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Do you believe in Being Brave? The story of underdog girl group Brave Girls

Apr 15, 2021 | K-pop, Pop | 0 comments

Second incarnation reboot of a failed girl group forgotten by the general public, passed over by their own company and producers, now staging an unlikely guerilla comeback fuelled by a brilliant pop song, the massive support of the South Korean Military and True Grit: this is the unfolding and unlikely story of the Brave Girls and the song Rollin’.

I’m really reluctant to start any sentence with “imagine” but you know… 
IMAGINE being in school and convincing your parents that you’re going to drop out to join a meat grinder of a business where a minuscule part of aspiring individuals actually go on to any success. A business built and thriving on a never ending stream of incredibly dedicated and talented hopefuls that will put their regular lives on pause for many years, missing out on the regular teen and young adult stuff like normal relations and an education, just to be able to endlessly train singing and dancing with the goal to maybe, just maybe, be able to debut as idols in some vague future. And not only have you convinced your parents, you’ve convinced your asian parents which, generalising heavily, means you’ve subjected yourself to quite a lot of skepticism and derision just based on the normal Confucianistic non-encouraging coaching style employed by Asian Parents. (Hey, I’m part Japanese, I intimately know the wonders of depressed self worth and impossible expectations). Also imagine that you’re making this decision in South Korea, a nation known for a rough job market for young people, meaning you, for all you know, have put yourself in a pretty non envious position of “up or out”, succeed or fail, and with rough consequences attached to failure…

Again, IMAGINE that you’ve actually made it far. You’ve become one of the elite few who have dieted, trained and, who knows what, to succeed. Finally you’ve been picked out to debut in an idol group. Things couldn’t be better. Except there are multiple new groups launching every year, with most groups fading into obscurity in their first years as they fail to make an impact on the Kpop scene. And if you’re not part of the largest agencies and companies your rate of success is a bit like playing roulette with only one chip…

I wont ask you to imagine a fourth time buuuuuut bear with me… Now IMAGINE having spent a good chunk of your youth on an unlikely endeavour to succeed as a Kpop girl group and you’ve been pushing hard, hopefully trying out different concepts gaining some traction once or twice but in general not making much impact, not so much because you’re not good, there’s just so many others who are also good taking up airtime, most of them newer, younger, some of them better connected and financed.
And you’re now coming up at your sixth year since debuting. Despite your blood, sweat and tears success hasn’t materialised.

When you discuss the future with your members the talk isn’t about the next promotion or song anymore.
It’s about evaluating when being hopeful simply becomes stupid and naive. It’s talking about what jobs you can get outside of the idol business with a lagging academic record and not much experience outside of the idol world. Some of you even decide that there is no longer any reason to dorm together as a group. Promotions, training and mutual activities is just so few and far between now so there doesn’t seem to be a reason to anymore. At last you’re just trying to come to terms with, that despite all your dreams and desires, there’s just no rationale for doing this anymore. The phone call from management saying that your four year old song, for some unknown reason suddenly seems to top a music chart, just seems like a cruel distraction and at this point you’re not in the mood of having your hopes lifted and crushed again.
However this is where the story suddenly takes an unexpected turn…

History of Brave girls 

The original lineup of the Brave Girls launched in 2011 under the Brave Entertainment label.
Brave  Entertainment was started in 2008 by veteran Kang Dong Chul from YG entertainment, one of the three labels called the “big three” because of their market dominance and staying power in the Kpop market. Kang Dong Chul being a highly connected rapper, producer and songwriter with several hits for big name Kpop groups under his belt when striking out on his own. The signature sound of Brave Brothers (ie Kang Dong Chul & Company) was at the time popular, highly successful  and well known in Kpop, boding well for any related and supported acts. At this point in time whatever Brave Brothers turned their hands to turned into gold.
The commercial story of Brave Girls begins when Brave Entertainment decides to launch their first girl group, the group getting the name Brave Girls to leverage the brand of Brave Brothers and Brave Entertainment. 

