SM Entertainment successfully pioneered the bridging of culture and technology. Now, even in a pandemic-struck era, they’re not showing any signs of stopping, but in fact, taking it to the next level.
In 2016, SM Entertainment’s founder Lee Soo Man spoke about the New Culture Technology, which led to the debut of NCT. Flashback to what happened in 2016. Fast forward to 2020, SM Entertainment’s CEO Lee Sung-su’s keynote speech at Mu:Con 2020’s “Culture Technology, IP Industry and Untact” session, he highlights the early move using AR and VR technologies in their concert series, “ Beyond Live”, the success of SuperM, also known as the K-pop Avengers, consisting of EXO’s Kai and Baekhyun, SHINee’s Taemin, NCT’s Taeyong and Mark, and WayV’s Lucas and Ten.
SuperM was formed in 2019 as a collaboration between SM Entertainment and Capitol Music Group. The group debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and went on to launch a SuperM x Marvel limited edition apparel collection.
Not to leave other artists and their repertoire out in the cold, Lee Sung-su also announced “SM Classics”, where old songs are reinvigorated with a new spin, yes you guessed it, with classical music. This new and fusion of music arrangements may be experimental, but creates new IPs and potentially a new market for artists.
However, today’s latest talk of town after a long wait is, Aespa, SM’s latest 4-member K-pop girl group. The name, Aespa combines “avatar”, “experience” and “aspect”, embodying the concepts of virtual meets reality. Each girl group member has an avatar or virtual half, whom they interact with, both in the real and digital world.
According to Lee Soo Man at the 2020 World Cultural Industry Forum, he explains the virtual concert series, “Beyond Live”, SM Culture Universe, global fandom and collaboration, but with regards to Aespa, he explains, “this group is what I’ve dreamed of as it projects a future world centered on celebrities and avatars, transcending boundaries between the real and virtual worlds.” Here’s one of the members, Karina and her avatar, æ-Karina.
From the clip, their friendship evidently grows as they share their experiences together online and offline. Other than Karina, there’s Winter, Ningning and Giselle (Aeri). Winter and Karina are both native Koreans, while Ningning and Giselle are of Chinese and Japanese nationalities respectively. The girls will officially debut in November.
In true SM style, marketing is done to a tee, leaving much anticipation and fans wanting more. A member was introduced one day at a time throughout the course of this week giving fans ample time to soak in each member's new persona. But now, the waiting continues as we count down to debut song release.
With the help of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other innovative technologies, Lee Soo Man’s ambitions will surely re-invent the future of K-pop and entertainment. Can anyone already imagine the rebirth of video arcade games, “Dance Dance Revolution” and “Para Para Paradise” with an all new SM Entertainment repertoire?
Image taken from Aespa's official Twitter account