Back in 2011, American singer-songwriter and record producer Teddy Riley stepped into the Korean music market, specifically K-pop, by creating a new K-pop girl group under the label DR Music. This new girl group was called Rania and it consisted of eight members from different parts of the world, Yijo, Joy, Riko, Jooyi, Saem, Di, T-ae, and Xia. Eventually, they made their debut back in April of 2011 with their debut extended play (EP), a mini-album titled Teddy Riley, The First Expansion In Asia with the title track song “Dr. Feel Good” followed by a second featured song “Masquerade.”
The initial sales for Rania’s first song “Dr. Feel Good” were really good for a debuting K-pop girl group signed under a small label. So far, they’ve had just north of 76,000 sales. Eventually, they would release one more EP or mini-album, Time to Rock da Show, and a full-length studio album, Just Go (Goodbye’s The New Hello). Songs from both of them would chart in the top 100 Korean Gaon Chart and sell over 100,000 each. Needless to say but Rania was doing well, slowly and surely getting better.
Unfortunately, Rania would go through a bit of a snag after promoting “Just Go,” the second promoted song from Just Go (Goodbye’s The New Hello). They tried to break into the American music industry but many situations plagued the group for one reason or the other. Quite possibly, the stress caught up with some of the members are they all left leaving only Di, T-ae, and Xia the only originals left. Even their one new member Shannon did not last long.
DR Music would work to revitalize Rania signing on Jieun, Zi.U, and Alex to join the three original members for their 2015 comeback, their third mini-album Demonstrate. The big news with said comeback was squarely pointed to Alex as she was reported as the first African-American girl to debut in a K-pop girl group. Unfortunately, the new lineup for Rania did very little as a comeback for the girl group in which both the mini-album and title track song of the same name failed to chart. This possibly resulted in the remaining three original three members of Rania, Di, T-ae, and Xia, to leave the group.
It is safe to say that the last couple of years have not gone the way Rania wanted it to, but it is 2017, a fresh start for them. To help push their new start, DR Music signed on three new members, Jieun, Yumin, and Ttabo. Not only that, they also re-signed original Rania member Saem who changed her stage name to Yina. Finally, Rania would be renamed to BP Rania, from Regeneration Idol of Asia to Black Pearl Regeneration Idol of Asia. Eventually, BP Rania would make their K-pop comeback (maybe a re-debut) with their fourth mini-album Start a Fire featuring a title track song of the same name. Unfortunately, it failed to wow K-pop fans. Not only that, there are some criticisms that despite being the leader, Alex is coming off more like a prop than as a full member of BP Rania.
Start a Fire, BP Rania’s K-pop comeback (re-debut), officially released right before 2017 on December 30. With the backing of their label DR Music, they did all they could to promote the new direction and lineup. The visuals in the teaser images were amazing and it showed that BP Rania still had their fierce sense of style. It was even more of a surprise, especially for A1st (official fan club of Rania), that Saem would return to the girl group under her new stage name Yina. After the new lineup was revealed, Rania announced their new name, BP Rania, and released a teaser of “Start a Fire.” At the time, it sounded cool. The tune has changed after release.
The problem with “Start a Fire” is that it lacks the “hook” that makes K-pop fans want to listen to a song over and over again. It does have the R&B and hip-hop vibe with Alex laying down the aggressive English lyrics through her rapping, but overall, it is lacking. The music video also seems to be lacking too. According to an author review on AllKpop, it isn’t terribly low budget which leads the author to believe DR Music still has enough money to push BP Rania forward, but it was far from impressive. On a personal note, just because a music video is low budget, it does not mean it cannot be good. Case and point: “Oh NaNa” by K.A.R.D. or “Fly” by Got7.
Overall, the mini-album is mediocre, but there is one underlying issue that many K-pop fans who’ve listened to Start a Fire and watched the music video for the title track song bring up. Right now, Alexandra Reid — better known as Alex in BP Rania — is the leader of the girl group. Why is DR Music making her seem like a prop or an add-on? Analyzing “Start a Fire,” Alex only appears three times in the song, two of those times are with her rap parts and she is by herself. The third time is at the end with the rest of the girl group toasting drinks. She is not seen with the others especially during the dance sequence.
Some K-pop fans argued that the same happened to Alex during “Demonstrate,” but at the time, she wasn’t in South Korea to film the music video and learn dance steps. To be fair, that was a fault by DR Music, signing her way too close to the release of Demonstrate. For Start a Fire, there should not be any excuse. Some do say Alex was hurt and thus why she did not participate in the dance sequence, but there are no reports backing this claim.
BP Rania does not need a ton of money to stand out. They already do that simply through diversity. What they do need to do is really concentrate on working on their music, a concept that will surely push the girl group into the limelight. Also, Alex needs to have more time with the girls and not come off as an add-on. It would also help if Alex does Korean lines. It is great that she is the first African-American girl to be in a K-pop girl group, but first and foremost, it is a Korean group. To be fair, this might be another DR Music situation in which they jumped the gun with Alex as she did not go through the trainee session most K-pop hopefuls do.
[Featured Image by DR Music]