VIXX Discusses ‘Shangri-La’ and Their Future Sound

Back when they appeared at the first KCON in 2012, six-member boy band VIXX had just started off in their career. Five years later, the group returned to KCON 2017 LA with a thematically driven performance that offered up a taste of what’s made them one of K-pop’s most distinct acts.

Known in Korea as concept-dols — idols who frequently make use of imaginative concepts — VIXX’s flare for drama has set them apart in an industry filled with redundancy. This unique approach was on display in full-force through a set at the Staples Center that touched on traditional Asian fan dances and Greek mythology as the members dominated the stage in sleek black and white suits.

Reinventing their stylistic aesthetics with each new promotional period while still managing to stay true to their distinct identity, VIXX has managed to carve out a niche in K-pop, and they plan to keep doing so moving forward. “We would like to keep showing new sides of us while holding ourselves to the high standards of what VIXX has been up until now,” group leader N (Cha Hakyeon) told Billboard ahead of the band’s set.

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A touch of the theatric has always been key in VIXX’s music, with performances and choreography typically drawing on fictional stories and mythology for inspiration. Literary characters and elements of sci-fi and fantasy genres have been widely incorporated into the group’s career as the band has gained a reputation for blending tightly produced songs with interpretive, musical-style dances, with the members emulating vampires, cyborgs, zombies and more.

The group’s primary rapper Ravi, along with other members, has taken a significant role in guiding VIXX’s sound over the years, penning lyrics and songs for the group and also for VIXX LR, a subunit duo that Ravi is part of along with vocalist Leo. “I’m still experimenting a lot,” he said, regarding his songwriting for VIXX. “There are different images of what I feel like VIXX could do to show new colors.”

Though the boy band previously alternated between intensely dramatic singles and more playful ones, the past two years have seen VIXX go down a more mature route, through the darker  sounds and imagery of “Fantasy,” “The Closer,” and their latest single, “Shangri-La,” the titular track on the group’s EP that went to No. 4 on the World Albums chart in June.  

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An east-meets-west hybrid that serves as a perfect metaphor for K-pop’s amalgamative nature as an Asian music industry that draws on international musical styles, the future bass track incorporates traditional strings and features a fan dance, while the music video also drew on traditional aesthetics. “We put in a lot of East Asian influences,” said N. “But the ironic thing was that the performance and music itself feels like it adheres to a more Western pop feel. With a more Eastern outward form and Western pop elements, such a stage was able to exist.”

The band says they’d be open to revisiting this fusion style, but VIXX’s past releases have rarely repeated thematic concepts and the members are looking forward to facing the future with elements they’ve yet to show their fans. “Just like there are so many VIXX fans who have been waiting for us in LA, we also want to await our fans and continue to give the best music to them,” added N.

There’s no new music announced for VIXX right now, but Leo and Ravi drop their second EP Whisper today, gifting fans with a five-track album that will feature songs written by the two men. “We just really want to show the best sides of VIXX as a whole,” said Ravi.