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[Herald Interview] Forever is not impossible: Oneus aspires to global reach with 'La Dolce Vita'

Boy band Oneus aims at Billboard with Spanish version of 'Baila Conmigo'

Sept. 26, 2023 - 22:36 By Choi Ji-won
An image of Oneus' 10th EP "La Dolce Vita" (RBW)

Every Oneus album is a well-made package of music, story, artistry and performance. With its latest EP, "La Dolce Vita" released on Tuesday, the group once again takes listeners on an adventure of new wonders.

In "La Dolce Vita," the quintet plunges into the depths of the ocean, like mermaids dancing with loved ones at night.

The Latin pop texture of the album's title song "Baila Conmigo" was the first inspiration to the mermaid story, according to the members Hwan-woong, Lee-do, Seo-ho, Keon-hee and Xion. The five-piece band recently held a joint press interview about the album in Seoul.

"We didn't want it to be obvious. Usually, people relate Latin music to something red and fiery, and we thought of a completely contrasting color -- blue. The mermaid story also popped up then. A last dance with one's lover that one could give up his life for was the perfect epitome of 'La Dolce Vita,'" Keonhee said about "Baila Conmigo," which in English translates to "dance with me."

At the base of "Baila Conmigo" is Hungarian Dance No. 4, upon which Oneus infused a moombahton rhythm, turning it into its own ode of passionate love. The song was produced by in-house composers of the group's label RBW.

"The song was already out when we were working on our previous album. We thought it was a waste if it didn't get the lead, and invested time and effort into developing it," Hwan-woong said, adding the bandmates were deeply involved in the song's making.

Now in their fifth year, the bandmates knew well on what they were good at and what they had to work on. Despite not getting credited, the members dedicated themselves to the production -- not just in creating the music, but the choreography, concept and visuals.

An image of Oneus' 10th EP "La Dolce Vita" (RBW)

Hwan-woong, the main dancer, was credited as a choreographer for the song.

"I took part just like any other choreographer, shooting a proposal video to present to the company. I got selected in the first verse dance break and earned the credit for it," Hwan-woong said.

The new album includes a Spanish version of "Baila Conmigo," which is the first Spanish song by the group. While Spanish is not a common language in K-pop, Oneus hopes to cater to a larger audience with it.

"Latin pop seems to be in style. It's logging high on the Billboard charts, and we wanted our songs to be enjoyed more globally. We also wanted to return the big love from fans we received during our recent world tour in South America, and Spanish sounded like a perfect match for the song's unique tone," Keon-hee explained.

An ambition to reach higher was also there.

"We admit we're aiming at our Billboard chart debut with the Spanish edition," Keon-hee added.

Achievements like Billboard rankings and album sales are decisive to idol groups' survival in the cutthroat K-pop world. Although it's impossible to completely free themselves from such pressure, Oneus members said they prioritize their fundamental goal: to make music that could be enjoyed by a larger audience.

This was the lesson that they earned through strenuous efforts to make themselves known.

"We used to be anxious about rankings and stats, because that's how groups win reputations. But the more we cling onto numbers, the more distressing it became for us," Lee-do said.

Hwan-woong continued: "We found ourselves obsessing over how we could become No. 1, rather than thinking about what makes us happy and what makes good music. We realized something was very wrong. We and the company agreed that if we do our own music, results would follow naturally with time."

Therefore, the members are working on making their own music now. In the new album, Lee-do participated in writing the lyrics for "Simulation." He was also a part of both the music composition and lyrics writing for "Epilogue."

An image of Oneus' 10th EP "La Dolce Vita" (RBW)

"We're just beginning now. Some members are already taking part in song making, while others are taking their time to bring something more perfect. If fans could wait for us, we hope to eventually create music that represents our identity," Keon-hee said.

Perhaps "La Dolce Vita" is a tale of the quintet as the boys venture forth on their journey to pursue their lifelong dreams, earnestly striving to reach their own happy ending.

Debuting in 2019, the quintet's contracts with agency RBW is expected to terminate in two years. Nothing can be guaranteed for now, but the bandmates said forever is not impossible for them.

"I've never imagined our end. I'm aiming at long -- really long. We always talk about our future together, and I trust us," Keon-hee said firmly.

Hwan-woong added: "We're a business for the company, and we need to do well to continue, to be realistic. That's why I'm really devoting my everything into every performance as if its my last. We've faced big and small troubles every now and then, and I felt like we were being tested. We're a big team, and it's only taking us longer to prove our potential. We'll take time, but we'll get there eventually."