'We always expected to debut as seven': Ahyeon triumphantly returns to BabyMonster

Girl group BabyMonster dropped its first EP, "BABYMONS7ER," on Monday [YG ENTERTAINMENT]

BabyMonster spent the first 126 days of its career as a group of six. They are now back as a group of seven — with Ahyeon back on the team — to debut, yet again, with its first EP, “BABYMONS7ER.”

“We took for granted that we would be debuting as a group of seven — we’ve been together for quite some time, too,” BabyMonster’s Rora said during an interview with press on Monday after the EP's midnight drop. The interview was held at the headquarters of the group's agency, YG Entertainment, in Mapo District, western Seoul.

“We are so very happy to have Ahyeon back,” she added.

Ahyeon did not participate in BabyMonster's first two singles. Just a few days before the group was scheduled to debut, YG Entertainment announced that she would not participate. Many onlookers took the move as a sign that the member had quit the band entirely; rumors swirled that she might never return. That BabyMonster is once again a group of seven is a pleasant surprise for its fans — and a triumph for its members.

“The songs felt somewhat hollow, somewhat empty, when they were first released with the six members,” Asa said. “Now that Ahyeon is here, I feel like both songs are filled.”

Ahyeon, for her part, confidently thanked the members for releasing singles despite her absence and thanked fans for supporting her throughout her break from group activities, noting that she “took routine exercises and ate a lot” during the time.

“I had some psychological difficulties,” Ahyeon said of her own experience. “I wanted to recover fast, but it didn’t go as I hoped. I was upset at myself and I felt sorry for the members.”

Her fellow members felt no such frustration.

“We had to make it our 'official debut' only once Ahyeon returned to the group,” Rami said. “It was only right for us to wait for her.”

Girl group BabyMonster dropped its first EP "BABYMONS7ER" on Monday [YG ENTERTAINMENT]

YG Entertainment's future

BabyMonster’s first EP, “BABYMONS7ER,” features seven total tracks: “Monsters,” a short introductory; lead track “Sheesh”; B-side track “Like That,” produced by American singer-songwriter Charlie Puth and “Dream.” The EP also includes rerecorded versions of “Stuck In The Middle” and “Batter Up,” titled “7 Ver.” and a remixed version of “Stuck In The Middle.”

EPs are generally released in the evening, but “BABYMONS7ER” dropped at midnight instead, a decision meant to accommodate, in Rora's words, “global fans.”

“Sheesh” is a hip hop-dance tune; the slang word “sheesh” appears in the lyrics as well. The song is meant to indicate that BabyMonster will “sheesh the world” with its activities, YG Entertainment said.

“It’s a very addictive song and it’s also very easy to sing along to,” Rora said. “We were all very satisfied with it, and I think that satisfaction will carry through our promotions.”

But while the song may be playful, its implications for YG Entertainment are serious. BabyMonster is its agency's first girl group in seven years after the powerhouse Blackpink — whose members have declined to renew their solo contracts with the agency.

Girl group BabyMonster dropped its first EP "BABYMONS7ER" on Monday [YG ENTERTAINMENT]

Meanwhile BabyMonster's competition is only getting tougher, with NewJeans, IVE, Le Sserafim, NMIXX —and now HYBE’s latest girl group, ILLIT, too — all vying for market share.

The girl group's first single, “Batter Up,” was criticized for being outdated, which is why the members emphasized that the title of the lead track, “Sheesh,” derived from a slang word.

“The DNA of YG Entertainment is about being hip,” Rora said. “But because we are BabyMonster, we also have our ‘teen’ side in us; we are also an idol filled with possibilities to evolve even further.”

Members, nevertheless, addressed questions about Blackpink politely. “We are very honored to be called Blackpink’s sister group,” Rami said. “It is an honorable title.”

“Every artist in YG Entertainment is our role model,” Rora added. Blackpink, in fact, visited the group's performances and offered valuable feedback. “They told us to always think of the audiences.”

In particular, Ahyeon enjoys being called ‘little Jennie.”

“Jennie has been my idol ever since I was a trainee,” Ahyeon said. “I will try my best in the future to [live up to the title] and I will also try to find my color too.”

'BabyMonster’s unique color'

In a crowded field, the now-septet hopes the unique qualities of its members will help it stand out.

BabyMonster has two Japanese members, Ruka and Asa, and two Thai members, Pharita and Chiquita, in addition to its three Korean members, Ahyeon, Rami and Rora. “I think that will enable us to have a better chance,” Rora said.

The members' skills are diverse as well. BabyMonster, like Blackpink, does not have a specified leader — Ruka leads dance practices, while Ahyeon and Rami lead vocal practices.

Ahyeon characterized her “powerful vocal and a contrasting rapping skill” as her greatest strength while Chiquita cited her dance, expressions and “Disney-like vocals” that Ahyeon helped her describe. Pharita, another strong vocalist, is often in charge of prechoruses, while Rora's strength lies in her “low-pitched voice” and “contrasting falsetto.”

Asa spoke of her ability to deliver “strong and speedy rap verses” including as those showcased in “Sheesh.” Rami highlighted her “unique vocal tone,” including a “dolphin-like falsetto.”

“I’m most confident with my dances; I’m also the oldest member of the group so I think I’ll able to show some sexy and hip sides,” Ruka said, appearing to surprise the other six members.

The wide range of characteristics, BabyMonster feels, will give the group a wide range — to which its music is a testament.

“BabyMonster’s unique color lies in our name,” Rami said. “Sometimes we show the ‘baby’ side of us while we are also capable of showing the ‘monster’ side of us. We are also all pretty young, so I hope to showcase the teen side of us too.”

“We are babies offstage and when we are not practicing; we are very playful,” said Ruka. “But when we are practicing or on stage, we are cool and charismatic.”

A busy year lies ahead of BabyMonster. The group will start album promotions, attending weekly music shows for the first time. In May, it will also kick off its first meet and greet tour, “See You There,” which will stop in Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan and Bangkok, Thailand.

“We are very excited to see our fans,” Rora said. “Through our ‘Sheesh’ music video, we learned how much we improved over the period, and we hope to show a more improved side of us in the future.”

“We actually have a lot prepared,” Ahyeon said. “We haven’t announced them all, so we hope you wait a bit more.”

“We are still a rookie and we want to do anything we can do,” Ruka said. “Whether that be varieties, or music shows or anything.”

Girl group BabyMonster dropped its first EP "BABYMONS7ER" on Monday [YG ENTERTAINMENT]

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