When it comes to a long-lasting music act, a strong group identity is a key factor to stability, longevity and growing a fandom. But the best kinds of pop groups know how to keep the group intact while also letting the individuality of its members shine through as well. CLC have taken that idea to heart not only throughout their four years together, but increasingly through their music.
While the girl group has gone through a few changes since their March 2015 debut (including the addition of two members a year after debut as well as some drastic shifts in music styles) it seems like it’s all led the act to truly embody the ways they are different rather than following any typical pop path. Recent singles like “No” and their latest “Me” see the group rejecting typical beauty standards and embrace self-love. And it’s working: The septet scored their best U.S. album sales to date earlier this year when their No. 1 album cracked the Top 5 on Billboard’s World Albums chart with their kissoff anthem to stereotypes and labels, “No,” peaking on the World Digital Songs chart.
The group’s latest and most bombastic release to date, “Me,” continues that super-confidence as CLC boast about why they’re special and beautiful — which might sound like a step back towards labeling themselves, but the group tell Billboard how it’s done in a way meant to be empowering and meant to showcase one’s individual persona. Perhaps it’s no mistake that the members all opened their individual Instagram accounts in the midst of “Me” promotions this week as Seungyeon, Seunghee, Yujin, Sorn, Yeeun, Elkie, and Eunbin all earned tens of thousands of followers in hours.
Sitting down with Billboard in Seoul during the preparations for “Me,” CLC took time to speak a bit more about their current mindset as a group, some special music-video set secrets and what their (busy) future holds.
What did you set out to show with “Me”?
Elkie: When we announced “Me,” we used a Chinese character in the title that means beauty but we also use that word [in Korea], pronounced as “Me” in Korean. We wanted to show the audience our different characteristics, but also focus on self-beauty. Each of our members have our own kind of beauty on the inside so we wanted to more so express that and express the different varieties of beauty.
Even looking at your last single “No” and now “Me,” it feels like CLC’s songs are focusing more about individual expression these days?
Seungyeon: Yes, it’s a bit of an extension from “No” in wanting to express our individualities.
Sorn: We’re also an international group too so we just wanted to show that we don’t all have to be the same. On stage, of course, we’re artists and we have a different kind of charisma on stage, but we want to show that even if we’re wearing the same clothes or whatever that is onstage, we are totally different. We want to show variety to inspire individuals listening to “Me.”
What ways did you put your own creative touches into “Me”?
Yeeun: For the song, I participated in writing the lyrics. For the music video, it was Elkie’s idea to wear the hanbok [a traditional Korean dress], but brought a fusion-style hanbok for more of a crossover feel. Also for the music video itself, all of the members shared their ideas on cuts and which way to shoot their individual camera moments.
I feel like you look more comfortable and natural in the music video than we’ve seen you in the past.
Sorn: I think a big reason is because we’re not in high heels! [All laugh] When we were shooting the music video, we didn’t wear heels at all because we wanted to focus on the dance — the dance is really energetic this time. We’re more comfortable. High heels can be very torturing.
Eubin: It’s a story of beauty and self-beauty, less focusing on something like high heels. But we were a bit worried that it might come off a bit selfish or self-centered?
I don’t think so. Well, at least Americans will like that!
Sorn: That’s what I said! [Laughs]
But it really feels like CLC is really on a hot streak. “Black Dress” captured a lot of attention then “No” gave you your first win on Korean music programs and best Billboard chart positions to date. Do you feel more fans watching you?
Eubin: We feel it a little bit and we want to show our music to overseas fans. We do have really big expectations for this song “Me” in particular.
What are your other goals for 2019? Any chance we’ll see you in the U.S. soon?
Sorn: We said during our promotions for “No” that in 2019 we’re going to keep releasing music without resting, that’s what we want to do; we don’t want to keep our fans waiting and we don’t want to rest for a long time anymore. And also, I think all of us want to go to the U.S., if someone wants to invite us we’d be very happy to go! But we’re not sure how many fans we have in the U.S. but we hope they would welcome us if we actually go there. We also want to go around the world to meet our fans. For CLC too, compared to a lot of other groups, we didn’t have a lot of opportunities to go overseas and we’ve never been to the U.S. either. The U.S. has always kind of been our holy grail place — like “hallelujah!” if we could go — so if we can go to that part of the market, that would be a really big achievement for us.
Yeeun: In Korea, we’re also going to festivals and concerts — we’re going to make it a hot summer.
Do you have any other messages for fans?
Sorn: For all international fans, and really everyone, we’d just like to say thank you for always supporting to CLC. We would really appreciate it if you would show support to our new single “Me.” I think there’s a lot to look forward to for “Me,” but also 2019 for CLC. We’re planning a lot and we’re hoping we can do a lot. We’re also hoping we can go overseas to meet all our international fans, and I hope you stay updated about us all the time. Please give a lot of support to “Me” our new single.