K-pop girl group aespa is back more ferocious than ever, and ready to expand further into the metaverse in the band’s first EP, “Savage.”
The quartet held an online press conference Tuesday morning ahead of dropping the new album at 6 p.m. that day.
With the album’s preorder volume surpassing 400,000 copies Monday, the rookie girl group from K-pop powerhouse S.M. Entertainment is off to a good start with their first physical album.
“We’re both excited and nervous to finally unveil a physical album. The song has many B-side tracks to it, so we’ll hopefully show diverse sides of the group,” Winter said during the press conference.
Heading the album is the titular “Savage,” which takes on the group’s narrative that weaved through their previous two singles -- “Black Mamba” and “Next Level” -- to unravel the story of their venture into the unknown world to meet their avatar counterparts.
According to the band, “Savage” tells the next stage of the group’s fight against the villainous existence of Black Mamba, which is disturbing their connection with their avatars.
“We’ve finally arrived at ‘Kwangya,’” Winter said, referring to the Korean word meaning “wilderness,” or the virtual world of avatars inside the expansive scope of S.M. Culture Universe shared by S.M. metaverse content.
“We’re joined by our (artificial intelligence) helper Navis, who will assist us in our battle against Black Mamba,” Winter added.
Tuning into such an avatar concept, the music video is heavily laden with animations, computer graphics and visual effects that breathe life into the virtual reality and its imaginative inhabitants. According to Karina, these are all parts of S.M. Entertainment’s trademarked multimedia genre -- Cawman.
“The video incorporates the Cawman genre our company has been experimenting with recently, bringing together various (visual) techniques to portray the world of SMCU, at which aespa’s universe takes place,” Karina said. Cawman -- an acronym of cartoon, animation, webtoon, motion graphics, avatar and novel -- is a compound video genre created by the label’s chief producer and founder Lee Soo-man.
The music video will also feature the bandmates dancing together with their avatars.
The tech-savvy album is to allow listeners to experience the virtual reality of Kwangya. The “Force” -- an imaginative doorway connecting worlds of different dimensions -- edition of the physical album will contain a code that allows people to explore the virtual world using a mobile application.
To bring out the best in each member, Lee and another of S.M.’s main producers, Yoo Young-jin, were involved in building the detailed layers to the song, Karina said.
“Producer Lee wanted to think of a sound that could really stick to the ear, and we heard that he and Yoo put their heads together to decide on the exact sound,” Karina explained, while Giselle added, “Producer Lee directed us on even the tiniest of the details, and I think that really pushed us to work harder to show him our best.”
Bringing about the nationwide “Next Level” dance syndrome with their iconic choreography in the previous song, the band thanked the public and many celebrities who copied their moves.
Karina noted Taeyeon and SHINee member Key’s cover dance during a TV variety show, saying, “We’re very grateful that many people made cover videos of our dance, and we try to check out as many of them as we can. I personally thought that Taeyeon and Key’s version during ‘Amazing Saturday’ was perfect in their copy of the gesture and expression.”
In addition to “Savage,” the EP includes five other tracks with which aespa hopes to showcase more diverse aspects of their musical prowess.
“The album is jam-packed with songs portraying various charms of the group, from energetic dance tunes, such as ‘Savage,’ to emotional pop songs,” Winter said, while Karina added, “We hope that the album could prove aespa is a group capable of a diverse musical spectrum and also show that our universe will continue to expand.”
Among the five B-side tracks, “Aenergy” is also a part of the group’s avatar universe.
“The song explains our characters in the universe. The lyrics talk about the four members’ combat skills -- for example, I hold this ability to speak languages that I have never learned,” Giselle said.
Other songs on the album include “I’ll Make You Cry,” a synth-infused dance score written by S.M.’s in-house songwriter Kenzie, and “Lucid Dream,” a sad tune that dreams of a past lover.
Ahead of celebrating the first anniversary of their debut next month, Ning Ning said, “Although we felt awkward and anxious to stand in front of the camera at first, I feel we’ve become much more comfortable and are having more fun on stage now. We’re grateful to all the fans who’ve shown support and hope we could last long with them.”
aespa, whose name comes from “avatar, experience and aspect” to refer to their futuristic avatar concept, splashed onto the K-pop scene in November 2020 with first single “Black Mamba.”