Recent years have not been particularly kind to the elder generations of K-pop girl groups. Aside from the inevitable passing of the guard, displayed by leading group SISTAR's seemingly natural and peaceful disbandment, we've seen big-time groups (we still weep for Secret) implode from label mismanagement. Perhaps even sadder still, there is an ever rising number of groups who simply never quite caught on. Worse still, some fade with the stinging sense they were never truly given a proper shot.

Making their debut as FIESTAR in 2012, Jei, Cao Lu, Linzy, Hyemi, and Yezi announced the news of their disbandment on May 15th following the end of their contracts with Fave Entertainment, with only Cao Lu, who has found success on television, renewing her contract. With the backing of one of the largest entertainment companies in South Korea, home to top female soloist (and arguably overall industry leader) IU, the group should have been privy to a wide variety of music industry experts. Despite these resources and an injection of traction thanks to TV appearances, the girls failed to make an impact when compared to groups such as AOA, EXID, NU’EST, and VIXX, who all debuted in the same year.

Leaning on company senior IU and rap veteran Tiger JK before their official debut, the group went on to release two EPS during their 6-year lifetime. Watching the transformation from debut to disbandment, the group’s discography has been a mixed bag. Debut single 'Vista' was up-tempo and dynamic. 'I Don’t Know' was sickly sweet while 'Mirror', the first single after renewed interest from the public was dark and sultry. Their last single, 'Apple Pie', tried to combine it all by bringing a quirky adult cuteness into the mix. Seemingly, no one handling their career knew where they fit in and instead saw fit to throw every dart at the board with little concern for aim. In short, they failed to bring something unique to the table that could make the general public pay attention.

Changes, even radical, in concepts are nothing new to K-pop. Sexy girl group AOA debuted with a band concept before they found something that fit. Yet it seemed like FIESTAR was made to perform songs that didn’t suit them. The answer is related to internal changes at LOEN Entertainment in 2013. As of today, Kakao M is the umbrella company previously named LOEN Entertainment. LOEN was restructured into a multi-label system and FIESTAR was led by famed Kpop producer Shinsadong Tiger under Collabodadi, while artists such as IU was brought under LOEN Tree. Both LOEN Tree and Collabodadi have now been turned into Fave Entertainment in the last few years. In the past, although FIESTAR started with IU and her well-established image, the shift in structure meant that either FIESTAR or IU had to change. In a battle of rookie against mega-successful senior, it’s obvious which act management decided had to change.

FIESTAR always felt like they were on the cusp. Many of their title tracks have been satisfactory but not outstanding. Some members were receiving TV love calls after successful stints on a variety of programmes and still, management didn’t seem interested to push them onto the next level musically. Overall, FIESTAR’s story isn’t just related to music. It’s a tale of having to follow the rules of the people who owned them through contracts and debts. Linzy commented just last year that the members had still not received any payment for their work.

So now, it’s goodbye to the girls. For an industry (and music scene) so fond of sheen, the grim reality of just how overcrowded K-pop is with artists all told they're spending years training for a sure thing can be sobering. There will always be a question of ‘what if?’ but an even bigger question will be ‘who next?’