Halfway through South Korean girl group (G)I-dle’s newest music video, “Uh-oh,” the camera pans up to leader and rapper Soyeon, standing alone on a raised platform, spitting bars into a flaming microphone.
The scene is an apt metaphor for the six-member group’s place within the K-pop landscape right now — standing out among the crowd, setting stereotypes aflame.
(G)I-dle, composed of Miyeon, 22, Minnie, 21, Soojin, 21, Soyeon, 20, Yuqi, 19, and Shuhua, 19, debuted in 2018 with the fierce and playful “LATATA,” becoming an instant hit, and earning them a music show win (a big accolade in K-pop) only 20 days after their first performance (the second fastest win ever for a girl group). Their dramatic second single off of their I Am EP “HANN (Alone)” — featuring Soyeon playing with a scorpion — only bolstered their overnight success, and the group eventually earned the rookie of the year title at the Asia Artist Awards, as well as the following year at Korea’s prestigious Golden Disk Awards. It isn’t simply their bold, sensual concept that sets them apart among budding K-pop girl groups, however — (G)I-dle is one of the rare groups who makes its own music.
“To be completely honest, we are not really sure why we’ve achieved the level of popularity we have,” Soyeon tells me at KCON New York, right before their highly-anticipated performance at Madison Square Garden. “But I think self-producing is something that differentiates us — something different that we offer. And we also know ourselves very well.”
Self-producing has recently become a bigger trend among K-pop groups — BTS and Seventeen have been doing it for years, and rookie groups like Stray Kids, and even ATEEZ have been brought into the fold — but most often it’s the men who take a creative stake in their work. Aside from EXID’s LE (the group’s status is up in the air, given two members left their agency), recently disbanded Pristin, and a few notable female soloists, (G)I-dle, and their hitmaker Soyeon, are leading the charge.
But Soyeon hopes she won’t be a unique case for long. “I don’t really get why [female producers are] so rare. Because it is really fun. The reason why we make our own music is because we simply really want to do it. I do hope there is an increase in women who self-produce.”
Standing at an unassuming 5’2”, the Seoul native only took a couple of production classes during idol training at Cube Entertainment, but took it upon herself to write (G)I-dle’s breakout single. She’s hasn’t stopped since, even writing for other idols in the industry. Along with much of I Am, she nearly wrote the entirety of (G)I-dle's second and most recent EP, I Made, except for “Blow Your Mind,” Minnie’s brainchild.
It’s a lot of work, and also a lot of pressure to bear, admits Soyeon. But she asserts that she’s always trying to have fun when she’s creating, and always feels support from her five teammates.
“Each member of our group has a very strong and distinct character and personality — we’re so different,” says Thai member Minnie, the group’s main vocalist and strongest English speaker. “But Soyeon knows how to make parts that fits each of us specifically and suits us the best. We trust her so much.”
“It’s nice to have someone writing for you who really knows you,” adds the soft-spoken Soojin.
When they’re performing on stage or in music videos, these distinctions between the members become even more clear, but also prove why the women of (G)I-dle were chosen for this particular group. They all seem to effortlessly strut down the line of enticement and danger — girls who, in their video for 2019’s “Senorita,” suck on lollipops with razor blades in them. Each carry a different energy to them, however, that complement each other: Miyeon carries herself with a regal elegance; the striking Soojin oozes sensuality and self-assuredness; Minnie is effusive and playful; Chinese member Yuqi’s eyes glimmer with mischief; Taiwanese Shuhua emits a thoughtful, quiet confidence; Soyeon is the charismatic backbone that ties the group together.
In an industry that at times seems to prefer a more docile image, (G)I-dle has not been immune to challenges to their concept. But the group makes it clear they don’t care that they have a tendency to subvert expectations. “We don’t really pay attention to those kinds of criticisms,” says Soyeon. “We make music that we want to make, and we really enjoy it, so we’re going to continue to follow that instinct. We don’t care.”
But while (G)I-dle lead with confidence first and foremost, it doesn’t mean they haven’t left self-doubt creep in. “When we make our own music from top to bottom, it’s all heavily based on our own opinions. In fact, we also often wonder if we are going in the right direction and doubt ourselves because not many artists self-produce. But we truly love it so much, and want to perform the songs we make.”
"It would be nice if other women see us, and if it could encourage them to write songs,” adds Minnie, “and most importantly to find confidence in their ability to do it.”
When asked what advice they’d give female artists who wish to follow in their footsteps, Minnie asserts that it starts within — being authentic to yourself. “Harness your own color, concept, and write the song that suits you the best. I think that’s the best way to write a song."
“Know yourself,” says Soyeon. “I think that kind of insight is all you have to have. And courage. It’s not important whether you’re a man or a woman — everyone who has the drive should challenge themselves.”
All the women nod, emphatically, and Minnie smiles as she exclaims, “You can do it!” raising her fist in the air.