Track: Plz Don’t Be Sad | Artist: Highlight (formerly BEAST) | Album: CAN YOU FEEL IT?

K-Pop gets a lot of flak (deservedly so) for perpetuating many unsavory aspects of the idol group industry: unfair contracts, mismanaged agencies, and overworked idols. Highlight, formerly known as BEAST, is one of those groups that broke that loop.

Debuting in 2009, BEAST was just like any other boy group at first (apologies to their fans). Sure, they had some good jams like Fiction, Beautiful Night and On Rainy Days, but if the dictionary had a picture next to the definition of “male K-Pop idol group”, it would be a photo of BEAST.

They soldiered on until 2016, becoming one of the bigger K-Pop acts along the way — until they lost a member, Hyunseung, due to a (reading from the agency statement) “difference in musical styles”. Fans moaned the loss, predicting this could possibly be the end of BEAST.

At this point, many other idol groups usually issue an agency statement saying the “members have amicably parted ways”, or “we will support the members in their future career”, or “so-and-so idol has decided to move into acting”, and we never hear from them again. Not BEAST.

After releasing one album minus Hyunseung, BEAST announced they had severed ties with their agency, Cube Entertainment, and would be forming their own agency — with blackjack, and hookers! — called Around Us Entertainment, and would be changing their name to Highlight. They’re still active today, and you have to applaud their willingness to bite the bullet and jump into the risky business of self-management.

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Far too many talented artists fade into the dustbin of history after “contract issues”, that vaguest of problems. I’m glad BEAST — sorry, Highlight — did not, because with new management, came a complete turnaround in their music. Highlight’s songs are bright, exuberant, and a welcome change from the K-Pop norm. I’m anxiously awaiting whatever they’ll do next.