After rising to popularity in 2014 with their single “Up & Down,” it took another four years until Korean girl group EXID made their way to the New York City area for their first appearance at KCON 2018 NY. As they took the stage at Newark’s Prudential Center on June 24 during that night’s K-pop-oriented concert, they were greeted by an uproarious cheer as fans sang along to their newest single “Lady,” and then joined in on other songs including “DDD” and “Night Rather Than Day.” They ended their set with a sassy rendition of “Up & Down,” leaving the stage as the crowd cheered for more, proving that their virality had extended to a long-lasting career that has captured the attention of many Stateside K-pop fans.
In an industry where most female teams are dictated by either “cute” or “sexy” stylistic concepts, EXID has redrawn the lines of what it means to be a K-pop girl group, aiming for a distinct brand of confident, often seductive, femininity that doesn’t play by the rules. After starting out in 2012 with a variety of styles and different singers, “Up & Down” helped the the group’s current five-member lineup go viral because of a video of Hani dancing; their next single “Ah Yeah” was released through a music video that questioned the perspective of viewers. With each song since, they’ve explored a different sound or style, all the while maintaining their alluring sense of coquettishness. With their most-recent single “Lady,” the group opted for a funky throwback to the ‘90s, trying something a bit different from the style of music they’ve explored in the past.
“The fact that we were able to experiment with this style and have a good end result, we’re extremely proud,” Hani tells Billboard. “Lady” was well-received by the group’s fanbase, but that doesn’t necessarily mean EXID has any plans to revisit the sound. “Rather than just continuing to do this genre, we want to continue trying out new styles,” she adds.
“Lady” came out in April, amid a multitude of releases from EXID dubbed the Re:flower Project, a look back at their past in which the group has been reworking B-sides from older albums. The latest, “Thrilling,” was reissued on June 19, three years after it came out on the group’s Ah Yeah album. “The songs that we chose [for the Re:flower Project] were actually songs that we thought would have done well even as a title, or songs that we thought were a waste for not getting attention,” explains LE, the group’s rapper and primary songwriter, who admits she draws inspiration from her own experiences and those of the people around her, including her bandmates.
Moving forward, EXID is staying silent regarding what’s next, as is typical of K-pop acts, though they know what their fans want to see more of — a return to the lounge pop style of their 2017 single “Night Rather Than Day.” “It’s to the point where every time we hint or talk about a comeback, fans ask, ‘Is it another song going to be like ‘Night Rather Than Day?’’” says Jeonghwa. “It’s almost like ‘Night Rather Than Day’ is a color of EXID that’s a hidden secret, a hidden style that hasn’t been shown to the general public yet, but it’s something fans are very expectant about and they wish that it’s something that we would do again.”
Whatever route they take, the members of EXID are hoping to continue on much as they have in the past, as a quintet and not the quartet that appeared at KCON 2018 NY due to member Solji being inactive because of health issues. “For us, the most important and number one goal that we’re aiming for is to be able to show an all-around perfect group right now and that’s to come together as all five, along with Solji,” says Jeonghwa. “We’re looking forward to something really great, and have happy plans ahead for the future as a group of five.”