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Winner up next in YG baton relay

  • Published : Feb 3, 2016 - 17:01
  • Updated : Feb 3, 2016 - 17:01

Winner (YG Entertainment)

YG Entertainment’s boy group Winner is the latest in the agency’s boy group lineup to take up the baton, following Big Bang in the first half of 2015 and iKON in the second half.

After a 17-month hiatus -- a significantly long break considering that the group had only released their debut album before disappearing -- they’ve finally returned with the EP “EXIT: E.” The double lead tracks are the blues-infused, crooning “Baby Baby” and the more steadily rhythmic minor pop track “Sentimental.”

At a sit-down with reporters in a Hongdae cafe on Tuesday, the members said that the long break was intended to give the group time to put together the highest-quality album they could.

“Even though our first album was our debut, it unexpectedly received a lot of love,” said leader Seungyoon. The debut record “2014 S/S” swept through the charts in 2014, making Winner the undisputed top new artist of the year.

“It was a lot of pressure. We knew that we had to bring music that was better made and more mature, but there were always dilemmas.” According to Seungyoon, the group worked, reworked and continuously edited songs to reach a point where they thought the public and the members themselves could both be satisfied.

“We were being greedy about wanting the best results, and it ended up delaying the release,” he said.

Winner (YG Entertainment)

Perhaps the member who felt that pressure hardest was Taehyun, who wrote the two lead tracks. Taehyun felt that he felt “pressure” because both lead tracks were his works, although Seungyoon emphasized that Winner had a long-standing rule that no song could be released unless all five members agreed that they felt it met their standards.

“In my opinion, the appeal of these two tracks are different. With ‘Baby Baby,’ I think it was interesting that all five members were able to pull off the unusual genre. As for ‘Sentimental,’ I liked that it was about a feeling that anyone could relate to.”

Neither song sounds like a typical idol group track. Taehyun said that he was influenced heavily by “analog emotions” from artists like “the Rolling Stones, and in terms of Korean artists, Kim Hyun-sik or Yoo Jae-ha.”

“They were creating music before I was born, and their music evolved to today’s pop music. I’m inspired by that,” he said.

Seungyoon said that the group’s heavier, emotional and muted style -- compared to the flashy dance tracks of most idol groups -- came from the way the five members approach music.

“We don’t need a provocative song to intimidate everyone, or a tough style with big choreography. We prefer to create music that focuses more on being sincere. Our goal is to move hearts or provide comfort. Since our debut, our goal has been to create music that makes our listener the ‘winner,’” he said.

Seunghoon noted, “We don’t write the songs with a stage performance in mind. It was like that since our first album, so the performance was always difficult. ‘Empty’ was a hard song to dance to, and it’s the same with our lead tracks this time around. Our goal is to perform the song and be drunk on the emotion of the music. Rather than a flashy, precise performance, we want to convey the emotions onstage.”

Despite that, Seungyoon said that Winner still wanted to try out more hard-hitting dance tracks, and Taehyun said that he had already written some songs in that style.

It may not be too long before those songs are released: “EXIT: E” is just the beginning of a yearlong project called “Exit Movement,” which will keep Winner members interacting with fans throughout 2016, with details yet to come.

On Wednesday, YG Entertainment announced that the next part of “Exit Movement” will be Winner’s first solo concert, “Winner Exit Tour in Seoul,” to be held March 12-13 at the Gymnastics Arena in Olympic Park, Seoul.

“We didn’t get to promote our last album a lot, so we’re very excited that we’ll be able to show you many different sides with this album,” said Seungyoon.

By Won Ho-jung (hjwon@heraldcorp.com)