Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sugar Pop group crawling back to fame

The five members of Crayon Pop hope the new release of their music video “Bar Bar Bar,” Monday, will restore the group's popularity.
/ Courtesy of Chrome Entertainment

Crayon Pop jumping, stomping again after scandal

By Park Jin-hai

They seemingly had every reason to fail.

Gum-mi, ChoA, Way, Ellin and So-yul, the five members of Crayon Pop were “different.” Unlike other sexy or cute female K-pop groups, they were dorky.

Dressed in tracksuits and bicycle helmets as colorful as crayons, the five girls in the music video bounce up and down to the repetitive and catchy tune of “Bar Bar Bar” on the tilt-a-whirl and merry-go-round at an amusement park. To the retro sound of fast electronic beats, its lyrics urge people to leave their worries behind and jump along.

“We have always tried to challenge the mainstream in some way,” said ChoA, 23, in an interview with The Korea Times. “As a girl group, we needed to gather up what courage we had simply to be different.”

The quintet recalls the moment they heard that their music would be wacky and funny. “Up to the moment we were called on stage, we were not sure how people would react to our quirkiness,” said Way, ChoA’s twin sister. “So our success was unexpected and sudden.”

Their momentary fall was just as sudden. The previous comments the members left on Twitter, using words from rightist-online media, got them in trouble where angry netizens harshly criticized them. An ad was pulled, an event was cancelled and the public response was negative.

But on Aug. 30, the rookie girl group beat the 12-member boy band EXO on the music program “Music Bank” to top the chart. It also earned them a fandom that is comparable to Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”

On Monday, Sony Korea released the revised version of their “Bar Bar Bar” music video, aimed at the global music industry. The new music video was filmed at locations like a subway station, Han river, and children’s park in Seoul. Their core fan base “pop jeossi” made a surprise appearance in the video.

“All of the difficult moments flashed through in my head,” said Gum-mi, recalling when their name was called out on “Music Bank” in a separate e-interview. She, caught in a torrent of emotion, burst into tears, referring to the recent public backlash against the group.

The other members also spoke cautiously about the incident, even though they were a tough independent group that rose out of obscurity and against all odds. The girls all debuted late. Plus, they all had other careers: Gum-mi worked as a skin therapist; Ellin, a shopping mall fitting model; Way, an indie band singer; and So-yul, a member of another girl band. They spent only a year as group members before they debuted as “Crayon Pop.”

Their entertainment company was small in size, premature in experience, and was lacking finance to promote the girl group. But the rest of the story would have it that the band had a sudden miraculous rise, a series of managerial mishaps, and then fall from fame.

But their viral hit song “Bar Bar Bar” is making the rounds all over the nation, with fans and celebrities parodying their signature quirky dance moves – dubbed the “Straight-Five Engine Dance” for its resemblance to an engine’s cylinders - on YouTube.

Since its release on June 23, their video has received about 5 million views. In just six weeks, it sits at the top of the Billboard’s K-Pop Hot 100 and it also succeeded in making a license deal with Sony Music Entertainment, which is home to Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Avril Lavigne.

“It was right after our album was released,” said Way, when asked about when the most trying moment of their year-long career was. “We initially thought that once our album was out, all doors would open for us,” she added. The group’s album was released in June, when the K-pop stage was already crowded with existing and new groups.

“The chance to stand on stage was few and far between for us. We found ourselves spending more and more time stuck in the studio,” ChoA added. “It was suffocating.”

These girls, however, didn’t back off. They chose to go forward. With the sole purpose of showing who they were and what they had, they took to the streets, giving “street guerilla concerts,” something unprecedented by an idol group.

They performed wherever they could find space. They even performed in subway stations. Members said that sometimes all the girls huddled together and shed tears at the end of the day. But, because of those days, they secured their core fan base called “pop jeossi” or middle-aged male fans who virtually triggered the nation-wide craze for the group.

“In hindsight, although it was tough, we tried to find a silver lining,” said Gum-mi. “Anyhow, it was way better to be outside performing than staying in the studio,” added Way.

In the freezing winter wind, they performed only in their tracksuits, because with their signature outfit on people would recognize them. “When it was really cold, we used to move to a nearby location and perform more, just to warm up our bodies,” said Way.

Asked about their role models, they name singers such as Lee Hyo-ri and Lee Jung-hyun, who debuted in their teens but hold iconic status and perform even now in their mid 30s.

“But, we would like to be the ‘girl-next-door’ kind of group. A group that can recharge people’s energy levels to the fullest with cheery and light music,” said ChoA.
Source: The Korea Times

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