Debuting with electric fanfare this past November thanks to their smash hit single “Black Mamba,” it is all eyes on aespa. The four-member group, comprised of KARINA, GISELLE, WINTER and NINGING, is poised to becoming the next big sensation of K-pop, with their powerful vocals, agile dance moves, and arguably the most fascinating concept never before yet seen. Uniting the English initials of ‘Avatar’ and ‘Experience’ with the word ‘aspect,’ aespa symbolizes having two sides, meeting another self, and experiencing a new world.
Eldest KARINA was born in South Korea on April 11, 2000. She has the distinction for the being the tallest member. She is the Leader and Main Dancer of the group. Her official symbol is Heart. She likes green tea and barley tea.
GISELLE was born October 30, 2000. She is Japanese-Korean and can speak both languages as well as English. Her position is Main Rapper, and her symbol is Crescent Moon. She can also play the guitar.
WINTER is the Lead Vocalist and Lead Dancer. She was born in South Korea on January 1, 2001. Her symbol is Star. She enjoys eating chocolate and sweets, and her favorite film genre is action.
NINGNING is the Main Vocalist and Maknae (youngest) of the group. She was born on October 23, 2002 in China and can speak both Chinese and Korean. Her favorite subject is art, and she can also play the piano. Her symbol is Butterfly.
After teasing the group members in short introductory videos, aespa officially kicked things off November 17th with the dynamic “Black Mamba.” With its growling bassline bounding right out of the gate and rapid shout in unison “Hey!”, it was clear these girls were taking no prisoners. Sure enough the first verse propels in a syncopated rhythm, riding the off-beat with attitude. Immediately I could make out the codewords “my aespa” and “SYNK out” as we roll into the bass drop chorus. Looking up the English lyrics in the music video, my curiosity is peaked with the line “This communion, your existence brings me to another dimension.” The whole song is a dossier on aespa’s concept and lore, a statement of who they are and cryptic teases of what they’re about. The war cry of “Aya ya ya ya ya ya” in the chorus exudes confidence as does the stuttered “Ma Ma Ma Mamba,” forewarning listeners to brace for impact. For a debut track, “Black Mamba” is sheer brilliance, a powerful expression of aespa’s multifaced talents, and real headbanger at that. The crisp, dynamic vocals are right there at the forefront, as is that classic SMP (SM Music Performance) sound with its heavy beats and sweeping arrangement. A month later and I still grin widely when it comes on, happily hitting repeat.
Come for the song, stay for the performance. The music video for “Black Mamba” only elevates the magic it exudes, serving as visual appetizer for aespa’s burgeoning artistry. The choreography grabs hold of my attention with its sharp movements and energetic key points. Dropping to their knees and shifting weight left to right at the chorus is the most spellbinding, conjuring serpentine imagery with their contorted twists. And while the color palette is brimming with pinks and purples and the styling young and feminine, there are some increasingly darker cutaways simmering throughout the video. A monstrous black mamba slithers across the scenery before seemingly taking over KARINA as her eyes go black and she is transported to another realm controlled by an evil empress. The chorus lyric “You wander this KWANGYA/ I can’t lose against you,” is a call to arms as the members seek help in the form of enigmatic, animated avatars who unite to destroy the snake and send it back from whence it came. But a sinister tease at the end hints that the battle has just begun.
Though only shown briefly, we do get a glimpse of ae-aespa, the members’ virtual reality selves. Meant to transcend boundaries between the real world and the virtual one, ae-aespa is certainly one of the most striking aspects of the group and lays the groundwork for developing a unique universe all their own. How their mythos will expand is yet to be seen, but I’m eager to learn more about the avatars and what exactly the terms ‘FLAT,’ ‘SYNK,’ and ‘KWANGYA’ entail. Eagle-eyed fans are already on the hunt for clues and pitching theories. One of note is the idea of a shared multiverse where all SM artists coexist. While aespa’s group logo was teased at the end of SuperM’s music video for “One (Monster & Infinity),” we were treated to a similar tease of BoA at the end of “Black Mamba.” I love a mystery, so I appreciate that aespa’s debut song doesn’t give everything away all at once. SM has always been a leader in music and technology, and it’s apparent a lot of forethought has gone into aespa’s groundbreaking concept. If “Black Mamba” is the appetizer of what’s to come, I’m excited for the endless possibilities yet to be uncovered.
*All opinions stated are the author’s own.