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In third year, aespa adds value to 2022 by eyeing global stage

Quartet becomes first K-pop act to perform at Coachella’s main stage on Saturday

Girl group aespa (S.M. Entertainment)
Girl group aespa (S.M. Entertainment)

Rookie girl group aespa is making headlines around the globe for one reason: The band will become the first K-pop female act to perform on Coachella’s main stage.

S.M. Entertainment announced Tuesday that the quartet is performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the largest music event in the United States.

Speculation of the group making its US concert debut began making rounds when the bandmates shared a few Los Angeles-related stickers on their social media, and fans quickly pieced together the puzzle of where they would be heading next: California.

The K-pop act will make its Coachella debut on Saturday in the US on the second weekend of the event, to be streamed Sunday during the daytime in Korea via the event’s official YouTube channel. Some of the big names performing at the event are Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Grammy-award winner Doja Cat, Conan Gray and Pink Sweat$.

Aespa is the third K-pop girl group to ascend to the Coachella stage. Previously, Blackpink made its US festival debut in 2019 by performing on the Sahara stage, and recently the now-disbanded 2NE1 made a special appearance.

The group is set to show an electrifying performance of its megahits “Black Mamba,” “Next Level” and “Savage.” The group will also be showcasing an unreleased track recorded explicitly for the Coachella set.

After the news broke out, many fans around the globe took to social media, saying they “couldn’t be more proud,” with one comment reading: “The girls are going to open a new era at Coachella.”

Before such fame, aespa’s road to stardom was bumpy. When the concept of avatars, alter egos dubbed “ae” and digital culture splashed on the K-pop scene, many questioned the idiosyncrasy: Would the idea land well?

But aespa has carved a path for itself after getting a foot in the door through its futuristic avatar theme.

The quartet made its highly anticipated debut under K-pop powerhouse S.M. Entertainment with the single “Black Mamba” in November 2020. Turning uncertainty into confidence, it didn’t take long for the girl group to become established as one of South Korea’s must-look-forward-to rookie groups.

Aespa broke the record for fastest K-pop video to reach the 100 million mark on YouTube with “Black Mamba.” The record came just 51 days after their first appearance. 


Girl group aespa (S.M. Entertainment)
Girl group aespa (S.M. Entertainment)

The band took another step closer to stardom by remaking A$ton Wyld’s “Next Level” in May 2021. The remixed version of the track transformed the “Fast & Furious” movie soundtrack into hip-hop-based beats, creating back-to-back hits.

The records set by the K-pop act spoke to its rising popularity. The band logged “Next Level” on the Billboard K-pop 100 chart for the first time and sat at No. 33. It also ranked No. 65 on the Billboard Global 200 and No. 2 on the World Digital Song Sales.

Last October, aespa released the group’s first physical album, “Savage,” debuting at No. 20 on the Billboard 200 as the highest debut for a K-pop girl group on the chart. The six-track package peaked at No. 2 on the Top Album Sales chart. With the album, aespa put its talent on full display, also performing at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in November.

Everything that aespa does has been a grand slam, from its performances to fresh soundscapes. But the four bandmates -- Karina, Winter, Giselle and Ningning -- were also born to stand out in a time when new bands and songs tend to appear at lightning speed in the music scene.

Giselle is known for her rap skills, Ningning is acknowledged for her vocal techniques and Karina and Winter are on board for Got the Beat, a seven-member female unit under its label.

Culture critic Jang Duk-hyun viewed aespa’s Coachella debut as the “dawn of a new K-pop era.”

“BTS has propelled the growth and influence of K-pop and Blackpink also has been the driving force behind K-pop as a girl group. People were curious about who will follow in their footsteps, and I think aespa is a band that has the potential to grab the baton,” he said.

“Aespa’s concept is different from other bands, so people could find it interesting and enjoy the music. Also, aespa has a big fandom base already, which makes them even more competitive,” he added.

As the coronavirus situation unfolds, the foursome will likely be adding more value to its career by eyeing the global stage. And as the group debuted during the pandemic era, many fans are hoping to see the band play at stadiums on a world tour and hear more English releases.

Apart from stage gigs, the four-piece has also broadened its musical horizon through a string of carefully crafted records.

Last year, aespa participated in S.M. Entertainment and YouTube’s Remastering Project, aimed at introducing K-pop classics from the ’90s and early 2000s. The band reinterpreted former girl group S.E.S’ hit single “Dream Comes True,” bringing a new take with its musical style and performance.

And now, just like the predecessors of K-pop bands who drove the music world into a frenzy, aespa is expected to take the Western world by storm.

By Park Jun-hee (junheee@heraldcorp.com)
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