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K-pop Legends SUPER JUNIOR Talk ‘The Renaissance’ And Reflect On Their Career

SUPER JUNIOR

Photo Courtesy of SM Entertainment

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K-pop Legends SUPER JUNIOR Talk ‘The Renaissance’ And Reflect On Their Career

SUPER JUNIOR has achieved an enviable status in K-pop and on their 10th full-length album, 'The Renaissance,' released in March, there is the confidence and fluidity of a veteran act that has traversed the expanse of genres in their 15-year career

GRAMMYs/Apr 24, 2021 - 02:46 am

If ever there was a truth about K-pop, it is that its landscape is as unpredictable as it gets. Every year the industry churns out new acts and swallows up old ones. Longevity in an industry such as this, earmarked by new debuts and newer sensations every season, is an idealistic dream. 

Yet, as SUPER JUNIOR come off the 15th anniversary of their debut, Twins, the group, known as SUPER JUNIOR 05 at the time of its release, has achieved an enviable status in K-pop. Since the album launched in 2005, they’ve racked up 10 studio albums, two compilation albums, two EPs, and numerous live and video releases. Oh, and that’s not counting the members’ standalone releases, courtesy of the five subunits that the group siphoned off at different points in their career; or their solo work, given that each of the present nine members are consistently counted amongst some of South Korea’s most seasoned entertainers, hosts and presenters. In a genre defined by its generations, SUPER JUNIOR’s enduring dominance in the industry withstands several in K-pop history. 

The group’s success has not come without change, however. SUPER JUNIOR began with a rotational system in which the members would graduate every year, leading to a constant lineup and name change. The first "generation" of SUPER JUNIOR launched as SUPER JUNIOR 05 with 12 members. Eventually, their agency SM Entertainment abandoned the rotational system, fixing the lineup at 13 with the latest addition being vocalist—and the OG evil maknae (the youngest member in a group)— Kyuhyun. The "05" was dropped and the SUPER JUNIOR as we know it was born. With their new name, they embarked on a trajectory that made them a fixture on the awards circuit. 

In 2009, came the era of Sorry, Sorry. The album’s title track became the best-selling single of their career and a rite of initiation for newbies, propelling them to the stratosphere. Within a month of its release, the album had become the best-selling South Korean release of 2009.

Although three members would depart in the years after the successful album, the group’s follow-ups Bonamana​ (2010), Mr. Simple (2011), and Sexy, Free & Single (2012) cemented their status as leading icons of the Hallyu Wave (the Korean wave). On their 10th full-length album, The Renaissance, released in March, there is the confidence and fluidity of a veteran act that has traversed the expanse of genres in their 15-year career. 

From the nostalgia-laden disco-pop of "House Party"—reminiscent of not just the genre but also a time where physical contact was taken for granted—to the synth tunes on "Paradox," to the warm, familiar cocoon of "The Melody (‘우리에게’)" which came out in the run-up to the release of the album, SUPER JUNIOR flit from one genre to another with an ease that only comes with experience, as if reinventing themselves in the image of their past selves. There’s also a resurrection of the “classics,” as Leeteuk put it at the album’s release press conference, through "Raining Spell For Love," pulled from their 2014 album, Mamacita. 

As they kicked off a new era with The Renaissance, SUPER JUNIOR spoke to GRAMMY.com over email about their music, career and future plans. 

You kicked off The Renaissance with an animated teaser. The word refers to rebirthstarting afresh. What aspect of yourself as an act were you looking to overhaul with your 10th album? 

We wanted to show a new side to our music, especially to all our E.L.F., [our fandom] who have been waiting for this album. The only way we’re able to give back is through our music and this is something we think about every time we release an album. So, for this album as well, we had a lot of fun and that’s what we wanted to show.

Despite the teasers hinting at a new beginning, I was surprised to see you kick off this era with a remake of "Raining Spell for Love," from your album MAMACITA. Were you surprised when E.L.F voted for this song? 

We were surprised because "Raining Spell for Love" is also one of our favorites. We had a great time working on it [for this album] because we knew our fans would love a remake of the track. We hope our fans will continue sharing such thoughts with us because we’d love to make more remakes and content like this. 

This was the first time in a while when all the members were back together in the studio, and it aligned with your 15th anniversary as well. Has your process of recording/making tracks changed?

We’re all veterans now! Everyone’s prepared and there’s definitely been an upgrade when it comes to the amount of time [creating] and recording as well. It’s much faster than before! Because we’ve also developed a deeper understanding of our tracks, it allows us to create even better music.

You also remain very active in releasing music as a group, more than any act I have seen. What’s the secret to this? 

There are many reasons, but the most obvious is that we’re only able to continue doing what we do because of our E.L.F. Though we have the company’s and each other’s support, it wouldn’t be possible for them either if it wasn’t for E.L.F.!

It’s really striking that you’ve never shied away from discussing misunderstandings between members, which is very rare and refreshing. Why did you decide to take this frank and straightforward approach to your profession?

We’re all aware that misunderstandings can lead to greater conflict, if it’s left unresolved. If it’s something you can think through and resolve alone, you don’t necessarily have to open up about it, but if not, then we do believe it’s important to share and sort out.

In a 2015 interview, Leeteuk said the reason you have lasted this long is also because you understand how you’re different from each other. How did you develop this understanding? How has it affected your dynamic over the years?

Thinking back, it’s easy to think of what’s "different" as being "wrong." However, with time, we realized it might not have been a big deal. Because we’re all different people with different backgrounds, everyone’s thoughts might be right but [they’re] just "different." I think once you realize that, it’s much easier to understand one another.

How do you think the perception of idol groups has changed from when you debuted? 

When we debuted, idol [status] was simply something we perceived as part of our dream. However, with time, we’ve realized it’s much more. Through idols, people not only come to understand the country’s culture, but also become part of the culture and conversation, and are influenced by it as well. As an idol, it’s not only the music and fashion that’s important but humility and responsibility is also key. In that sense, as a brand, idols have great influential power.

If we look at the expansion of K-pop all over the world, there are so many things that are normal now that were new when you started out. The internet, for example, is everywhere, and tech has brought us closer to our idols than ever before. Everything changed so fast, how did you guys keep up with this fast-paced evolution?

As part of the "intact" era, it’s become very common to meet fans from all over the world without being restricted to a set location, which is all thanks to the development of the internet. Communication is important, and likewise, we’ve been communicating with our fans through social media which helps us to keep up since we can provide content without being limited to a specific location, and also understand our fans better.

If SUPER JUNIOR becomes the longest-running K-pop group in history, what do the members most want to be remembered for?

We hope you remember SUPER JUNIOR in connection with a specific memory. For example, "I used to dance to ‘Sorry Sorry’ with my friends in high school," "I was a huge star at my college trip because of 'Rokkugo'," or “I used to sing along to 'Cooking? Cooking!' when in elementary!" We want to be remembered as an artist who shared those precious memories with you.

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BTS Release Stunning Music Video For 'Map Of The Soul: 7' Single "Black Swan"

BTS - "Black Swan" Music Video

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BTS Release Stunning Music Video For 'Map Of The Soul: 7' Single "Black Swan"

The striking visual is the latest offering from the South Korean septet's chart-topping album

GRAMMYs/Mar 4, 2020 - 11:19 pm

BTS are back with another stunning music video off their newly released, chart-topping album Map Of The Soul: 7. Today (March 4), the global pop superstars released the official music video for "Black Swan," the first single off the album.

Simple yet striking, the "Black Swan" video shows the South Korean septet deliver a gorgeous dance performance inside an equally beautiful theater. Directed by YongSeok Choi and co-directed by Guzza, both from the Lumpens creative collective, the visual depicts the members of BTS transforming from swans into the song's eponymous black swans onstage. 

