Brave Girls are proof that K-pop success can be fickle, but hard work – and good timing – pays off

The viral success of ‘Rollin’’ might be partially down to luck but, without the girl group’s indefatigable efforts, success would have continued to elude them

It seemed like Brave Girls were destined to go the way of many a K-pop group, falling into obscurity and quietly disbanding. When they made their debut back in 2011, they made a promising start, scoring a Top 20 hit on the Gaon Digital Chart with ‘Do You Know’ and racking up more than 650,000 downloads for each of their next two title tracks. But, as life in the fickle music industry often goes, the bubble burst fairly early on and the girl group were beset with obstacles and issues that saw them quickly descend from that early high.

It’s fair to say that Brave Girls have been through a lot in the 10 years that the group have been in existence. The lineup now is completely different from the one that took its first steps a decade ago. The original members all gradually left and were replaced with the current four-piece of Minyoung, Yujeong, Eunji and Yuna. They’ve suffered from bad decisions by their agency, long hiatuses and poor promotion. They’ve been left to languish with no new projects and were almost about to disband earlier this year.

Then the unexpected happened: Their 2017 single ‘Rollin’’ suddenly went viral, thanks to a fan-made video that collated the group’s performances of the track at various military barracks across South Korea. The song has always been bright and bubbly, a slice of sunkissed, summery perfection that lodges itself in your head. But, upon its original release, it failed to connect with music fans and the Korean general public.

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Perhaps the vampire concept adopted by Brave Entertainment felt too disjointed from ‘Rollin’’s tropical atmosphere to make an impact, or perhaps it was just a case of bad timing. When the group first heard it, though, they thought the track was an “automatic Number One”. according to Yuna. Instead, it didn’t chart at all.

Now, thanks to that viral video, Brave Girls have been given a new lease of life. No longer are they thinking about disbandment – they just released a brand-new mini-album ‘Summer Queen’ that puts paid to that notion. They’re also now the title-holders for the girl group with the longest Perfect All-Kill (when an artist tops all components of music chart ranking aggregator iChart) in history, which would have seemed unfathomable back in 2017.

Of course, this miraculous resurgence for the group wouldn’t be possible without a splash of good fortune and good timing, but their extraordinary revival is also a reminder that hard work does pay off – even in as capricious a world as music. There’s a reason the Korean public have nicknamed Brave Girls “hope-dols” – their dedication to putting in the effort, even when things weren’t going so well, makes it easier to have faith that, in your own life, you’ll be rewarded for your hard graft one day too.

Looking at the group’s releases since ‘Rollin’’ was first unveiled to the world might make you question just how hard the four-piece have been working. Before ‘Summer Queen’ last week, they might have only released a new version of ‘Rollin’’ in 2018 and the single ‘We Ride’ in 2020, but that doesn’t mean they had not been slacking off.

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Instead, Brave Girls have been a fixture at entertainment shows held for the Korean military. They’ve performed at over 100 of these events, often in remote places, and typically for very little money. As that now-infamous video shows, though, the members never phoned in their performances, even if they weren’t satisfied with how the rest of their careers were going.

They’re not the first group to be given a much-needed lift from internet fame. In 2014, a fancam of EXID’s Hani performing ‘Up & Down’ went viral, giving the group a vital boost when they were struggling to make a big breakthrough. Once again, that incident might seem like pure luck but, as Hani herself acknowledged in 2017, it would never have happened if she hadn’t put in the work to improve her moves.

“I am honestly the worst dancer in EXID and that fan cam of me was truly the product of great practice,” she told Cosmopolitan Korea, per Koreaboo. “I am proud of the fact that my practice yielded results and people recognised my efforts.”

If there’s one lesson to be learnt from EXID and Brave Girls’ stories, it’s this: giving your all might not always bring about immediate results, but life has a way of making sure your efforts don’t go to waste. Since that became true for Brave Girls, they’ve become a new symbol of perseverance and tenacity for K-pop fans and idols alike.

As LIGHTSUM’s Nayoung told NME earlier this month, citing the ‘Rollin’’ stars as “the best model” of this indefatigability: “The one who endures is the one who wins.” In that case, we should expect to see Brave Girls sticking around and soaking up the success for some time to come.

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