“To be honest, I can’t believe seven years have passed,” OH MY GIRL’s Yubin says. On April 20, the girl group will celebrate their milestone anniversary together and, although the singer is in awe at just how long it’s been since they first debuted, when she looks back she can acknowledge just how far they’ve come. “I do really see how much we have grown when I watch and listen to our past releases,” she explains to NME.
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That growth has been thrilling to watch. The seven-member group have blossomed from the bright, youthful pep of their self-titled debut mini-album to their 2017 gem ‘Coloring Book’, and onwards to the cool energy of 2020’s ‘Nonstop’ – which contained the unstoppable viral sensation B-side ‘Dolphin’ – and the mature pop of last year’s ‘Dear OHMYGIRL’.
Now, on their second full-length Korean album ‘Real Love’, OH MY GIRL show that, just because they’re reaching a significant moment in the life of a K-pop group, they’re not pulling on the brakes just yet. Ever creative, the concept for the record – perfume – ties together the sweet, ethereal qualities the idols have often displayed in their music with their journey so far.
“Perfume is something that changes harmoniously with time, from the strong impression of the top note to the subtle scent that lingers as time goes by,” leader Hyojung tells us. To her, fragrance isn’t just something that smells good for a bit and then gets forgotten about. “I think that scents have a special power to bring back memories of special moments. So, inspired by scents that naturally change over time, we came back with an album that reminisces and looks back on the path OH MY GIRL has walked with our fans over the past seven years.”
The record’s title track is a dreamily elegant pop song that captures the head-in-the-clouds feeling of being all loved up: “It’s a real, real love / This is an exotic experience”. In part, it also serves as a “subtle, permeating” aroma that “you fall in love with” and triggers fond memories when you smell (or, in this case, hear) it again. “I’m sure MIRACLEs probably have a reminiscent scent that they remember when they think of us,” says vocalist Seunghee, “and the song ‘Real Love’ contains the scent of sincere love for one another.”
For three members of the group – singers YooA and Jiho, and rapper Mimi – the title track was the song they connected with the most while making the album. “Since our debut, I wanted to become a singer who can leave a lasting impression on many people just like a subtle perfume and this song was exactly like that,” YooA explains, with Mimi agreeing about its understated, delicate magic. “For perfume, I really like fragrances that are not too strong and I feel like this song is just like that,” she ponders. “It’s a song that I connected with the most because it feels like one that permeates naturally and softly.”
“To be honest, it’s like a scene from a movie rather than coincidence,” they sing at one point in the title track and, while prepping the album, they found parallels between the stories in the songs and the romance movies and dramas they were watching. Yubin was a fan of Kim Da-mi and Choi Woo-shik’s Our Beloved Summer and thought “it felt like a real love story that exists in the world”. Watching it, she was struck by the idea that love doesn’t always have to be extraordinary, but “could be something that is simple yet familiar and always there”.
Jiho cites the 2010 movie Flipped as one of her favourites, explaining its storyline as a boy pushing away a girl who “expresses her feelings courageously” until he eventually realises his love for her. “I thought that this was like how you continuously use a subtle scented perfume and unknowingly become enchanted by the scent,” she says.
Enchant is exactly what OH MY GIRL’s second full-length album does. ‘Drip’ bewitchingly shifts from ethereal pop to a low-slung electronic beat, its phases pulling you in closer. ‘Kiss & Fix’ sparkles in its minimalism, while ‘Sailing Heart’ is a classic, grand ballad. Other highlights on the record spoke to its creators on a personal level. Seunghee, Yubin and Hyojung found comfort in the emotional ‘Eden’, which made the latter singer cry during recording. “There’s a part in the song right before my part where Seunghee sings, ‘Don’t hold back, cry’, and her voice in that part felt very sad,” she explains of the tearful moment.
“OH MY GIRL is always filled with positivity and energy, but there are many things in life where it isn’t always filled with smiles,” Seunghee reasons. “So I think the message of [‘Eden’] – cry as much as you want and grieve to your heart’s content – touched me even more. It personally resonated with me a lot, but the message was also something that I always wanted to tell the people close to me.”
For Arin, meanwhile, it was the supportive and reflective ‘Dear Rose’ that struck a chord. “From the moment I heard the demo version I fell in love with it,” she recalls. “The melody and the atmosphere of the song was very catchy and it felt like it stuck to my ears. Above all, the lyrics contain OH MY GIRL’s sincere story towards our MIRACLEs so I loved it even more.”
To add to the special sentiments contained in the album, ‘Real Love’ arrived on another milestone day – the sixth anniversary of the naming of MIRACLE. Arin describes ‘Dear Rose’ as “probably the biggest gift” to their loyal supporters, highlighting its continuation of the fan song ‘B612’ that appeared on their third mini-album ‘Pink Ocean’. “Especially [during] my part, there is a lyric that says ‘miracles are everywhere’ and I really know that our MIRACLEs are everywhere,” she says.
Their fans aren’t the only people showering OH MY GIRL with love. Now experienced seniors in the K-pop industry, the group have found a place as role models to emerging rookie acts. In an interview with NME last year, bugAboo cited the WM Entertainment artists as idols to look up to.
“I would like to thank all the newly debuting groups and juniors that have said that they respect OH MY GIRL,” Hyojung replies when we share this news with them. “I feel so much happiness from hearing this and this gives us more sense of responsibility as well. It makes us want to be able to provide motivation and good influence to our juniors by continuously showing OH MY GIRL’s never-changing bright energy and growth.”
The acts taking part in this year’s run of Mnet survival show Queendom are likely looking to the group’s performances on season one for inspiration for the competition. Although MAMAMOO took the top spot in 2019, OH MY GIRL finished second thanks to some dazzling efforts and a lot of hard work. They’re full of advice for those following in their footsteps right now, with Mimi offering wisely: “The results don’t reflect everything about the artists so I hope they take the stage and do their best without any regrets.”
Reflecting on their time on the show, Yubin assesses it as a “valuable experience” and a chance to “rediscover our unlimited potential”. “OH MY GIRL was able to push our limits and explore further to widen our musical spectrum, so I feel that this has helped us gain more confidence in ourselves,” she adds.
It’s a self-assurance that has been unmistakable in their music in the intervening three years, but the group are still able to find inspiration in the areas they feel they can do better at. “I self-analyse to determine what my strengths are and what I lack in order to always improve myself,” Arin shares when asked how she stays motivated so deep into her career. “Although there are many other motivational factors, I get triggered to be even better when I push myself harder. I realised that I become even more determined to show a better version of myself when I learn more about me.”
With that attitude intact and a boundless fountain of brilliance to tap into within OH MY GIRL’s line-up, the future for the girl group looks incredibly bright. “[This year] will be a year where we’ll be communicating with our MIRACLEs more and we’ll be each working hard in everything that we do to show our individual talents as well,” Hyojung promises. With ‘Real Love’ as the first example of that for the group in 2022, they’re already off to a flyer.
OH MY GIRL’s second full-length album ‘Real Love’ is out now.