The "Black Swan" video follows the group's recent cinematic visual for Map Of The Soul: 7 single "ON," which last week (Feb. 28) broke YouTube's record for most views for a video premiere. Last month (Feb. 21), BTS released the Kinetic Manifesto Film: Come Prima, the first visual for "ON" that unfolds like a short film.

Released last month, Map Of The Soul: 7, BTS' fourth studio album, is breaking records around the world. Already the best-selling album of the year worldwide, the album topped the Billboard 200 chart, their fourth No. 1 album in the U.S., while lead single "ON" currently sits at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, marking their highest record on that chart to date.

Read: BTS Talk New Album 'Map Of The Soul: 7': "The Genre Is BTS"

In an interview with the Recording Academy last month, BTS explained their creative approach to Map Of The Soul: 7, which sees the group exploring everything from pop ballads to hip-hop jams.

"I think it's less and less meaningful to divide music into genres now," BTS member Suga said. 

"The genre is BTS. That's the genre we want to make and the music that we want. New genre," the group's Jungkook, V and J-Hope added. 

Map Of The Soul: 7 follows a dazzling performance from BTS at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards last month. They joined Lil Nas X in a star-studded performance of "Old Town Road" that also featured Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo and Mason Ramsey

Map Of The Soul: 7 marks BTS' first full-length project since their 2018 album, Love Yourself: Tear, which topped the Billboard 200 chart and solidified the group as the first Korean act to accomplish that record-setting feat. It's also the second installment in BTS' ongoing Map Of The Soul series, which launched with the chart-topping Map of the Soul: Persona EP last April.

Why is K-pop's popularity exploding in the United States?

BTS Donates $1 Million To Crew Nation To Support Out Of Work Concert Crews

BTS at 2019 GRAMMYs

Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

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BTS Donates $1 Million To Crew Nation To Support Out Of Work Concert Crews

The generous contribution comes from the K-pop supergroup and their management company, Big Hit Entertainment, and follows a $1 million donation to Black Lives Matter earlier this month

GRAMMYs/Jun 24, 2020 - 12:04 am

BTS and their management company, Big Hit Entertainment, have donated $1 million to Crew Nation, Live Nation's COVID-19 relief fund for out of work live entertainment staff. The K-pop superstars would've been on tour for the majority of the year, before coronavirus turned live music and the rest of the world upside down earlier this year.

Read: BTS Talk New Album 'Map Of The Soul: 7': "The Genre Is BTS"

"This is one of the largest artist donations that has been raised for the Crew Nation fund since its conception," a statement, shared by Variety on June 22, noted.

The event behemoth launched the fund in March with an initial $5 million, pledging to match another $5 million of donations from employees, artists and fans, according to Variety. Event crew personnel who typically make at least half of their income from live events can apply for one-time grants of $1000 via Crew Nation. Individuals living and working in any city/country can apply.

Related: Metallica Launch Month Of Giving, Asking Fans To Support COVID-19 Relief Efforts Together

Over 70 live concert crew members who were originally scheduled to work at BTS’ concerts before the postponement (or cancellation) due to COVID-19 have received funding so far, 20% of whom are veteran crews who have worked in live performance industry for over 16 years. This contribution will help aid 1,000 live concert crews to receive relief, according to the announcement.

"It is very unfortunate that the music industry has to go through such difficult time at the moment," Big Hit's Global CEO Lenzo Yoon wrote in the statement. "We hope our contribution to Crew Nation could help support many live concert crews around the world."

More: BTS, Big Hit Entertainment And The BTS Army Donate Over $2 Million To Black Lives Matter

"If it weren't for COVID-19, we would have been happily touring across the world with many of our live concert crews by now," BTS added. "We are aware that a lot of communities need help due to COVID-19, and we wanted to support the music industry crews by making a donation. We hope to meet again on stage very soon."

