The performance begins with a roar, as Soyeon, 21-year-old leader of Korean girl group (G)I-DLE, turns to the crowd and lets out a guttural cry. Her small frame is hidden behind her own unrivaled bravado, and her gaze pierces the camera. "Beware, with rough claws," she warns in Korean. "I pave ways no one has gone before." As the stage rises beneath her, the rapper's formidable flow intensifies until it culminates in a dominant declaration: "I'm a queen." Then, she smiles.
For the emerging band (G)I-DLE, barely two years old, this staggering moment was their televised coronation. Their moody and percussive performance of "Lion" on the live finale of the competition series Queendom boosted their provocative image globally, and it exemplified what soulful vocalist Yuqi refers to as the "(G)I-DLE genre," a bold aesthetic that is loosely defined as "whatever they want it to be." At the end of the choreography, before the six women strut across the stage to take their seats atop actual thrones, sultry singer Soojin exhales the final word: "I’m a lion, I’m a queen, nobody can handle me."
Onstage, (G)I-DLE appears fully without restraints, and that feeling extends to "Oh My God," the group's latest single off their third EP, I Trust. One of the five total tracks on the release written and composed by Soyeon, "Oh My God" is a dark, trap-infused song with lyrics that riff on contrasts — light and dark, purity and sin — to communicate the the idea that true divinity comes from knowing and trusting yourself. "Believing in ourselves is a kind of confidence that only (G)I-DLE can portray," Soyeon tells MTV News from a conference room in Seoul, South Korea, where she's joined by her members at a large table.
They are her muses: Miyeon with her powerful voice and temperate composure; Minnie with her sweet, airy tone and charming pluck; confident Yuqi, bursting with energy and humor; quiet storm Soojin with her empathy and grace; and youngest member Shuhua, whose ethereal strength inspired the untamed ferocity of "Lion." One of the reasons their music is so distinct and assertive, Minnie says, is because the group control much of the process: Their music is by and about themselves. Minnie, who is from Thailand, wrote last year's funky "Blow Your Mind," and Beijing-born Yuqi has been working on her own compositions from the group's designated studio inside CUBE Entertainment. "It's not easy, especially for us as foreigners," Minnie says. "That's why I respect Soyeon because she produces everything, sometimes in a very short amount of time."
"Our strong point is that we're different individuals," she explains. "So we try to put out the strong, unique points of each of us through our songs. Soyeon knows us the best, so she tries to give us the perfect part for each of us. That's the reason it comes out good every time." She pauses and smiles, "And this time, it's also very good!"
"With 'Oh My God' we want to present a genre of our own," Soyeon adds, though she would rather the sound speak for itself than spell it out in words. Because Soyeon, who once rapped "break the cage of prejudice / how dare someone stop me and control me" knows better than anyone: Once when you define something, it defines you — it boxes you in. And (G)I-DLE aren't about labels. There's a freedom to Soyeon's process; she likes to experiment with rhythms and melodies from various musical backgrounds. Their debut track, "Latata," was pure trop-pop seduction, while follow-up singles further expanded the group's diverse sound: to the sultry house of "Hann" to the Latin snaps and horns on "Senorita" to the '90s boom-bap of "Uh-Oh." In many ways, "Oh My God" is the natural evolution of their trendy sound, building on the seething tension of "Lion" and adding a slow, simmering drop primed for the Western market, like a cozy sonic and thematic companion to Ariana Grande's "God Is a Woman."
The corresponding visual adds another layer of intrigue with haunting, cinematic images depicting heaven, hell, and purgatory. Inspired by isekai anime (a subgenre of Japanese animation in which a character is transported between worlds), Soyeon explains that the imagery represents love in its many forms, a notion made more powerful by the unexpected use of female pronouns. "Oh my god, she took me to the sky," Soyeon cries out on the hook, while she writhes within a mass of bodies cloaked in white and tainted in black ink. "Oh my god, she showed me all the stars," Minnie concludes. It leaves viewers wondering to whom are they referring — to themselves or to love itself, a common motif across (G)I-IDLE’s discography — but Soyeon will leave it to the fans to interpret.
"I didn't want to limit that 'she' to a certain being or a certain definition," she says. "So it's open to anything. I believe that all kinds of love are valuable and must be respected. That's why I don't want to limit 'she' to something specific."
At first listen, Yuqi couldn't quite grasp the concept either. She listened to an early demo and "didn't understand it." But she believed in the song's potential because she believes in Soyeon. "I trust her," the vocalist says, smiling at Soyeon across the table before erupting into a fit of giggles. Miyeon softly agrees. She recalls the anticipation of listening to "Oh My God" for the first time: "I couldn’t wait to see what Soyeon would do this time." It was a new sound for (G)I-DLE, and Soyeon was particularly nervous about the hook. It's not a typical pop chorus exploding with uptempo beats and bright melodies; she was worried listeners would find it anticlimactic. But Miyeon thinks the mesmerizing hook is what makes the song so fresh. Soojin loves the "addictive" pre chorus, the way it intoxicates and builds. "When I listened to the song with the hook, I thought that it was great, especially the lyrics," Soojin adds.
"Now that it's complete," Yuqi says confidently, "I know it's going to be a hit — not only in Korea, but all over the world."
A new partnership with Republic Records in the United States will help propel them towards that goal. I Trust marks their official debut in the American market, and the group recorded an English version of the track for the album as a gift to their international fans, known as Neverland. In addition to "Oh My God" and "Lion," the EP also includes the flirty, bass-heavy B-side "Luv U" and the broody, EDM-synth track "Maybe." Each toils with a different emotion in relationship to love, with "Luv U" depicting the fizziness of new passion and "Maybe" reflecting on a toxic fling turned sour.
"With I Trust we wanted to convey a process of self-trust, the process in which we come to believe in ourselves, which leads to self-confidence as well," Soyeon says. "We did this concept because we wanted to do it. There's no right time or wrong time for girl groups to do anything. We can do whatever we want, whenever we want to do it."
It's that tenacity that solidifies (G)I-DLE as a formidable group eager to claim the global throne. And on I Trust, they've never sounded more confident. That unwavering belief in themselves, bolstered by their experience on Queendom, is the (G)I-DLE genre. They don't ask for permission, and they don't seek forgiveness — they simply exist. "We always do the kind of music that we want to do," Soyeon says.
"In our group, we have the same goal," Yuqi adds. "I believe that if you don't want to have regrets, then you have to do something that you like and something that you really want to do."