Photo by SM Entertainment
SuperM Talk 'Super One' & Finding Unity In The Covid Era
GRAMMY.com catches up with the K-pop supergroup ahead of their first full-length album, out on Sept. 25
Last year, K-pop group SuperM made history when their self-titled debut EP premiered at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. A miscellany of a boy band featuring seven cornerstones from four different acts signed to South Korean company SM Entertainment, the newly formed act’s star power and the virality of their immensely memeable first single "Jopping" made them a must-watch act of 2020. Now, they’re back with their first LP, Super One.
Out on Sept. 25, SuperM's first full-length album features 15 tracks, some that listeners have heard before, like pre-release singles "100" and "Tiger Inside," and B-sides like "Dangerous Woman" and "With You" that the act has performed in the past during concerts and televised performances. Split almost evenly between songs that are performed predominantly in either English or Korean and fronted by the lead track "One," a blend of two B-sides, "Monster" and "Infinity," Super One is all about meshing different elements together, whether it’s members of SHINee, EXO, NCT 127 and WayV into one whole, or running the gamut of different genres and languages in ways that are all at once familiar and innovative for members of some of K-pop's biggest acts.
Throughout all the multitudes of Super One, however, is one overall theme—serving up a soundtrack perfect for the age of corona. "I think we tried really hard to unify the messaging through the lyrics and through that bring a message of hope and unity to our fans and everyone who listens to it," said Taemin, the most senior member of the group, active in the industry since debuting with the group SHINee in 2008.
Coming out since the world first began reeling from the changes and ongoing impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Super One spends its length motivating listeners through a freewheeling medley of energetic, vibrant electro-pop anthems and mellowing out to offer up lackadaisical, breezy moments on hopeful tracks. Whether it’s the optimistic, sweet bounce of "Better Days" and "Wish You Were Here" or the hint of separate-but-together partying euphoria on "Together at Home" and the smooth sexiness of the groove on "Drip" serving up the type of confidence that comes with good times, SuperM have delivered an album that is oh-so-very 2020 but will live long beyond December.
This interview was edited for clarity, and conducted in both English and Korean.
You’re about to release Super One into the world, following the release of "100" and "Tiger Inside." How does it feel to be sharing your first LP after last year’s debut EP?
Mark: We feel really thrilled to let the whole world see it. We’ve prepared a lot for it. “100” and “Tiger Inside” were just the singles that only lead up to the main album, so we’re pretty excited.
Taeyong: Because we’ve been working on this first full-length album for such a long time, we think it’s that much more meaningful for everyone. We were really thinking of our fans when we were putting this all together. Because we released two singles ahead of the release, we hope our fans and everyone will have the same and rising expectations for “One.” We hope everyone receives a lot of strength and positive vibes through this album.
What is the meaning of Super One to you?
Mark: We believe that it is very appropriate for the situation that the whole world is going through, the message that we have. Not only are we trying to say that we can overcome all of our problems and all these difficulties as we work together, we also believe that—if you see in the album, there are a lot of songs in the playlist where it has an encouraging message. We just want to spread positivity around the world and really bring hope to the listeners, saying, "We can overcome it all." With that positive message, we really want to bring everyone together. That’s pretty much how we, SuperM, were brought together as well. Though we may be all scattered in different ways, when we come together we become very super. I guess that’s the main message and the aspiration also of Super One.
Your first album debuted at No. 1 on the Stateside Billboard 100 chart, so expectations must be high for this album. What sort of response are you hoping for now that Super One is going to be heard by the world?
Lucas: I just hope that, throughout this whole worldwide pandemic situation that we’re all going through, listeners and fans will receive strength and hope through our music.
Why is "One" the perfect single for SuperM to release Super One through, following the earlier releases of "100" and "Tiger Inside"?
Mark: We always thought that having "100" come out first, then "Tiger Inside" leading to "One," that whole picture was a strategy that we thought would be best because we wanted to build up as much anticipation as we can. We wanted to build our fans’ expectations a lot as well. Having "One" come out as the final product was something we knew was right because the song itself has a lot of power in it, it holds a lot of what we can sing and rap about. The potential of the song holds what SuperM can really express. I feel like "One" was one of those tracks we really wanted to explode with. It’s a song that represents the album the best way.
You mentioned that you were sharing a unified picture in releasing these trio of singles one after another. What were you trying to relay through this trilogy?
Mark: I feel like each is great in their own way, but they all are connected as well. They’re all very different. Even if you just see “100” and “Tiger Inside,” the concept, the visuals, the pictures, the sounds, they’re all really, really different. But if you see the whole playlist of the album, they’re actually quite connected because all the songs have one central message on the album. “100,” we really wanted to give our 100% power and energy for fans to receive. “Tiger Inside,” the message was to not hide your power, to not hide the inner wildness you have inside and really release it out. And “One” is to bring all that energy together to overcome something we think we may not be able to but we can if we work together. It’s all about overcoming and collaboratively working together to overcome something we all want.
