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(LEAD) (Yonhap Interview) Boy band WINNER returns with four-man lineup

All News 16:54 April 04, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details at bottom)
By Chang Dong-woo

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- In South Korean culture, the number four is often considered bad luck. For example, it's very common to find the Arabic numeral "4" replaced with the letter "F" in elevators.

But South Korean idol group WINNER of YG Entertainment is apparently enamored with this taboo number, releasing its new EP album "Fate Number For" at exactly 4 p.m. on April 4. The reason? To highlight its realignment into a four-man team following the departure of member Nam Tae-hyun last year due to health issues.

"We want to show all of our colors as a four-member team. We think we worked hard to turn over a new leaf (in WINNER's history)," Kang Seung-yoon, team leader of WINNER, said Tuesday during a group media interview at a YG Entertainment showroom in northern Seoul.

This promotional image provided by YG Entertainment shows WINNER, which on April 4, 2017, made a comeback in 14 months with EP album "Fate Number For." (Yonhap)

Kang admitted that he never really had a particular interest in the numerical value of four, but said "I've got to like it."

The EP album, WINNER's comeback in 14 months, holds two new songs -- "Really Really" and "Fool" -- and instrumental versions of each song.

"Really Really," a tropical house genre number, breaks from WINNER's mostly sentimental vibe in the past, while "Fool" is a slow tempo piano ballad in which the team said they tried to convey an emotion totally opposite from "Really Really."

Kang, a former top four finalist at audition show "Superstar K," is the primary songwriter for both songs.

"Compared to our previous music which is seen as mature or emotional, we tried to deliver a young and fresh story in 'Really Really.'" The black and white music video for the song was shot in Los Angeles and directed by well-known music video director Dave Meyers.

According to member Lee Seung-hoon, Meyers initially declined to shoot the video but former 2NE1 member and solo artist CL's friendship with Meyers persuaded the director to shoot the video for WINNER.

"We initially had high hopes on working with a master director but were later disappointed. But CL put in a word for us as she was close with Dave Meyers, that we were a promising team and won't have problems with communication," said Lee, noting that CL also gave a lot of useful tips on music video filming.

Nam Tae-hyun's abrupt departure last year was and remains a giant elephant in the room for WINNER, which is trying to rebrand itself and start fresh as a four-member team. When asked about the possibility of Nam rejoining, the team acknowledged the possibility of returning to a five-member group.

"We don't contact him that often. I don't know. If given a chance, we have the history of having five members. Returning (to that day) could be a possibility." Kang said.

This promotional image provided by YG Entertainment shows WINNER, which on April 4, 2017, made a comeback in 14 months with EP album "Fate Number For." (Yonhap)

The unforeseen hiatus provided an opportunity for the members to reflect as artists and as individuals, the team said.

"I was impatient from the sudden vacuum in activities but later saw it as time given for myself. I became more mature and more relaxed. As a person I think I matured within," said Kang.

Main vocalist Kim Jin-woo said he took the time to practice his dance skills.

"I practiced a lot on my singing and also did some modern dancing through the 'Little Prince' performance. I learned a lot from the experience on stage expression and confidence," Kim said.

WINNER debuted in August 2014, marking YG's first male idol team debut in eight years after BIGBANG. "Color Ring" and "Empty" on the debut album "2014 S/S" stormed streaming charts at home and abroad, earning the group the nickanme "Monster Rookie." But the team failed to gain further traction, bogged down by Nam Tae-hyun's health issues.

On comparisons to BIGBANG, Kang said: "We aim to become a group that constantly matures like BIGBANG and hope to possibly be a group that can replace BIGBANG."

"But, first and foremost, we need to pursue our own music. We want to become an artist that can hold onto a turf of our own."


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