Making their first comeback since 2019, the girls of CLC are rewriting history in their fifth year
Time moves slower in K-pop world.
While dropping a track years after your last came out constitutes perfectly acceptable behavior in the rest of the world, in the fast-changing K-pop space, a year can easily spell a missed opportunity. Perhaps this is why South Korean girl group CLC had never left their seats empty for too long. Since breaking into the scene in 2015, the group—with a current lineup composed of Seunghee, Yujin, Seungyeon, Sorn, Yeeun, Elkie and Eunbin—has eagerly been releasing multiple singles or albums a year. Even their attempts to gain a foothold in Japan in 2016 didn’t thwart their rhythm: instead of focusing solely on their Japanese market, they trudged on to release four extended plays and three singles across both Japan and Korea.
In late 2019, though, the gears shifted.
After tirelessly churning out one track after the next, last September marked the members’ first opportunity to come up for air in half a decade. Devil would be their last single in the space of a full year, the plucky bass and doo-wop-inspired choruses being overtaken by a moment of much-deserved silence.
Despite the shifts that have taken place since the beginning of their break (we’re looking at you, corona), CLC’s time away has been anything but monotonous. Members Yujin and Elkie have spent their time away exploring new hobbies like hiking and working out. The group’s YouTuber trio—Seunghee, Seungyeon and Sorn—have each been growing their channels as well.
“I mainly post songs,” shares Seunghee, whose primary content orbits around covers and casual behind-the-scenes reels. “I’m working hard to learn how to edit [my videos] to be able to communicate with fans better.” Seungyeon, the group’s main dancer, explores more traditional YouTube lifestyle content and hopes to dive deeper into different genres of dance. Sorn, whose channel PRODUSORN boasts half a million subscribers, has earned the title of content king among her group members thanks to her regular stream of content and frequent interactions with fans.
There’s nothing fans like more than seeing their biases thrive and take up their own space, but could we really expect CLC’s fans to resist longing for a comeback? And could we really expect CLC to keep them waiting for much longer?
Their return to the scene with Helicopter proves otherwise.
A year of no releases under the group's name wasn't particularly intentional. Seunghee explains, “The influence of COVID-19 played into us taking a year to come back. It was hard to find the right time and we were worried that we won’t be able to meet our fans even if we do make a comeback.” And while the entire group was apologetic to their fans, collectively known as CHESHIRE, for the long (albeit well-deserved) breather, there was an undeniable excitement that thrummed through their veins knowing they would get to reinvent themselves with a new track.
Helicopter sinks its teeth into South Korea’s love for a good girl crush concept. Backed by a beat that gets a listener’s heart racing, the new single is another addition to CLC’s arsenal of strong-headed, hard-hitting tracks, brought to life by an energy distinct to the seven-piece group. Composed by Melanie Joy Fontana and produced by Shin Hyuk, the track strikes a sonic balance between the members’ strengths: Yujin’s gossamer-like tone, Seunghee’s full-bodied vocals, Yeeun’s high-octane rapping. As far as first impressions go, Helicopter’s lead-in is comparable to the goosebump-inducing ascent before a roller coaster drop—and the members themselves had a good feeling about it right from the get-go. Seungyeon shares that when they all gathered to listen to the track for the first time, they couldn’t help but share a look and think, “Isn’t this good?”
“Helicopter talks about rising up,” explains Yujin. “The world is going through challenging times right now, so I hope people will feel better and get energized by listening to our music.” In the hopes of communicating this message even clearer, the group has also released an English version of the track.
When asked to describe their new single in a single word, Seungyeon chimed in without hesitation to share that Helicopter rings synonymous to challenge—to overcome whatever is in the way. With the song reflecting the group’s own stories, struggles and the willpower to march beyond them, Yeeun believes that Helicopter is something of an autobiography for CLC.
Looking back at her experience of contributing to the group's lyrics, Yeeun says, “Compared to when I first started, I’ve definitely improved! To be honest, I had too many thoughts for this album. I certainly think it’s an album that takes us another step up.” Beyond penning lyrics and producing tracks, the rest of the girls have been pitching in to the group's concepts in their own ways.
“I’ve been contributing to every aspect,” group leader Seungyeon explains. “For this comeback especially, I kept in touch with the choreographer and looked over the details of the choreography, and found references for hair, makeup, and styling, and shared and discussed them with our professionals.” Sorn, on the other hand, has come up with many Powerpoint presentations to flesh out comeback concepts for the team. She and Eunbin, who admits to be a rather imaginative thinker, hope to attempt directing music videos for the group in the future. Yujin and Seunghee, on the other hand, have set their sights on styling.
With fervor replenished by their year-long break, CLC has bigger, brighter dreams they hope to accomplish with this comeback.
“From now on, I hope people will think of CLC when they think of performance. We want to be the leading performance group of K-pop,” says Elkie, stressing how they focused on sharpening their live performances for Helicopter. Seungyeon, aiming ever higher, shares, “I heard that BTS ranked #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. It’s a huge accomplishment, and a sign that K-pop is being loved by people from all over the globe. We also hope to get to see our name on the Billboard charts this time.”
Stream both versions of CLC’s Helicopter on Spotify.
Images via Cube Entertainment
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver