aespa debuted in 2020 with a futuristic "virtual human" concept that best portrays its agency SM Entertainment's experimental spirit.
The band's name stands for "Avatar X Experience," a theme of "meeting a new ego of oneself to experience a new world," with four human members — Karina and Winter of Korea, Giselle of Japan, and Ningning of China — and four avatar members — ae-Karina, ae-Giselle, ae-Winter and ae-Ningning.
All the band's songs and concepts stem from this unique idea of mixing real and virtual spaces, dubbed the "Kwangya" universe or the SM Culture Universe. Deciphering the two terms is difficult, but it can be roughly understood as the mix of virtual and real brought together through the power of culture and technology.
The themes are shown through the songs "Black Mamba" (2020), "Next Level" (2021), "Savage" (2021) and "Girls" (2022), giving fans a deeper set of stories to play around with.
Was the song "Next Level" a cover?
"Next Level" is not a cover but a remake of A$ton Wyld's "Next Level," a soundtrack for "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw" (2019). The song was a hit and started a dance craze in Korea with its unique choreography. It topped local charts and was used as the background music for many entertainment shows, even the Presidential election broadcasts.
What is Kwangya?
"Kwangya means "wilderness" in Korean, but it has a much deeper meaning associated with the SM Universe and the Bible. Ever since girl group aespa's latest song, "Next Level," topped major Korean music charts in June, the "Kwangya" universe that the song constantly refers to has been drawing attention from K-pop fans. The term has a biblical connotation related to the "Temptation of Christ" and a "wave" that "keeps expanding limitlessly […] beyond the infinite universe" and has no form, rules or limit.