[OSEN=정준화 기자] “WINNER is WINNER” and “WINNER = WINNER”. WINNER is WINNER in that their album swept the charts upon release and that they have become a one-of-a-kind group, distinctive from any other boy groups.
A year and five months have passed since their last album. WINNER was the first YG artist to release a new album in 2016. At 12 AM on February 1, they made a comeback releasing their mini-album “EXIT:E”.
As expected, they have topped all the charts. Their title song “BABY BABY” became no.1 on all the real-time charts of major music streaming websites such as MelOn, Olleh Music, Naver Music, Soribada, and Bugs. The other title song “SENTIMENTAL” also took the no.2 spot of major charts and ranked first place on the chart of Mnet.com. All the tracks of WINNER’s new album have taken the charts by storm with “IMMATURE” and “I’M YOUNG” also high up on the charts.
They have been away for such a long time, so we wanted to know what they did during their break and how the album was made. We asked straightforward questions about how they felt about topping all the charts upon the release of their album, their rival iKON, and BIGBANG, and WINNER gave honest answers.
The following is the questions and answers of WINNER’s interview, which took place at a café in Seokyo-dong, Seoul on the day of the album’s release:
How do you feel now that you have made a comeback?
SEUNGYOON: “It took 17 months to release this album. I’m so happy, and the memories of the past 17 months flash before my eyes. I felt slightly emotional during our live show on V App yesterday. I’m really thrilled. I’m also thankful to our fans since they have waited for so long. Our break wasn’t just about taking some time off. We wanted to put in enough time so that we can come up with music that can move people’s hearts. That’s why we were able to make a comeback with this great album.”
How have you been?
SEUNGYOON: “I’ve worked on the album, and practiced. I’ve also did a web drama.”
TAEHYUN: “I’ve started to learn the guitar. I’ve been taking instrumental music lessons, and I did some individual activities. Most of the time, I was in the studio.”
MINO: “I’ve done ‘Show Me The Money 4’ for more than six months. Then, I worked on songs to make this album.”
SEUNGHOON: “I’ve been working on the songs. I’ve stayed in our group house and had some me time.”
JINWOO: “I’ve been taking foreign language lessons, drum lessons, and vocal lessons. I’ve also been working hard to show you an improved JINWOO.”
Your album topped the charts. How do you feel?
SEUNGYOON: “I’m so thankful and honored.”
TAEHYUN: “While I was making the songs, I didn’t think about making songs that would top the charts. I didn’t want to get hung up on the chart results. But then, I’m a human being, so I guess I somewhat wanted the songs to do well on the charts. I was really nervous though because I knew that the members and the staff really worked hard for this. I suppose I was thinking about the chart results.”
When writing the lyrics and music, was there anything particular that you wanted to achieve?
TAEHYUN: “I really wanted the songs to be sincere, to convey true feelings.”
Surely, with such a successful debut album, you must have felt a lot of pressure.
SEUNGYOON: “Reviews are very subjective. Our last album did well on the charts, but we weren’t fully satisfied with all the songs. We felt that there were some areas that we need to work on, and that’s why we’ve worked harder this time. In a way, we were thankful to be given such a long time. We were able to grow as artists and make good music because we were given enough time. We really do think that we’ve matured as musicians.”
How do you make an album?
MINO: “There are no rules. When you start setting limits, it’s hard to think outside the box. So we don’t have any rules and we work freely and just follow our feelings.”
What kind of a group is WINNER?
TAEHYUN:“Well, we don’t try be anything that we’re not or try to create a trend. When I see the members work, I think all of us try really hard to translate their thoughts and feelings into music.”
SEUNGYOON: “We might suddenly switch to hip-hop or dance music. We haven’t set any rules.”
Renowned musicians covered “BABY BABY”. Didn’t you feel pressured?
SEUNGYOON: “I was so worried, worried to death. All of them were famous and great musicians. Honestly, I think that they sang the song better than I did. I was really worried when the covers were revealed. I thought that it might backfire on us. But, in the end, all went well and covers really helped in promoting the songs.”
