by Keidra Chaney & Raizel Liebler
We recently saw the full-length Nine Muses of Star Empire documentary. [A shorter version of this documentary as aired by the BBC is available on your favorite video site.] If you want to see how the k-pop sausage is made, there is no better starting point. But it may also make fans question whether they want to continue to support an industry that pushes teens so far to become successes.
To start at now, Nine Muses is still a group and has met with success within the Korean music industry. With four of the nine original members from the documentary. But the documentary follows the group from right before their debut song is released to a slightly later breaking point within the group.
Nothing here is especially shocking if you have seen Making the Band: the marathon dance rehearsals, the voice teachers ego-deflating feedback, the member breakdowns, all of it just looked like MTB: Korea, it’s not so off the wall to say the Nine Muses is K-Pop’s Danity Kane and Star Empire is K-Pop’s Bad Boy (and you can do with that comparison whatever you wish).
So here is the part where we get mean. Only two of the girls can actually sing, including the assigned leader Sera (straight up, one of the girls sounds like a foghorn – kdc). And most of them don’t seem like they really want to be there, instead trying to hold it together because they don’t want to let the group (and their manager/label) down. Or is that really it? At one of the most telling moments in the documentary, several of the girls in sequence talk about how they will be leaving the group soon — and will have solo careers of their own.
Why would the tightly controlled label/management/manufacturer of Nine Muses allow for such a documentary to be made, considering this film contradicts the idea that “all publicity is good publicity”? I don’t think they realized that it would make the process of creating a group look so … Unsexy? Work-intensive? Dull? Teenage girl? Like Making the Band and other similar documentaries, creating stars isn’t an easy one — for the star creators or for the potential stars themselves. The biggest takeaway from the documentary is that even for the more manufactured of pop performance, a certain level of raw talent – or at least start quality – is necessary to break away from the pack. The powers that be of Star Empire seemed to spend more time on the concept of Nine Muses than the muses themselves, at least when it came to talent selection and cultivating group chemistry.
Interestingly, Billboard‘s Jeff Benjamin had a very different take than us on the documentary, calling it a film that would cause “k-pop haters [to] completely shift their paradigm.” We doubt that — instead it will make a manufactured music form seem manufactured. It’s a warts-and-all look behind the curtain of music industry, and is an unsentimental look at what it takes to create pop star fantasy.