STELLAR Marionette
STELLAR’s the hot issue in K-pop right now, but just for the record, I’ve been a STELLAR stan since they debuted. Their first single, 2011’s ridiculous 2NE1 knock-off “Rocket Girl” (or should I say, “Locket Gur”) was amazingly bad, while their eurodance follow up, “UFO,” was just plain amazing.

They lost me a little when they relaunched last year with the cutesy Sweetune-produced “Study” (surprising, since I love all things cutesy and Sweetuney), but all is forgiven now that they’ve out RaNia’d RaNia with their porn-tastic comeback single, “Marionette.”

Tapping into the current sexy trend sweeping K-pop, STELLAR’s snatched up the cheapest parts of various girl group sexy concepts over the years (including AOA, miss A, Girl’s Day, Rainbow Blaxx, and more), rolled them all into one, and spit polished it with the kind of sleazy sheen that can only come from a struggling pop act so desperate to make it in showbiz that they’ll do anything for a flicker of flame.

Take my favourite part of the “Marionette” music video (which doesn’t look half-bad considering it’s obviously low budget) for example. One underfed underwear-clad STELLAR member takes a bottle of ‘milk’ from the fridge, and then proceeds to drink it in slow-mo as it dribbles down her chin and onto her breasts just like a certain other delicious white fluid. In the next scene, SHE TAKES A BATH IN IT.

STELLAR Milk

For all its explicit imagery, very little about the video is actually arousing or titillating — if it was, then “Marionette” wouldn’t be nearly as perversely entertaining. You feel dirty and a little sad watching these willowy plastic people gyrating in flimsy leotards and putting themselves out there to be objectified and vilified by the public (remember, this is the viciously judgemental and sexually-repressed Korea we’re talking about), yet at the same time there’s something disgustingly hypnotic about “Marionette” that extends beyond Sweetune’s predictably addictive production.

The lyrics, about a self-loathing “sad doll” tied to a string and controlled by a vindictive lover, could be viewed as a metaphor for the way female celebrities are more-or-less forced to strip down for recognition from a general public that’s generally too conservative to openly admit its insatiable desire for sexual content from its pop stars.

You’re so bad, I’m hurting again,” STELLAR sing. “You haven’t changed at all, I haven’t changed either / I’m reacting to your fickle nature / Tell me, is this fun for you?

Raunchy makeovers have worked for countless girl groups before, from Brown Eyed Girls back in the day to Girl’s Day and AOA more recently. Before “Marionette,” STELLAR released three singles with three separate, G-rated concepts, none of which came even remotely close to taking off. In fact, the most publicity they ever got was for an upskirt controversy sparked by their “UFO” video. At this point, they’ve got nothing left to lose and a ticking clock telling them they’re shot at the spotlight is almost up, so it’s either go hard or go home.

Other girl groups –like Nine Muses with “No Playboy” and RaNia with “Dr. Feel Good”– have tried this approach in the past, but STELLAR seems to be having the most success with it as far as flop rookies go. They’ve got all the ingredients to make “Marionette” pop-off: Perfect timing, a connection to a well-respected K-pop star (Shinhwa’s Eric, who has since disowned them), and a willingness to push the envelope further than most others have. They’ve even set up a Facebook page in which male fans can vote to have the members post photos performing various facial expressions, like crying or looking shy. It’s a stunt that’s about one step away from being softcore webcam porn.

However, none of this noise marketing would really work this well without a great song, and “Marionette” is pretty great (as is the entire Sweetune-produced mini-album it comes in). It’s got all the sonic signatures of classic Sweetune, while its obviously low production budget (at least compared to the duo’s past work) makes it sounds like an old pre-fame Nine Muses b-side that never saw the light of day — which is obviously a good thing!

I still feel a little bad supporting this comeback, but what can I do? STELLAR just slayed the shit out of every other comeback this month, and considering the great lengths they went to to get my attention, it’d be cruel of me not to support them with every piece of my heart and soul.

Now excuse me while I go vote for what degrading act I want STELLAR to do next on Facebook.