In a world where Mars being in retrograde and the personalized horoscope app CoStar are regular talking points on social media, it makes sense that LOONA, one of the most high-profile K-pop acts in digital spaces, is similarly attuned to celestial bodies.
LOONA, stylized formally as LOO??, is a 12-member girl group hailing from South Korea, and they’re the perfect fit for those people out there who seek inspiration and solace from the movements of planets and other galactic elements: Their name in Korean, ??? ?? (Idaleh Sonyeo), is typically translated as “Girl of the Month” but can also refer to “Girl of the Moon,” as the two words are homonyms in Korean. Each of the dozen members are represented by corresponding colors and animals, their own zodiac of sorts, and built into their musicality is a creative mythology known as the Loonaverse, which is featured throughout their music videos.
LOONA has been around as an idea since September 2016, when the group’s company, Blockberry Creative, began teasing member HeeJin’s solo song “Vivid.” It would go on to become one of more than a dozen tracks from individual singers within LOONA and smaller groupings of members that would be released before the group put out its first track to feature all 12 members, “favOrite” in August 2018, followed by their formal debut single as LOONA, “Hi High” from their [+ +] album, which arrived on Aug. 20, 2018. Throughout it all, they’ve become one of the K-pop world’s most viral acts, spurring their own community of fans, known as Orbits, who spread the message to “Stan LOONA” around the world, to the point that the phrase has become a meme of sorts in many circles, particularly in LGBTQ+ ones, where LOONA’s music and videos have been embraced as icons of queer positivity.
Backstage at KCON 2019 Los Angeles, LOONA collectively exclaim, “Ahh” and laugh when asked about how they feel about the “Stan LOONA” phenomena. “We’ve seen our fans support and look for us through social media,” says Olivia Hye. “When we think about it now it’s something that’s very precious to us and something we’re so thankful for.”
The members of LOONA recognize that their virality has helped them out a lot as a newer act in the highly competitive K-pop field, raising their prominence as in-demand performers; it even led to a Grimes feature on a song from subunit LOONA yyxy last year. “We receive a lot of support on social media from fans in the USA,” says Chuu, whose solo song “Heart Attack” is one of LOONA’s music videos seen by many to promote same-sex romance. “The fact we can perform and show LOONA’s performances in person to those fans on such a large stage, is so exciting.” “Honestly we’re so thankful for such words,” Go Won adds, referring to “Stan LOONA.” “We see it and talk among ourselves a lot, so honestly we knew about it a little bit. We’re so thankful.”
Regarding their rise as a LGBTQ+ icon in digital spaces, LOONA is appreciative. “We heard about such reactions and interest, and we’re so very thankful,” says Yves. About the excitement over “Heart Attack,” she adds, “When the music video first came out, it was about yearning. We were so entertained that it could be interpreted in such a way. We’re so thankful for the interest.” I was very thankful. Although the music video was more about longing, rather than LGBTQ, we were amazed that it could be interpreted in that way. We appreciate how people find it appealing and we feel motivated to work harder.
But while their virality is a key factor in the buzz behind the group, LOONA’s artistry stands on its own. Breezy synth-pop and dance elements are rife through their discography, as is a sense of self-discovery and growth, which they relay both through their music and their impactful dance performances. The Loonaverse and multiple pre-debut releases have helped with this, giving not only each woman a distinct identity within the group but also a way for her to explore and showcase her own artistry. “We weren’t about representing just one color,” says Heejin about their early release. “I think there were a lot of influences in that we wanted to show off various sides of us and that was so important to our concepts.”
Their most recent single, February’s “Butterfly,” off of their [X X] album, was released through an inspiring music video that focused on uplifting women across the globe to fly free to reach their potential and change the world. “The message is about your own personal voice,” reveals Yves, who also believes the experience of listening to a LOONA song is an active one meant to make listeners feel a sense of kinship to the act. “We want everyone that hears ‘Butterfly’ to feel that they are also part of LOONA.”
According to the members, their album titles, [+ +] and [X X] refer to how they’re growing as artists by adding their charms and multiplying it through their musical releases. “I think we’re a team that tells our story very clearly through our albums,” adds Jin Soul “If you were able to understand that message, then you’ll be able to tell where we got that inspiration from.” They laugh when asked if something like [==] or [÷÷] might arrive in the future.
It’s been over half a year since the arrival of “Butterfly,” and LOONA has a desire to share more music with the world soon; in May, a teaser video for something, seemingly an album, known as La Maison LOONA was shared with the message, “Delayed but someday,” but there has been little news since. With the rest of the members leaning over her shoulder concerned that she may spill some secret, Chinese member Vivi says, “We’re preparing so much for the second half of the year.” “ We will return by strengthening the Loonaverse in order to show off more of our charm,” adds Chuu.
The group also hopes to come back to the U.S. soon, and a recent MyMusicTaste campaign featuring LOONA is in the works, through which fans can show interest and crowdfund potential K-pop concerts. “I still can’t believe we’re in LA about to perform,” reveals Kim Lip. “It still doesn’t feel real that we’re doing this interview and go on stage. We hope this is the beginning to many more performances overseas.”
Since the members expressed this optimism and promise of upcoming music and concerts, there’s been no updates on any new releases from the act. Meanwhile Blockberry has reportedly become embroiled in a lawsuit over LOONA’s non appearance on an app that invested in the company, and a recent social media post caused widespread consternation from Orbits on social media over what exactly is going on with the group. LOONA’s artistic director Jaden Jeong, who is widely credited as the mastermind of the Loonaverse, recently has changed his focus to boy band OnlyOneOf and announced on social media that he “deleted” a recent album without clarifying what he meant. Neither Blockberry Creative nor Jeong have responded to requests for comment son the situation.
It’s been three years, or 36 months, of LOONA since “Vivid” launched their career, and the members, and their fans, are ready to continue spreading their message and music across the globe, if and when they’re given the opportunity to fly (hi) high again soon. In the meantime, LOONA celebrated Halloween 2019 with a cover of Sunmi’s “Full Moon.” Watch it below.