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(G)I-DLE reach the next stage of their evolution with ‘Heat’

The K-pop girl group talk exclusively to Rolling Stone UK about their first English-language album and how it brings a 'different charm' to their music.

By Adam Davidson

(G)I-DLE (Picture: Press)

Ever since they were unveiled five years ago, multinational girl group (G)I-DLE have been constantly pushing the boundaries and redefining what K-pop can be. The quintet, made up of members Miyeon, Soyeon, Minnie, Yuqi and Shuhua, self-produce all of their music and have experimented with a plethora of contrasting genres from EDM to soft pop ballads and even punk rock. The group now reach the next stage of their evolution as they release their English-language debut, Heat.

The five-track project continues to showcase the group’s versatility and push (G)I-DLE to a whole new global market. “Listeners can find out how colourful (G)I-DLE is in terms of music,” says Soyeon of Heat. “We also challenged ourselves to give some unique musical variation to give diversity.”

“We wanted to express the different style and image of us apart from what we’ve shown through our previous albums. Each one of the tracks is very unique and special,” adds Minnie.

The EP is also an expression of the music that inspires them, which can be seen most prominently in the soft ballad ‘Tall Trees.’ “I love listening to calm and slow songs, so my favorite song in the album is ‘Tall Trees,’ says Shuhua. “What makes this song so special is that people can focus on our voices carefully especially in this song and can hear the rich tone of our voices.”

Heat is a huge leap of faith for (G)I-DLE as they surrendered creative control in the process. The group has a reputation for self-producing their own music, which is quite rare with K-pop. However, on this EP no member has a single credit – with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder and Meghan Trainor amongst the songwriting credits. 

Another obstacle to overcome was singing in a new language whilst maintaining their musical identity. The group predominantly sings in Korean, although they have released two Japanese-language EPs and Chinese versions of ‘HWAA’ and ‘Lion.’ However, a full EP in English was a stark new challenge to face. 

“The biggest challenge was the pronunciation and highlighting the nuances,” says Minnie. “I tried to work on those small details to make my voice sound better. And also, this time I got several rap parts in the side tracks and that was very challenging as well.”

Miyeon adds: “What I found interesting was that my vocals have more variety on making different sounds when singing in English lyrics so it was very fun to give myself a try on sound variation in vocals. Keeping my musical identity really depends on which song I’m singing, but generally for this album, I wanted to make it dynamite and keep the powerfulness.”

The group also reflect how there is a “different charm of (G)I-DLE” as they create a “new and powerful” sound that can only be created by singing in English.

It has already been a relentless year for (G)I-DLE but there is no sign of it slowing down. The band are currently in the middle of their ‘I am FREE-ty’ world tour, which included a hotly-anticipated date at London’s OVO Arena Wembley. The show marked their London debut, which was an exciting moment for the British Neverlands (the collective name of their fanbase) to finally see their favourite K-pop group in the flesh.

“Even though it was our first concert in London, there were so many Neverland [who] came to see us and filled the arena. That was very impressive and I received a lot of energy and cheers from everyone that I could never forget in my life,” Miyeon reflects.

After all they have achieved, it seems remarkable that May 2023 marked just the fifth anniversary of (G)I-DLE. The group were unveiled by Cube Entertainment through Dingo Music’s Dance Busking in Seoul – the performance quickly got to 2 million views on YouTube before the group had even released an EP. It seemed like they were instantly destined for greatness. 

(G)I-DLE (Picture: Press)

It wasn’t always smooth sailing as former (G)I-DLE member Soojin was accused of alleged bullying during middle school and consequently left the group in August 2021. However, through the adversity, (G)I-DLE continued to grow and achieved worldwide success with hits like ‘Nxde’, ‘TOMBOY’ and ‘Queencard’ and big collaborations with the likes of Madison Beer and Anne-Marie.

“Looking back, we made so many memories together and there are a lot of thankful memories as well,” says Miyeon. “I can’t believe that our 5-year-long journey has passed this fast. Every single moment was very delightful and exciting. I have never felt that any single moment was boring or felt like that it was such a long time. (G)I-DLE’s long-term goal would be to enjoy doing our own music just like how we have always been.”

Yuqi echoes this sentiment: “We’ve always been doing the music that we are passionate about and we did our best to show many people the colour (G)I-DLE is drawing without losing the initial commitment we had set in the beginning.”

When discussing future aspirations for (G)I-DLE it was clear that a huge motivation for the group is their fans and they reflect how much the support means to them as a collective. “I’m always thankful that we have received so much love,” says Minnie. “The reason I could overcome the difficulties would be that I was with our members and with our fans, Neverland. I’m very happy to have someone to walk along with.”

K-Pop has had a huge 2023 and this year alone has seen BLACKPINK headline Coachella and BST Hyde Park, acts selling out arenas in Europe and North America and big crossover collaborations that have taken the genre to new heights globally. It continues to grow and become a dominant force in the West and nobody quite knows the limits of what it can achieve. But one thing is for certain, (G)I-DLE will be right at the centre of this global takeover.