The generous contribution comes just several weeks after BTS and Big Hit donated $1 million to the Black Lives Matter Foundation, as well as publicly announcing their allyship with the Black community.  

Earlier this month, on June 14, the talented septet shared a live pay-to-watch virtual concert, BANG BANG CON, with their massive BTS ARMY. They also recently released a new single, "Stay Gold," on June 19.

The MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund is also supporting out-of-work crew and all other music industry folks who have been financially affected by the coronavirus crisis.

Learn more about how you can donate to or apply for assistance via the Recording Academy's and MusiCares' COVID-19 Relief Fund.

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GRAMMY.com To Launch New Digital Performance Series "Global Spin" To Celebrate Global Music

Eme Alfonso performs at the International Jazz Plaza Festival in 2018

Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

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GRAMMY.com To Launch New Digital Performance Series "Global Spin" To Celebrate Global Music

Launching Tuesday, Sept. 28, "Global Spin" will celebrate exciting genres like Afrobeats, K-Pop and Latin music and will include exclusive performances from Eme Alfonso, Candy Bleakz, and many others

GRAMMYs/Sep 28, 2021 - 06:01 am

Last year, the GRAMMY Awards updated the Best World Music Album category to Best Global Music Album to honor artists across the globe. But why stop there?

On Tuesday, Sept. 28, GRAMMY.com will premiere its latest digital series: Global Spin, a performance series spotlighting artists from around the world. Each episode of Global Spin will feature a performance from a notable artist or group and will celebrate both the creators and their home countries.

Airing biweekly on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m ET on the Recording Academy's official YouTube channel, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter profile, Global Spin is the new home for global music on GRAMMY.com, where the celebration of the genre and the international artist community is the focus. With electrifying artists like Cuban singer/songwriter Eme Alfonso and Nigerian rapper Candy Bleakz confirmed for performances, Global Spin will keep fans of the international music community plugged into one of the most exciting lanes in all of music.

"Music is one thing that transcends borders," Alina Vission, a Content Producer at the Recording Academy and the creator and co-producer of Global Spin, tells GRAMMY.com. "We're excited to celebrate the global music community and take our audience on a trip around the world through music."

"I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to help showcase global music and to shine a light on all the talented musicians across the world," Hillary Melin, Senior Editor/Producer at the Recording Academy and one of the co-producers of the series, says of Global Spin.

Read: ​​Olamidé On The Ascent Of Afrobeats, Supporting Newer Artists & His Subdued New Album UY Scuti

A platform to support international artists, Global Spin is born out of the exploding global music scene taking the world by storm today. Whether it be Nigeria's dynamic duo of Wizkid and Tems sweeping the world off their feet with their chart-topping track "Essence" or South Korea's BTS serenading their way into the millions of hearts of the BTS ARMY, global music and artists are dominating today's worldwide music industry like never before.

Shawn Thwaites, a Project Manager in the Recording Academy's Awards department and genre manager for Global Music, partly credits the international growth of global music to the new and rising wave of Afrobeats artists. Still, he notes Afrobeats and global music at large are nothing new; pioneers like Fela Kuti and boundary-pushers like Brazil's Djavan laid the foundation for today's scene decades ago. "It's always been here—we're just catching on," Thwaites says of the global music sound.

As Afrobeats and Afropop continue to rise in the global music sphere, Thwaites also points to "the whole continent of Africa" as well as regions like Brazil, Trinidad, Barbados, Latin America, Asia, and beyond as locations with thriving music scenes to watch. "There's so much music all over this world. Global music is truly global," he reflects.

Read: Altin Gün On 'Yol' & The Future Of Global Music: "We Like To Think We Defy Genres As A Band"

With the ongoing evolution and proliferation of music technology and social media, global music continues to reach new audiences across international borders, while the genre's established artists and rising stars are pushing the sound's boundaries to new heights.

