Unlike some other girl groups in the K-pop industry, the road to success for OH MY GIRL has not been paved with gold. In their earlier years, the group had to put their noses to the grindstone and persevere through tepid initial public reception, the disadvantage of being from a small, independent entertainment agency and the departure of a founding member.
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The now-seven-member act would finally hit their stride three years after their debut with ‘Secret Garden’, which bagged them their first-ever music show trophy on SBS MTV’s The Show in 2018. But even then, there was always this underlying feeling that the general K-pop listening public did not “get” OH MY GIRL – that is, until their fateful appearance on the 2019 Mnet reality TV competition Queendom.
Although the girl group did not ultimately walk away with the crown (that honour went to powerhouses MAMAMOO) after a number of exceptional performances – most notably the majestic cover of Lovelyz’s ‘Destiny’ – they gained some things that are arguably far more important: understanding, respect and a legion of newfound fans.
What followed was their 2020 best-selling mini-album ‘Nonstop’ (only surpassed by their latest release ‘Dear OH MY GIRL’), two massively popular singles – title track ‘Nonstop’ and B-side ‘Dolphin’, both of which peaked at number two on the Gaon Digital Chart – and their first Bonsang (Main Prize) at the 2020 Golden Disc Awards. But despite all this, the girl group have remained true to their dreamy, feminine roots – just with a touch more “depth”, as leader Hyojung puts it.
As the girl group make even more waves with their new mini-album ‘Dear OH MY GIRL’, OH MY GIRL chat with NME about their musical evolution, the sage advice they have for up-and-coming K-pop acts and possibly trying their hand at a swing jazz-inspired song.
Hello OH MY GIRL, congratulations on the release of your new mini-album, ‘Dear OHMYGIRL’! Can you tell us how it feels to be back as a full group, almost a year after your last comeback ‘Nonstop’?
YooA: “We missed our MIRACLES and it was a long year without being able to see them. I also missed this feeling of being surrounded by our members even during my solo promotions. We want to quickly meet our fans that have waited for us!”
Arin: “During the year-long break after finishing up our promotions for ‘Nonstop’, we really wanted to return with a new album. And we were finally able to with a great song like ‘Dun Dun Dance’, so we’re really happy and it’s been really exciting so far. I think we were most excited about being able to show a new side to OH MY GIRL to our fans through this new release.”
Your new title track ‘Dun Dun Dance’ has performed incredibly well on the Gaon Digital Chart, and is your first song to ever reach number one. What do you attribute this success to?
Binnie: “We’re extremely thankful that we received so much love. I think many people are listening to the song because it’s bright and catchy. And it’s being loved even more because the song expresses our bright energy really well.”
Mimi: “I also want to add that [these achievements were] possible because the members never stopped working hard. And it’s because we had so many people supporting us with every release, so our achievements are the results of everyone’s hard work and effort. We are so grateful. I feel that it’s important that we never forget this feeling of gratefulness.”
There’s a notable disco inspiration in both the music video and the song. How did the group decide on this concept and sound?
Jiho: “We chose ‘Dun Dun Dance’ because we wanted to give people the energy and [for them to] feel its cheerfulness. Especially since there are many people who are exhausted nowadays [because of the pandemic situation], we hope that they could uplift their mood even for a moment through us and our music.”
Mimi: “I personally think that it was fate rather than a specific deciding factor when we chose the song. I feel that a certain song, choreography, or the concept comes to us at the right time and moment like destiny. And it was that moment when we fatefully met OH MY GIRL’s ‘Dun Dun Dance’ that we were able to return and show everyone our music.”
What is the creative concept behind ‘Dear OHMYGIRL’?
Hyojung: “For the creativity behind the album, I want to touch upon the concept of how the lyrics of the album captures OH MY GIRL’s story and dialogue between the members. The title track ‘Dun Dun Dance’ is a story about how it may seem difficult to approach aliens because they seem so different from us but you come to realise that we are so much alike. Therefore, the main message and story that became the basis of the album is that people may think that we are different because we are celebrities/artists, but we’re approachable like a friend. We’re just so thankful that we’re able to tell our story through this album.”
Jiho: “It’s how like seven different people have come together to complete OH MY GIRL. When you meet someone for the first time, everything seems unfamiliar and you become curious about one another. So the album expresses this process of how in time, we’ve become so close and united. It’s also definitely an album that highlights each of the members’ vocal charms and styles, so please listen to the entire album.”
Other than the title track ‘Dun Dun Dance’, which other song on ‘Dear OHMYGIRL’ did you personally enjoy recording and why?
Hyojung: “Personally, I really love ‘Swan’! I love the song because it especially demonstrates the members’ distinctive vocals. I relate to the lyrics, ‘Even as an adult, you can still be imperfect’, a lot because even after debut there’s so many things that we still feel that we lack. And whenever we feel that we’re lacking, we tend to blame ourselves but there was a time when I was comforted with the lyrics ‘It’s alright, no one’s perfect’.”
Mimi: “I like ‘Quest’ the most. It’s a music style that I personally like to listen to, so I was glad that we were able to explore this sort of music style in our new album. And that’s one of the biggest reasons why I enjoyed recording this song and has become one of the most memorable moments for me.”
YooA: “I personally like ‘Swan’ as well. It’s a song that shows each of the members’ vocal styles the best and the lyrics represent how we have walked together throughout our journey. So I felt like I had put a lot of heart into the song while I was recording.”
