Does SM Entertainment’s new girl group Aespa really need virtual avatars?
Aespa has an interesting virtual avatar concept. But will they be able to pull it off?
SM Entertainment recently launched their girl group Aespa, following the Red Velvet Irene controversy. Netizens are pointing out that SM Entertainment tends to launch new groups every time there is a significant scandal in order to divert attention from the critical areas. This can be perceived at the time of Jessica’s departure from SNSD and the Chinese members of EXO leaving the group due to mistreatment and unfair contract terms in 2014. Not surprisingly though, Red Velvet also debuted in 2014. Neither did Red Velvet deserve a controversial debut, nor do Aespa. The girls of Aespa are actually incredibly talented artists, both musically and with regards to performance. However, they’re receiving hate owing to the bad timing on behalf of SM Entertainment.
Aespa debuted with 4 members, quite like Red Velvet when Yeri hadn’t joined them yet. They’re likely to also expand as per the NCT system of members but that has not been completely confirmed as of now. Aespa comes from Avatar and Experience, referring to the virtual counterpart system that SM is trying out with this group for the first time. According to Lee Soo Man, the CEO of SM Entertainment, his main aim with the virtual avatar system is to create a super massive virtual world where artist-fan interaction can take place on a larger scale even in the absence of the real artists. The concept of virtual idols was first brought about by K/DA, created by Riot Games and consisting of four themed versions of League of Legends characters: Ahri, Akali, Evelynn and Kai'Sa. Various artists, both Western and K-Pop contribute their voices to the virtual idols. SM Entertainment aims to use a similar format to expand the horizons for a K-Pop girl group and allow for augmented reality concerts, in absence of real idols. K/DA’s live performance of Pop/Stars at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship was revolutionary but is Aespa going to be able to live up to the same hype?
There is no doubt about the fact that Aespa is going to find success. Coming from one of the Big 3 Entertainment companies and being as talented as the Aespa members are, success is assured. However, the competition is steep and expectations are on high. The concept of virtual counterparts has been presented evocatively but is not being executed quite as well. Besides, rather than expanding the horizons of idol-fan interaction, these virtual avatars may also erase the lines that should necessarily exist between the two parties. The perfection of the avatars can also potentially have a detrimental effect on the real members’ mental health. Even before debut, the members’ avatars were being compared to the members themselves, with Netizens claiming that one member had it better than another.
Speaking of Aespa’s debut music video Black Mamba, it is an incredibly impressive debut with brilliant production and charming presence of the members. They’re all great performers and would have been picture perfect if they didn’t have the expectation of the virtual concept tagged along. The avatars appear for a total of 5 seconds in the music video and add absolutely nothing new to it. The members by themselves are magnificent and captivating enough but the absence of proper execution of the promised virtual concept leaves an incomplete aftertaste. While it will be interesting to see how SM works further on this, so far, the virtual avatars are not worth getting excited over.
What do you think about Aespa's virtual avatars? Share your thoughts with Pinkvilla in the comments section below!