Exceptional fact – therefore notable – in France, a K-Pop group offered a signing session to its fans. æspa lent itself to the game for two hundred privileged people, this Monday, October 3rd.
Silence falls on the top floor of Fnac des Ternes, converted into a meeting place, Monday, October 3, 2022. After a few moments of feverish impatience, the cries of æspa fans redouble. On their last title “Girls”, the four members of the group make their entrance. Ningning (19), the youngest opens the ball. Follow Karina (22 years old), the leader of the group, Winter (21 years old) and finally Giselle (21 years old).
As soon as they arrive, they generously greet their audience and laugh a few words of hesitant French, before settling down for the signatures. Usually reserved for South Korea or Japan, a signing session is a unique event in France. For an hour, the members who came to Paris for Fashion Week as the face of Givenchy, chained the signatures.
“I’m so stressed”, “I think I’m going to cry”, blurt out some fans who were lucky enough to have a place, sold out in a handful of seconds. Young girls and young men make up a heterogeneous audience. Armed with their albums, their “lightsicks” (light sticks bearing the image of the group brandished during K-Pop concerts), photos of the singers stuck in their phones, two hundred French “MYs” (name of the community of fans) met the group.
— Seraphine (@seraphine_roger) October 3, 2022
This is the opportunity of a lifetime for some, so they will have repeated the few words of French, English or Korean that they wanted to say to the members. But hardly time to shake hands with their idol, to compliment her or to share an anecdote with her that you have to make way for the next one.
A revolutionary concept
To understand the æspa craze, you have to go back to the genesis of the group. Behind the quartet: SM Entertainment – South Korea’s leading production house and pioneer in the system of recruiting and training future “idols”. Several scenarios apply to K-Pop lovers. Some are attached to a group, others lean towards male or female formations while others identify with a production house. SM Entertainment can rely on its strong fanbase for each of the groups it releases in the market. In addition to betting on the right talent, æspa had fans even before his debut.
Always on the lookout for innovative ideas SM Entertainment imagines a concept that has never been explored before. æspa will consist of four singers, accompanied by their virtual doubles. æspa is therefore Karina, Giselle, Winter, Ningning, æ-KARINA, æ-GISELLE, æ-WINTER and æ-NINGNING.
Among other meanings, æspa may result from the merging of the words “avatar” and “experience”. In lyrics and music videos, the singers reference the Black Mamba, a dark force operating in the form of a giant dark serpent. He made his first appearance in the clip for the launch single “Black Mamba”, released in November 2020, before settling as the leitmotif of their adventures. In “Girls”, their last title released in July, they manage to defeat him, marking the end of a first era.
To amplify the experience, æspa evolves in a world made from scratch. Karina, Giselle, Winter, Ningning, their virtual doubles as well as the Black Mamba, challenge each other in a particular universe, the KWANGYA, to be translated as wild nature. This world makes the junction between reality and the FLAT, a space where their virtual doubles (the æ) reside. To go to the country of KWANGYAyou have to go through an artificial intelligence system, the NAEVISwhich allows æspa avatars to evolve in the real world, and to support the singers in their fight against the Black Mamba.
Initiated by æspa, the parallel world of KWANGYA now connects all K-Pop groups from the production house SM Entertainment. EXO mentions it in his latest single “Don’t Fight the Feeling”, NCT U in his hit “90’s Love” or NCT Dream in “Hello Future”.
æspa, the next generation of SM Entertainment
Taking advantage of the long break – now over – of the mega group BLACKPINK and the uncertainty of the future of the very popular TWICE, æspa slipped into the breach left open by the female behemoths, even offering itself a passage at Coachella in June. But their fame is explained above all by the vocal abilities of the singers, their ease on stage and the singularity of the titles offered to them.
The production company SM Entertainment – founded by Lee Soo Man in 1995 – has built a unique sound identity with a program of catchy rhythms (“Don’t Call Me” by SHINee), the sound revolution (“Sticker” by NCT 127), uninhibited borrowings (“Feel My Rhythm” by Red Velvet covering Bach’s “Air on the G string”, “Love Shot” by EXO and its plagiarism of “Back To You” by Louis Tomlinson) . The same recipe applies to æspa’s promotional singles: powerful bass in “Black Mamba”, metallic melodies for “Savage” and cover with “Next Level”, taken from the soundtrack of “Fast & Furious Presents : Hobbs & Shaw. The song was also deemed too entertaining for students, and banned from the radios during the very studious period of exams.
A stroke of genius or a cleverly thought-out marketing operation to shine the light on their young talents, Karina and Winter were recruited into the GOT the beat formation – the first part of a larger musical project. Alongside them are soloist BoA, Taeyeon and Hyoyeon from Girl’s Generation, Seulgi and Wendy from Red Velvet, all billed as the production house’s female elite. The opportunity to bring together fans of several groups and to present them, implicitly, other talents. SM Entertainment had already launched its super male group with a masterful cast (Baekhyun and Kai from EXO, Taemin from SHINee, Ten and Lucas from WayV, Taeyong from NCT 127 and Mark from NCT 127 and NCT Dream). The launch of “K-Pop’s Avengers” did not have the expected commercial breakthrough, but the project received warm support from K-Pop fans.
Like æspa, South Korean pop is reshuffling the cards of the music industry by offering a permanent stream of varied content, redoubling creative initiatives, all skilfully offered to the public through formidable marketing operations.
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Aespa, the group from the future, passing through France
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