(G)I-DLE Open Up About Pressures Ahead of ‘Nxde’ Release & The Teamwork Guiding Them Today
From a profane, punk-rock single to a modernized opera aria inspired by Marilyn Monroe — not to mention, a world tour in between — (G)I-DLE has made 2022 their year to show the ways they are shaking up norms in the K-pop scene with the perspective to refresh everything they previously knew.
While more than a year without new music in the fast-moving K-pop scene is risky for a younger group like (G)I-DLE, the outfit spent most of 2021 focusing on their individual careers with solo albums, acting, TV work, overseas trips and more. When they returned in March this year, the group could have opted for something safe–this comeback made all the more complicated following member Soojin’s departure in August 2021–and rehashed an easy return to the top of the charts. Their electro-pop collab with Madison Beer “Pop/Stars” was (G)I-DLE’s first No. 1 on World Digital Song Sales, plus all five of their past EPs have charted on World Albums since their first appearance in 2018–they knew what worked.
Instead, (G.I-DLE) opted for a bolder message and sound and began “starting over” again.
Full-length album I Never Die from March was centered around songs meant to inspire confidence to break prejudices. (G)I-DLE leader Soyeon spoke directly to the heart and message of the LP. Songs like “Tomboy”, a hard-hitting rock-pop track with a “Yeh I’m F–ing Tomboy” hook, and “Never Stop Me” were also included. Yuqi and Minnie also contributed to songwriting and production on other tracks. “Tomboy”, the group’s biggest hit in Korea, helped them connect with fans around the world during their Just Me ( ( )I-dle World Tour, which ran from June through October. They then attempted to break new records with their next step.
For the newly released I Love EP, Soyeon, Minnie and Yuqi are once again all over the album credits that explore the concept of love by being, literally, stripped down to one’s most genuine self, and incorporating inspiration from Kurt Cobain’s famous quote, “I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.”
Ahead of the release of I Love, (G)I-DLE opened up more the honesty that comes from such punk inspirations. Soyeon explained that ‘Nxde’ uses ‘nude to metaphorically describe the genuine and confident side. “The word nude’ can be interpreted as a provocative term, and people might wonder, ‘Why’ is it called that? Is it too explicit? It’s not a’makeup-less’ face. That’s how I saw “nude” wearing the real you.
Miyeon said, “Just as the title itself, this album only talks about love. The one who receives our love can be our friends, family, or any other type of love. So we left the object blank [in I Love] on purpose because we respect all those kinds of love.”
(G)I–DLE also cited Marilyn Monroe and other stars as a source of inspiration. Soyeon describes Marilyn Monroe as “the blonde beauty” when she was a star. “I heard she was intelligent and a huge fan of books, especially philosophical ones. The standards of living change over time. People judge you based on your appearance, even if you have designer bags. Each era has its own stereotype.” Miyeon said, “Regardless of whether there are positive or negative stereotypes, you cannot judge a book by its cover .”
The group’s messages are connecting more than ever: I Love became (G)I-DLE’s first album to enter the Billboard 200, debuting at No. 71, after nearly four-and-a-half years into their careers. The six-song debut also ranks at No. 9 on Top Album Sales (dated Nov. 5) with 10,000 copies sold, according to Luminate.
Continue reading for more reflections by Soyeon
, Yuqi, Miyeon, Shuhua and Minnie on rebuilding, reuniting worldwide fans and pushing each other to take the next step.
First, I want to congratulate you on how successful things have been since the I Never Die album. Did you take a moment to reflect on why you are connecting with so many people?
Soyeon: I think what we presented with this album was very bold and audacious for a K-pop group, which is why a lot of people loved it. It was also very honest.
Minnie: I Never Die was the first full album–many fans were waiting for this album for so long because we hadn’t made a comeback in a year and a few months.
Do you feel a sense of relief about the fact that it did well? It was a difficult journey, you’ve shared. What’s your mindset these days?
Soyeon: I’d have to say “no” right away. We want to make sure that the next presentation we give is just as exciting, fresh, and surprising as the one we have just presented.
Yuqi: No one knew how pressured we were at the time because (G)I-DLE always looks like we are strong and really stable in our team, but we were apart for about a year. We went to our respective countries to pursue personal activities. When we returned to Korea, we just said “Wow!” We didn’t realize how strenuous we were at that time. We thought this was our last time together. That’s how strained it was.
Minnie: We put everything into it.
Yuqi: No one knew it because we always look so strong and like nothing happened, but it actually wasn’t like that. It’s like that in life! [Laughs] Life is about challenges, life has ups and downs, but if you give up, everything will just end. Our fans were our kind of energy because they were waiting for us. We couldn’t give up. We put everything we had into it and didn’t want anyone to leave us behind.
What does that look like when you say you put everything into it? A lot of rehearsal? Late nights in the studio
Yuqi: It’s not only about the physical practicing, but a collective feeling. Although we were apart for a while, I felt the energy and strength that everyone gave me when we gathered together again. That’s teamwork. This is teamwork. Everyone has the same goal, they all have the same dream, so it’s teamwork. It’s not physical, it’s mental. The mental must be completely different.
Minnie: But even the choreography, we’re always brainstorming, like, “Oh, should we do this or that?” We want to pick best version of everything.
Soyeon: And “Tomboy” has the censored beep, right? There were many versions of the beep. There were many other candidates for the lead single, and there was no Tomboy. I had many thoughts about how to approach this single and what song should we use for this type track. I started working on the songs with the thought, “Maybe I should try this type of music.” Perhaps I should talk about it or try this type of concept.” We also recorded additional recordings a thousand more times. We were very careful when making a final decision.
