The comments section for Bling Bling’s debut MV, “G.G.B.,” on YouTube is filled with a slew of Brazilians professing their love. To them, Bling Bling are as patroas (women bosses), delivering what fans have dubbed K-funk, a neologism to describe the unique mix between funk carioca (also known as Brazilian funk or baile funk) and K-pop. By adopting the beloved musical style, which appears in their b-side “La La La” as well, Bling Bling have also conquered the hearts of many Brazilians.
A mix of Miami bass and hip hop, funk carioca is widely popular across the country, and a cultural staple that brings unabashed pride to many. It reached international fame through artists like M.I.A. and Anitta, and is slowly becoming a reference in K-pop as well — think AleXa’s “Bomb” or Tri.be’s “Doom Doom Ta.” For Bling Bling, though, funk carioca took the center stage; it offered a bold soundscape to showcase their distinct vocals and performances, and set them apart in the constant deluge of K-pop debuts.
“We love funk [carioca] music because it has a lot of energy,” says Narin to Seoulbeats via Zoom. It is easy to understand why: Bling Bling’s energy matches the uplifting vibes of the music genre. Narin sits neatly in the bottom left of a line formed by her bandmates Juhyun, Yubin, Marin, Ayamy, and Jieun. Even though it is a busy Friday night preparing for their upcoming comeback, the group is bright and lively, playing with each other and laughing throughout the interview.
The comeback in question is their first EP, Contrast, out today (May 20th). While title track “Oh Mama” veers from funk to bring forward tropical sounds, it maintains Bling Bling’s high-voltage, dazzling style. The single shows “a side that is very chic, and also a side that is very lovely and feminine,” says leader Juhyun. “Not only it reflects in the MV, but also in the album [packaging] that uses black and pastel colors.”
Juhyun further explains that the single is about “falling head over heels for someone.” In the MV, they appear as powerful pirate queens, draped in shiny black and white outfits — likely to make others fall for them rather than the opposite. But it hasn’t always been like that. “Our choreography involves using skirts,” shares Japanese member Marin, who is known for her skillful dance moves. “Because they were taped to our outfits, when we practiced we would trip over them,” she laughs. “Oh Mama!” Juhyun jokes, prompting the other members to repeat the catchphrase and laugh too. “Now we are fine, but when we were first practicing we made a lot of mistakes,” Marin adds.
The first idol group from Major9 Entertainment, it has only been six months since Bling Bling debuted. However, the group is quickly learning the ins and outs of idol life. “When we were trainees, we would practice without any equipment, but now we use mics and in-ear monitors,” says Juhyun when asked about the main differences from when they were trainees. “We never really considered the equipment before, so it was something we realized for the first time.”
As Bling Bling is a group with both Korean and Japanese members, and with songs in both languages as well, they are also learning how to overcome any cultural differences that might arise. “We spend a lot of time together, and use that time to try to understand one another,” says Ayamy, the other Japanese member in the group. “For example, in the beginning, every week we had a ‘compliment time,’ where we complimented each other for one hour,” adds deep-toned vocalist Jieun. “Now we don’t do it as often, but we will try to do it again.”
I prompt them to try a shortened version now, which Narin starts. She places one hand on Juhyun’s shoulder and says, “Juhyun is our leader, and I admire her for that and for guiding us.” Juhyun then turns to Yubin and leans on her. “I feel very thankful for Yubin, because she’s in charge of much of the performance. When we were preparing for this comeback, she contributed a lot.” Jieun adds that “When we are practicing the choreography, Yubin helps us fit in the details, for example.”
Yubin shyly covers her face for a moment, but recovers to embrace Marin on her side. “Marin looks just like a cat, with her eyes and her big smile that goes upwards,” she says as they both start to laugh. To Marin, Ayamy “has a very mysterious look, and she really supports and tries to help everyone. I appreciate that.” A little shy as well, Ayamy turns to Jieun and compliments her by saying “Jieun is a great singer, and when it comes to singing, she gives guidance to us all.”
Finally, Jieun points out that Narin’s greatest strength is her aegyo, or cute personality. “We don’t have much aegyo in the group, but Narin is full of it. So when we are tired, she’s always the one to cheer us up.” Juhyun encourages Narin to show off her charming skills, and they both swiftly shoot countless hearts done with their hands to the screen, much to the entertainment of everyone in the room.
Before hanging up, they sing a little teaser of “Oh Mama” and do the hand gestures that characterize this single. Juhyun wishes that their comeback reaches an even bigger audience this time. “We will also have a dance challenge, so we hope a lot of people will participate,” she says.
While Bling Bling’s journey is only starting, their brightness is enough to color all future steps along the way. “We hope to explore more different music genres. Maybe hip hop?” inquires Yubin. “Our music, as strong as it may be, is the type of music that makes you want to watch the choreographies,” says Narin. “Our biggest strength is our performance.”