K-pop's global popularity is nothing if not astounding. Everyone from pro-wrestlers like John Cena to the 2015 Miss Universe, Pia Wurtzback, have expressed their undying love for it. Likewise, every day hundreds of young women and men dream of debuting as part of the next popular K-pop idol group. Until recently, almost everyone in K-pop was of Asian descent, even if they were not Korean. Think Lisa of Black Pink and Jackson of GOT7. When American singer/rapper, Alex Reid, debuted in 2015 with BP RaNia, dreams soared with the hope that the door would remain open for non-Asians to become idols.
Some entertainment companies are onboard with the idea. In 2019, UnionWave Entertainment held a global audition, and five women were picked to become the first international K-pop group of the company. I was curious to talk with the newly formed group because I've noticed an upward tick in international group debuts and the changing trend of fan acceptance. As a longtime K-pop fan, I know how temperamental some fans can be. I was both concerned and hopeful about how UnionWave Entertainment was planning to prove that their group is the real deal and not just a gimmick.
As usual, before the interview, I checked out their social media to get a feel for the members' trainee life. As any K-pop fan knows, trainee days are a vital part of becoming an idol. It is also an excellent time for groups to start building a connection with potential fans. Before I tell you what I found, let me introduce the group. They include leader Gyeongmin (South Korea), rapper Chaerin (South Korea), dancer Najung (Hong Kong), and vocalists Nia (Spain) and Miriam (Italy).
I found their YouTube channel first. Although there were only three videos at the time of this article, I could tell that UnionWave Entertainment wanted to be clear that this group is serious. The first video is a dance cover of Red Velvet's Psycho. It showcases their dance skills and a tiny bit of their stage presence. The next is a video with the lead vocalist, Nia, singing Ailee's I Will Go to You Like the First Snow.
Ailee is known to be a powerhouse singer, so I had high expectations. Even though I felt Nia held back from really belting out certain notes, overall, I feel like she did a solid job. A quick glance at the comment section echoed my thoughts. Watch the video and tell me what you think. After watching the videos, I became even more intrigued. Considering the reception that groups like EXP and KAACHI have received, I wondered what made them want to start this journey? Of course, it was one of the first questions I asked in the interview.
What made you want to be in a K-pop group?
Most of the members share a similar story. Music has always been something they loved and enjoyed. Singing was only a fantasy until a personal experience with music inspired them to believe in their dreams. Nia warmly expressed how deep music is for her, saying, "It's not just about K-pop. To me, music is something that I can present to express myself." Since she brought it up about expressing herself, I asked about the Ailee cover. She said that even though she felt it wasn't 100%, she really enjoys the song. "I wanted to give more, but I know that takes time. Singing in another language can be difficult."
K-pop fans know that trainee life is brutal, so I asked about their daily routine and whether they had any free time. Gyeongmin and Najung responded that even when the group has any free time, they still choose to practice. A typical day includes dancing and singing lessons. The international members also take Korean language classes to help with their communication. Hearing that reminded me that because this is an international group, surely there have been some difficulties with the language barrier or culture. Miriam explained that it's natural to have some challenges, but they are good at talking things out. It warmed my heart to hear that.
Much too quickly, our conversation was coming to an end. I couldn't, however, leave without asking these two critical questions. What will your group name be, and when are you debuting? Najung replied that they were planning on debuting this summer. As for their group name, "We have one, but it's a secret for now."
Debuting in a group can be a nerve-wracking experience for anyone, let alone aspiring to be one of the first to change a norm in the industry, however, their courage and experiences could potentially lead to more K-pop groups with international members outside of Asia. If so, they may be considered pioneers. So, maybe it's all worth it. Either way, I wish much success to the women of UnionWave Entertainment's new group.
Be sure to check out their YouTube channel and follow them on social media. I hope you'll join me in looking forward to their debut!