Seunghee: “I’m attached to ‘Swan’ as well. I was able to relate to the story that the song was telling. And the lyrics are especially more relatable, so it’d be great if you are attentive to the words of the lyrics as you listen.”
Jiho: “The entire tracklist has each of their own charms, but ‘Who Comes Who Knows’ is a song that gave me good vibes. I remember having so much fun recording this particular song so I feel like I became a bit more attached.”
Binnie: “‘Who Comes Who Knows’ is my favourite. At first listen, I liked the demo immediately but loved it even more after we added our lyrics to the song. The combination of the lyrics and the music created this mood that made me even more attached to the song. Even recording the song at the studio became memorable because I remember wanting to sing it well and worked on getting the details right.”
Arin: “My favourite track changes every time, but if I have to choose one, then it would be ‘Swan’. Whenever I listen to ‘Swan’ it gets me emotional but gives me this refreshing feeling. It makes me want to go on a coastal drive. It’s my comfort song these days.”
How do you think OH MY GIRL’s sound has evolved since your debut six years ago?
Hyojung: “Ever since our debut, we’ve grown and experienced a lot and our journey is continuously reflected within OH MY GIRL’s musical style! As young women, we’ve told our story from various perspectives and situations. However, I feel that we have discovered each of our voices and styles, and this has helped us evolve in the sense that we now sing with our own unique, individual charms. Which is why I believe that this is the biggest change because OH MY GIRL members have grown in their own ways creating more depth to the music within our signature sound.”
Seunghee: “During the last six years, the music scene has changed a lot, and our music and sound has changed as well. We always work on how we could best deliver our music within the changing music landscape. This time we’ve explored disco, which we’ve never tried before, and we tried to deliver a retro sound that fits the current generation. I think we were able to present an album that has more depth because all the songs have successfully captured OH MY GIRL’s journey and experiences.”
How would you describe the essence of OH MY GIRL’s musical style?
Seunghee: “I think the music style that represents OH MY GIRL is dreamy and lyrical. It’s the concept that gives us our distinctness and one of our fortes that really captures our essence.”
Binnie: “First of all, I think it would have to be each members’ energy you can feel from our music. Like every artist, we put our heart and soul into our singing when we record. I think the strength and characteristic of our music is the sincerity and bright energy you can feel from our music. Even if music changes with time, I think the sincerity of the members’ voices will remain as our signature sound within our music.”
What other genres and concepts would you like to try in the future?
Hyojung: “I would love to try a pop ballad style of music, with a completely new style of OH MY GIRL!”
Mimi: “I would love to make an album that consists of solo songs from each member so that it can highlight our individual charms.”
YooA: “I usually love watching teen movies or dramas, so with that in mind I would love to try a bright and energetic cheerleader concept.”
Seunghee: “I would love to try jazz, perhaps a swing jazz song. I think we could make a fun and witty stage with the swing jazz song!”
Jiho: “I love folk-style music so I would love to try the genre! I am very curious to see what it would be like to see OH MY GIRL with folk music.”
Binnie: “To be honest, we love showing many different and fun concepts so I would love to try all kinds of concepts. It would be fun to try something dark and chic, and it would also be great if we could do a ballad song that highlights each of our members’ voices.”
Arin: “I would love to try a season themed song! When it’s the summer we could do a summer song and when it snows in the winter, it would be great if we could do a Christmas carol song.”
What are your long-term goals as a group?
OH MY GIRL: “We have a dream of having OH MY GIRL become part of many people’s memories! We hope that we are remembered as ‘when I think back on my childhood or when I was growing up, OH MY GIRL’s songs cheered me up and gave me strength’.”
Given your status as seniors in the K-pop industry, what advice would you give up-and-coming groups?
YooA: “When I see great trainees and up-and-coming groups who are all hardworking, it makes me feel as if I can see the footsteps that we walked through and that makes me feel warm inside and I feel for them. There are so many things that I want to say and so many things I want to pass along, but above all, I want to tell them to make sure to love yourself first.”
There will be times when you have to stand in front of people with the greatest smile but when you turn around you feel a vast emptiness in your heart. You may feel lost when you’re being compared publicly in some situations. But I hope you’re not swayed by this. Believe in yourself, love yourself, eat well and take good care of yourself. I support you and no matter how tough it gets, don’t lose your smile. I love you all!”
Arin: “It’s so strange that we are already getting questions like this. This is for the juniors who are currently active and it’s also something that I would like to say to my younger self at the beginning of my debut. I hope you don’t have the ‘I have to succeed quickly’ mentality and be patient. It’s important to catch on what you are good at and take it step by step to develop yourself and understand your own charm.”
Seunghee: “Rather than giving them advice, I would like to give them encouragement. I want to tell them that they are doing great at giving it their best and I am cheering you on. Although things may not go as planned, everything you have prepared and worked on will definitely shine.”
Lastly, what can fans expect from OH MY GIRL moving forward?
OH MY GIRL: “I hope everyone shows us a lot of love and support as we continue to grow and show great music, performances, and concepts. Please look forward to OH MY GIRL and we always do our best to return with new and diverse musical activities.”
OH MY GIRL’s ‘Dear OH MY GIRL’ is out now via WM Entertainment.