K-pop has taken the world by storm and Aespa, South Korea’s latest girl group, is riding the wave—but in inimitable fashion. Their music unfolds a new world where the four members, Karina, Winter, Giselle and Ningning, meet and interact with their avatar egos. The group’s name originates from a combination of ‘ae’, from the English initials of ‘avatar’ and ‘experience’, and ‘aspect’, which symbolises the two sides of meeting another self.
Their music looks set to reinvent what K-pop typically sounds like with a more creative and innovative approach—one that breaks the usual construct of fitting into a specific music genre. “I’m trying adapt my voice to singing more rock and rock ballads,” says Giselle, who cites Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande and Blink-182 as her inspirations. Aespa’s debut singles, ‘Black Mamba’ and ‘Next Level’, were intense performances with powerful storylines. The former, which was released in November last year, is a catchy electropop track about a being called Black Mamba who interferes with the connection between Aespa and their avatars, which causes a threat to their world. ‘Next Level’ is a continuation of ‘Black Mamba’, a dance and hip-hop song which journeys into the fictional Kwangya universe in search of evil.
Aespa has certainly resounded with audiences around the world who are craving a new tune—making history as they recorded over 100 million views on YouTube for their ‘Next Level’ music video after just 32 days in June. This eclipsed their previous record of reaching 100 million views in 52 days for their debut track ‘Black Mamba’. Now also global ambassadors for Givenchy, the girls reveal that a world tour and continued diversity in their music are next on their wish list. Given the spectacular rate at which their popularity is growing, we don’t expect it to be too long before we see both fulfilled.
What’s the most exciting moment to date for Aespa?
Winter: Many moments come to mind, such as winning the Rookie of the Year Award at the 30th Seoul Music Awards and being top on the music chart with ‘Next Level’. This opportunity to be shot and interviewed for Vogue Singapore’s first anniversary has also been really special for us.
There’s no denying that Aespa has its own identity—what do you think it means to be ‘Aespa-like’?
Karina: I believe it is about embodying uniqueness, with your personal colours shining through. And I really like the expression ‘Aespa-like’ because it sounds like our genre has been created.
You are all active all-rounders in the entertainment scene, fluent in singing, dancing and even rap. What are each of you particularly drawn to?
Karina: These days, I’ve been into dancing, so I’m practising by poring through videos. It’s my belief that I should give my best effort in all that I do to try and be a genuine all-rounder.
Giselle: For me, it’s about rapping and singing. I am always writing lyrics or humming songs. In the past, I felt like my voice was only suitable for R&B and soft ballads. Now, I am trying to adapt my voice to singing more rock and rock ballads.
Winter: I love dancing and I’m attracted to expressing something with my body, not just my voice. I would like to explore more varied dance styles in the future.
Ningning: I have been singing for a long time, but I also enjoy dancing, especially hip-hop, so I have also ventured into rapping.
We understand all of you have wanted to pursue music from a young age. How did you know you wanted to be in the music industry?
Karina: Since I was little, I gravitated to playing instruments such as the piano, guitar and flute. Whenever I saw people singing and dancing on television, I was enamoured and energised by it—they looked happy and like they were having a great time. I thought to myself, “I really want to be able to give off the same energy.” After I joined SM Entertainment, I practised harder and longer than anyone else, which led to the opportunity to become a singer.
Winter: I’ve always had respect for singers I see on television. I wanted to be able to sing like them and become someone who is a bright light like they are, and one who embodies hope.
Giselle: Even when I didn’t know that music could directly affect me, I was always passionate about music; it was my only driving force. Music has helped me a lot, which is why I wanted to pass that same motivation and joy to others—not just in terms of lyrics, but also when it comes to sound, style and vibe.
It’s intriguing that you have an eight-member group, including avatars. Does that change the way you perceive and perform music?
Winter: In our music videos or stage videos, we add a new dimension to our music. Sometimes, our avatar members perform instead of us, or sometimes we perform alongside them, and this adds another level of dynamism that differs from when the four of us perform in reality. It is our hope that, one day, we can include our avatar members in our concerts.
Tell us about Aespa’s relationship with fashion.
Giselle: Each member has their own distinct style—when we are off-stage, we have our own outfits and preferences. However, generally when we perform, we like to align our outfits with the concept or theme of our music. My favourite outfit so far is a pink two-piece dress which my stylist put together for me. I wore this during our album cover shoot. I love that the skirt is engraved with a phrase in French—look for it in the music video!
What’s next for you in terms of releasing music?
Karina: We are coming back with a mini-album, which will reveal stronger emotions. Some of my personal favourites to date will be in this mini-album. It will also showcase how we have improved in terms of vocals, rap and overall performance.
Editor-in-Chief: Norman Tan
Photography: Dukhwa Jang
Fashion direction: Desmond Lim
Styling: Kim Wook
Hair: Chunil Cho, Woo Ri and Jinsol Yu
Make-up: Sunyoung Kwon, Heekyoung Kim, Bokyoung Kim and Seowon Lee
Producer: Kelly Shu
Visual director: Seajun Kim
Visual planning: Yerin Kim
Set stylist: Hoseung Shin
Production: A Project
Story edited by: Amelia Chia
The October ‘Dreamers’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and in-store from 5 October 2021.