high hopes, debut & Limbo

Originally a five member group garnering initial interest through one member being related to a pretty well known actor and another for being a former Miss Korea participant. This together with being backed by the demon producer of the time made for pretty good prospects for a fledgling girl group even though from a smaller agency. The mid 2011 debut was quite successful with the first single charting high and the group getting a lot of attention and followed by a second mini album in 2012. Then a followup single was released in 2013 followed by producer Brave Brothers stating that this would be followed by a full length album produced by himself. This is when things start going bad for the group as Brave Brothers gets an offer to write and produce for AOA, a girl group having started to get a lot of popularity (and dominating the girl group genre the following few years – recently though AOA are mostly known for a decidedly nasty bullying scandal). Brave Brothers were now fully dedicated to the AOA cause leaving Brave Girls stuck in limbo for two years. On hiatus and with no releases in sight Brave Girls are now adrift with an uncertain future.


2016 the group undergoes lineup changes with the five member group losing three original members and gaining five new taking the group to seven members and releasing single Deepened.

Deepened (2016)
This song together with “High heels” was part of Brave Entertainment 2016 attempt to break the market with the new seven member lineup trying two different concepts in the process. The style of the video with the group decked out in athletic gear and dancing in a city street environment is well done and suits the new line up perfectly. Curiously scaffolds also make an ill advised return from the 80s in this video. Besides the scaffolds, the video is really cool with lots of quads and a real showcase of each of the members and giving the new members a good context to present themselves in. In total “Deepened” is a tight performance by the Brave Girls and you get a sense of what a wrecking ball of a group they could be…

Deepened and the follow up release of “High heels” sadly flopped with little to no interest from the general public and not broadening the fanbase in any significant way – in fact selling less than early stuff. While style wise “Deepened” was ahead of it’s time, the song is pretty damn awesome with a whispered falsetto pre-chorus, some great rapping (scorching performance by former member Hyeran who, rumour has it, dropped out of the group to have a life) and a haunting chorus over a tight beat. How this song wasn’t a hit actually confuses me. The song, styling and sex appeal just seems like the exact zone that Brave Entertainment must have been aiming to occupy with the Brave Girls. Musically it also announces the powerhouse vocals of Minyoung having arrived on the scene. The production hasn’t aged badly at all and would sit nicely beside similar tracks on any playlist. “Deepened” is the slick bastard child of the Mean Girls of the gym, the Pussycat dolls (if they’d been any good) and a Nike advert. It’s also quite possibly my favourite Brave Girls track with it’s airy piano chords, reverb and driving beat accompanied by a great video and concept only slightly marred by scaffolds.

 High Heels (2016)
In this release Brave Girls are doing a so called cute concept. Which I guess might escape you if you didn’t watch the music video. “High heels” was probably in not a small part inspired by the highly successful all out cute assault of Twice on the Kpop market and the public in general during this period as well as the success of AOA . “High heels” is a busy hooky pop song with a lot going on. The infectious woo-oh-ohoh of the bridge, the in-your-face lyrics about the girl wearing high heels to woo the boyfriend and with the intro:
“I’m a sassy girl, I’m a tough girl, I’m a pretty girl, I’m a foxy girl” is, by any stretch of the imagination, a clear statement of intent.

And while I do find that it’s cute in parts, the aggressively stomping high heel choreography honestly makes me a bit nervous while at the same time showcasing the simple pleasures of synchronised girl group dancing. The performance is high energy and has an equitable share of focus on all of the members. If you manage to push past some initial large portions of corny, “High Heels” will inevitably grow on you and hook you after a few listens and together with “Deepened”, clearly announces the arrival of the new members. With High Heels being another another monster of a song though in a different genre than Deepened, even in hindsight I have a hard time explaining why at the very least one of the releases wasn’t a monster success. The company hedging their bets during 2016 doing two different but highly commercial concepts based on two quality singles and still failing to generate any significant traction must have been very discouraging for all involved.

More lineup changes & Rollin’

I would speculate the long hiatus and bad prospects had made remaining original members hesitant as to the future of the group and it wouldn’t take long until the last two original members had also left the group, leaving the line up completely changed and the group again a five member outfit,
now consisting of completely new members. In 2017 things start to get interesting: the Brave Girls release a great pop song and what will be at the core of this story: Rollin’, Brave Girls most successful release to date becomes very popular with the existing fanbase and is also re-arranged and re-released during the same year adding a tropical vibe and sax solos.

