K-pop or J-pop? All-Japanese group Unicode blends two genres in unique debut

Rookie girl group Unicode performs its debut lead track, ″Let me love,″ at a press showcase Wednesday afternoon at Rolling Hall in Mapo District, western Seoul ahead of the album's 6 p.m. release. [NEWS1]

Is it K-pop or is it J-pop? Rookie girl group Unicode, all five of whose members are from Japan, is creating its own “K-city pop” genre in its debut.

“We have the charms of K-pop and we have the charms of J-pop, and the charm of Unicode lies in the fact that it’s a 'K-city pop' genre sung by five Japanese members,” Unicode’s Erin said during a press showcase Wednesday at Rolling Hall in Mapo District, western Seoul, ahead of the 6 p.m. release of the group's debut album, “Hello World: Code J Ep. 1.”

K-city pop is pitched as a Korean-style version of the Japanese “city pop” genre. City pop is difficult to strictly define, but generally refers to Japanese songs of the 1980s with an urban vibe, including “Plastic Love” (1984) by Mariya Takeuchi and “Stay With Me” (1979) by Miki Matsubara.

“K-city pop is a genre that’s not under J-pop, but it’s the type of music reminiscent of songs you’ve heard in the past,” Erin said, describing Japanese city pop music as “calm and sentimental” and K-city pop as “more energetic.”

The quintet — including members Erin, Yura, Sooah, Hana and Mio — emphasized that Japanese identity, throughout the showcase, as the primary factor that makes them unique in today's K-pop scene.

The group's name, Unicode, is a combination of the words unity and code and indicates that its members aim to unite the word — just as the text encoding standard of the same name is said to have done in the 90s.

“Hello World: Code J Ep. 1” features six total tracks. Lead track “Let me love” was produced by none other than actor and producer Jinyoung, who debuted as a member of boy band B1A4 in 2011 and is behind such hit tracks as “Baby good night” (2012), “Tried To Walk” (2012) and “What’s Happening” (2013) as well as Produce 101’s “At the Same Place” (2016) IOI’s “When the Cherry Blossoms Fade” (2016).

“I was a fan of B1A4 and Jinyoung; I dreamed of being an idol looking at him,” Erin said. “It was bizarre to have him produce our debut song, and it almost felt like a miracle.”

“Always enjoy yourselves and have fun” was the advice that Jinyoung gave Unicode, according to the members.

The album also includes tracks “Invi: Bon Voyage,” “Blur,” “Spring in my 20th,” “Drizzle and “Sailors: Outro.”

Unicode’s debut on Wednesday was a hard-earned achievement. While K-city pop is a distinct genre, the members emphasized that K-pop has always been their dream. The group was formed, they said, of “five members who are sincere with K-pop” who “all came to one to pursue K-pop.”

Erin, for example, was so determined to debut as a K-pop idol that she began teaching herself Korean at an early age. “I wanted to prove to my parents how serious I am with my dream,” she said. “I studied by myself and I received awards in speech competitions. Now I write my diary every day in Korean.”

“Yura and I were first selected by the agency. We waited for a year but our debut almost didn’t happen,’ Sua said, adding that she recommended other members to the CEO of the agency. “That’s why our members call me the ‘recruitment leader’.”

“I hope I get to listen to our songs playing in the streets of Korea one day,” Sua added. “I want to hear our songs in front of the convenience stores and maybe even have people cover our songs in Hongdae.”

Following its Korean debut, the girl group will also continue its activities in Japan with future plans to go global. The members hope their unique genre will set them apart from other debuting groups.

“We want to pursue our own color, as the first idol group pursuing the genre of K-city pop,” said Erin.

“We might not have found all our colors, so I hope to find them together as we go along our journey.”

To find out more about UNICODE, visit Celeb Confirmed!