Days away from their seventh anniversary, the fierce K-pop group 4Minute came to an end.
After a career filled with countless femme power tracks and two albums in the top five spots of Billboard’s World Album chart, the quintet’s fans are mourning the end of the era following Monday’s announcement that the five women — Nam Jihyun, Heo Gayoon, Jeon Jiyoon, Kim HyunA, and Kwon Sohyun — will part ways. The group’s company, Cube Entertainment, announced that HyunA, a soloist in her own right known for “Bubble Pop” and her appearance in “Gangnam Style,” is the only member to have currently renewed her contract with the agency.
Since releasing “Hot Issue” on June 15 seven years ago, 4Minute carved out a place for themselves as a sonically groundbreaking act that drew outside the lines of K-pop, both through their aggressive songs and the brazen attitude they brought to each of their performances. To celebrate 4Minute’s career, take a look back at some of the songs that this badass group brought to life.
7. “Volume Up” (2012)
With explosive sax and an array of soaring vocals from lead vocalists Jiyoon and Gayoon, “Volume Up” brought things higher than the act’s previous songs had. After already making a name for themselves as an edgy dance-pop girl group, “Volume Up” introduced a more nuanced style, melding upbeat tempos with softer melodies and alternative instrumentals to evoke a more mature sound from the group.
Ranking No. 3 on the Korea K-Pop Hot 100 upon its release, “Volume Up” showed the group’s ability to blend musical elements that appear incongruous but actually create an energizing track. Future songs, like “Hate” and “Crazy,” also drew on this dynamic to strengthen 4Minute’s identity as a girl group capable of pulling off more abstract productions.
6. “HUH” (2010)
Released a year after their debut, “HUH (Hit Your Heart)” was the culmination of 4Minute’s early career and the darker, sexy concept that the group pursued. One of multiple songs to feature an abundance of synth, “HUH” stood out for its blatant attempt to reveal the group’s vocal prowess. Toning down the Auto-Tune in comparison to other releases from the same era, “I My Me Mine” and “Muzik” in particular, 4Minute let their vocal color free for the first time on hook-filled “HUH” and cemented the group’s staying power.
Although the song, written by Shinsadong Tiger and Beast’s Yong Junhyung, played it relatively safe in comparison to later songs, this banger was the most downloaded 4Minute single ever according to Korea’s Gaon Chart and remains a testament to the impassioned electronic sound the group was originally known for.
5. “Hot Issue” (2009)
Less than a year after Madonna released the Justin Timberlake and Timbaland-featuring “4 Minutes,” 4Minute burst onto the K-pop scene with a colorful sassy anthem in the form of their debut song, “Hot Issue.” Incorporating the urban beats and blaring sirens audible on so many of their later songs, 4Minute’s full potential was visible immediately with the confident dance track that acted less as an introduction and more of a declaration.
Fiery from the offset, “Hot Issue” was a bright intro to the quintet’s future. With its wailing synths and domineering proclamations from the member’s themselves, the debut track set the tone for the rest of 4Minute’s career as a female force.
4. “Hate” (2015)
After coming off the high of their best year ever musically with the near-perfection of “Crazy” and the group’s only ballad single, “Cold Rain,” “Hate” had a lot to live up to. And the Skrillex-produced track released earlier this year delivered on that, beginning with a sweet opening and brief rap interlude before dropping one of the most epic K-pop jumps ever.
Taking more than a minute to build into the dominating chorus, “Hate” emulates the explosion of rage toward a lover who has broken the narrator’s heart with blaring horns and wailing vocals. It’s a song to be angry to, a call to arms for women around the world to become empowered by the hatred they feel after being spurned. But, unfortunately, the atypical sound proved too much for Korea, where the dubstep flourish of “Hate” failed to resonate with local listeners; it was one of the few promotional singles released by the group to fail to achieve a place in the top 10 of South Korea’s Gaon Digital Chart.
3. “Whatcha Doin’ Today?” (2014)
The final number in the group’s questioning trilogy (“What’s Poppin’?” and “What’s Your Name?”), “Whatcha Doin’ Today?” turned things on K-pop’s head with its revolutionary message. Both whimsical and powerful, sweet and sexy (literally, thanks to the gasping heard in the final bridge), the song is a horn-driven electro-dance number about putting daily tasks off to hang out or hook up. Combined with the music video’s drugs, masturbation, fetishes, and sexuality, “Whatcha Doin’ Today” is 4Minute’s most subversive song. It upped 4Minute’s initial no-holds-barred attitude to a pleather-filled statement about Korea’s restrained society and sexual nature in general.
2. “What’s Your Name?” (2013)
Hip-pop styled “What’s Your Name?” brought the return of 4Minute to their colorful electro-dance roots, which stuck around through much of 2013 and 2014. Featuring variety of sound effects including shattering glass and dogs barking to create a playful mindtrip, the literal bells and whistles of the song offered a lighter, more consumable version of 4Minute’s brassy personality without forgoing it entirely; “What’s Your Name?” had the girl group decrying misogyny with the declaration “I’m not an easy girl” after the chorus’s flirtatious questioning.
With enough beeps and blips to fill an arcade, the thumping “What’s Your Name?” was filled with enough catchy hooks and addictive raps to create what would be one of K-pop’s most popular summer songs of 2013. The infectiousness of the track brought “What’s Your Name?” to No. 1 in Korea and on the K-Pop Hot 100 chart.
1. “Crazy” (2015)
No K-pop song by a girl group came closer to perfection in 2015 than 4Minute’s “Crazy,” the epitome of the girl group’s career.
After playing with electro-pop and hip-hop intermittently, “Crazy” reinvigorated 4Minute’s career as the act’s first full-fledged hip-hop banger. Incorporating trap elements, Middle Eastern-inspired horns, and a thumping baseline, “Crazy” pushed beyond the urban-edginess of the quintet’s early tracks to bring about their most sonically complex creation, raging builds and all.
Released six years into their career, “Crazy” didn’t so much introduce a new genre for the group to conquer but instead reinvigorated the quirky horns and hip-hop breakdowns that 4Minute featured in past songs. Between the siren wails, drums, synths, and horns, “Crazy” could have been a mess but the off-kilter composition came together to create one of the fiercest K-pop song of the decade and the highlight of 4Minute’s career. Featuring a sharp delivery of breakneck raps from Jiyoon and HyunA with countering pulsing solos from Sohyun and Jihyun, the song is strung together cohesively by Gayoon’s melodic pre-chorus belts.
Paired with 4Minute’s most aesthetically striking video, featuring little more than health goth styling and breakneck club choreography, “Crazy” is the best the group had to offer.
Not only was “Crazy” the best K-pop girl group song released in 2015, 4Minute’s Crazy EP was also the only album by the group to achieve No. 1 on the World Albums chart throughout their seven years together.