“One” is a blend of two songs, “Monster” and “Infinity,” how does it feel for you to be blending these songs together?
Ten: I think the concept that we put two songs and mix it together is very new, but also SHINee’s [2012 single] “Sherlock” is a mix of two songs, “Clue & Note.” With this album we think it’s a good idea to put the songs together because both songs, “Monster” and “Infinite” are very strong, they’re both ear-catching. That’s why I think it’s a very good idea to put it together, and I think the fans are going to love the mix too.
Speaking of… Taemin, firstly, congratulations on the release of your new album Never Gonna Dance Again!
Taemin: Thank you!
You’ve done this blending of songs into a single before as SHINee. How does it feel revisiting this creative style again with SuperM?
Taemin: I personally think that this is one of K-pop’s biggest strengths, the fact that there are so many different styles of music and genres that can be mixed into one song and they’re all so catchy. Since we [already] did this with “Clue” and “Note,” it was really cool for me to see that creative process happen again. If you think of K-pop in general, it includes so many different styles of music. Even in one song, you’ll see multiple genres, multiple drops, multiple tempos, key changes, etc. I actually heard that when the producing team was making this song, it was really hard to make it sound really seamless and natural, making sure the key and tempo and everything matched when they mixed these two songs. But I personally think it was really fun to see this all come together and happen. Seeing a more creative and fun kind of music production process is always what makes K-pop new and exciting all the time.
The album is bilingual, and split pretty evenly between English and Korean tracks. How do you feel about showing this duality? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s ever been done before in K-pop, splitting an album with different language tracks quite in this way.
Taeyong: When I’m recording [in English], it’s very fun but it’s like English studying, a little bit. It’s because English pronunciation is important. I think our fans like our English songs a lot. They and our Korean songs are really good. They’re really dope. Really a bop.
Several songs, like “Better Days” and “Together at Home” seem inspired especially by the global corona pandemic. Why was it important to you to share these sorts of songs with listeners?
Mark: We structured the entire album to appropriately fit what’s going on in the world right now. So that’s why we thought of this entire message. “Together at Home” and “Better Days” are the songs that really represent that feature the most in a way. Taeyong and I actually wrote some of the lyrics for “Together at Home.” When we received the message of the song for us to get the inspiration, they were talking about how we can talk about the Beyond Live [concert platform] that we used. We could think of that as a way for us to get inspired so we can think of ways to write about ways we could reach our fans at this time. So we actually wrote stuff about that on the song. We really wanted to put that in there. That’s why if you see the lyrics, we’re talking about how we’re always indoors but still kind of connected in a virtual kind of way, however we can [be]. Stuff like that really fits what’s going on right now, so we hope the fans can relate.
Is there a song that any members feel particular fondness for?
All: “Wish You Were Here!” [Members sing.]
Mark: I guess we all like “Wish You Were Here” the most. [Laughs.]
Mark: It’s so catchy. It’s easy to listen to and so catchy. That’s why I like it.
Kai: I like the chorus. It’s very bright so I can get uplifted by it. I think it suits the album a lot.
Taemin: It would be great to hear fans’ covers of that song. I think it’s a song people will want to cover, and it’d be cool to collab with someone on it as well.
You’ve been together as SuperM for a while now, but who surprised or impressed you while recording and preparing this album?
Mark: We’ve been together quite a while now and, more than discover an aspect we haven’t seen of each other before, it’s more like, "Wow." For example, I knew Baekhyun was good at singing, but like… It still surprises me to this day, if you know what I mean? There’s stuff like that. Something that I didn’t know was that Baekhyun is good at art.
Baekhyun: We were together, and when we were in LA living together, from the beginning [as SuperM]. As time passes, we feel more like family and I feel every one of us is growing more into our roles as individual members of the group.
Were there any memorable moments from the creation process of this album?
Baekhyun: We actually shot a reality show together. Obviously, the album production process itself is always memorable, but in addition to what we’ve always done – preparing for performances, practicing together, recording the songs, etc. – outside of that, we had a chance to be a part of these shows that will air soon. These shows were where we got to spend a lot more time together, and we could showcase our chemistry to our fans and viewers. Those memories were really fun because we got to travel and do stuff together.
Transportation and speed have been themes that carried throughout your songs and music videos, where you regularly are seen traveling in different types of vehicles, whether it’s space ships or helicopters. At a time when people aren’t able to travel, what do you feel this represents?
