No K-Pop band has ever had quite a comeback story like NU’EST has.
The five-member band was one of the bigger debuts of 2012, an impressive feat considering that the year was notoriously stacked with high-interest boy group debuts (EXO, BtoB and B.A.P would all debut in that same year). However, NU’EST’s popularity would soon start to wane at an alarmingly fast pace, and by 2016, they could barely muster enough fans to fill a small room. The success of their agency juniors, Seventeen, didn’t help their case. Whispers of disbandment filled the fan pages, and the assumption was that NU’EST would quietly fade away much like their sister group, After School, did.
In early 2017, the survival reality program Produce 101, which pits idol trainees against each other in a bitter fight to join a temporary boy group, launched its second season. When the show announced that the NU’EST members would be joining the program, the general reaction was a mixture of pity and excitement—pity that a group who was on their fifth year of promotions would have to essentially start from the bottom, and excitement that maybe NU’EST wasn’t dead after all.
Produce 101 was NU’EST’s last resort, and the members said as much in interviews. They had basically regressed to trainee status, and admitted to the world at large that their first try was a failure. While only one of the NU’EST members—Minhyun—would score high enough to land a spot in the final Produce 101 group (Wanna One), the new spotlight on the group as a whole pushed their old work back into the public consciousness. Their songs re-emerged on the charts and fans started coming back in droves, with their albums quickly going out of stock due to sellers unprepared with their sudden and unexpected popularity.
In 2019, NU’EST has a new lease on life and a robust second chance at stardom. With the welcome news that they unanimously renewed their contracts with their agency, we’ll hopefully be seeing NU’EST stick around for years to come.