[YOUR PLAYLIST] H1-KEY members 'Run' to capture their fans' hearts

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[YOUR PLAYLIST] H1-KEY members 'Run' to capture their fans' hearts

If you were to make your life into a movie, what song would be playing in each scene? Everyone has a story, and the same is true for K-pop stars. In “Your Playlist,” K-pop artists share what the soundtrack would be for different moments in their life with the Korea JoongAng Daily.

With a new member lineup, girl group H1-KEY is back to charm the K-pop scene with its healthy energy.

H1-KEY, pronounced "high-key," debuted this January with the single “Athletic Girl” — a unique concept, especially for a K-pop girl group. The group's identity centers around sportiness and a healthy glow, well demonstrated though its sports-inspired outfits and dance moves.
Promotional image for H1-KEY's new EP "Run" [GLG]

Promotional image for H1-KEY's new EP "Run" [GLG]

The group came back with its latest EP “Run” on July 6, along with new member Hwiseo. “Run” encourages listeners to go on a brisk jog to relax their body and mind, continuing H1-KEY’s theme of fitness through and through.

Unlike the time of its debut, which took this place amid strict social distancing measures due to the pandemic, this time H1-KEY has been able to meet its fans in person.

“We just had our first in-person fan meet-and-greet event yesterday,” said Riina. “Meeting other idol groups on music shows and gathering on stage for the show’s finale — it’s the little things that we weren’t able to do for our previous release because of Covid-19. We’re enjoying our activities like we’re at a festival.”

H1-KEY poses during the showcase on July 6 for its new EP “Run” at the Ilchi Art Hall in southern Seoul’s Gangnam District. [GLG]

H1-KEY poses during the showcase on July 6 for its new EP “Run” at the Ilchi Art Hall in southern Seoul’s Gangnam District. [GLG]

The four members — Seoi, Riina, Hwiseo and Yel — sat down with the Korea JoongAng Daily on Monday in Yeongdeungpo District, western Seoul, to talk about their latest song, introduce their new member and share the music that kept them company throughout the highs and lows.

Dreaming K-pop

They may be rookies, but all four members of H1-KEY are seasoned performers, having spent years as trainees. Hwiseo spend over nine years, Riina six, Yel almost four and Seoi two years as a trainee.

Riina reminisced on the moment that she first recognized her dream of becoming a K-pop star — at an art tutoring center.
“When I was a child, our art teacher told us to draw how we imagine ourselves in 10 years,” she said. “And I drew myself with a microphone, singing in the center with other members. I think I always thought inside that I wanted to be on stage. In kindergarten, I would watch music videos by Girls’ Generation, like, at least 300 times per song.”

Girl group H1-KEY poses during the interview [JEON TAE-GYU]

Girl group H1-KEY poses during the interview [JEON TAE-GYU]

Riina is not the only Girls’ Generation fan in the group. H1-KEY’s leader and eldest member Seoi says her dreams also started because of the girl group.

“I remember sitting on the couch with my mom, watching Girls’ Generation singing ‘Gee’ on a music show,” she said. “And they just all looked so happy performing. I got this intuition, ‘I've gotta do that too. I want to have fun on stage like that.’ The dream has been ingrained in me ever since.”
When dreams come true

The four members each received training under different agencies and have only come together as a team relatively recently. Hwiseo is the latest to join the mix, becoming a member just last month. Nonetheless, members say their common goal unites them with a strong bond.

aespa's digital single "Dreams Come True" (2021) [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

aespa's digital single "Dreams Come True" (2021) [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

“We all had different amounts of training and come from different backgrounds,” Riina said. “But we all understood each other, knowing that the other person is just as hardworking and sincere about achieving our K-pop dreams. We came together for the same dream: debuting as H1-KEY.”

“Around the time we debuted, girl group aespa came out with the song ‘Dreams Come True,’” Yel said. “It was such a fitting song because we had also just made our dreams become reality.”
Members confessed it took some time getting used to the unique athletic concept.
“We started rigorous physical training and dieting for a sporty concept and really got to find out what healthy means, inside and out,” said Riina. “At the time, we only started working out because of our new concept. It was exhausting. But we knew that a fake image wasn’t going to work with the public. Since our theme was going to be ‘athletic girls,’ we knew we couldn’t just pretend. Now that we’ve maintained this lifestyle for a while, we’re quite satisfied with our fitness.”

H1-KEY poses during the showcase on July 6. [GLG]

H1-KEY poses during the showcase on July 6. [GLG]

Shortly after its debut, H1-KEY went through a major change — former member Sitala had to depart from the quartet due to personal reasons, and the group was left in the tricky situation of facing such a significant change from the start.
Fortunately, Hwiseo was able to join the team. Although “Run” was a comeback for the other three members, it was a long-awaited debut for Hwiseo. With over nine years of experience as a trainee, she seamlessly blended into the team and plays a key part in the group’s vocals and dance.
Highs and lows

Before joining H1-KEY, Hwiseo went through some tumultuous trainee years — “A little short of a decade,” she recalls.
“I had so many of my planned debuts get canceled last minute that I got used to it,” said Hwiseo. “But I loved practicing. Just like how other kids keep studying, I have been doing this my entire life. So I got back on track quickly every time, but the hardest part was saying goodbye to fellow trainees after our team’s debut got canceled.”

To those going through a slump like she once did, Hwiseo says she recommends “Drive” by Miyeon of (G)I-DLE to regain hope.