Kai: If you look at our past music videos there are motorcycles, there are tanks, there are a lot of cars, and I think that goes well with SuperM’s concept as a group. That’s why they were featured in our music videos and past songs. We can’t really travel right now because of the pandemic and everything that’s going on, but we hope that, just like these modes of transportation can take you somewhere, our music and this album can be a mode of transportation that takes you to a place of hope and takes you to that higher place where everyone can enjoy themselves and be happy.
What are your favorite lyrics on the album?
Mark: For me “Wish You Were Here”’s, “After all these years, I wish you were, wish you were here” is my favorite. Because the melody is really cool.
Taemin: In “So Long,” there’s a chorus where Mark sings “차가운 표정으로 맞이하는 절정 (An ending with the coldest face*)” I like that part. It’s really addictive, that part in particular.
Mark: I don’t know if he’s teasing me. [Laughs.]
You’re all part of different groups under SM, so what do you think makes Super One a distinctly SuperM album?
Taemin: If you listen to our first mini album, there were songs that were like unit tracks. It wasn’t every member on the album on every track. This album is different because every member participated in all of the tracks, and I think that it’s distinctly SuperM just because we were kind of able to create this album with one unified messaging. There’s so many types of songs, types of genre, on the album, but I think we tried really hard to unify the messaging through the lyrics and through that bring a message of hope and unity to our fans and everyone who listens to it. I think that makes it distinctly SuperM.
What are your goals for the rest of 2020? What do you hope to achieve with this album?
Lucas: The biggest goal that we want is we really want to be able to meet our fans if possible in 2020, because we miss them so much. If that can’t happen, another goal that we have is that through the Super One album we bring a lot of strength and hope to anyone who listens to it.
Ten: We might have more online events, like Vlive [livestreams] or Beyond Live [concerts]. Maybe those kinds of things can happen. We’re still thinking of ways to get close to fans even though everything is far apart nowadays. We’re going to find all our fans. So don’t be sad, don’t worry, just have fun. Hope you guys stay strong during this period. We’re going to do our best to meet you guys.
Baekhyun: That’s right.
*Translation provided by SM Entertainment.
Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More
The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'
In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.
"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.
Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.
"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."
Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American.
"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."
BTS - "Black Swan" Music Video
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
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.
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.
Joan as Police Woman
Quarantine Diaries: Joan As Police Woman Is Bike Riding, Book Reading & Strumming D'Angelo
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, singer/songwriter Joan Wasser of Joan as Police Woman, whose forthcoming covers album, COVER TWO, includes tracks by The Strokes, Prince, Talk Talk, and more, shares her Quarantine Diary.
Thursday, April 2
[10 a.m.-12 p.m.] Went to bed at 4 a.m. last night after getting drawn into working on a song. Put on the kettle to make hot coffee while enjoying an iced coffee I made the day before. Double coffee is my jam. Read the news, which does not do much for my mood. Catch up with a few friends, which does a lot of good for my mood. Glad it goes in this order.
[12 p.m.-2 p.m.] Make steel cut oats with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, a sprinkling of cinnamon and cardamom, and of course, coconut butter to melt on top. If you’re not into coconut butter (sometimes marketed as coconut "manna"), I’d suggest just going for it and getting it (or ordering it) and putting it on your sweet potatoes, your oats, anywhere you’d put butter. I’m not vegan but I do enjoy hearing the tiny scream uttered by a strawberry as I cut into it.
Contemplate some yoga. Contamplate meditating. Do neither. Resume work on the song I want to finish and send today. I have a home studio and I spend a lot of my time working on music here. The song is a collboration sent to me from Rodrigo D’Erasmo in Milano that will benefit the folks who work behind the scenes in the music touring system in Italy.
[2 p.m.-4 p.m.] I traded in a guitar for a baritone guitar right before all this craziness hit but hadn’t had the time to get it out until now. I put on some D’Angelo, plugged into my amp and played along as if I were in his band. Micahel Archer, If you’re reading this, I hope you are safe and sound and thank you immensely for all the music you've given us always.
[4 p.m.-6 p.m.] Bike repair shops have been deemed "necessary," thank goodness, because biking is the primary way I get around and I need a small repair. I hit up my neighborhood shop and they get my bike in and out in 10 minutes, enough time to feel the sun for a moment.
I ride fast and hard down to the water's edge and take in a view of the East River from Brooklyn. There are a few people out getting their de-stress walks but it is mostly deserted on the usually packed streets.
[6 p.m.-8 p.m.] Practice Bach piano invention no. 4 in Dm very, very, very slowly. I never studied piano but I’m trying to hone some skills. Realize I’m ravenous. Eat chicken stew with wild mushrooms I made in the slow cooker yesterday. It’s always better the second day.
[8 p.m.-10 p.m.] Get on a zoom chat with a bunch of women friends on both coasts. We basically shoot the sh*t and make each other laugh.
