The members open up about the message they want to convey with Born to be XX, hoping to give confidence to the listeners.
With the goal of bringing a breath of fresh air into the K-pop scene, KISS OF LIFE believes that this comeback only marks the beginning for them. Now that the quartet successfully built a strong foundation with their self-titled debut album, featuring the title song Shhh, the S2 Entertainment girl group continues to showcase their confidence in their new EP, Born to be XX.
KISS OF LIFE firmly admits that they were not under any pressure to make the return, despite being overwhelmed by the response to their well-received debut EP. “We weren’t that worried or pressured because we were so confident that we could do better,” KISS OF LIFE tells NYLON Manila.
Under the concept of presenting two sides, the “truth” and the “rumor,” the members seek to highlight and emphasize the duality of things in life with the double title tracks Bad News and Nobody Knows. In this EP, the quartet discusses rejecting prejudices and says, “Don’t judge only by what you see,” but they also want to leave as much room as possible for interpretation regarding what the letters XX mean.
Aside from the lead singles, Born to be XX includes the English version of Bad News, My 808, TTG, Gentleman, and Says It, some of which had members who were notably involved in the creation. Their participation in the creative process, together with the quality of music they’re giving, makes them one of the promising rookies to watch out for.
In an exclusive interview with NYLON Manila, Belle, Julie, Natty, and Haneul discuss album preparations, and fashion, and reflect on their journey as they look back on what sparked their passion for music.
First of all, congratulations on your first comeback! I was wondering how you used all the positive feedback you received for your debut album while working on Born to be XX. How did you find the album preparations?
KISS OF LIFE: We had so much fun preparing for the album! Because we got so much love and support for the first album, we were so excited and eager to come back with something even greater!
Did you have any worries or is there any pressure with this one? Were you thinking about how you will be able to surpass and make an even better album than KISS OF LIFE, or the excitement just took over the pressure and nervousness?
KISS OF LIFE: Actually, we weren’t that worried or pressured because we were so confident that we could do better. We actually pushed ourselves even more to make a better quality album and performance because of all the love we got in the KISS OF LIFE album!
In your debut album, there are solo songs and music videos that make it special. How about for this release, what do you think makes Born to be XX special? What are the new things you were able to realize and try this time around?
KISS OF LIFE: We think the Born to be XX album will be the start of KISS OF LIFE’s color as a group. If the first album was an introduction, Born to be XX is the start of our identity. We feel like the music and our performance that are in the album show the understanding we have for hip-hop and R&B.
“We know the truth no one else does,” the message of this album seems interesting and deep; could you elaborate with us more on the concept you would like to convey to the listeners as well as the meaning behind Born to be XX? What’s something you would like them to take away from listening to the songs?
KISS OF LIFE: Everyone is special and different in their own way. We want people to look at us and gain more confidence about themselves and just feel powerful. XX can mean anything, we don’t want to put any limitations! We also wanted to show that there are always two sides to a story! Don’t judge only by what you see.
How was your experience recording the songs? Were there any difficulties?
KISS OF LIFE: There were so many difficulties because we really wanted to do great. We constantly pushed ourselves and challenged ourselves to new lengths and recorded over and over again because we wanted it to be perfect. Other than that, we had a lot of fun recording because all the songs were so good and were really our style!
Are you into fashion these days, and how did you like the outfits during the shoot?
Julie: Actually, we all love fashion and taking photos, so the photo shoots were really fun for us! Personally, I have a huge passion for fashion so it was a dream come true to wear such beautiful clothes and take so many cool photos!
For Belle: What motivated you to choose this kind of path? Some idols focus on their performance and they just think about participating in the creative process later on, but it was the other way around for you: you started composing first before becoming an idol. How does it feel to transition from just writing songs for other artists to writing your own songs and performing those on stage?
Belle: Since I was very young, I had a huge passion for singing and writing songs. The first pop artist that I was influenced by was Ariana Grande. Seeing her expressing herself on stage made me dream bigger and bigger of becoming a singer. But before that, I wanted to make songs that could move someone’s heart, and make someone’s life better just like other artists did to me. And that made me become a songwriter first!
I wrote a bunch of songs and uploaded them on social media, like Instagram and SoundCloud, so that other musicians could see them. Through that, I made contacts with many agencies and producers, so I had the chance to work with various talented artists like LE SSERAFIM and Miyeon from (G)I-DLE.
Have you now found your writing style? How do you usually work in a studio as a lyricist and composer?
Belle: Along the way, I perfectly found my writing and singing style as well! This helped me a lot in the process of becoming an idol because people liked the unique feature of my voice and considered it a huge charm. When I work in the studio, I usually listen to some good songs, find references, choose some tracks to work on, and freestyle on the beat several times to complete the song form by combining good phrases from each take.