Rollin’ – Original version & gateway drug into Rollin’ and Brave Girls (2017)

The original release of Rollin’ was promoted by a dark and sultry theme with a twist of vampire. The video generated a lot of controversy based on what was deemed sexier than allowed for Korean television. I’ll spare you the culturally biased diatribe on the interesting standards where facial expressions and suggestive dancing will get you banned from television but miniskirts ending slightly above the crotch wont. Let’s just say that culture is a real factor here. Anyhow the original Rollin’ video was edited and changed to a “clean” version that was allowed to air on the various networks. The video introduces the key components of the songs choreography and while the dancing on a stool may be aesthetically pleasing, for viewers with weaker nerves or higher degrees of neuroticism, the suspense might just be too much. You’ve been warned!

Rollin' Controversy details (completely safe for work)

For anyone interested in the controversy of the original music video and its first cut, it is rather underwhelming, gave an age 19 rating, resulted in 30 seconds of changed imagery  and this picture illustrates the changes very well:

What’s considered raunchy in Korean media is a separate story and worthy of attention in and of itself.
Unacceptably sexy to your left, acceptable to your right. Several rounds of restrictions on both video and lyrics seriously hampered Rollin’ release and subsequent promotions…

Rollin’ – New Tropical version (2018)

The new version was produced due to popular demand from fans and was remixed with a tropical vibe  popular at the time and suitable for its summer release. The video is great and features the group in various summery settings. Less dour and more cheerful than the original I think this presentation does the song more justice. Also the video has the groups lead singer Yuna skateboarding!
And saxophones! Watch it – the song is great in this version too and the video doesn’t disappoint.

However Rollin’ is as good as it gets for the Brave Girls at this point, who knows what could have happened with less complications and without the inexplicable vampire theme. The members rightly expected the song to do well but again success fails to materialise and so far in the story Rollin’ sadly doesn’t change the downward trajectory of the group.

Participation in “The unit”

At this point in time three of the members (Yujeong, Eunji and Yuna) audition for “The Unit”, a docu/survival show who’s concept is rebooting stalled Kpop careers. The Unit is a pretty sad affair gathering members from various failed groups giving them a chance to promote and maybe get a second career if things goes well – however both Yujeong and Eunji, pass auditions but are then eliminated fairly early in the show. Again our brave protagonists seem stuck with a bleak future.

In the high performance unforgiving world of Kpop there are numerous groups launched each year with a relative minority going on to make a mark in the Kpop world. And the Brave Girls having never had a really huge hit and not being backed by any of the big companies are in a not too unusual place: They’ve officially been active for quite a long time, there is nothing new or fresh to their brand anymore. While they do have a small die hard fanbase – it doesn’t seem to expand at any significant rate.

The Military, “We ride” and possible disbandment

If bound by the not too uncommon rookie/slave contracts of the Kpop business, the members of the group might economically be net neutral or still in debt. And it seems fair to speculate it’s during this fairly dismal period the touring of army bases starts in earnest. Performing to the military is not unusual for girl groups and the money, while probably slim, is most likely needed and other gigs are few and far between. Now the South Korean military fill a very real purpose in the regional geo-political arena with the close neighbour of North Korea (and China) meaning that most adult men in South Korea at some time serve as conscripts and doing a year or more of military service. Morale boosting entertainment in the form of pretty girl groups is par for the course and for the Brave Girls this becomes particularly significant.

And let’s just expand a bit on the Rollin’ performance: it’s energetic, parts are performed on small stools (yes there has been falling incidents), the choreography, even though containing a hard to explain part that looks like core stretching, also has body rolls a plenty. And frankly, the song is a great pop gem and still has rotation on my personal playlists ever since I started enjoying Kpop.
And make no mistake, the Brave Girls are charming performers. With a powerhouse of a main vocalist, a happy pill of a visual, a chic and cute maknae with precise dance moves and the statuesque rapper, Brave Girls make quite an impression on stage. Not hard to see the appeal for the conscripted men of the military slogging through a year or more of inevitable military service.

