By Mafe Morales | @brekkerxuxi
On November 17th, 2020, SM Entertainment debuted their highly anticipated girl group, æspa, with the release of their debut single, “Black Mamba.” The four-member group consists of leader Karina, main rapper Giselle, lead vocalist Winter, and maknae and main vocalist NingNing. æspa debuted with a global focus and a particularly innovative AI concept, the ‘æ’ in the name is a combination of ‘avatar x experience’ and ‘aspect’, referring to the experience between the avatar and its own self.
Within 24 hours of its debut, the “Black Mamba” music video became the most viewed debut video by a K-Pop group with 21.4 million views—beating the record set by Itzy’s 2019 “Dalla Dalla”—and gained over 84 million views on YouTube in just one month. The song is described by the company as an electro-pop and dance-pop track on a signature synth sound.
Æspa is SM’s first girl group to debut since Red Velvet in 2014, and the first overall idol group since NCT in 2016. With the four members hailing from Korea, Japan, and China, they aim to reach a global audience by interacting with fans on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, Weibo, Vlive, and their YouTube channel. The members expressed their excitement to perform for their fans through their Vlive channel and introduced their official fandom club as ‘MY’.
In the world of ‘æ,’ the avatar version of æspa, ‘MY’ means “my most precious friend” and to æspa, their fans are the most precious ones. The release of their song introduced fans to new words and expressions, such as the “KWANGYA,” connecting back to the group’s A.I concept, opening the door for fans to experience the world of æspa.
‘KWANGYA’ is the world where the ‘æ’ version of the members live, along with the ‘villain’ of the world ‘Black Mamba.’ The song alludes to the disruption that the black mamba partakes in. “You wonder in this KWANGYA,” refers to the villain’s attempt to interfere with the connection between æspa and their ‘æ’ self, making it harder for them to communicate with each other.
An interesting aspect of the ‘æ’ is how they grow stronger by learning from their other selves that live in ‘FLAT’—the ‘real world’—which indicates the significance of their connection and relationship with each other.
Before the release of the song, they introduced the ‘SYNK’ clips. The ‘SYNK’ is what allows each member to link with the ‘æ.’ These clips give fans an opportunity to become more familiar with the members. The more in ‘SYNK’ the members are with the ‘æ,’ the stronger the connection, the communication, and the avatar become.
The clips introduced æ-Karina, æ-Giselle, æ-Winter, and æ-NingNing by letting the members and the ‘æ’ interact. These clips also showed how the members and ‘æ’ learn from each other—another aspect of their concept.
Æspa made their debut appearance on the music show ‘Music Bank’ on November 20th, along with appearing on ‘The Show Champion’ and ‘Inkigayo’, and in this year’s MAMA (Mnet Asian Music Award), where they performed “Black Mamba.” They’ve also been nominated in the Seoul Music Awards 2021 for three categories: Rookie of the Year, K-Wave Popularity and Popularity Award, as well as in the Gaon Awards for MuBear Global Choice (Female).
The four-member group made their way to No.100 on the Billboard Global Music (US not included) only three days after the release of the song, recorded the highest-ranked debut song by a K-Pop artist, and ranked No. 1 on the Korean chart QQ. They also ranked 138th on the US Billboard’s Global 200 chart released on December 1st, and have around two million monthly listeners on Spotify, a surprising number for the freshly debuted group.
The group did not debut without some setbacks. Not long after the release of the music video teaser, the company was accused of plagiarizing work from the German visual artist Timo Helgert, who highlighted the similarities between his work and the scenes portrayed in the video teaser. The situation was quickly managed by the agency privately with the artist, SM informed that they had contacted the artist and that, “The artist and company understood our agency’s planning and production process and they confirmed that they have no objections to the music video scene.”
Æspa is a very promising group and fans are excited and looking forward to what the future holds for them. The group participated in the SMTOWN LIVE ‘Culture Humanity’ on January 1st with other artists of the company such as their Sunbaes Red Velvet and groups like TVXQ, and SuperM, plus solo performances including SNSD’s Taeyeon and Shinee’s Taemin. The free virtual concert also happened to be the same day as member Winter’s 20th birthday, surely excited æspa was happy to share these two moments with ‘MY’.
ÆSPA, Be my ‘MY’!