by Raizel Liebler
The sudden departure of Jessica Jung from nine member group Girls’ Generation (AKA SNSD and So Nyeo Shi Dae) has caused shockwaves through the k-pop fandom community, considering that up to this point, the group has had all of its original members as of their start in 2007. Of course, there have been other departures and group breakups, but both the suddenness and the … weird way this was made public make this situation highly noteworthy. The message below is how the news broke, by Jessica posting this message in both Korean and English to her Weibo account (Weibo is a Chinese social media platform) at five in the morning. Until confirmation by SM Entertainment, her label/management company, fans thought that her account was hacked.
What exactly caused her departure isn’t clear — and likely won’t be made public — unless a lawsuit is filed. Oh, Girls’ Generation is the top (based on income) group in Korea, according to Forbes. These are some of the consequences of her departure:
The importance of “completeness” for fans
One of the most important element for fans of idol groups is the idealized view that they are all friends — and they all need to be together as a group. This is true even for non-k-pop groups: when Ginger Spice left the Spice Girls, fans felt betrayed — and that she had broken up the “family”. When they had a reunion tour, it was essential that all of them be present — including Posh Spice who has approximately two lines a song.
Even if fans didn’t like Jessica for whatever reason (and pushed for her to “change”), the group is now not “Girls’ Generation” in the same way. For fans, the Girls’ Generation that exists from this point on is incomplete.
The influence on the music and performances of SNSD
In terms of the music of Girls’ Generation, Jessica’s primary role is to be one of the major singers. While all them, sing in all of the songs and dance, Jessica tends to sing many of the focused parts in the songs.
Additionally, many of the dance moves used within their videos and live performances work in terms of threes — three dancers, three singers, and moving at the same time. For example, the dance moves for Gee work in three teams of three throughout — and without Jessica, these moves will not look as good. (For those new to k-pop, Jessica is in the blue pants in the above dance version of Gee).
Jessica’s departure may mean a heightened role for the first subgroup for Girls’ Generation — TaeSiTeo (TTS), like TLC, standing in for the names of the three members. The sound for this group, especially during its first iteration, was much more R&B than GG.
The fan love of the group as a whole will lead to anger against whomever is perceived to be responsible — SM Entertainment, Jessica, or both.
Was Jessica kicked out? Especially if details are revealed that show the dark side of the 360 degree way the k-pop industry controls its stars, SM Entertainment may be in for more fan backlash, after another partial or complete group implosion.
SM has weathered lawsuits — and scandals (but nothing like Scandal-brand scandals!), so unless seriously damaging information is released, the company should be fine. However, the way Jessica’s departure was handled — without putting out a joint press release immediately, will likely stir up fan concern and possible backlash.
The consequences to Jessica could be bad or good, depending on what she does and what information is revealed. Best case scenario — she has a successful solo career with fan support. But if it turns out she wasn’t “loyal” to Girls’ Generation, the fans will destroy any possibility of career success.
Jessica has a fashion line and that may be her focus. But she is American — and may focus her efforts on the English-speaking market, if she is interested in singing. Jessica’s sister, Krystal, is also an SM artist, but her group, f(x), also has had recent membership turmoil.
If Jessica and Krystal were able to work together as a duo, perhaps they would be able to break into the U.S. music industry in a way that larger groups — and non-Americans have had issues doing so.
Huh, are K-pop girl group members regarded as irreplaceable? That’s unexpected, and another interesting difference between J- and K-pop. J-pop girls are regularly shuffled in and out of groups for no reason at all. Even sent abroad to their foreign chapters. It used to be more of an interesting way to shake things up, but recently it has been used as a disciplinary tool as well.
Just the other day, Murashige Anna, the “little Russian monkey” of HKT48 was sent to the back row of performances and had her singing privileges removed. But she’d been caught on camera sitting on a park bench very close to a boy (almost knees-touchingly!), so that’s quite understandable.
Another interesting thing is their love for imperfection. I just watched the Theater Manager of HKT48, Sashihara Rino (who was herself sent to HKT from AKB as punishment for her illicit affair with a boy, but then rose from the ashes and became the most popular girl in the entire franchise, in complete defiance of how things usually are done) happily explain that the girl they chose to front their new single, Tomonaga Mio, is the worst dancer AND singer she has ever seen in any group ever. Mio is also cripplingly shy and has the most weak and feeble voice I’ve ever heard. They deliberately choose the worst possible girls to stand in the spotlight, because they love to see someone earnestly struggle.
(Related to the love of imperfection, and as I’ve probably mentioned before, they have the lovely concept of “Yaeba”, a charmingly crooked canine. Girls who have embarrassingly straight and uninteresting teeth can purchase a glue-on crooked tooth to reel in the boys with.)
Here’s a video of Tomonaga and Miyawaki Sakura (the first singer, also from HKT48, and 11th most popular 48-group member nationwide) karaoke-battling each other: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eTzMFqHW70
Try to imagine any other country where these two would be professional singers in any capacity.