Having listened to a few “post going viral” interviews the whole journey up until now must have been quite discouraging. Comments from the members state that starting to perform at army bases was a confidence booster with the support and adoration of the servicemen being a huge contrast to their standard performances where their fanbase and support would be comparatively small. When and if you watch some of the army performances and compare the relative enthusiasm and energy from their music show appearances I do think there is a notable difference: huge smiles, great energy and relaxed performances representing the former.

Becoming interested in the story of the Brave Girls and doing some digging it seems like prior to going viral the girls had even moved out of their dorm. For anyone not familiar with the ins and outs of Kpop this is a pretty telling sign that a group isn’t operating  as a group any more. Members of groups dorm together to be able to effectively do promotions and train together – this stopping being a significant sign that there was no longer a reason for the members to live together. And interviews disclose that at least two members had already started living at home as their official careers as Brave Girls, though having released a new single in 2020, seemed all but ended with the latest single marking a kind of bittersweet closure for the group.

The members



Main Vocal, Main Dancer, Powerhouse performer

Minyoung is the most senior member and a great vocalist who’s characteristic vocal colour you can hear in the chorus of Rollin’. Minyoung seems to be a consummate professional, with sharp dancing skills and the level of artistic ability that kind of goes unnoticed because it’s so natural. Minyoung also seems to act caringly towards her fellow members, takes lead in interviews, something expected of the senior but also earning her the unofficial leader title. Minyoung now famously, during 2017 promotions of Rollin’, promised to shave off her hair if the song reached #1.



Visual, Vocalist, Popular with the Military

Fan favourite Yujeong is the member you’ll notice during Rollin’ performances that has the crazily infectious smile. According to Korean beauty standards she is considered the prettiest – aka “the visual”. Yujeong is nicknamed “Squirtle” because of her resemblance to that particular pokemon when she smiles – her eye smile being featured in a majority of Brave Girls live Youtube clips thumbnails.
Yujeong is the groups English speaker because of studies at a young age at an International school in Hong Kong.



Main Rapper, Centre, Vocalist and Fashionista

Elegant student Eunji is the tallest member who together with Yujeong participated in the idol resurrection TV show The Unit. According to Kpop categorisations and designations she is the rapper of the group. In any case she’s a talkative member with a great stage presence earning her the centre position. Because of her large eyes (exaggerated by the makeup team) she is nicknamed Goldeen – a water type fish Pokemon with large eyes (Pokemon lore courtesy of my daughters). Eunji is also a budding business person who until recently with the success of Rollin’ had been planning to launch her own clothing brand.



Lead Vocal, Lead dancer, Maknae, Cool girl

Yuna is the chic junior auteur with bobbed hair. With crisp, clean dance moves, a thousand mile stare and relaxed demeanour Yuna looks to be the cool sister of the group. Fans think she resembles Irene of Red Velvet but for some reason her aura make me think of Kim Da Mis character in Itaewon Class. The second half of the Brave girls discography gives you some insight into the versatility of Yunas voice. According to some sources a budding barista but let’s hope certification can wait a while as the limelight beckons.

Oh yeah. Did I mention Yuna skateboards in the 2018 version of the Rollin’ video?

If you don’t know the meaning of stuff like Main Vocal, Leader and Maknae click the link to read more about Positions in Kpop…

We ride (2020)
The 2020 release is a polished city pop gem with smooth production and solid songwriting. The video, for what might very well have been intended as the groups last goodbye to fans and to the Kpop scene, fits the “retro” sound of the song, with high contrasts, neon drenched environments overlaid with 80s pixel shapes, detailing days in the life of successful pop stars. The props and production design is tasteful and accurate and achieving a lot on what isn’t noticeably a slim budget. I find it more than slightly ironic that this song speculatively to be their final offering seems so heartfelt, mature and fitting for the group.

The rolling credits in the end take on another meaning knowing the groups history. “We ride” is a lovely song and could perhaps hint at a stylistic theme for both feature releases/title tracks as well as album tracks. The song will go well on any of my relaxed playlists with bouncy bass lines, disco beats and vibes and I highly recommend watching the video as it’s both tasteful and charming. We ride and its promotion has bad luck rearing its ugly head again: a hurricane coinciding with the release effectively hinders any real promotion of the release.