You won the Proud Korean Grand Prize in the composer category at the 2023 Korea Best Brand Awards just days after your debut. What was your reaction, and how does it feel to be recognized not only as an idol but also as a talented lyricist and composer?
Belle: I was so shocked that my brain cells stopped working for a few seconds! I feel so grateful for people who recognized my passion for music, and I want to say thank you to my past self who worked so hard for this moment.
For Natty: You came from Thailand, but you already have had experiences in the K-pop industry like joining survival series Sixteen and Idol School, and even debuting solo. You also went to Korea at the age of 13, not knowing what would happen in the future, plus you had to learn a whole new language. Some people around that age don’t even have any idea what they’d like to do in the future, but you are passionate about chasing your dreams because you simply love dancing and singing. How hard was it to adjust to all the things, and what was it that made you decide and led you to join survival programs and eventually debut as a K-Pop idol?
Natty: First of all, I want to say thank you so much! I was touched that you recognized my hard work for 10 years! It wasn’t an easy time. The driving force that made me endure was my parents, my fans, and the stage. I can’t forget the energy that I got when I was on stage when I was young, so I can’t give up until I show a great performance with my songs. I really wanted to show how much Natty has grown and how cool an artist is as an artist!
You’re the main dancer of KISS OF LIFE, and you created the choreography for your solo song Sugarcoat. What’s the best thing about being able to dance on stage, to groove to the music you like?
Natty: I’m the happiest when I dance on stage because I can freely express what I want to express with my body. I think I was able to show what Natty’s own dance style is since the choreography that I made is very affectionate and was made with 100% of my expressions.
What do you think are your strengths when it comes to dancing, and how would you describe your dancing style?
Natty: I think it’s hard to explain my own genre. I’ve learned all genres of dance and I have a deep understanding of them and I think I’m most comfortable and good at hip-hop-based dance. I believe my strengths are my body lines and my knowledge of basic dance skills. I’m also good at controlling my body. I think those are my strengths because I believe I have my own style no matter what dance I do.
For Julie: You also came from another country, Hawaii, and first auditioned at the age of 17. Could you share with us your experience choosing this path so far? What mindset do you have or what kind of words do you bring with you until now that help you a lot as Julie of this present time?
Julie: It was a big step for me to choose this path, but I have no regrets at all. It was the best thing that happened in my life, and I’m glad I took on the challenge and kept fighting for my dream! There’s nothing that could stop me from doing what I am passionate about and just continuing to grow and learn from all the experiences that have helped me to be where I am now.
How has your experience been so far guiding your members as the leader? There may be miscommunication sometimes, which is normal, but how do you think your relationship with each other developed over time? Also, do you have any hobbies like perhaps writing rap lyrics whenever you feel it?
Julie: I’m having a great time being the leader of KISS OF LIFE! I feel so proud to be able to lead this group because the members are all so amazing and talented. Honestly, I’m blessed and thankful for our members!
Do you have any hobbies when writing rap lyrics? Do you do it whenever you feel like doing so?
Julie: Usually, when I feel any emotion, I tend to just jot all of it in my memo and come back to it later when I want to write something. I feel like as time goes by, the process is getting easier and smoother because I have many more messages that I want to send to the fans.
For Haneul: You’re the youngest member/maknae of the group. Are there any kinds of words that your older members have said to you that you were able to use or learn something from?
Haneul: The older members often give me advice and help me a lot. I feel like the biggest thing I’ve learned from them is to just have fun and enjoy being on stage! They always tell me that it’s all about expressing rather than just dancing moves and singing lyrics.
What do you think is the best thing about being the maknae of KISS OF LIFE?
Haneul: The best thing about being the maknae is that I could kind of get away with things because they think I’m cute. (laughs)
Within your short training period, what do you think was the biggest thing you’ve learned that you were able to apply as you debut with KISS OF LIFE?
Haneul: During my training days, I feel like dancing with the members helped me learn a lot. Because of that time, I felt like I was able to dance well with the older members on stage. I’m going to continue to learn from them and soak up as much as I can!
You’re nominated for several awards at the Mnet Asian Music Awards as well as at the Asia Artist Awards. How does it feel that you’re now one step closer to achieving one of your goals?
KISS OF LIFE: We feel so blessed, and it feels surreal that all of this is happening! We hope to continue our growth and eventually accomplish all of our big goals. We feel very happy and proud for each step we take, and we just want to continue this journey for a long time!
Could you please complete this sentence? “I was born to be ___.”
Julie: I was born to be me.
Natty: I was born to be an artist
Belle: I was born to be a musician.
Haneul: I was born to be happy
Lastly, do you have any final messages to your fans in the Philippines?
KISS OF LIFE: To all of our fans in the Philippines, we thank you so much for all the love and support and we hope to see everyone in person! We would love to be able to show you our performances. Our second mini-album Born to be XX is also filled with great songs and amazing performances, so I hope you guys enjoy it! Let’s make many more amazing memories together!
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