Afterwards I still feel like I ate a school bus so I give into yoga. I feel great afterwards. This photo proves I have a foot.
[10 p.m.-12 a.m.] Record a podcast for Stereo Embers in anticipation of my new release on May 1, a second record of covers, inventively named COVER TWO. Continue to work on music (it’s a theme).
[12 a.m.-2 p.m.] Tell myself I should think about bed. Ignore myself and confinue to work on music.
[2 a.m.-4 a.m.] Force myself into bed where I have many books to choose from. This is what I’m reading presently, depending on my mood. Finally I listen to Nick Hakim’s new song, "Qadir," and am taken by its beauty and grace. Good night.
If you wish to support our efforts to assist music professionals in need, learn more about the Recording Academy's and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.
If you are a member of the music industry in need of assistance, visit the MusiCares website.
Hero The Band perform at the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter Annual Membership Celebration
Photo: Marcus Ingram/WireImage
Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"
How sound planning for a creative future in our urban areas makes all the difference for artists and musicians
The future, as they say, is now. And for music makers around the world, building a future for themselves often starts at home, in their local creative community and in the city where they live. While technology has expanded communication and made the world smaller, cities continue to grow, making planning for the future a critical cultural mission of the present.
To that end, a new report by global organization Sound Diplomacy titled "This Must Be The Place" examines, "The role of music and cultural infrastructure in creating better future cities for all of us." The 37-page deep dive into community planning and development highlights the importance of creative culture in what it calls "Future Cities."
"The government defines ‘Future Cities’ as 'a term used to imagine what cities themselves will be like," the report states, "how they will operate, what systems will orchestrate them and how they will relate to their stakeholders (citizens, governments, businesses, investors, and others),'"
According to the report, only three global cities or states currently have cultural infrastructure plans: London, Amsterdam and New South Wales. This fact may be surprising considering how city planning and sustainability have become part of the discussion on development of urban areas, where the UN estimates 68 percent of people will live by 2050.
"Our future places must look at music and culture ecologically. Much like the way a building is an ecosystem, so is a community of creators, makers, consumers and disseminators," the report says. "The manner in which we understand how to maintain a building is not translated to protecting, preserving and promoting music and culture in communities."
The comparison and interaction between the intangibility of culture and the presence of physical space is an ongoing theme throughout the report. For instance, one section of the report outlines how buildings can and should be designed to fit the cultural needs of the neighborhoods they populate, as too often, use of a commercial space is considered during the leasing process, not the construction process, leading to costly renovations.
"All future cities are creative cities. All future cities are music cities."
On the residential side, as cities grow denser, the need increases for thoughtful acoustic design and sufficient sound isolation. Future cities can and should be places where people congregate
"If we don’t design and build our future cities to facilitate and welcome music and experience, we lose what makes them worth living in."
For musicians and artists of all mediums, the answer to making—and keeping—their cities worth living in boils down to considering their needs, impact and value more carefully and sooner in the planning process.
"The report argues that property is no longer an asset business, but one built on facilitating platforms for congregation, community and cohesion," it says. "By using music and culture at the beginning of the development process and incorporating it across the value chain from bid to design, meanwhile to construction, activation to commercialisation, this thinking and practice will result in better places."
The report offers examples of how planners and leaders are handling this from around the world. For instance, the Mayor Of London Night Czar, who helps ensure safety and nighttime infrastructure for venues toward the Mayor's Vision for London as a 24-hour city. Stateside, Pittsburgh, Penn., also has a Night Mayor in place to support and inform the growth of its creative class.
What is a music ecosystem? We believe the music influences and interacts with various sectors in a city. We have designed this infographic to show how music ecosystems work and impact cities, towns and places: https://t.co/0DIUpN1Dll— Sound Diplomacy (@SoundDiplomacy) August 14, 2019
Diversity, inclusion, health and well-being also factor into the reports comprehensive look at how music and culture are every bit as important as conventional business, ergonomic and environmental considerations in Future Cites. Using the Queensland Chamber of Arts and Culture as a reference, it declared, "A Chamber of Culture is as important as a Chamber of Commerce."
In the end, the report serves as a beacon of light for governments, organizations, businesses and individuals involved in planning and developing future cities. Its core principals lay out guideposts for building friendly places to music and culture and are backed with case studies and recommendations. But perhaps the key to this progress is in changing how we approach the use of space itself, as the answer to supporting music may be found in how we look at the spaces we inhabit.
"To develop better cities, towns and places, we must alter the way we think about development, and place music and culture alongside design, viability, construction and customer experience," it says. "Buildings must be treated as platforms, not assets. We must explore mixed‑use within mixed‑use, so a floor of a building, or a lesser‑value ground floor unit can have multiple solutions for multiple communities."