The sound of “Tomboy” was striking. This harder, punk sound wasn’t expected and I’m curious how you decided to go that way to make such a long-awaited comeback?
Soyeon: I grew up listening to a lot of punk rock, I liked Avril Lavigne a lot too. I have always believed that pop-punk or teen rock music is something I would like to try. I wanted to do something different with this group, so I decided that now was the right time to give that sound and genre a try.
Yuqi: I’m a super fan of rockers and in my solo album, I did a rock too so I was super excited about the track the first time.
Minnie: I think we all love “Tomboy” and its style. Although it was challenging for us to experiment with a new style, we enjoyed the preparation.
How was the U.S. leg of your Just Me ( )I-dle tour?
Soyeon: Since this is our first U.S. tour, we’re really happy and grateful to meet our Neverland, our fans, in the U.S. for the first time. Although this is our first time touring the U.S., we’re amazed by how the fans will sing along to everything and enjoy everything. It’s been amazing to feel the passion and excitement of our fans.
Minnie: We went to cities like Dallas, Houston, Chicago and, except for New York and San Francisco, it was the first time we visited these cities so it was all very new.
Miyeon: I like to capture my own moments in each of the cities because all the cities are so different and I want to enjoy all the different vibes. My updates are shared daily on social media, which is why my fans have seen so many of them.
You describe the “Tomboy” single as taking on a new persona. You can embrace different personas while on tour.
Yuqi: Before, we just attended KCON or joined another concert with the other artists, but this is the first time for us to have a full concert. We can show the title song [singles], and other genres. We’re doing rock, hip-hop, or ballads for the first time. I think our fans will feel that it’s so unique for idols in this genre of music. It’s our first time doing something like this and it’s very exciting. We can also be in an emotional mood, as when we sing a lot at concerts in Seoul. It’s good to show our fans many different sides.
Soyeon: I think rather than seeing it as a new persona of us, I think that the lyric “just me I-DLE” [from “Tomboy”] is real. We’d never shown this side of (G.I-DLE) before. But it’s our true selves and we’re being honest with ourselves.
I also liked how you spoke about how you want to be “I-DLE,” with not as much focus on the “G.” There’s your lyric, too: “It’s neither man nor woman, just me I-DLE.” I’d like to hear more about the inspiration behind that.
Soyeon: As you know, the “G” represents yeoja, or “girl” [in Korean], right? We were raised with the belief that we don’t want to conform to any social boundaries or prejudices. This doesn’t have to do just with gender, but it was the easiest way to show that mindset, especially as we have the “G”. This is just one way we show that we don’t want any boundaries, regardless if you are a woman or a man.
Artists are opening up when they’re more comfortable using gender-neutral pronouns for themselves and in their lyrics. Is this an idea that is related to the expectations placed on girl groups?
Soyeon: We’re very aware of gender-neutral terminology, but what we’re doing now isn’t primarily because we want to find a gender-neutral term but it’s more of trying to make a genre of our own. (G)I_DLE should be our own genre, regardless of gender, age, or anything.
Minnie: And we respect everything.
Does being on tour help you find more of the (G)I-DLE genre?
Soyeon: We are fascinated by how we can still interact and communicate with their audience when we’re singing in Korean so we’ve felt that music does not have any language boundaries.
Yuqi: When I do the concerts, I receive a lot of different responses from our fans. Different cultures have different responses, so it is possible that when I do the concerts in Korea, my fans will have different responses. But when we do it in America, I can reach a part like “Oh, they’re more excited about that part.” This can give me inspiration to make my music more enjoyable and have more “killing” parts.
Miyeon: The hotel that we were staying in New York is right in front of where we did our flash mob a few years ago. We reflected on that moment and had a lot of fun. This was a huge motivator for us to return to New York and see the spot again, as well as to think back to our rookie days.
Minnie: Because at that time, we were a very new group with only one single and one mini album. Now, we’re on a world tour. It’s like “This is crazy.”
We met for Billboard then. We met for Billboard then.
Minnie: We were such rookies and so young.
Yuqi: Yeah, we were such rookies but super excited to be here for the first time in New York City. Our very first flash mob was held, I believe we did a cover of “Fake Love”. We had the BTS cover and we didn’t perform “Hann,” right? We were preparing for our “Hann” comeback.
Minnie: But we’re happy to be back.
This tour is about old material, new material, everything, including “Hann.” How was it been preparing specifically all these songs as five now?
Soyeon: We had to practice our blocking–all the movements, transitions, and everything–from scratch. So we had to practice our blocking–all the movements, transitions, and everything–from scratch.
Shuhua, I’ve seen you taking up many more lines now too, specifically. What has been your experience?
Shuhua: Aside from all the group practices, I also dedicated a lot of my time doing individual practice. I would take private lessons with my teachers and discuss ideas, such as “How can this be my style?” This was my mindset and I practiced a lot.
You’ve all worked on your own in 2021. How does this contribute to your group’s (G)I -DLE work this year?
Minnie: I went to Thailand where I had some time promoting solo and I started to realize again how important and how precious that I have my members by my side. It’s tiring and hard to do everything by myself. It was a great experience to do things on my own. But when I returned to Korea, I was like, “Oh yeah.” I feel like I’m home.”
Soyeon: There is no time where we are not working on new music so we’re always thinking about the next album and the new music. We want to present a new kind of fun and new message with I Love and “Nxde.”
Anything else to add right now?
Yuqi: (G)I-DLE never die.
Minnie: We’re back! We are all back. We were so happy to finally have a world tour and to be able to meet our fans in person. We are grateful for your support and patience. We won’t let you down and we’re back with a new album. Please continue to follow us.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.