By Chang Dong-woo
SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- The first quarter of 2018 was not short of blockbusters for YG Entertainment, South Korea's third-largest music label-entertainment agency. The company's junior boy band iKON hit a massive home run with "Love Scenario," followed by BIGBANG's recent hit "Flower Road," which dominated streaming charts for over three weeks.
On deck to bat next for YG is boy band WINNER, which returns to the spotlight with "EVERYD4Y," its second full-length studio album and its first domestic release in eight months, after "Our Twenty For" back in August last year. As with "Fate Number For" from a year ago, the group opted for a release window centered around the number four -- putting it out on the fourth of April.
The self-produced 12 track album is fronted by "Everyday," a slow-paced trap song written by Seungyoon and Mino, and arranged by YG's in-house producer Jang Seok-joon, aka AiRPLAY. Also thrown in the mix are two songs -- "Raining" and "Have a Good Day" -- originally first released in Japan in February.
"It's as if our past four years are encapsulated in this album. We have some songs that were written four years ago and recent works as well," Seungyoon, the band's primary songwriter, said during a group interview at a cafe in western Seoul, hours before the new album's scheduled release at 6 p.m.
The album title, partly inspired by last year's four-themed marketing campaign, as well as that of the lead song, was chosen to emphasize the importance of each and every day of people's lives.
"We want to be most active at what we do every day. It is a song that encompasses such adventurous spirit," Seungyoon said.
Before April last year, WINNER's fate had become uncertain amid the band's prolonged 14-month hiatus and the fallout from founding member Taehyun quitting in 2016. That all changed after the band remade themselves as a four-man team and rocketed to stardom with "Really Really," a tropical house number included in "Fate Number For" that was released in April 2017.
"EVERYD4Y" is WINNER's first studio album since "2014 S/S," released in 2014. This time, the quartet is trying to further capitalize on their success from last year while also diversifying their musical spectrum.
"We don't like standing still. There's no enjoyment in repeating the same success formula. I think songs that we make and enjoy singing are the ones that best express who we are," said Sengyoon.
WINNER also thanked YG and senior producer Yang Hyun-seok for allowing the band to release a full-length album.
"It's not easy putting out a full-length studio album nowadays. In a market where many artists have to suffice with singles, we're glad that our boss has led us properly. We worked with ambition and put our heads together for higher quality," Mino said.
But according to the members, the decision required some persuasion and the quartet worked hard to get their determination across to Yang. According to Seungyoon, Yang said the band had to produce a certain amount of tracks in a week. According to Seungyoon, the album would have ended up an EP record if they had failed to meet the deadline.
"Some days, we would record two or three songs a day. We ended up finishing eight tracks in a week," Seungyoon said of the production process during crunch time.
As BIGBANG is on virtual hiatus while its members serve their mandatory military service, WINNER has now become YG's senior boy band. With successive hits from iKON and BIGBANG, WINNER hopes to add momentum to YG's winning streak in 2018.
"I don't want to burden ourselves with the duty of filling in the blank space left behind by BIGBANG. But as part of the YG family, we would like to continue this positive energy," Mino said.
The band also shared their thoughts on the emotional agony an artist faces monitoring how their work is received, especially in an age of cut-throat chart competition. Seunghoon shared his honest thoughts.
"The first hour is very agonizing. I'd rather take sleeping pills and take a deep sleep. Checking reactions during the first hour feels like a year," said Seunghoon. "That's why I try to control my mind and avoid the early feedback, if possible," he said, chuckling.
The singer also said WINNER as a collective unit seems to be getting stronger.
"Many talk about resting on their laurels after years pass by. But I think we've become much more solid and hard amid external circumstances. We try to process stress as factor in creating better teamwork," said Seunghoon. "If we enjoy our work and receive cheerful energy, results will follow accordingly."
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