GOING VIRAL – What happened to the Brave Girls?

Things going nuclear online like Rollin’ has, will almost never be attributed to just the one thing. In the case of Brave Girls a few things seem certain: massive engagement based on a few Youtube clips, in combination with the beyond fanbase appeal and support created by the Brave Girls unprecedented touring of South Korean army facilities and the resulting popularity with service members and formers, have all contributed to the perfect viral storm. A Youtube edit with multiple footage from Rollin’s performances for the military with the sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving Youtube commentary from various appreciative service members superimposed over the performance has gained over 10 million views and 32 k comments over less than 3 weeks.

The resulting streams on various medias affecting Korean pop charts resulted in a 4 year old song rocketing from history to #1 placements on some of the most influential charts and networks and gaining #1 on the Inkigayo chart twice (at the time this was written sweeping 5 different music charts – basically dominating all except one with a requirement of competing songs to be no more than two months old). Also take into consideration that the general public in Korea have a real appreciation for the members (and former members) of the military, who are guarding the nation against some very real threats. The story of the Brave Girls consistent touring and performances for military service personnel (some say in excess of 100 performances over the later years) also seems to have struck a chord with the general public. And let’s not downplay the song or performers – “Rollin” is a brilliant pop song and performed incredibly enthusiastically and charmingly by the Brave Girls.

In a matter of a few weeks Brave Girls have gone from obscure girl group to an internet sensation and becoming the darlings of Kpop media. A group that have had no luck generating media interest for the past 10 years are now the talk of the town with appearances scheduled on the most popular variety shows like Knowing Brothers and Running Man (the latter something the group have mentioned previously multiple times as something they haven’t dared hoping for but something they’ve really wished for). 

The end (and new beginnings?)

With a couple of rough years past I realise I just might project and relate to this story more than I should, but much like bingeing on romantic comedies or aspirational sports drama, sometimes you need something that lifts your spirit no matter how stoic you need to be in your everyday life. And I just want to take some heart in a rare, relatable and charming underdog story. Because we all want to be hopeful about life and find some evidence that things could turn out good in the end right?

I guess I could dissect the story even further and go into the gladiatorial, predatory structure of the Kpop business but I think just enjoying the anomaly and phenomena of the Brave Girls and things just turning around and working out – regardless of permanence (what is?) or how monetizable it is or what really comes next. And yes, Kpop is superficial and eminently manufactured, but it’s also so much easier to feel empathy with efforts that you know are so disciplined and gruelling as in Kpop. Kpop group training is the music equivalent to special operations training in the military and that fact just makes it so much easier to appreciate and celebrate when someone reaps the rewards after having toughed it out for several years.

You might think an extension of the Brave Girls upward trajectory is unlikely and, sure, they might by now be older than your regular Kpop protagonists. But Hey, who would have anticipated what just happened? For the sake of your soul in the age of C19 I would recommend taking happiness in seeing change being brought on for four young women, who for long thought the experience of success would escape them, as they are now dominating Kpop charts and enjoying being fully booked and having some of the success they must have dreamt about as they started out in the Kpop business some 6 years ago. And hopefully you can see and enjoy the genuine joy that shines through in their performances in contrast to the otherwise hyper planned and styled world of Kpop! I hope your spirits, having read this, have been as boosted as mine were when I realised what was happening to the Brave Girls.

And tune in for further developments and leave any thoughts in the comments.

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’!
Go Brave Girls!

Need more brave girls? Expand for a list of the videos mentioned in this article - Enjoy!


High Heels


Rollin’ (new version)

We ride

More Brave Girls content? Expand for an Amazing video about the brave girls made by excellent youtuber "Asian theory". Recommended!

Asian Theory is obviously a fan and has made this amazing video about the Rise of the Brave Girls. Highly recommended and very lovingly done. 

Need More kpop?

The Strange K-pop series is all about the weird and wonderful of K-pop. Always with amazement, never without love. 
Read it all for instant gratification.


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