IVE arrived on the K-pop scene in November 2020 and quickly became the industry’s next reliable hitmaker with three addictive yet distinctly unique singles: the exotically intriguing pop of “Eleven,” the snappy, runway-ready throbber “Love Dive,” and the Gloria Gaynor–sampling disco update “After Like.” But through the differing sounds, the girl group’s identity connected with K-pop fans thanks to undeniable cohesion and confidence to pull off whatever genre or concept that came next. That spirit stays strong in their first full-length album, the multidimensional I’ve IVE, which sees the K-pop stars to watch taking the next big step of their career alongside a new U.S. label partner in tow.
Even before IVE’s official debut, anticipation was already high for the six-piece led by Yujin and Wonyoung, two of the most popular members from the sensational-but-temporary girl group IZ*ONE (who earned three entries on the World Albums chart and six on World Digital Song Sales during their two-and-a-half years together), as well as fresh faces in eldest member Gaeul, Japan-born Rei, power vocalist Liz, and youngest member Leeseo. From high kicks off the ground to simultaneously spinning and singing, the group developed under Korean super-label Starship Entertainment stood out for moving equally as one, even with varying degrees of original star power between members.
The same substantial stability comes through in I’ve IVE as the girls previewed their LP with the fun and rowdy chant-a-long buzz track “Kitsch” before dropping the power-pop bomb lead single “I Am.”
Within the LP, IVE is keen to present themselves as whatever kind of girl group the listener may enjoy but with their own added bite of self-assurance. The first listen of the sunny “Not Your Girl” recalls any flirty, feel-good ditty until the lyrics make it clear they’re not staying unless there’s a commitment and intention from the love interest. Plus, the opening track, “Blue Blood,” takes a common belief in South Korea that one’s blood type predicts their personality for IVE to declare themselves pure-hearted and exceptional over a dark, marching beat. Other standouts include the bossa nova influences through a plead for honesty on “Lips,” while “Heroine” is an invocation of self-assurance written by Yujin told through quirky electro-pop production, and “Mine” explains adorable infatuation through angelic harmonies and candy metaphors penned by Wonyoung.
Yujin, Wonyoung, Gaeul and Rei all boast writing credits through the LP that IVE says spotlights their belief in self and one another above any style or sound.
“Power and confidence are, outright, the most key concept,” Wonyoung says during an evening Zoom interview with Billboard. The member most comfortable with English, Wonyoung’s warmness is palpable through the screen as she’s eager to speak about the group’s dreams and her perspectives on fame. As untouchable as IVE appear on stage, there’s an undeniable relatability from sitting down to talk with them. Liz has a hilarious, no-bars-held candidness to her responses. At the same time, Gaeul uses her perspective as the oldest to fill in any missing details from her members and ensures everyone gets due credit, including shouting out their leader’s abilities when Yujin prearranged schedule didn’t allow her to join this chat.
“We are very excited to show such a variety of music styles in IVE’s first album,” Yujin says in a statement to Billboard after the interview. “This album is super meaningful to me as it’s our first full-length album and also because I participated in writing the lyrics for the first time. This album is like a package of different versions of IVE, and it has the unique color of IVE. I hope you look forward to our album and many other plans.”
Learn more about IVE’s colors, plans and more below.
Congratulations on this impressive full album, IVe. What’s everyone’s favorite song on the album?
Wonyoung: Mine is “Mine,” I wrote the lyrics too, so, I love it.
Liz: My favorite song is our title track [single], “I Am.”
Gaeul: I like the song “Hypnosis” because me and Rei wrote the lyrics to it, and it was the most fun to write the lyrics for that song.
Leeseo: “Shine With Me” is my favorite song because Wonyoung wrote the lyrics to it to link us to our fans, DIVE. It’s a message to their fans and the melody is especially very emotional to me.
Rei: “Cherish” because when we first listened to the demo, I could imagine how the members would be able to sing the song. And then once I listened to the completed song, I really loved the way it turned out.
We’re only with the five of you today. Does anyone know Yujin’s favorite song?
Wonyoung: “Heroine” or “Kitsch,” maybe?
As you mentioned, you were very involved in a lot of the songwriting on this album, some of you even the sole lyricist. What are your songwriting processes like?
Wonyoung: At first, I just listen to the song, just to get the feeling and set my mind right, usually at my home or in my room. If I get a certain feeling, I just write the whole song first and then just make little mixes, little changes. I love the process and I really love writing lyrics.
Rei: Once I receive the song, it’ll will have a blank portion without the rap, so I just kind of imagine a story and write lyrics according to that.
IVE has been successful with just three singles, but now it’s a full-length album with many more songs. Why was now the right time to make a studio album with “Kitsch” and “I Am” for singles?
