A Farewell to GFriend, From a Place of Love
GFriend's disbandment was unforeseeably abrupt. After six years of relentless productivity, releasing 14 albums alongside an unending milieu of music videos, tv appearances, vlogs, reality shows and any number of intense activities demanded of Korea's biggest pop icons, GFriend appear to be saying goodbye.
Undisclosed explanations for their break-up gave way to fanbase speculation. Theories of friction between the group and label Source Music, led to hypotheses of an acrimonious split, but still, no reasons have been given, while apologies and heartfelt messages continue to cascade from GFriend's members, expressing endless love for the group's devoted fans. But I don't want to focus on the minutia of this contract termination. This is an ending, but not one that should define the memories and connections that GFriend created over a prolific half-decade of artistry, individuality and resilience.
Back in January 2015, GFriend debuted from an unknown company within an industry both saturated and extensively manipulated by big corporations. Against the odds, these six girls managed to create their own story, voice and image breaking into the Korean music mainstream. It has not been a story without moments of difficulty, nor one of perfect behaviour from its members, but what I do want to stress is that throughout the process of watching these hard-working women grow up and succeed in an inherently difficult environment has proved a meaningful experience as a long time fan.
It would be irresponsible to overlook the extent to which GFriend shaped the whole design of subsequent Korean girl groups. Their first three releases were unofficially dubbed by the public as the ‘school-girl trilogy’ which gave GFriend commercial and critical success. I first became a part of the fandom through the ‘Rough’ era, in January 2016. There was a strange sort of attachment immediately tethered between GFriend and I, and in a sense I was always completely aware that they would never know who I am, yet to me they became bound closely. GFriend transcended the music they released and found a place in my heart that I consider one of my most vulnerable sides.
When I stressed, GFriend relaxed me; when I was anxious their music would me calm down. When I couldn’t sleep at night, they could entertain me through it. I have seen them grow and cheered them through success and sent loving messages during times of difficulty. In a sense I am doing the same right now as you read this. I know the girls are hurt and I want them to know in the unlikely chance that any of them sees this that the place in my heart that they have occupied since 2016 will always stay there. Memories of waking up early in the morning nervous to see the ‘Love Whisper’ music video, staying up until 5am in May 2018 to see them win #1 on Inkigayo with ‘Time for the Moon Night’, all amassing together with countless other moments to form an entire aspect of my personality over the last few years.
Their story is one of friendship and love, one of the most genuine ones in Kpop. Their music, their dances, their impact - I think all of it will outlive them. The fans are hurting now, but in time we will all look back with fondness. Their discography will remain, and some years from now, perhaps in rediscovering old songs that had slipped from our memory will substitute this current sadness for the comforting warmth of nostalgia in our hearts. Understanding that GFriend transcends the limited scope of 'kpop music' and into a shared story of warmth, happiness, hard work and friendship is what’s at stake right now.
Ending their discography with a beautiful song entitled ‘Wheel of the Year’ in which the wheel is used as a metaphor for life, there are no true endings or new beginnings; rather it is all a great circle that revolves. Day becomes night and day again, winter turns into spring and life is a whole wheel that keeps turning round and round, and it's grown into something truly cathartic as GFriend's conclusion.
I am, admittedly, hurting. But, as the members have repeated time and time again over the last couple of days this is not a goodbye, but a new hello. I know we will all meet again in one form or another. For now, 'Rainbow', 'Compas', 'Bye', 'You Are Not Alone' and 'Smile are keeping me sane through all this madness, and until the day we see each other again, thank you GFriend for all that you were and are. What you all created will be forever remembered, and whatever the future has in store, the legacy of GFriend will live on through the memories of people just like me, all across the world.
Guille Fernandez is a music lover who studied the cello for almost 10 years before moving to the UK to study English literature at King's College, London.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created by editor-in-chief Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He edited this article and he is a Fleet Foxes shill.
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