All good things come to an end, as they say. And NU’EST has certainly been a very good part of my Korean wave surfing the last ten years. When they debuted in 2012, “Face” was such an attention-grabbing debut. And first learning that they were all just teenagers, yet delivering such powerful performances and showcasing great talents definitely made me an immediate fan.
Along with MYNAME and KNK, NU’EST is the only K-pop artist of which I own a physical copy of each one of their (Korean) albums. There are certainly many, many other more devoted L.O.Λ.Es around the world than me. But when it comes to a NU’EST release, you are always sure to get some excellent music. And perhaps it’s because of that, I was always sure to get myself a copy of their albums.
In those first years, I’d order a copy as soon as the albums were released. Their The Moments photobook that accompanied a special edition of their 2nd mini album has a prominent spot on my shelf. And though in later years, I wouldn’t be able to get the albums as fast as before, I’d still be sure to get a copy.
Even though I enjoy listening to any and all K-pop artists that debut, it feels like, every week, there are only a couple who I really follow. NU’EST has always been one of those groups.
Like many other fans, I’ve seen how hard they’ve worked over the years. Maybe that’s also one reason I wanted to support them as well. Like most, if not all, Korean entertainment companies, Pledis was known for not knowing how to properly promote their artists.
Indeed, despite NU’EST consistently coming out with excellent music and always strong performances, they wouldn’t be able find major success. That may not be all on Pledis. Part of that is also on the general public who are bombarded with so many options, it’s hard for any artist to truly break through.
But it’s because of those hardships that NU’EST and Pledis were ready to give up. They actively considered disbandment. Then came Produce 101 Season 2 and what might be the franchise’s biggest success story rivaling even the winning groups.
With the four members’ successful run on the competition series, including Minhyun’s eventual inclusion in winning group Wanna One, the general public were awakened to the existence of a group called NU’EST. This ushered in a sort of revival and surge in popularity for them. Newfound (and well deserved) appreciation for the group’s previous releases followed. And their new music, both as NU’EST W (during Minhyun’s promotions with Wanna One) and as their full five-member line-up, effortlessly topped the charts. For long-time fans especially, it was a proud and exciting moment to see NU’EST finally get the attention and recognition they had worked so hard and so long for.
It’s this success that would motivate other underrated groups to try their luck on audition programs like Produce 101, hoping for similar results. KBS even created their own competition program The Unit, specifically featuring current and former members of idol groups that were underrated and underappreciated by the public. And it’s not a stretch to believe NU’EST’s resurgence was the influence and template for it.
Though the news of NU’EST’s disbandment last month was sad, it was also not surprising. Pledis, even under the new HYBE umbrella, failed to maintain the group’s strong momentum. This final album The Best Album – Needle & Bubble is their first Korean release in almost a year. And before that, only one release in 2020 as well.
It’s also understandable that perhaps the group members are ready for the next chapter of their lives and careers. Ten years is far more than many other idol groups ever get the chance to enjoy.
But NU’EST is probably the best example of just how difficult and crowded the K-pop industry is. You have a group that is talented and charismatic. They release excellent music. They deliver powerful performances. But it’s sad to realize that even having those things aren’t enough for success. A huge amount of luck plays a part. The right timing as well. And the always fickle tastes of a K-pop audience that extends far outside the borders of South Korea also determines success.
NU’EST wasn’t the first and won’t be the last group who put in the work and seemingly have all the qualities necessary, yet still struggle to reach the heights of success. However success may be measured to different people.
But aside from their hardships and success, NU’EST’s music and performances alone are enough to solidify their place in K-pop history. Ten years of excellent music, some iconic songs and amazing performances. The group credits their fans for helping them push forward through those hardships and difficulties. And those fans, both old and new, are certainly thankful and appreciative of the hard work the group has put in and the joy and happiness they’ve been able to provide.
Thank you NU’EST! Thank you Kim Jonghyun, Aaron Kwak, Kang Dongho, Hwang Minhyun and Choi Mingi! And best of luck on whatever the future holds for you all.