APOKI, the virtual Korean artist “like a rabbit that lives somewhere in space,” has released her first album, Earth Space Time.
Her debut song, “GET IT OUT,” which she released in February 2021, was created with first-class writers like songwriter Melanie Fontana. Along with its accompanying music video, which encapsulated her spacy, near-future aesthetic, it served as a powerful calling card for this unrivaled virtual artist. She followed this up by working with writers like Melanie and GG Ramirez and producers like A-Dee and Lindgren to create some of the world’s most cutting edge and cool tracks, with a K-pop spin.
Now, she’s finally completed her long-awaited first album. With a total of 11 songs, including both previous releases and new songs, it speaks volumes about why the virtual artist APOKI has drawn the attention she has around the world. Billboard Japan spoke with APOKI about the album.
What kind of album were you setting out to make with this, your first album?
The key concepts of this album are “reminiscing” and “beginning.” There are brand new songs, but there are also songs I previously released. It’s a record of my travels as an artist, and a present to my fans.
What’s the story behind the album’s title, Earth Space Time?
These three words express my aesthetic, both in the past and spreading out into the future. If you look at my past activities, I think it’s be clear what it means.
The songs were written by a team of hit-makers from around the world, like Melanie Fontana and Andreas Carlsson.
Over the past few years, in the K-pop scene, it’s become standard for songs to be created by overseas teams, including co-writing efforts. I think there’s a synergy between the tracks they create and the Korean lyrics. It feels like the divisions between genres have been disappearing lately, so I’ve been able to show off various aspects of my world. I’m inspired by the varied songs being put out by K-pop artists.
Tell us about what went into creating “Space,” the lead song on the album.
“Space” is filled with my feelings about my birthplace — space. In writing it, I was thinking about how there are all of these aspects of space that have yet to be discovered by earthlings…but what exactly those are is still a secret (laughs). But I’m very happy and grateful to see listeners interpreting it from all kinds of different perspectives. I’ve released various versions, so make sure to check those out, too.
The sound of the album is really cool and polished, but the melodies are very accessible.
There’s such a thing as a language barrier, but there’s no such thing as a melody barrier. That’s why I’m sure people around the world will listen to the album. I want to keep making melodies that all listeners can identify with.
The album contains your August release, “Hold On.” This is your first original Japanese song. What’s the response been like?
This April I collaborated with Girls² on “Countdown feat. APOKI,” which reached a whole new group of fans. Since releasing “Hold On,” I can tell that the number of Japanese APOKI fans is on the rise. I heard that it hit fifth place on Japan‘s USEN Weekly Request J-pop Chart (on November 11), which is wonderful.
Your new ballad, “Fuyu No Sakura (Winter Blossom),” features guitarist Kotaro Oshio. What about Oshio’s guitar playing do you find so appealing?
Actually, in the early stages of the song there was no guitar part, but I asked Kotaro Oshio, who I have a ton of respect for, to play guitar on the song. I love his delicate guitar playing and the slightly wistful sound of his guitar. In his playing, I feel a sense of warmth within that wistfulness. It was an honor to be able to work with him.
I’m sure it’s a hard choice for you, but what songs do you particularly like on the album?
I love them all (laughs). But if I had to pick one, it would be my newest song, “Hashtaggg.” It’s a mid-tempo song with a very stylish atmosphere and a unique sound. The lyrics are a bold emotional declaration, shouting at someone you love “Hashtag me! Look at me!” I think this is a feeling that every girl that’s ever been in love has experienced at some time or other. When I recorded the song, I imagined the relationship between myself and my fans, who give me so much support.
Your music videos, which are made using state-of-the-art computer graphics, always generate a lot of buzz. What creators and artworks have you been particularly inspired by? And how did you develop your own truly unique sensibilities?
My visuals are just everyday life up in space, where I was born, but if earthlings find them novel, that’s great. I’m still studying earth aesthetics, so everything here on this planet is new and inspiring to me. Some of my artwork is inspired by Japanese sci-fi comics like AKIRA. You should check them out.
The Korean music scene is seeing a rise in the number of virtual artists. What do you think is the biggest difference between you and these other artists?
The number of virtual artists and virtual idols in Korea has been really climbing lately. I feel like this year, in particular, the number of fans has really swelled. My goal is to further expand the virtual market along with my fellow artists and to work and grow together. I think artwork is very important for a virtual artist, but musical sensibilities are also critical. I’d like to set myself apart through my musical sensibilities and to stay focused on originality.
You’ve becoming quite a center of attention, with over five million social media followers around the world. I think you play an important role as an influencer because you connect the virtual and real worlds. How do you see your relationship with fans in the social media era?
I’ve yet to meet my fans face-to-face, but I try to actively communicate with them through things like my Instagram live performances. I’m always struggling with how to look cool while staying approachable. I’m very appreciative of the comments and input I get from everyone, and I try to reflect them in my own activities.
So you have ambitions and hopes for a live show?
One of my big goals is to have fun communicating with my fans at a live show. I’d love to play in public, and, in fact, preparations are already underway. Just hold on a little longer!
—This interview by Hisakatsu Tanaka first appeared on Billboard Japan