In the era of virtual worldview, all eyes are on a new growth engine of K-pop. Can ‘metaverse’ do it?
Can virtual reality become the new growth engine for K-pop? Recently, K-pop is opening up a new world with the combination of virtualization. It was an era when avatars of idol groups met with fans in virtual space, and internet singers combining AI and CG technology could freely perform. How far will K-pop go in the virtual world?
aespa, who debuted in November last year with the single album ‘Black Mamba‘, is a rookie girl group under SM Entertainment consisting of Karina, Giselle, Winter, and Ningning. However, aespa added the concept of ‘avatar’ to these members. Each member works with their avatar, their other-self. It contains aespa’s unique worldview. And, another world is emerging in which each individual has an avatar based on their data, and there is also a threat to hack the world and bring chaos.
Avatars are not only included in stories, but they also participate in actual activities. In other words, members and avatars appear together in the music videos to create a story along with dancing and singing, members and avatars also participate in fan meetings and concerts. This world, which is made possible by overlapping digital and analog technologies such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence, is the so-called ‘metaverse’. Metaverse is a compound word of ‘meta’ meaning virtual and transcendence and ‘universe’ meaning world and universe. aespa is a girl group that works as Kpop idols, so why did they come to work with such a metaverse worldview?
K-pop worldview based on ‘metaverse’
This is because virtualization is not in a virtual dimension, but has been connected to reality and transformed into space where real experiences take place. For example, in the digital world, we are already dealing with a lot of real-world tasks such as going to the bank, watching movies, and attending concerts. We can also do shopping, get education, meet friends, and play games together, etc. The fact that real experiences which take place in digital virtual reality indicate that the metaverse has made its way into our daily lives. Due to prolonged COVID-19, the growth of “non-face-to-face everyday life” is bringing these experiences into our lives more swiftly.
The fact that aespa officially brings a new worldview through metaverse is another decisive blow to help K-Pop strongly adapt to the changes of modern life. The fact that K-Pop idols like BTS and Blackpink have such a large global fanbase thanks to digital networking platforms also helps explain why this new technique is so effective. If the avatars of K-pop idols can be accepted by the fandom as their other true selves, then metaverse will be able to do many things beyond the limits of imagination.
Metaverse can only become ‘possible’ if the Kpop fandoms believe in and ‘live’ in a “virtual universe” called a “worldview” as if it were real. This is because, although virtual experiences are replacing real experiences, a worldview is meaningless if it is not accepted by the human. The case of the idol group EXO, which debuted in 2011, shows how worldview has become an increasingly familiar concept in K-pop. In other words, EXO has created a new worldview, which suggests that the members fly from extrasolar planets (exoplanet). They possess various superpowers such as telekinesis, time, space, fire, and water. However, this worldview was unfamiliar to even EXO members at the time. So then, it was used in entertainment programs as a source of amusement. Nevertheless, EXO’s worldview, which was grand enough to be set in space, became an important factor that made K-pop fans enthusiastic with its detailed design. Fans also find it fascinating to speculate on connections, details or theories embedded in the music videos, images, teasers, etc. As a kind of psychological barrier has been broken down, their own worldview that “only insiders know” has made their fandom more solid.
After EXO, K-pop idols began to present various fantasy concepts. The group B.A.P debuted with a concept of ‘boys from the planet Mato arrived on Earth after wandering through space to save a planet in crisis’. The girl group DREAMCATCHER is a girl group that symbolizes the 7 nightmares in the fantasy world and the girls who chase them. The rather dark world view of the chase with the Nightmare Hunter is expressed through intense heavy metal sounds, dances, and images with a sense of speed. As everyone knows, BTS used to have a concept that takes motif from Hermann Hesse’s novel, Damien. As such, it has become natural for K-pop idols to appear with their own virtual world. Based on the idol’s concept, Metaverse adds new technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), extended reality (XR), artificial intelligence (AI), big data, high-speed network, and blockchain to expand the dimension of the story. It had appeared in a world that was felt beyond it.
The fact that the metaverse accepts virtual characters (avatars) as if they were real required various efforts to give them the ‘real’ feeling. Adam, the first domestic cyber singer who appeared in 1998,+ also tried to create a sense of reality through ‘Personal Character Animation’, which was a difficult challenge with CG technology at the time. There was good reason for this cyber character to appear as a singer. In addition to the fact that various businesses are possible based on the popularity of being an entertainer, it was the job that a singer could do with the least use of CG with the technology at the time. As a singer, it was enough to just have the CG in the music video and the voice of the faceless singer. It was an idea that was too advanced, but at the time, Adam’s creators dreamed of a metaverse world where everyone could have an avatar by developing CG technology by leaps and bounds. However, Adam eventually left the metaverse world, revealing a limit that could not be filled with the technology at the time.
From cyber singer Adam to virtual model Rosie
Rosy, a virtual model that appeared in a recent advertisement 20 years later, shows how dramatically the current CG technology has developed. It became a hot topic when it became known that Rosie, who appeared as a virtual model, and not a real person. The advertisement was first released without announcing that it was a virtual model. The rapid development of CG technology makes it possible to realize that virtual characters will appear in the form of various avatars in the future and the metaverse they will compose is now in front of us.
Now, metaverse platforms like ZEPETO have become a space for global K-pop fandoms to gather. More than 46 million users flocked to BLACKPINK’s fan sign event. They come from all around the world with avatars created using AI and AR technology in their selfie photos. We can do everything from going to concerts, purchasing goods, and attending fan sign events to meeting idols. This is a world that is currently being built around fandoms, but the base is gradually expanding to the general public. The public is gradually accepting the metaverse as if it were real. An avatar is a character that is like an alter ego of me but in the world of the metaverse, it represents me. At the point where this belief is born, the future of K-pop, which preemptively climbed the metaverse, is drawn. Metaverse is already operating as an important growth engine for K-pop.