"I would love for global music to find a way to connect more with the fans," Dominican singer/songwriter and producer the Change tells GRAMMY.com via email. "Within the next five to 10 years, I would love to see more activities that help us spend time with our fans, because in the end, we owe them everything that is happening to us."

"The growing interest in global music means a lot more people from different walks of life and different parts of the world will now be able to relate to my genre of music: Afrobeats," Ghanaian Afropop, dancehall and R&B singer/artist MzVee adds. "I believe music is a global language that transcends all boundaries, and I want to reach fans in every corner of the world, despite the differences in language and genres. My dream is to see global music reach every corner of the world, for global music to break all barriers, to see my music being consumed by everybody, [regardless of] the differences in language, culture [and] religion."

"I'm very happy that [audiences] want to explore and open new doors. I believe that when we learn from other cultures, we grow as human beings," Eme Alfonso tells GRAMMY.com by email. "I would like the people to understand that when they are listening to music from other parts of the world, they are feeling the history, the reality, and the conflicts of a country, because artists reflect their life and problems through art."

But perhaps Haitian DJ/producer Michael Brun said it best: "Global music is the future of music," he bluntly told GRAMMY.com in 2020. "As the world continues to become more interconnected, music culture no longer has borders. The fusion of sounds breeds innovation, and global music artists are at the forefront of that movement."

That innovative movement now has a new home on GRAMMY.com with Global Spin.

Tune in to the sounds of the world with Global Spin every other Tuesday starting Sept. 28, at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m ET on the Recording Academy's official YouTube channel, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter profile.

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BTS Release Cinematic Music Video For "On," Second Official Visual For The 'Map Of The Soul: 7' Lead Single

BTS - "On" Music Video

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BTS Release Cinematic Music Video For "On," Second Official Visual For The 'Map Of The Soul: 7' Lead Single

The BTS music video, which takes place in a wartime medieval setting, unfolds like a cinematic mini-blockbuster fantasy film, complete with an epic choreographed dance performance

GRAMMYs/Feb 27, 2020 - 09:55 pm

Global pop superstars BTS are keeping their international ARMY fan base busy with new music. Following the release of their brand-new full-length, Map Of The Soul: 7, last week (Feb. 21), the South Korean septet today (Feb. 27) released the official music video for "ON," the album's lead single.

Directed by YongSeok Choi (Lumpens), the "On" video takes place in what looks like a wartime medieval setting. The visual unfolds like a cinematic mini-blockbuster fantasy film, complete with an equally epic synchronized choreographed dance performance in the middle of the song's breakdown. 

The video shows BTS taking "a cinematic approach in portraying the lyrics of 'ON,'" according to a press release announcing the visual. "The video symbolically depicts BTS' vow to accept their predestined path as fate and to keep going on, no matter the obstacles."

The new visual is the second official music video for "On." Last week (Feb. 21), BTS dropped Kinetic Manifesto Film: Come Prima, a short film of sorts featuring a jaw-dropping dramatic dance performance, in conjunction with the release of Map Of The Soul: 7.

Map Of The Soul: 7, the group's fourth studio album, sees BTS expanding their sonic palette and exploring everything from pop ballads to hip-hop cuts. 

"I think it's less and less meaningful to divide music into genres now," BTS member Suga told the Recording Academy

"The genre is BTS. That's the genre we want to make and the music that we want. New genre," the group's Jungkook, V and J-Hope added. 

Map Of The Soul: 7 is the latest development in a busy year for BTS. At the 62nd GRAMMY Awards last month, they joined Lil Nas X in a star-studded performance of "Old Town Road" that also featured Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo and Mason Ramsey

Map Of The Soul: 7 marks BTS' first full-length project since their 2018 album, Love Yourself: Tear, which topped the Billboard 200 chart and solidified the group as the first Korean act to accomplish that record-setting feat. It's also the second installment in BTS' ongoing Map Of The Soul series, which launched with the chart-topping Map of the Soul: Persona EP last April.

Why is K-pop's popularity exploding in the United States?