“Get away from the grey world […] Go wherever I want to, for myself,” she sang. “It’s about searching to find the light, even if things may seem dark right now. The song gives me peace of mind, and I’ve been putting it on repeat ever since it dropped.”

Promotional image for H1-KEY's new EP "Run" [GLG]

Promotional image for H1-KEY's new EP "Run" [GLG]

Compared to many K-pop groups that often have the same debut lineup train together for years, H1-KEY members met each other only relatively recently. As the team’s leader, Seoi says she encouraged members to always share even their most trivial thoughts and feelings in order to form strong bonds, quickly.
“We had a shorter amount of time than others to form a team spirit,” she said. “I emphasized to the girls, let’s be ourselves and talk to each other a lot, and I meant it. I shared even the most ridiculously small things, like, 'I was so annoyed today because my zipper got stuck.' Whether it is positive or negative, trivial or serious, we share every emotion.”

“They were my eonni [older girl or sister], and since we live together, they feel like my mom,” said Yel. “I asked them for advice about everything and talked about everything, including my worries. When I reread my diary from my trainee years, I can see how much they patiently listened to me whining.”
Yel added that whenever she needs to dispel her worries, she turns on upbeat confidence anthems like 2NE1’s “I Am The Best” or Stray Kids' “Maniac.”
Twice's eighth EP "Feel Special" (2019) [JYP ENTERTAINMENT]

Twice's eighth EP "Feel Special" (2019) [JYP ENTERTAINMENT]

For Seoi, her go-to song for a confidence boost is “Feel Special” by Twice.

“The part that gives me energy is ‘Sometimes I feel like nothing; But when I hear you calling me; I feel loved, I feel so special,’” she said. “When I’m feeling down, the song reminds me that there are people who care about me. It’s a warm and comforting song for my self-esteem.”
M1-KEY is our key

“When I debuted, I wondered what fans would say to us when we met in person,” Riina said. She would soon find out that the love from H1-KEY’s fandom, M1-KEY, pronounced "my key," is even more heartwarming than she expected.

“They told me, ‘You shine beautifully when you’re on stage,’” she continued. “I had only vaguely imagined being told something like that. But looking into that fans’ eyes while hearing that, I got choked up. The gratitude is what makes us keep on working hard.”

Suzy's second EP "Faces of Love" (2018) [JYP ENTERTAINMENT]

Suzy's second EP "Faces of Love" (2018) [JYP ENTERTAINMENT]

“They’re my friends that I can always rely on, so I’m always thinking about how I also can cheer up the ones who love and support us,” Seoi said. “The song ‘Holiday’ by Suzy comes to mind. It’s a tranquil song with soft-spoken lyrics. Giving fans a striking performance is great too, but more than that, I want to be a subtle breeze of joy that lingers in their everyday lives.”
The future ahead

Just half a year into its career, H1-KEY is already looking forward to the end of the year and what it has in store for them: awards ceremonies, best new artist nominations and special year-end stage performances.
“We’re happy ‘Run’ received even more love than our previous release,” said Yel. “I feel we’ve taken a step forward. As rookies, we’re continuing to build on our athletic concept to grow into something unique. We’ll work hard on our next album so we can come back for more love!”
“The path ahead of us is going to be like a journey with our fans,” Hwiseo said, paring her hopes with the song “Travel” by BOL4. “I hope our journey is a happy one, spending a lot of time with them.”

 Girl group H1-KEY sat down for an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily on July 18 in Yeongdeungpo District, western Seoul. [JEON TAE-GYU]

Girl group H1-KEY sat down for an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily on July 18 in Yeongdeungpo District, western Seoul. [JEON TAE-GYU]

H1-KEY’s Playlist
01. H1-KEY - Run
02. Girls' Generation - Gee
03. aespa - Dreams Come True
04. Lee Hyo-ri – U-Go-Girl
05. Blackpink - Pretty Savage
06. Kara - Pretty Girl
07. Oh My Girl - Dolphin
08. ITZY - Swipe
09. Song Ha-yea - Happy
10. Jonghyun of SHINee - End of a day
11. Miyeon of (G)I-DLE - Drive
12. 2NE1 - I Am The Best
13. Stray Kids - Maniac
15. GOT7 - Lullaby
16. IU - Blueming
17. Twice - Feel Special
18. Suzy - Holiday
19. HyunA - Flower Shower
20. Joy of Red Velvet – Hello
21. Yena - Smiley
22. BOL4 - Travel
23. NCT Dream - Hello Future

Celeb Confirmed: Get to Know H1-KEY


Date of birth: Feb. 12, 2000
Zodiac sign: Aquarius  
Birthplace: Seocho District, Seoul  
Debut: January 2022 as a member of H1-KEY  
Agency: GLG

Date of birth: Feb. 21, 2001  
Zodiac sign: Pisces  
Birthplace: Dongjak District, Seoul
Debut: January 2022 as a member of H1-KEY  
Agency: GLG
Date of birth: Jul. 31, 2002
Zodiac sign: Leo  
Birthplace: Seongnam, Gyeonggi
Debut: January 2022 as a member of H1-KEY  
Agency: GLG

Date of birth: Dec. 25, 2004
Zodiac sign: Capricorn  
Birthplace: Changwon, South Gyeongsang
Debut: January 2022 as a member of H1-KEY  
Agency: GLG

This information was confirmed by GLG on July 18.

BY HALEY YANG [yang.hyunjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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