea with fourth album, An Inconvenient Truth, featuring compositions from leader JeA. Remarkably, the track “Sixth Sense” achieved higher digital sales than “Abracadabra,” breaking the legend of a slump that comes after a massive hit. What’s notable about these releases is the darker and more sultry tone of  the concepts, something that wasn’t big in the K-Pop scene at the time when compared to other big girl groups.

Following the release, the quartet once again split up to conduct solo activities of different variations. The group only released a digital single in 2012 with no active promotions. With the official return of the group via the title track “Kill Bill” in 2013, Brown Eyed Girls now boasted a heavy involvement in the production and writing of their own music, and worked with bigger producer names such as Primary and Dynamic Duo’s Choiza. The first subunit, M&N (Miryo and Narsha) debuted in 2013 as well. Gain was arguably the most popular soloist of the group, especially with her particularly risque concepts. The group came back together in 2014 to release a special greatest hits album titled Special Moments

All of the members’ contracts expired with Nega Network in 2015, and the group decided to move together to their current agency, Mystic Entertainment. Their latest release, the sixth studio album with the dual title track “Brave New World” and “Warm Hole” came out in November. Once again pushing the envelope with their concept, controversy surrounded the release for its heavily sexual lyrics.

2016 marked their ten-year anniversary, and it was officially announced that Brown Eyed Girls were the first girl group to go ten years without any member changes. Since then, the group has been on hiatus, with the members halting their solo activities for the most part in that time as well. But finally, in December of 2018, it was revealed that the group was preparing for a return. Most of 2019 has been a waiting game after the announcement, with no other information given since.. But in just a few short days, this legendary group will be back at the forefront of the K-Pop world. 

It’s hard to argue that Brown Eyed Girls haven’t set a standard for K-Pop groups since their inception. From struggling for commercial success early on, to shifting musical focus in order to gain recognition and exploring concepts that many other popular female groups are afraid to touch, Brown Eyed Girls seem to have done it all in their now, thirteen-year career.

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