K-pop is an entertainment wonderland. From music to dance and visuals, all bases for creating a compelling pop scene are covered. Recent years have seen an increase in K-pop content strategies too. K-pop groups are boosting their storytelling and range of fictional content to inform and accompany the music. The stories provide more entryways for new fans. But also, the content is more likely to keep fans engaged for more time as there is so much to pay attention to.
BILLLIE are a part of a generation of K-pop idols for whom transmedia storytelling is just as important as music and dance. They bring a world of symbolism and stories of their own, displayed through music and film. Their mystic storyline is the background for their message: embracing the odd and extraordinary that is behind the ordinary. They’re like the quirky side characters that stole the spotlight in a movie about everyday life and are now the stars of a new movie where their stories are explored with more depth. “Our concept story and universe is like a clash of realities, with fantasy meeting the mystical world,” BILLLIE’s Siyoon tells PopMatters. “It’s not just in the music, lyrics, and videos; there’s also a set of contents with messages within.”
Even the name of the group is a part of their package of meanings. It is inspired by the name “Billie”, but with an extra “L” symbolizing the extraordinary. “BILLLIE” also recalls the pronunciation of “believe”. This similarity is emphasised by the vocalists in tracks like “believe”, in which they sing: “Even if I’m a little clumsy, (…) will you believe?”. The message, however, is clear: there can be something special about acknowledging the weirdness that is out there.
Formed by Moon Sua, Haram, Tsuki, Haruna, Suhyeon, Siyoon, and Sheon, the girl group released their second EP, The Collective Soul and Unconscious: Chapter One, in February 2022. If the title sounds like a Jungian analysis book, it’s because the lyrics tap into themes like coincidences, déjà vus, signs from the universe, the relation between the inner and outer world. It’s lighter than it sounds, though. The symbolism is but a motif for BILLLIE to develop their fictional storyline through The Collective Soul and Unconscious: Chapter One. The music stands on its own.
The lead single, “GingaMingaYo (the strange world)“, is a booming EDM introduction to BILLLIE’s world. But the esoteric aura of BILLLIE feels more at home in electro-R&B songs like “a sign ~ anonymous”, “overlap (1/1)”, “M N palace”, and “believe”. These songs have just the right combination of mystery, elegance, and energy. The last track in the EP, “believe”, suits Chapter One in how it feels like the ending theme of a teenage adventure movie. It’s no coincidence — there is a dramaturgic aspect to BILLLIE.
Priorly to the release of The Collective Soul and Unconscious: Chapter One, BILLLIE released its concept film story, What is your B?. The 11-minute production was marked by many firsts for the members — Sheon’s first time acting, Moon Sua’s first time riding a motorcycle. What is your B? adds to BILLLIE’s lore and complements the message in their lyrics.
The BILLLIE members do not sing in What is your B?, but there is music: the film features instrumentals that hint at the Chapter One tracks, and also tracks from their previous works. They are incremented with arrangements that go from dance music to jazz and classical music. In an innovative move, a soundtrack for What is your B? was released on music streaming services. This is a genius play to showcase the versatility of BILLLIE’s melodies and generate interest for BILLLIE’s music.
As a product, the OST for What is your B? caters to fans who savor and consume every piece of their favorite artworks — like the older fans of the Harry Potter saga, who were eager to buy the official film soundtracks. BILLIE’s soundtrack also serves to highlight some of the unseen heroes of K-pop: the composers and musicians.
As for the BILLLIE members, they too come from varying experiences in the K-pop industry. In addition to music, some of them also have worked as models and actresses. For example, Suhyeon was in two popular survival music shows on Korean TV: Produce 101 and Mix Nine. Sheon was on Girls Planet 999. Moon Sua was on Unpretty Rapstar 2. It’s easy to assume that they are used to being in the spotlight. Still, they admit to feeling nervous as they perform as a group, and they’re constantly learning more about their profession. “Even before our debut, not much of my perception about being on stage has changed, because we’re always nervous and excited to be on stage,” Sua shares. Her brother (K-pop star Moonbin, from the boy-group ASTRO) is one of her sources of support.
BILLLIE’s music, performance, and contents make an attractive and intriguing entertainment mix. “We will continue to release different things as part of our universe and different contents that we can enjoy with our fans,” Suhyeon tells PopMatters.