Having been following the K-Pop scene for a long time, we at KStreetManila have seen the rise and farewells of many artists. We remember their monumental debuts, their hit songs, and their iconic styles. They were the ones who paved the way for many acts we see today.
“To All the Girls We’ve Loved Before” is a tribute to the iconic girl groups that made K-Pop what it is today.
Asia’s Pop Dance Group
Many second-generation K-Pop fans would remember f(x), the five-member girl group that debuted in September 2009 under SM Entertainment.
One of the members was easily known for being the younger sister of SNSD’s former member Jessica, another one being the pretty noona referred to by SHINee in their debut music video, and the other for being a former child actress. One stands out for her androgynous look, while the other is usually described as little BoA for her vocal prowess, sharp dancing skills, and passion.
More than these associations and initial impressions, however, f(x) proved to be one of the most powerful groups at the height of their career.
f(x) was introduced as a “sexy and charismatic” multinational girl group, with members hailing from China, the US, and South Korea. Victoria (Song Qian), Amber (Amber Josephine Liu), Luna (Park Sunyoung), Sulli (Choi Jinri), and Krystal (Jung Sojung) debuted with “LA chA TA” and released the electropop version of “Chocolate Love” for the LG Chocolate cell phone they promoted alongside Girls’ Generation.
In the same year, f(x) released “Chu~♡”, which displayed some gymnastic moves from leader Victoria.
It wasn’t until 2010 that f(x) finally achieved commercial success with their chart-topping first EP Nu ABO. This was followed immediately by their first full-length album, with the title track “Pinocchio (Danger)” taking over the top spot on Gaon Chart and bringing the girls a total of eight music show wins.
Nu ABO was then repackaged as Hot Summer and included the new lead single of the same title, two earlier tracks “LA chA TA” and “Chu~♡”, as well as the unreleased song “Is It OK?” 2011 ended with f(x) selling 2 million copies of their first repackaged album.
From then on, f(x) became a smash hit. Their 2012 EP Electric Shock was well-received by the public, as evidenced by their nine music show wins. They received the “Best Dance Performance – Female Group” at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, and “Electric Shock” was named the “Best Dance and Electronic Song” at the 10th Annual Korean Music Awards.
“Rum Pum Pum Pum” from their second full-length album Pink Tape topped Billboard’s K-Pop Hot 100 and World Album Charts.
“Red Light,” from their third EP with the same title, easily garnered 2 million views on the first day of release. Little did the fans know, however, it would be the last album f(x) would release with five members after SM Entertainment announced Sulli’s hiatus and eventual departure from the group.
Nevertheless, f(x) persisted and continued with four members. In October 2015, the group released “4 Walls” and received more recognition afterward, including the Disk Bonsang from the 2016 Golden Disk Awards.
After almost seven years since debut, they embarked on their first concert tour, Dimension 4 – Docking Station. Their fanbase was officially christened MeU after being known unofficially as Aff(x)tion for so long.
Impact on the K-Pop Scene
To the outsider, f(x) is a mathematical function whose result changes depending on the value of x.
f(x) lived up to that definition and became known among K-Pop enthusiasts as a versatile girl group. Often touted as the twin group of SHINee, f(x) was able to stand out and showcase their own colors through the concepts they dabbled on throughout their decade-long career.
The group set some records of their own, one of them being the first K-Pop act to ever perform at SXSW in Texas, USA. The girls also appeared in a comedy skit with Anna Kendrick in Funny or Die.
By 2016, “Electric Shock” garnered more than 100 million views on YouTube, making f(x) the third girl group and the sixth Korean act to achieve this feat.
f(x) has been inactive as a group for a long time after “4 Walls” and their SM Station single “All Mine,” and in that period, each member pursued their solo activities. Amber is the first to release her solo album, Beautiful, with the title track “Shake That Brass” featuring SNSD’s Taeyeon. Luna is active in musical productions and also went for a solo promotion with “Free Somebody.” Victoria established her own studio and is continuously pursuing a career in acting, music, and modeling in China. Krystal has been cast in various dramas and movies, including the Chinese movie “Unexpected Love” opposite EXO’s Lay and UNIQ’s Yibo.
MeUs craved for f(x) to come back, and that almost came true when f(x) finally performed again as a group—but with the absence of Victoria—at the SM Town Live 2019 in Tokyo. Fans hoped this would signify a special album to celebrate their 10th debut anniversary.
Come September 1, however, MeUs all over the world woke up to the news that Amber chose not to renew her contract under SM Entertainment. Luna’s and Victoria’s departure from the agency followed a few days later, while Krystal still has some time before her contract expires.
No official announcement of disbandment ever came out, but the chances of watching them as f(x) again seem bleak.
To the Beautiful Sulli
[Trigger warning. The following section will mention the passing of former f(x) member, Sulli.]
While Sulli was no longer officially a member of f(x), MeUs continued to support her activities.
As a child, she was best known for playing young Princess Seonhwa of Silla in the Ballad of Seodong, among others. In between promotions as a member of f(x), she starred in The Beautiful You opposite SHINee’s Minho, for which she received the New Star Award at the SBS Drama Awards. Sulli continued her acting career after leaving the group and landed the lead role in the 2017 film “Real” with Kim Soo Hyun.
Sulli also hosted her own variety show, Jinri Market, and JTBC’s Night of Vicious Comments, and became the brand ambassador of Estée Lauder. She featured in Dean’s single, “Dayfly,” and later released her solo single album Goblin, for which she participated in writing the lyrics for all three songs. The lead track of the same title dealt with a mental condition called dissociative identity disorder (DID).
Sulli was known for being outspoken about her views. As a feminist, she challenged the societal expectations of women and urged people to accept differences.
She often found herself at the receiving end of some of the most hurtful criticism, but she stood her ground and campaigned against cyberbullying. Controversy followed her everywhere, and she became the most Googled person in South Korea.
The news of her passing shook the K-Pop world when she was reportedly found lifeless by her manager at her home in Seoul on October 14, 2019. A diary entry expressing her feelings was discovered among her things, and media reports often link her death to the negative comments she received throughout her career. In response, legislation named after her is introduced to impose tougher penalties for malicious comments online.
Despite the dark history, MeUs would remember Sulli’s bravery in voicing her opinions and her passion and talent as f(x)’s maknae. For the people who love Sulli, she’s a ray of sunshine, a sweet young woman with an infectious laugh who brought us happiness and inspiration. Gone too soon but never forgotten.
If you or anyone you know needs to talk to someone, contact the National Center for Mental Health at 0917-899-USAP (8727).