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Monday, April 15, 2024

‘We are showing how we are’: HYBE’s ILLIT impresses with ‘whimsical’ debut

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ILLIT, HYBE's newest girl group, performs ″Magnetic,″ the lead track of its debut EP, ″Super Real Me,″ during a showcase on Monday in central Seoul. [DANIELA GONZALEZ PEREZ]
ILLIT, HYBE’s newest girl group, performs ″Magnetic,″ the lead track of its debut EP, ″Super Real Me,″ during a showcase on Monday in central Seoul. [DANIELA GONZALEZ PEREZ]

“Witty and whimsical” and “music suitable for our age” are cliché phrases for many debuting K-pop bands. But ILLIT, HYBE’s latest girl group, demonstrates just that both on and offstage with its debut EP, “Super Real Me.”

“I think our group name, ILLIT, is a name that suits us just right. We are a group filled with unique colors, and it really shows,” ILLIT’s Wonhee said during a press showcase Monday at Blue Square Mastercard Hall in Yongsan District, central Seoul, ahead of the EP’s release later that day.

Many eyes are on ILLIT, which was formed on the much-hyped audition show “R U Next,” it is the third and latest girl group to debut under HYBE, the powerhouse of K-pop behind such dominant artists as Le Sserafim, BTS and — most recently — NewJeans. But while similar at first sight to its senior counterparts, ILLIT managed to show unique elements of its own through two strong performances.

“The EP shows the way we are, how [teenagers] are honest about their emotions and how we are expressing such feelings. We are showing how we are, frankly,” said Moka.

Both “My World,” the first track in the EP and the lead track, “Magnetic,” show exactly such a playful, yet lighthearted side of the artists.

“’Magnetic’ shows the honest, yet confident messages of teenagers as they head toward the person they like,” Wonhee said. “It’s filled with fun, unpredictable melodies.”

“Magnetic” was produced by none other than Bang Si-hyuk, the founder of HYBE, alongside other teenage producers who were not named.

Similarly, members explained, “My World” is a song that “shows what the group saw, felt and experienced first hand.”

Though the five members of ILLIT — Yunah, Minju, Moka, Wonhee and Iroha — appeared nervous and shy throughout the press showcase, they proved their point through their performances of “My World” and “Magnetic” on stage.

ILLIT, HYBE's newest girl group, performs ″My World,″ a B-side track from its debut EP, ″Super Real Me,″ during a showcase on Monday in central Seoul. [DANIELA GONZALEZ PEREZ]
ILLIT, HYBE’s newest girl group, performs ″My World,″ a B-side track from its debut EP, ″Super Real Me,″ during a showcase on Monday in central Seoul. [DANIELA GONZALEZ PEREZ]

“It’s not like [the witty and whimsical] side is only shown on stage when we perform our songs,” Yunah said. “Many of our choreographies are inspired by how we play with each other outside our stage. The trivial and odd things we do together are reflected on stage.”

Despite being the product of a powerhouse label and a popular TV show, ILLIT’s journey has not been without its hiccups. Its membership shrank from six to five after Youngseo, who placed second on “R U Next,” left the agency in January for unspecified reasons.

Nevertheless, the group’s name symbolizes the resilience and ambition that shone through on its stage. ILLIT is a combination of “I will” and “it,” lacking a verb between those words. The title speaks to ILLIT’s future potential as the group to fill that space with “endless possibilities,” according to its agency, Belift Lab.

The first word to fill that space, the group hopes, will be “win”: The members already have their eyes on music show trophies and Rookie of the Year.

“Rookie of the Year awards are something you can only receive once,” Moka said.

“Also, being a rookie group, we just want to enjoy more on stage and be more relaxed on stage, just like other senior artists,” Wonhee said.

As a HYBE group, Yunah said, “We know we are working in a good environment. We will try our best not to be ashamed of such titles.”

“We want to meet more of our overseas fans,” Iroha said. “We hope people think of ILLIT when they think of fifth-generation girl groups.”

ILLIT, HYBE's newest girl group, poses for the camera during a showcase on Monday in central Seoul. [DANIELA GONZALEZ PEREZ]
ILLIT, HYBE’s newest girl group, poses for the camera during a showcase on Monday in central Seoul. [DANIELA GONZALEZ PEREZ]

BY CHO YONG-JUN [cho.yongjun1@joongang.co.kr]