There were a hare and a tortoise. The hare was fast, while the tortoise was not. The fast-runner teased the slow friend. Then the tortoise asked the hare to do a race. The hare jumped fast, but as the tortoise was taking forever to catch up, it decided to take a nap. The tortoise slowly walked past the sleeping hare and won the race.
This is the story from Aesop’s fable. It teaches a lesson that those who work hard win. Which one would WINNER be? Many think they are the hare. They belong to a famous agency YG and garnered popularity on audition programs. They have got everything that led them to “quick” success.
That may be what the outcome looks like. Immediately after the release of their debut album “2014 S/S,” the title track “EMPTY” topped all charts. They even lined up charts with several songs. On M Countdown and Music Bank, they already received trophies. These all happened in just 5 days of their TV debut.
It is no wonder that people think they are the hare. The only difference is that WINNER never took a nap or became complacent. But the actual story of WINNER shows a different outcome. Their true stories somehow resemble the tortoise more than the hare. And still, they are moving forward very slowly.
“That’s YG style. They push you at the edge of the cliff over and over again. It’s like a tiger raising its cub. When we climb back to the cliff, they give you words of courage, and then push you off again. That’s the driving force. That’s how WINNER was born.”
How did WINNER become to sparkle? We looked into their past, present and future.
Part 1. Past
No trainees would have been more well-known than WINNER. WINNER already had 2 members from big audition programs. KANG SEUNGYOON from Superstar K and LEE SEUNGHOON from K-Pop Star. KANG appeared on “High Kick: Revenge of the Short-Legged” in 2011 and made a debut as a solo in 2013.
“But it didn’t really mean anything. People recognized me, but at the office I was just a trainee. When I was in ‘High Kick’ or doing a solo, I was just a trainee. Of course, there were times when I was at a slightly more superior position compared to other trainees. I felt bad. I went through a lot of emotional dilemma back then.” (SEUNGYOON)
However, the way the group came to existence was quite dynamic. The debut was confirmed on the reality program “WIN.” Back then, WINNER was TEAM A, competing against TEAM B. Newbies who didn’t even make a debut appearing on reality program was already a great advantage. TEAM A attracted much attention on the show, and championed the competition to become WINNER.
“It was hard to be competing with fellow trainees who have been training with me for years. TEAM B was a lot younger compared to us. When we felt like we were lagging behind, it was hard to get over that feeling. We were seriously discouraged when we lost against them. We didn’t have anywhere to go if we lost. Those times were harder to bear than the training period.” (SEUNGHOON)
Part 2. Debut
They were no longer TEAM A, but WINNER. All eyes were on the five members. But the debut was postponed, again and again. The fans had to wait even longer. WINNER’s patience was running out. 10 months had passed until they made a debut. The delay in time acted as bitter medicine for WINNER.
“I would like to use the word ‘postponed.’ We felt terrible for the fans. We wanted to make a debut soon. But we weren’t satisfied with our work. It was a process of finding clothes that fit us. We recorded songs from other countries and YG producers, but it wasn’t our color. It was our way of discovering our own color.”
The process was not easy. They produce a song, and then get knocked down. Some songs were not mainstream enough, and some songs didn’t suit them. Some songs were abandoned because they were too “YG.” WINNER created countless songs, fixed them and discovered their own color. That’s how the first album was created.
“We didn’t want to do something predictable. We wanted to be different from other YG artists. Our answer was to break away from fitting into genres. We wanted to produce songs with a message. That’s what “EMPTY” and “COLOR RING” are about. We discussed every single thing amongst ourselves.” (MINHO)
Part 3. Present
The album was out in the world. The response was simply “hot.” The title track “EMPTY” knocked down charts immediately after release. Several songs were lined up on charts. They topped music programs as soon as they made a debut on TV. They bulldozed their way through.
“It was unexpected. I mean, we are new. It feels great. We didn’t know our debut album would become a full album. We just told ourselves to produce better songs. I am just happy that we showcased a full album with the songs we produced ourselves.”
WINNER believes it’s their individualism that sets them apart. Each member has distinct color and voice. TAEYANG possesses soft voice while JINWOO charming falsetto, SEUNGYOON powerful voice, SEUNGHOON melodic rap and MINHO deep voice. It is only natural that the songs never bore the listeners.
“TAEHYUN’s voice is soft. But he is also powerful in ‘COLOR RING’ and ‘DIFFERENT.’ JINWOO jumps in with his falsetto in ‘EMPTY,’ which is quite mesmerizing. SEUNGHOON’s rapping is simply melodic while MINHO crosses the boundaries of being under and over. I like SEUNGYOON’s powerful voice.” (WINNER)
Part 4. Future
What is their dream future? Their goal is to pave their path slowly and soundlessly, just like they did until now. Always taking on new challenges in the field of music while widening their spectrum in their career—that is their ultimate goal. They are not going to trap themselves in a box. That is what WINNER is about.
“We might try dance songs while also trying hip-hop. We are open to all genres. We are not going to follow the trend. We are not going to produce songs with an addictive hook just because they are popular. We have been sticking to that principle until now, and we want to pave our own way in the future as well.” (TAEHYUN)
What would be a comment that they want to hear most? Singer, not star. But more than that, they want to be called artists. Sincere musicians. If the public can relate to their genuine feelings, that’s what makes them happy. Their goal isn’t about becoming the next BIGBANG or popular idol group. It lies within their music.
“We want to be acknowledged as musicians. People look at us with prejudiced ideas. We want to be seen as musicians who are sincere. We all think that. We want to hear comments like, WINNER is great in both music and performances… They are not simply idols. They are true musicians.” (WINNER)
Credits : YG Life