WINNER's Mino, ATEEZ and NCT set to conquer K-pop scene in December

By Dong Sun-hwa

For K-pop stars, December is an eventful month packed with end-of-year awards ceremonies and concerts, but quite a few of them are planning to release new music next month to wrap up the year. Included in the star-studded lineup are Mino of K-pop boy band WINNER, ATEEZ and NCT.

1. Mino (Dec. 7)

WINNER's Mino, ATEEZ and NCT set to conquer K-pop scene in December

A teaser image for Mino’s new album, “TO INFINITY” / Courtesy of YG Entertainment

Mino of K-pop boy band WINNER is set to put out his third solo full-length album, “TO INFINITY,” on Dec. 7, according to his agency YG Entertainment. It has taken about a year for him to return with a studio album, after releasing “TAKE” in 2020.

The album will be led by “Tang! ♡” which refers to an onomatopoeia expressing the sound of a gunshot. Mino wrote the song in cooperation with YG producer AiRPLAY and composer Illijun.

“‘Digital Gunman’ is a key phrase to describe Mino’s fresh release,” YG said in a statement. “He will transform himself into a cowboy with a modern twist and his album will be far from typical.”

Prior to the release of “TO INFINITY,” Mino, famous for his artistic prowess, is set to run a special exhibition featuring his artwork and music from Dec. 1 to 6. The event will take place at a cafe in front of YG’s headquarters in Mapo District, Seoul.

2. ATEEZ (Dec. 10)

WINNER's Mino, ATEEZ and NCT set to conquer K-pop scene in December

A teaser image for ATEEZ’s upcoming release, “ZERO: FEVER EPILOGUE” / Courtesy of KQ Entertainment

K-pop boy group ATEEZ is poised to unleash a new album titled, “ZERO: FEVER EPILOGUE,” on Dec. 10, only about three months after dropping “ZERO: FEVER Part. 3” in September.

The upcoming album ― which will be fronted by the lead track, “Turbulence” ― is the last part of its “Fever” series. Started last year, the series has been unfolding the stories of youth having a kind of fever, or passion to follow their dreams, as they grow up.

Marking the end of the series, the eight-piece act’s management company, KQ Entertainment, floated a black-and-white teaser, Monday, featuring the eight members wearing graduation caps at a school. In the image, all of them are donning sashes with English phrases such as, “Keep my conviction.”

“The phrases are the hints for the upcoming release,” the company said in a statement.

3. NCT (Dec. 14)

WINNER's Mino, ATEEZ and NCT set to conquer K-pop scene in December

A teaser image for NCT’s third full-length album, “Universe” / Courtesy of SM Entertainment

On Dec. 14, K-pop act NCT’s third studio album “Universe” will hit multiple streaming charts, more than a year after NCT rolled out its second full-length album, “RESONANCE,” which sold 2 million copies.

Given that NCT consists of different sub-units, such as NCT 127, NCT DREAM and WayV, the release of the album will provide a rare opportunity to see the members from the different sub-units teaming up to showcase their new sonic styles.

“Universe” will offer 13 tracks of various genres, including two lead singles: “Universe (Let’s Play Ball)” and “Beautiful.” The former is a hip-hop-based R&B tune by Doyoung, Jungwoo, Mark, Xiaojun, Jeno, Haechan, Jaemin, Yangyang and Shotaro, which is peppered with an addictive refrain. Acclaimed composer KENZIE, who was behind the success of NCT 127’s “Favorite” (2021) and NCT DREAM’s “Hello Future” (2021), wrote the song, with Mark making its rap portion.

“The track conveys a message that everything is possible if ‘you’ are here,” NCT’s record label, SM Entertainment, said in a statement.

“Beautiful” is a pop ballad that aims to deliver a message of hope, it added.

“With the upcoming release, the fans will be able to see the fresh combinations of NCT members and the chemistry they show,” SM said.

In addition to the aforementioned singers, groups like Everglow, ONF and T1419 are gearing up for their December releases.

There will be some newcomers, too. Starship Entertainment’s IVE, which includes the former members of girl group IZ*ONE, will release its debut album, “Eleven” on Dec. 1. Kep1er, consisting of nine winners from Mnet’s audition program, “Girls Planet 999,” will also make its debut on Dec. 14 with the album, “FIRST IMPACT.” Before the album’s release, the nonet will meet its fans on the Mnet ASIAN MUSIC AWARDS, scheduled for Dec. 11.

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