Time to move on to my last two favourite groups. Although, out of the two, I do favour one over the other but I thought I’d mention the first to debut and that is the broody and sentimental : WINNER!
WINNER was one of the first groups I got into. I don’t how it happened but I came across the show Who Is Next: WIN and I fell in love with them. Although I was a hard Team B fan, I totally understand why they debuted over Team B. They have their own direction which I think is different than any other artists and groups in YG so to me they are untouchable. I don’t think there’s too many groups out there that have such a large quantity of ballads considering how little albums they’ve brought out.
Like other Part .1s, this post will be about their history. It won’t take too long because they haven’t had a lot of comebacks – much to my angst and irritation at YG. For them to have been kept “in the basement” for so long makes me so angry that I almost stopped supporting YG artists. I know that’s unfair of me but I couldn’t help it! They deserve to have comebacks regularly as they’re so good!! I’m so happy that they’re being recognised more now and there’s been talk of them already making a comeback!
Pre-debut & Who Is Next: WIN: 2010 – 2014
Who would later turn into WINNERs leader, Kang Seung Yoon was first seen as a contestant on Superstark K2 in 2010 making it until the Top 4 and signed with YG a year later. He debuted as a solo artist in 2013.
Member Lee Seung Hoon was also from a reality talent show when he competed in Kpop Star Season 1 in 2012 where he came in fourth place.
Member Song Min Ho was known as an underground rapper before signing with YG in 2013. Prior to this he was meant to debut with Block B members Zico, P.O and Park Kyung but left their agency and group due to personal reasons. He also debuted for a small amount of time with Y2Y Entertainment but after two years the group disbanded.
Eldest member Kim Jin Woo and maknae Nam Tae Hyun both entered YG through their own private auditions.
These five members competed as Team A on reality survival show Who Is Next: WIN. If you haven’t seen this show you need to get on to it ASAP! Not only does it help enforce and encourage your love for all the boys involved but it also shows how talented each and every member of WINNER really are.
In the final episode of WIN in October 2013 it was announced that the five members of Team A would be debuting as WINNER and released two songs they’d written on the show to perform as the opening act for Big Bang’s Japanese Dome Tour. All five members also appeared in Taeyang’s MV for Ringa Linga. Later on in 2013 they also starred in their own reality show Winner TV.
Official debut: 2014
WINNER’s official debut showcase was in August 2014 with their debut album 2014 S/S and their double-titled debut songs Colour Ring and Empty.
Their two debut songs are great! It showcases their ability to not only write high-quality ballads but also that they’re able to convey their emotions through their singing and their rapping. Personally, Empty makes me feel some type of way and I absolutely LIVE for Taehyun’s falsetto in this song and Mino’s deep-voiced vocals at the start. Out of the two songs Empty is my favourite and continues to be one of my favourites till this day.
After their debut performance on Inkigayo, they became the fastest Kpop boy group to win on a music show by taking first place on M Countdown.
This album is really good as well. Again, they showcase a lot of ballads but they also flip the script with the odd upbeat and faster-tempoed songs as well.
My favourite song on this album, aside from Empty, is I’m Him which is rapper Mino’s solo song. I love me a deep and husky rap voice and Mino indeed has both. This song really showcases how strong he is as a rapper which ultimately defies all the prejudices of an “idol rapper”.
Hiatus, solo activities, EXIT:E and Nam Taehyun: 2015 – 2016
In 2015 YG announced that WINNER would be going on a hiatus and the members went about pursuing solo activities.
Members Taehyun, Seungyoon and Jinwoo pursued acting in a variety of web dramas while Mino participated in hiphop show Show Me the Money 4 as a contestant where he came in second.
I haven’t seen any of their dramas but I did watch SMTM4 quite religiously. Mino being on this show once again highlighted how great he is as a rapper and his writing abilities but it also showed us the relationship between him and ex-bandmate Zico. A number of songs Mino performed were heavily downloaded, but his song Fear that featured Taeyang is the shows highest downloaded single with over a million digital sales.
In December 2015 YG announced that the group would come back with a five-project release the year following.
Mini-album EXIT:E was released in February 2016 which served as WINNERs comeback after their 18-month break since their debut.
Before this album was released Taehyun and Mino let out a song together as a “warm-up” called Pricked. Although it wasn’t promoted the song reached #2 on Melon and #1 on iTunes in nine countries which shows how excited their fans were for their comeback and how popular they really were considering their absence.
Teasers were let out before their comeback that included other artists covering their singles, artists including Lee Hi, G Dragon, Dean, Taeyang, Zion.T and Epik High.
When the album was released, their two-titled releases were Baby Baby and Sentimental, which they promoted on various music shows. Three MVs were released, two for the above mentioned singles and then another one for song I’m Young, Nam Taehyun’s solo single.
Although this mini-album has only five songs, all five of them are amazing. It’s hard for me to decide between them all but my favourite three songs of this EP are Baby Baby, Pricked and I’m Young. All three I would consider ballads but Baby Baby is a little more upbeat than the other two though it does still have a slower beat in comparison to their other released song Sentimental.
In April they also were a part of the show Half Moon Friends which had them create a day care centre where they also had to take care of children. If you haven’t seen this show yet, you need to watch it. Idols with kids is a concept that I think needs to make a comeback as it shows their affection not only for the kids but also their cute sides. I know there used to be shows like this a few years ago but it’s so rare now. I really really hope that this becomes a more popular thing!
In September it was announced that Mino and iKon’s rapper Bobby would be joining forces to become MOBB where they release a mini-album together called MOBB. The album included four original songs, two songs together and two songs solo – they released all four songs and official MVs were brought out for all of them.
In October YG Entertainment announced that member Nam Taehyun would be leaving the group due to mental illness problems and the rest of the Exit Movement series would be cancelled indefinitely. In November Taehyun officially left the group and the company due to mental illness and thinking that he was the reason for the delay in WINNERs promotions. It was also decided that WINNER would continue as a four-member group and wouldn’t be introducing a new member.
Fate Number For: 2017
In April of 2017 WINNER cameback with mini-album Fate Number For with singles Really Really and Fool.
This comeback was extremely pivotal to WINNER as a group. Not only were they coming back with one less member but that member happened to be the strongest songwriter for their ballads that they’d become so famous for. So naturally I was nervous.
Really Really was similar to their earlier song Sentimental although it was a huge improvement from it. This song is one of my favourites from WINNER as it not only showcased leader Seungyoon’s songwriting skills but also was able to represent the members strongest points individually and together. The song was just pure FUN!
Fool was nothing less than what I expected from such ballad-kings. Not only was the MV beautiful but it was great to see Mino singing again and Seungyoon slaying the high notes – the role that Nam Taehyun was in charge of in the group.
Both songs are absolute knock-outs and they catapulted WINNER to a different level both as a group and also popularity-wise. Really Really reached #3 on Billboard World Digital Sales which was their highest ranking world-wide ever while Fool was in at #4.
These boys deserve so much recognition as the amount of stress and uncertainty that they’ve had as a group has been a lot higher than most other groups. Considering they debuted a few years ago, their back catalogue is like a rookie group. I could spend forever and ever talking about my anger and frustration at YG for playing his artists so much but WINNER has proven with their most recent comeback that they do have a lot of fans that will always support them.
As I said at the start of this post, they’re in a lane that not only no other YG artist is in but also no other K-Pop groups in my opinion. They’re so set in their ways and their styles that I can’t help but be excited every time they have a comeback as I wait patiently for their next ballad. Although Empty has left some high standards for me, their unity as a group takes my breath away and I find it hard to NOT be a fan of theirs.