If someone wanted to place bets to the future of music, they may have needed to look no further than the KCON 2018 New York festival at the Prudential Center. The two-day convention-concert extravaganza brought 53,000 fans to the Newark, NJ arena who were treated to everything from workshops, panels, artist meet-and-greets as well as a live performance of the first-ever hit K-pop/Latin-pop collaboration in Super Junior and Leslie Grace's "Lo Siento." The trilingual Korean-Spanish-English track led Super Junior to become the first K-pop act to enter Billboard's Latin charts and brought the two seemingly opposite artists on tour throughout Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Peru, so far.
Backstage at KCON, where the artists were gearing up to give the first-ever stateside live performance of the track, there was nothing but appreciation and playfulness (read on) between everyone. Leslie cracked jokes with SuJu's Siwon, but smiled and interacted with each of the band's six members in attendance. The artists opened up to Fuse about what they've learned from one another and indicate yet another collab may be in the works very soon to further spread what they see as a mutually beneficial, musical relationship.
As Leslie shouted during her cameo in Super Junior's set later that night "This is only the beginning!" in both English and Spanish, indicating that their future is looking exciting and very multilingual. Read on for more and stay tuned for more from Fuse's time on the ground at KCON.
FUSE: You created the first successful K-pop and Latin music collaboration. How do these worlds come together?
Leeteuk: In Korea, there weren't any K-pop groups that tried a Latin feature like this as of yet, but Super Junior had a goal to try out a feature with a Latin sound. Because it was the very first experiment, our synchronization with Leslie was so good and the end result was very successful, we're going to continue to experiment in order to try out new things.
Leslie, how did this collaboration influence you and your musical perspective?
Leslie Grace: It's been such an awesome opportunity to be, just from my vantage point and my side of music on the Latin end to be one of the first to do such a huge collaboration with K-pop and with such a different culture as well and has opened the eyes a lot of my colleagues on my side to be open to collaboration and cross-cultural collaborations in the future. I feel awesome. To open my fanbase in the way that I don't think would have ever happened without collaborating with a group as awesome as SuJu
Siwon: You called us SuJu?! You know that [nickname]?
Leslie: Yeah, I do! I'm a fan, I know my stuff! [Laughs] We're on first-name basis.
Siwon: We need to call you LG then. [Laughs]
Leslie: Yes, you know there's a comfort level between us. We went on tour together. Call me whatever you want, guys.
I want to ask about the tour because the Super Show 7 hit a few Latin American countries and Leslie appeared in the shows. What were those shows like?
Siwon: It was really amazing and one of my best memories and experiences, especially in working with her. She is very passionate and very professional. And she has a good heart.
Leslie: Thank you, same with you guys. You guys are much more professional.
Donghae: To be honest, we don't know everything about Leslie when it comes to her performances because we only have one song with her in "Lo Siento," but during the tour, we saw her perform on her own and we think she has so many different sides to her when performing. For example, when she sang a bright song, she was so positive, bubbly and expressive. And then when she sang a sad song, she would suddenly fall into tears. We realized that it was these different aspects of her performances that, we think, make her so popular.
Leslie: I didn't even know they were watching so attentively! I feel so flattered. I think that was the most exciting part for me too. I'm so glad that he said it because, for me, I was really looking forward to going on tour, seeing them perform and me getting to know more about K-pop music, K-pop fandom and their repertoire by being there at the show. While we only got to do one song together with "Lo Siento"—which will change in the future...
Is that a confirmation of another collaboration?!
Leslie: I hope it is! Sometime in the future. But since we only did one song together on the tour, I got to see a lot of their show prior to me going on stage and doing my set. I'd say that was the coolest part. They are very expressive as well, the dancing is super entertaining, the singing is incredible, that was one thing. But the other thing was that it was a phenomenon to me how people of my language are singing along to their language and you really get to see how music has no barriers. And on top of that, to see them singing along to my songs as well—there wasn't any gap between the E.L.F. fandom and the people that could appreciate my music as well and knew it word for word.
That's beautiful. With successful collaborations and tours like this, it further feels like 2018 is a special year for K-pop. Do you feel this is a special year?
Leeteuk: Four or five years ago, we had a solo show in France and we also did a show in Los Angeles. We received a lot of questions about how long K-pop would really last, but it's really grown since then. So, 2018, we don't think it's just about Super Junior growing, but K-pop in general still receiving a lot of love all around the world, and it's just going to keep growing altogether and receive more and more love.
Siwon: That's a great answer.
Eunhyuk: So far, so good. [Laughs]
So what's Super Junior's next goal to keep K-pop growing?
Siwon: Maybe we'll bring our tour to the United States.