Fans were over the moon this week to learn that struggling girl group, Rainbow, will be making a comeback in February. After all, it’s been only been, oh, ONE YEAR AND SEVEN MONTHS since their last K-pop release as a group (which we all know translates to approximately twenty years in K-pop time). News of Rainbow’s return is definitely exciting, but it’s also bittersweet. They’ve been treated poorly by their agency, DSP Media, who seem unable to effectively promote any artist on their roster except KARA. The momentum Rainbow gained almost two years ago during their last real hit, “To Me,” has virtually vanished, leaving the prospect of the group suffering a Bionic-sized flop upon their return relatively high.
Rainbow’s management has always been poor. The group got off to a rocky start when they first debuted in 2009 with the forgettable “Gossip Girl,” then vanished for roughly eight months (that’s nine years in K-pop time) before returning, bigger and better than ever, with the deliciously sassy, “A.” They swiftly followed up with the equally brilliant “Mach,” which for some reason didn’t receive an official music video despite becoming their highest-charting song to date at the time.
The girls disappeared again, this time for only around five months (an improvement on their previous gaping absence), before returning with their first mini-album, So Girls. They hooked up with Japanese producer, Daishi Dance, and adopted a new dance-pop sound for their comeback track, “To Me.” It was an instant success, with the song rocketing straight into the top five on the K-pop charts, and although it failed to pick up any music program wins, it looked as if Rainbow were finally on their way to making it big. Like most K-pop albums, So Girls was repackaged with a new single, and everything looked fine and dandy. That is, until DSP Media announced that the group would follow in the footsteps of KARA by debuting in Japan.
Given KARA’s Japanese success, it didn’t seem like a completely foolish decision at the time, but in retrospect it what was the worst thing that DSP could have done to Rainbow. The girls were barely even established at home in Korea, so shipping them off overseas just as they were making a name for themselves was a stupid risk to take. They released three Japanese singles, an album, and a repackage, but Japan just didn’t work out for Rainbow, and the group’s career has been on life support ever since.
It’s now been over a year-and-a-half since their last Korean single as a group, and they haven’t done much in the way of providing a stopgap. Sure, there was that horrible Rainbow Pixie sub-unit and Jisook, Woori, and Jaekyung have done some variety show work, but there’s nothing that justifies the group taking so much time off. Woori even went on TV last October crying about how unsuccessful Rainbow are and how they all still have to catch the subway because they’re broke.
In the best case scenario that Rainbow somehow manage to return with a song as fantastic as “A,” and that it somehow becomes a huge hit (or at the very least, a moderate one) should K-pop fans then expect the group to vanish again for another year? Will they suddenly get shipped off to China, or try to become the next Wonder Girls and head to America? DSP Media needs to start promoting Rainbow properly, and more frequently — not just because they’re awesome, but because they’re actually the second biggest act on the label right now after KARA. Both of DSP’s new idol groups, Puretty and A-JAX, flopped upon their respective debuts last year, while Rainbow have at least had some kind of success with each one of their scattered releases post “Gossip Girl.” Let’s hope that this time around, DSP finally gets it right with Rainbow. They’ve run out of chances, so if this comeback doesn’t run smoothly, they could very well become the next A’ST1.