They say that third time’s a charm, but it’s more of a star in the case of IZ*ONE — at least based on how they stylize their name. The latest temporary K-pop group to come out of South Korean channel Mnet’s Produce series, the 12-member team follows in the successful footsteps of I.O.I and Wanna One after being formed through the reality competition series’ third season, last year’s Produce 48. But unlike their predecessors, the new group is a blend of K-pop star hopefuls and a trio of women who have already launched careers in Japan’s AKB48 and its associated sister groups, and will release both Korean and Japanese music.
After the 12 women were announced as the top competitors on Produce 48 in August, IZ*ONE released their first song “La Vie En Rose” at the end of October. The single with its vivid soundscape promptly topped charts in Korea, and debut EP COLOR*IZ premiered at No. 9 on the World Albums chart. One of the the must-watch K-pop rookie acts of the year, Billboard spoke to IZ*ONE in Korea in December about their career so far and what they hoped to achieve before their time together comes to an end after the planned two and a half years.
Congratulation on your debut! How are you guys feeling nowadays?
Wonyoung: We’re so grateful and thankful for all the love we’ve received so far, and we’re going to try our hardest to succeed and show everyone what we can do in the future.
Your song “La Vie En Rose” became a great success. What about it do you think appeals to listeners?
Yujin: “La Vie En Rose” was just released but it’s already received a lot of love. We’re really thankful for that. We think it’s done really well because we each have our own separate styles and colors, and in that sense we were able to show different charms from each one of us through the song and music video.
You actually each have a color assigned to you. What’s the significance, and which member do you think fits her color best?
Chaeyeon: Yena represents yellow, and I think it matches her really well because she’s as charming as the color. She has a really bright energy.
Yena: Thank you.
What were your first thoughts when you heard “La Vie En Rose”?
Eunbi: We first heard the song when we were altogether in the practice studio. When we heard it, it was so much better than anything we had been expecting. It was much more powerful than we had expected. It was an earworm. Because we liked it so much it made us prepare for it with a lot of energy.
Chaeyeon: There are a lot of members that have shown bright and cute images of themselves through Produce 48 so we thought the powerful nature of the song would be a pleasant surprise and something different than from what the audience expected.
Wonyoung: That may be a factor behind its success, we think.
What did you think about the choreography?
Wonyoung: We can’t deny that at first it was hard because it’s that powerful of a choreography. But once we got better at it and looked at the final results, we felt it was so great that all of our hard work was worth it.
What other songs on your debut EP do you especially like, and why?
Yuri: There’s a song called “Colors” and, like “La Vie En Rose” it reflects IZ*ONE and all we have to offer.
Can you explain the meaning of your group name?
Eunbi: The name of the group was actually created by our fans, WIZ*ONE [pronounced weeze-One]. It refers to the moment that we, 12 stars, come together as IZ*ONE [pronounced Eyes-One] like the 12 astrological signs, which is why there’s a star.
You’re the first integrated group to come out of Produce 48 that blends the K-pop and J-pop world. How has it been working out with both Korean and Japanese members?
Yena: At first, we had a lot of concerns and were worried because we couldn’t communicate verbally. We were worried about our teamwork because we can’t really speak to one another directly. But maybe because we can’t talk easily, we try harder to communicate and understand one another, and things have turned out better than we expected.
A few of you knew each other prior to Produce 48 but largely you were grouped together by viewers. What are some of the difficulties or biggest surprises you’ve encountered while working together? [ Wonyoung and Yujin are both signed to Korea’s Starship Entertainment and Eunbi and Chaewon to Woollim Entertainment, while Nako, Sakura, and Hitomi are all part of the AKB48 structure, with the former pair part of the Fukuoka-based team, HKT48.]
Chaeyeon: We started on Produce 48 and it wasn’t an easy path so therefore our bond is much deeper. Though our time period between the show and our first release wasn’t very long, our bond is very strong because we went through that experience together.
Wonyoung: Since Produce 48, there were language barriers and some cultural differences but because we went through the competition together as a group there weren’t as many difficulties to overcome. Communication and language barrier has been the biggest thing we’ve had to overcome.
Knowing that there’s a lifespan on IZ*ONE’s time together, what are some things you want to achieve over the next few years?
Eunbi: It’s the beginning of our two and a half year promotional period together. We definitely want to try and receive newcomer awards and go on a lot of big stages before we reach our end. We want to go on global stages, maybe do a world tour that will take us to the Americas and Europe, and be able to interact with our fans a lot over that time.