Winner starts off with a bang

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Winner starts off with a bang


Members of Winner, who made their debut two weeks ago, beat out other trainees on a reality TV show to become YG Entertainment’s new boy band. The group’s new song “Empty” reached No. 1 on local music charts soon after its release. Provided by YG Entertainment

Expectations were very high when YG Entertainment launched its new boy band Winner because the last two K-pop groups to debut with the agency - Big Bang and 2NE1 - became globally renowned stars.

And Winner hasn’t disappointed. The group’s debut single “Empty” hit No. 1 on many local music charts after the album “2014 S/S” was released two weeks ago.

Winner’s inception was unusual. Last year, YG split its trainees into two separate teams and had them compete against one another on the reality TV show “Win: Who Is Next.” Viewers voted for the squad they preferred and the top choice earned the name “Winner.”

Although the show ended in October, the five-member group waited another year to release its first album. And to get more onstage experience, Winner traveled and performed with Big Bang during its international tour.

The members, who finally get to call themselves professional singers, sat down with Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, to share what it’s like to be on top.

Q. Did you think you would get the No. 1 spot on many music charts?

A. Kang Seung-yoon: It could be natural for some [fans] to think that the new group from YG is sure to get the top spot. But we didn’t think that such [a record] would obviously follow. We thought it would be great just to rank high. We’re delighted, but it also feels very surreal. We’re already feeling some pressure for our next album.

Does the fact that YG hasn’t introduced a boy group for about eight years weigh on your shoulders?

Kim Jin-woo: It’s extreme pressure, but at the same time it works as a stimulant so that we won’t settle and we won’t loosen up.

Many say people change after they get popular. Will that happen to you?

Kang: I can’t say for sure. I can say I won’t change, but if I really do change, then many will be just disappointed. And people change even without such [popularity]. I think all the members are genuine, and we’ll try to keep our original characters.

What are your thoughts on the name of the group?

Lee Seung-hoon: We think we really need to be winners to live up to the name. Now we think it’s good to have such a name.

What advice did you get from YG’s chief producer Yang Hyun-suk?

Song Min-ho: He and many other staff members told us never to [lose our self-respect]. Because there are so many people who have worked hard to make us popular, they will be heartbroken if we seem discouraged. We were told to be confident.

Is there any particular reason why you didn’t debut with a dance song but went ahead with the more sedate “Empty”?

Kang: It was our attempt to differentiate ourselves, as well as try to go into a niche market, because many people expect a cheerful song in the summer and something more emotional in the fall. We just didn’t want to do music that’s already set in a certain frame. We just didn’t want to make mediocre songs that included a fast [rhythm] and a dance.

How would you describe your album?

Lee: While we worked on the music, each member talked about it a lot. We discussed many different subjects, ranging from music to girl problems, especially when we were working on the lyrics, so I think this album reflects each member’s emotions a lot.

Tell us more about the solo song “I’m Him.”

Song: I got the chance to create a solo song. My desire was to create a couple of hip-hop tracks, but I was told that it would be too much, so I stepped back a little and then came up with “I’m Him.” It’s a song that gets more interesting when you pay attention to the lyrics.

BY Um dong-jin []

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