Photo: SM Entertainment / Press


aespa is ready to take over the world. Members Karina, Winter, Giselle, and Ningning have a keen sense of storytelling, pioneering new artistic levels of precision as they rework and reimagine music as we know it. From even the beginning of their careers, for the quartet, record-breaking and category-busting is just a casual day. With their latest mini-album Savage, aespa are boldly becoming artists unafraid to push the boundaries of the present and future. Their music, concept, and style are entirely and legendarily innovative. “Wait and see, I’m a little savage,” Ningning and Winter triumphantly belt, ready for the rest of the world to catch up to the musical landscape that is becoming uniquely and wholly aespa’s. 

It’s difficult to exactly pinpoint aespa’s soundscape, and that’s what makes their music so glimmeringly exhilarating. For the girl group, reinventing themselves — whether it be building entire alternate universes or melding chasms of texturally diverse genres in their signature, chameleonic fashion — is why they’re at the forefront of today’s era of K-pop. 

“While we were working on ‘Savage,’ we focused on bringing an upgraded version of aespa and showcasing our own unique charm that’s powerful but different from what the public has seen before with ‘Black Mamba’ and ‘Next Level’,” Winter tells EUPHORIA. “We’re also planning on trying various genres to become a more versatile group that’s not restricted to a particular style or genre.” 

In their diverse examination of intertwining techno-utopia and the real world, they’re looking at the reconciliation between your true self and the darker, carefully curated version. Technically, aespa consists of the four members with an additional four virtual, animated members — also known as their ae-aespa. Essentially, their ae-aespa share all the same emotions, thoughts, and ideas as the real-life members. They are connected through a special portal called SYNK, where they’re able to communicate with one another. Through their music, the group can connect with their MYs — known as their fans and “special friends.” 

The ae-aespa live in FLAT, or a separate world from the ones the members are in. In order to see the real-life members, they have to cross over through a portal known as P.O.S. in a crossing-over process called REKALL. As their world evolves, so have the members in today’s real world. Just with the release of their teaser photos for Savage, the group went intensely viral. It was a combination of the group’s commitment to expanding the aespa cinematic universe and the cyberpunk stylings that pulp modern-day’s Y2K aesthetic yearnings that were beginning to bear the distinct identity of aespa. The girl group absolutely understood the assignment and were ready to underscore that they’re raising the bar in everything they do. 

Savage, released Oct. 5, became ample proof that even in the thick of the complex world they’ve built, aespa’s exploration boils down to something simple: Humanity is a force to be reckoned with. On the mini-album, you can find the saccharine harmonies of Giselle’s favorite track “YEPPI YEPPI” (a portmanteau of the Korean words for “pretty” and “happy”). 

It’s immediately juxtaposed with the meticulously processed timbres and devastating, pulsating synths of “Lucid Dreams” — another Giselle-approved track — built on the border of feeling confidence and learning to overwhelmingly come into their own. “Compared to other tracks, I like how it is more sentimental and relatable,” Giselle says. The hefty weight of lyrics like, “A dream of walking constantly/ Don’t have any clue on the direction” is dulcified with the group’s hypnotic, lush vocals. 

They’re exemplifying success by perfectly balancing a smorgasbord of cyberpop and hyper-processed hip-hop melodious masterpieces. With their “Savage” music video, aespa broke their own YouTube record and surpassed 50 million views within two days of the track’s release. Albums and performances can come and go, but this unmistakable ability to bring variegated bop after bop so early in their careers with this level of success is making an impression that lasts forever. 

Even with a concept rooted in hyper-present online presence and futuristic ideas, for the group, the simple act of enjoying music is the throughline that reroutes their mystifying universe back to their fans. This is their most challenging work yet, and it’s because they ensured their artistry was as heavily involved in the creation of the mini-album as possible. On Savage, they were given ample space to skillfully conjure every single members’ unique voices.

“We wanted to bring Savage in its very best quality so we put a lot of effort in recording the songs. There was a lot of re-recording with many revisions to make this album as great as it can be,” leader Karina reveals. “As for styling and visuals, we all contributed to our hair and makeup by finding pictures online and sharing them with our team.” 

The power of becoming a star in today’s world and being responsible for a complex universe as your artistic playground means handling immense pressure, especially for their debut album. Each member of aespa found strength by drawing from the various lessons about life they learned as they were preparing Savage. For Ningning, her muse when preparing for this mini-album was the best version of herself — one she worked tirelessly to meet. “Personally, I gain confidence with practice,” she says. “Whether that’s performing on stage, recording, or filming various content, I need to put in the effort to gain confidence.” 

Their members’ bond has been memorialized and celebrated in various viral social media posts — a result of the intrinsic closeness born out of vulnerably caring for one another throughout the years. As they take this extensive artistic journey together, they’re excited for fans to listen to Savage and feel empowered and as equally involved. “To me, being a ‘savage’ doesn’t just mean powerful and confident,” Giselle explains. “But it’s also about being able to look after those around you.” 

While there’s the glamorous side of being idols, the powerful act of revealing the most unguarded side of yourself is part and parcel of being an artist — and it’s something that Winter wanted to embrace with their new release. Confidence was something that has not only guided her through the creation of this album and embracing what it means to be a “Savage,” but also in liberating herself to live life to its absolute fullest. 

“In order to show your confident side, I believe it’s important to first spend time getting to know yourself,” Winter says. “Confidence doesn’t just appear out of thin air. It’s an ongoing process that is also a reflection of how you feel about yourself. If you embrace who you are, you naturally become confident — and no one can take that away from you.”