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Hybe opens up an era of 'tech-tainment' with new artist Midnatt

Singer Lee Hyun reborn through a new identity, Midnatt

By Choi Ji-won

Published : May 15, 2023 - 17:36

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(From left) Hybe IM CEO Jung Woo-yong, singer Midnatt and Big Hit Music CEO Shin Young-jae holds a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Hybe) (From left) Hybe IM CEO Jung Woo-yong, singer Midnatt and Big Hit Music CEO Shin Young-jae holds a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Hybe)

South Korean singer Lee Hyun re-debuted on Monday as Midnatt, an alter ego created through the incorporation of artificial intelligence.

Midnatt is the first artist to debut through Hybe's new music project, Project L.

Midnatt officially debuted on Monday with "Masquerade," a song jointly produced by Hybe's label Big Hit Music and the company's interactive media technology subsidiary Hybe IM. The song was released in six different languages.

"It feels strange and exciting at the same time that I'm coming out with another name," Lee Hyun as Midnatt said at a press conference held in Seoul on Monday. Big Hit Music's CEO Shin Young-jae and Hybe IM's CEO Jung Woo-yong also attended the event.

"I've spent a long time as a singer, and it's grateful that I can still take up new challenges," Lee, who debuted in 2007 as the leader of the three-piece ballad group 8eight, said.

The singer talked about his new name, Midnatt, which means midnight in Swedish.

"Midnight is the starting point of a new day, and it begins in the dark. I believed the word portrayed well the story I wanted to tell as I start off fresh after a long hiatus," Lee said on Monday.

Shin, the label chief of Big Hit Music, said, "Midnatt started from Lee's hope to show a new side of himself. We believed we could make use of technology as a solution, and we could kickstart the project quickly thanks to Hybe IM."

Project L is the new musical project launched by multilabel entertainment company Hybe, also known as the company behind the global K-pop sensation BTS. Under its umbrella brand Hybe Labels, it houses music labels in South Korea, Japan and America.

Bang Si-hyuk, Hybe's founder and chairman, first heralded the new project during a recent interview with Billboard, saying that the project will bring together technology and music to take K-pop to the next level and expand the field of experience for fans and listeners.

Screenshots of Midnatt's Screenshots of Midnatt's

Marking Midnatt's debut is "Masquerade," a synth-wave song featuring rhythmical guitar strings and "newtro" sounds that addresses the innermost thoughts and conflicts inside the artist, the label explained.

"The lyrics compare to a lover's relationship my conflicting emotions, where I want to push away from my past but at the same time am unable to part from that ego," Lee explained.

CEO Jung of Hybe IM, the technological brain behind Midnatt, expounded on the technologies incorporated in the project.

"Masquerade" features a female voice which was synthesized through AI technology upon Lee's own voice. This was made through the voice design technology of Supertone, a sound AI startup acquired by Hybe in 2021.

Screenshots of Midnatt's Screenshots of Midnatt's

The song also used Supertone's multi-language transformation technology, and released the song in six languages -- Korean, English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. Lee sang in the different languages, and the computer would make adjustments to make the pronunciations sound more natural.

Hybe also teamed up with the visual contents company Giantstep in making the music video. Most of the locations featured in the video are of augmented reality made through the company's extended reality technology.

Hybe IM's producer and DJ Hitchhiker, who has worked with renowned K-pop acts such as Exo and Red Velvet, helmed the new project.

As proclaimed by Bang before, Hybe began the project to discover new possibilities for K-pop.

"With Project L, we opened up one of many paths that music and technology can take together," Jung said, adding, "We're open to working with other artists of Hybe Labels and various technological startups."

Both Jung and Shin stressed the music and the message lay at the core of this new project.

"It was important that we do not harm the artist's genuine story whatever trendy sounds and technologies were incorporated. We developed the project with the belief that we're making use of the technologies to deliver the message in various forms," Jung said.

Singer Lee Hyun speaks during a press conference about his new single Singer Lee Hyun speaks during a press conference about his new single

Shin stressed that Midnatt was not a virtual singer but "an alter ego of Lee Hyun," extending Lee's own capabilities as a singer.

"We hope that this project could bring about a new wave in the music industry. We feel we've gained a push to realize an artist's imagination beyond the physical boundaries," the label chief said, adding, "Hopefully, it could expand K-pop's reach in the global market and lead a change in the music industry."

Lee also shared his anticipations as a newly rookie artist.

"Although there are various technologies used, the content itself is based on the thoughts I had about music and life. Many people have loved me as a balladeer and I was able to come this far thanks to them. But I've always desired something new, and hopefully, Midnatt could speak for that side of me," he said.

Lee is set to perform live as Midnatt at Hybe's Weverse Con in Seoul in June.