Do you have any performances prepared for this album?
TAEHYUN: “We’ve prepared fun choreography for ‘SENTIMENTAL’. We’ll be doing the first TV performance of ‘SENTIMENTAL’ in a few days and you’ll be able to check it out then. Don’t miss it. If you do the dance when you’re feeling sentimental, it will help to relieve your stress. But, you have to be alone when you dance.”
Tell us about the “EXIT” project.
SEUNGYOON: “We’re not sure yet, but three more album will come out. We want to really get things going this year with our mini-albums. The project is about showing our different sides. We haven’t decided on the songs and other details. We’re still working on the songs. We’ll tell you the details later.”.”
How did it feel to see iKON promoting their album?
SEUNGYOON: “We’re very close, but people think of us as rivals. We compete in good faith. iKON recently held a solo concert in Korea. I thought I would get jealous. But then, when the concert actually took place and when I watched the clips of the concerts, it was awesome. Unbelievably awesome. They did their solo concert before we did, but we’ll have concerts too. I think we’re in a win-win relationship. We do have a solo concert planned.”
Did Mr. Yang help a lot?
TAEHYUN: “We’re so thankful because it really showed that he cared. He gave us a lot of advice on everything even on the plot of our music videos, and as a result, we were able to come up with a high quality album. He told us to be ourselves.”
What’s the story behind NAM TAEHYUN’s solo “I’M YOUNG”?
TAEHYUN: “I wrote the song with all my heart. I didn’t plan to release the song, but Mr. Yang heard it by chance and decided to put the song on the album. I made the song ages ago. I was startled to see “TAEHYUN’s solo” written on the track list. I was afraid. It scared me to think that my story would be put out in the world. But after a while, I felt that it is an honest song about sincere feelings, and honesty always wins.”
Members participated in writing the lyrics, right?
MINO: “Parts of the lyrics such as ‘Only looking at the ceiling’ are real feelings. It’s what we felt when we were feeling sentimental in our house. All the lyrics came from our experience. During our break, we couldn’t go out much because people would stare at us, so we would spend our days in our house. You’d fell really lonely and want to ask some to make you feel better. All those feelings are in the lyrics.”
MINO: “We were young and inexperienced when making our debut album, so we had to imagine things. I felt like a novel writer. Of course, we made up some parts of the lyrics, but mostly they are based on our experience and feelings. In that sense, I believe we’ve grown.”
Don’t you (LEE SEUNGHOON and KIM JINWOO) want to do solo songs?
SEUNGHOON: “Mr. Yang talked about that. He told us to make lots of songs, and we already have. I think we’ll also be able to release solo songs during the “EXIT” project. When members do solos, it gives much more variety when doing concerts. So I definitely think you’ll see our solos on our to-be-released mini-albums.”
Does BIGBANG have a big influence on you in terms of music?
SEUNGYOON: “I don’t think so. They inspire us for sure. They have put YG on a stable path. We respect them and it’s amazing to see them evolve every time they release an album. They have continued to grow for ten years and that’s huge. Of course, their music is inspiring but we get most inspired by the fact that they keep making progress.”
TAEHYUN: “If you get too hung up on their music, you start copying their music. Mr. Yang told us specifically to do our music. When we first started, we were of course influenced by YG type of music. We were asked to do BIGBANG-like hip hop music. But we tried to do our music and Mr. Yang realized that it’s what suits us the most and it’s also what people like.”
SONG MINHO’s lyrics that went “without the backing of YG” became quite an issue.
MINO: “It shows my determination and my spirit. It doesn’t mean I want to get out. It just means I want to achieve things on my own without riding on the back of YG.”
Wasn’t it hard doing ‘Show Me The Money’, SONG MINHO?
MINO: “There were times that were really hard. That’s why I made “FEAR” for the semi-finals. I got a lot of support from members and my family. Who else can I depend on? I got strength to carry on from them, and I felt that I have to be responsible when doing music.”