Earlier this week, the international K-pop community was shook when one of the members of its most beloved groups announced an unexpected departure. Upon her contract expiration, Minzy would exit 2NE1 and move on to focus on new (likely solo) endeavors; meanwhile, the girl group would move forward as a trio.
Fan reaction was mixed, as some blended their obvious sadness with confusion over the group's strong bond being broken, while others felt empathetic to the 22-year-old, who had essentially been off the grid for the past two years. Whatever Minzy's departure made fans feel, what's become abundantly clear in the wake of the news is how much the singer/dancer had been the group's secret weapon all this time, and was proving her importance more than ever recently.
Fans always viewed Minzy as the troupe's top dancer, and the one who could bust out moves onstage like few other K-pop stars. But during 2NE1's latest releases, Minzy was shining more than ever when it came to vocal charisma and power.
Take the three buzz singles leading up to the group's landmark 2014 album, Crush. In "Falling in Love," from summer 2013, she handled the verses with ease and had a distinct confidence in her tone that would make one think she stole the swagger from CL. The follow-up, "Do You Love Me," saw Minzy trading off the vocal-heavy sections with the group's designated powerhouse, Bom, while "Missing You" found her handling more vocally challenging sections than ever before.
While Minzy's "Missing You" sections sounded impressive and self-assured, CL's unexpectedly remarkable belts on the song were the ones that drew the majority of the attention from fans. Watch how the then-20-year-old pulled off the performance compared to her band mates in a live performance below:
Those Minzy moments only became more clear on 2NE1's Crush album, when Minzy continued to step up as a vocalist and tended to share the most vocally challenging parts of songs with Bom. Case in point: Crush's single, "Gotta Be You":
Most times, Minzy was simply considered 2NE1's youngest member—the "maknae" as Koreans and longtime K-pop fans know it. And it was tough for her to carve out an exact identity when her skills worked in so many different ways. Minzy can dance like no other, but the girls of 2NE1 always had an out-of-this-world stage presence and didn't always make choreography a priority. Her vocals were top-notch, but Bom is 2NE1's "main vocalist" and was given solo releases to showcase those pipes. Minzy is as gorgeous as her band mates, but Dara was typically designated the "visual" of the group, and always stood out onstage with her outrageous looks. Minzy could also rap (see "I Don't Care" or "Try to Follow Me"), but CL was the group's main rapper, and was also given solo releases.
Minzy could occupy all aspects and roles in 2NE1, making her mandatory for all parts of the vocal group. But she wasn't the designated person for any specific role, which made her position as the group's backbone all the more obvious.
It's an unfortunate position Minzy rather unfairly found herself in, to no fault of her own. There's a reason 2NE1 was one of Korea's biggest girl groups: the girls had larger-than-life personalities that made each stars on their own. But Minzy's issue was that her larger-than-life personality was the teensiest bit smaller than the others—in spite of all her talents.
While we're rooting for 2NE1 to continue as a trio, there's no doubt that Minzy's absence will be felt. There will be a larger-than-expected piece of 2NE1 missing when the group continues on as a trio.
Throw it back to when the 2NE1 members recounted how different each other were at their label headquarters in South Korea: