[INTERVIEW] WINNER on new album ‘We,’ BLACKPINK and YG scandal

WINNER has been working hard this year, which marks the fifth year since its debut in 2013. It is back with a new EP nearly five months after the release of its single “Millions.”

“We” consists of six tracks, including the lead track “Ah Yeah” and a remixed version of “Everyday.” The making of the EP saw the bandmates heavily involved in the process, with Kang Seung-yoon taking the lead in songwriting, alongside producers Diggy, AiRPLAY and Joe Rhee.

Having had a busy year — what with Mino’s solo career success with chart-topper “Fiance” in November and the group’s first US tour earlier this year — the group sat down for an interview Thursday to discuss a number of topics: its new album, fellow YG group Blackpink’s success and the scandals engulfing YG Entertainment.

Did you hope for or expect the success of the lead single “Ah Yeah”? (The song topped streaming charts in Korea hours after its release.)

Seungyoon: I think we kind of hoped. It would be a lie if we said we didn’t. We always hope that we perform well (on the charts) but we didn’t predict it. That is something not within our control, and every time we come back and release a song, we always need luck and things need to all work together to get a result like this. We didn’t see it coming at all and are nervous and thankful to fans.

The new song is about a breakup but it is quite upbeat. Tell us about the making of the song. 

Seungyoon: We always want to show something new when we make a comeback. If you listen to the rest of the album, you’d find that each track is different. When we were debating which sound would be a good choice (for a lead single), “Ah Yeah,” one of the songs I made recently, came across as refreshing. The breakup-themed lyrics are a departure from our usual style yet we managed to put Winner’s own bright spin on it.

What did Chief Executive Producer Yang Hyun-suk say about the new EP?

Seungyoon: Yang’s reaction was very positive. Like I’ve just said, the four new songs from the EP are quite different in terms of style and he complimented us on them. Even today, in a group chat where we discuss chart performances and stuff, he told us the success was thanks to our hard work.

Why is the new EP called “We”?

Seungyoon: We came up with “We or Never” as a subtitle for the album. When we look back on our past, there were many periods we were able to get through because the four of us stuck together. I wanted to highlight the fact that if there were no “we” and we went our separate ways, we wouldn’t have come this far.
And we also wanted to say that fans who listen to our new EP are also part of “We.”

There have been scandals surrounding YG. Were you affected by them?

Seungyoon: There has been a lot of noise. But when we are making an album, we just go to the studio and work on our music so we weren’t really affected by it I think. Rather than being under pressure, we just wanted to show our fans our new music as soon as possible and just worked hard.”

Blackpink is very successful in the US. Do they motivate you?

Seungyoon: I’m happy for them. I think they are very cool. I recently watched a video of their recent (Coachella) performance and they are really awesome and can sing live well. We’d love to perform at a festival like that someday. To be honest, there is a part of me that is a little envious since you don’t get to perform on such a high-profile stage often. 

But more than anything, we support them. As their oppa and senior, we are just happy that our younger sisters are doing well and we just want to send our support and hit the stream button. Also, I think we have a different direction. Though they are now international stars, we’ll go our way, having good memories and a good time with fans.”

Mino: They speak English well. Three of them can speak English well and I think we get motivated from things like that. 

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