Wonyoung: We’ve always had the desire to show a full album and our full power. For “Love Dive,” “After Like” and “Eleven,” I think we just made steps and strides with little-but-strong energy between us and DIVE. Now, we just thought this is the time to show our full-length and full energy to them. We really prepared a lot for this season and, now, we are ready.
Gaeul: We chose “Kitsch” as the pre-release single because we want to show a side of IVE that we haven’t shown before and kind of break free from the image that we’ve always had as a group. We wanted to challenge ourselves. And I feel like “I Am” is the lead single because our album title is I’ve IVE, and we thought that “I Am,” as a track on its own, would fit the most to the concept of the album.
I’ve heard debates about this but, in your own words, what is IVE’s concept or main message?
Wonyoung: I think the most important concept of us is of self-loving and self-love. But not just for us, we always want to say, “Please love yourself” to all of the listeners too. The power and confidence is, outright, the most key concept for us.
There are great messages in the “Kitsch” video too: The “You’re so weird, don’t change” neon sign. Or your jackets with “Books, not gun. Culture, not violence” patches. Can you talk about other messages you’re embracing?
Wonyoung: Mainly, we wanted to say, not just for us, but that you can change like us and can do everything and anything like us. The main [point] was, it’s not just about us—join us, join our culture and join in on everything. We just wanted to give listeners the power of believing in themselves. If we’re honest, the sentence and mottos were a little in cooperation with our director and the director’s ideas too but we worked on it all together.
I want to also congratulate you because IVE just signed with Columbia Records. What can we look forward to with this partnership?
Wonyoung: We’re really honored for that. First, we are really excited to work with another label and with other places like Columbia. We are, right now, really excited, and we’re really looking forward to that right now. For the start with Columbia, we really want to reach out to global fans all over the world. We are, right now, preparing a lot for our global fans.
Are there any plans you can share right now? Any planned visits to the U.S.?
Wonyoung: First, our “Prom Queens” fan-meeting tour will start with the Asia tour, and, hopefully, in the future, we really want to reach out In America, and everywhere else overseas. And not just for fan concerts, but we really want to visit the world to perform our own concerts. So, just keep cheering for us and hopefully you all can join us soon.
I’ve IVE is your first record eligible for the album charts on Billboard. Do you have any chart dreams?
Wonyoung: Even from our first song, we are really honored to have our name on the Billboard chart and really thankful for that. Hopefully, one day, we really want to visit Billboard in America with the six of us. We will prepare a lot in preparation for that day.
You are all very strong and charismatic personalities on your own but also very cohesive as a team—your choreography is seamless even when you spin and kick. What’s your teamwork secret?
Wonyoung: I think it’s the power of believing in each other; we just have a strong sense of belief between us. I let them do everything they want and they let me do everything I want. I think that makes the best cooperation between us; the belief.
Rei: During dance practices, we’ll use counting to match each other. For a really important part, we’ll stop and repeat that part and keep repeating it so that during the actual performances, we’ll think of the practice in our minds. That’s also how we stay so in sync with each other.
Wonyoung: Dance practices are pretty intense. For a long time, we would make and work on the choreographies every day for six hours or something. I think it’s pretty intense, but we’re always enthusiastic to show our fans and DIVEs the performances so I think that is the motivation for us.
Gaeul: Also, Yujin really helps with the details during dance practices and is willing to teach individual members different parts. She really does her part as the leader of the group.
Similarly, how do you stay well? Fans can see you so busy but may also worry about your physical, emotional, and mental health. How do you stay strong?
Wonyoung: If there’s nothing scheduled for the day, I spend time all by myself, just recovering on the outside and, of course, on the inside. Actually, I love to work out and do a lot of different exercises. On an off day, I’ll concentrate on my inside by listening to music; just hanging out by myself and working out helps me too. It feels like I’m healing myself.
Leeseo: I make sure I’m sleeping a lot, making sure I’m taking my vitamins, and taking care of my body physically.
Liz: I believe that you have to be mentally strong, or internally strong, in order for you to be physically or outwardly strong. For me, I really focus on believing in myself and believing in my decisions.
You do show such strength and confidence in yourselves. Wonyoung, you’ve spoken about this in the past, but what would IVE’s advice be for people needing that extra confidence?
Wonyoung: I want to say, you have more of the good times than tough times. Tough times and bad comments do not take away everything that is good: just believe the good, know you’re a good person, and just concentrate on yourself, your positive relationships and the good times. I think that is the important thing—just don’t mind them.
Liz: I like to just focus on the nice people who are saying good things rather than giving attention to the haters or negativity. I think that you have to be certain in yourself so that you don’t get sidetracked by any hate.
Do you have any other messages? Maybe to the international fans hoping to see you soon?
Gaeul: We’re working really hard to reach our global fans, so I wish they’ll just wait a little bit longer for us.