When it comes to storytelling, Aespa are truly on the next level. Their latest, hip-hop infused single might've originally started out as a remake of an Arceehij and Aston Wyld song for the Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw soundtrack back in 2019, but the group has truly made it their own with their world-building lyrics and powerful choreography.
At a press conference on May 17, member Karina described "Next Level" as a "groovy and energetic" song through which Aespa can show off the "power in their voices." Its lyrics tie directly into the recently unveiled SM Culture Universe, the elements of which have been both seen and heard in multiple SM artist's works in the past, including Exo Kai's "Mmmh," SuperM's "One (Monster & Infinity)," and NCT U's "90's Love."
Aespa's concept is part of SM's greater universe and is a rich, complex tale of worlds: present day, the Flat, and Kwangya. It all begins when magical sinkholes form around the globe that transform all of the data that anyone has ever shared online into an avatar version of that person called 'æ'; æ live in the Flat and can "synk" between worlds to spend time with their human counterparts. When the portal between the worlds is disconnected by the devious Black Mamba, they must delve further into Kwangya — a lawless wasteland of time and space — to find the culprit.
"Our story is about 'meeting the other self (an avatar) and experiencing a new world,'" explained Winter. "This is a concept that’s never been seen anywhere before, so it gives us our own unique color and style."
According to Ningning, the music video for "Next Level" is a continuation of the journey seen in Aespa's 2020 single "Black Mamba" to uncover clues about what caused æ to synk out. "'Next Level' is about going on an adventure to 'Kwangya' to fix the problem caused by 'Black Mamba,' who disturbed the synk between us and æ," she revealed.
"Yes, it is an ongoing story that will be told through all our activities from ‘Black Mamba’ to ‘Next Level’ and onwards," Giselle added. "So please look forward to it!"
This week also saw the release of Enhypen's "Fever," Taemin of Shinee's "Advice," B.I's "Waterfall," Rocket Punch's "Ring Ring," Fromis_9's "We Go," Tri.be's "Rub-A-Dum," E'Last U's "The Beginning of Spring," TO1's "Son of Beast," Heize's "Happen," and Yuqi of (G)i-dle's "Bonnie & Clyde," so be sure to check those out as well! ✨