For this year’s Icons & Influences issue, we asked 10 artists to pay tribute to the women who have shaped their sound, provided an example, and inspired them to break down barriers.
In 2000, at age 13, BoA became the first solo artist to debut with SM Entertainment. Years later, Aespa — the K-pop powerhouse’s latest girl group, with members Karina, 21, Giselle, 21, Winter, 21, and Ningning, 19 — grew up listening to her music. More recently, they’ve worked together on new music (including a remake of K-pop classic “Dreams Come True” produced by BoA), and Karina and Winter joined BoA in the supergroup Got the Beat alongside Taeyeon and Hyoyeon of Girls’ Generation and Seulgi and Wendy of Red Velvet, SM Entertainment’s two other active girl groups.
Karina: I’ve been a fan of BoA as long as I can remember. The audition TV program K-pop Star, where she’s one of three judges, was popular when I was younger. Watching her coach left a strong impression on me.
Winter: I saw her perform “Only One” when I was in elementary school, and was amazed by her stage presence considering her small frame. I remember once, we tried singing and dancing to “Amazing Kiss,” and it was so hard. It’s amazing to see how she nails every detail of choreography, facial expressions, and gestures on stage. The energy she radiates is amazing.
Giselle: I was really surprised when we met her, because she was so much smaller in person! The way she fills the stage with so much power while singing and dancing really makes her small figure unnoticeable. When we filmed the music video for “Dreams Come True,” she came to set and gave specific directions. She was so clear on how she envisioned everything. You could tell she knew every single detail that was going on behind the camera.
During my recording session with her, I realized that she’s very adventurous when it comes to trying different techniques. She encouraged me to experiment and told me if I don’t like it a certain way then we can always start again. I really admired that mindset. She made me realize I should be bolder and try new techniques like her.
Ningning: My favorite BoA song is “Fox,” from her Kiss My Lips album. I loved it so much that I listened to it on repeat during my early trainee days. The lyrics put me in a good mood.
Giselle: To me, BoA’s most iconic moment is when she walks upside down as part of the choreography of “Woman.” My personal favorite, though, is “Atlantis Princess,” the song I auditioned with. The song starts with “I wonder what is at the end of the far-away sea,” and that stuck with me.
Winter: I performed that for my first evaluation as a trainee! It’s also one of my personal favorites. The music video and the song go perfectly together.
Karina: “Disturbance,” which isn’t as well known, is right up my alley. I loved it so much that I listened to it on repeat. Also, there’s a B-side track called “Love and Hate” which shares a similar sad mood.
Ningning: When I listen to her music, her voice feels like a magnet. Most importantly, when I’m listening to BoA’s music, I feel the girl power.
Karina: When she debuted, there weren’t many K-pop female solo artists who sang and danced. She even went to Japan and became successful there. There must have been lonely days. She never loses her passion, and people see that.
Ningning: She still has a lot of musical aspirations. She’s always thinking about what her fans will like, which I find admirable. It’s amazing how she continues to put in so much effort to improve herself despite how successful she is. Her dedication is so inspiring.
Giselle: Honestly, everything about BoA is cool. Everyone knows her. She’s not just famous — she’s a legend. And even at that level of success, she’s so down-to-earth and easygoing. She goes out of her way to make us feel comfortable, and is genuinely a sweet person. The coolest thing about BoA is how honest and sincere she is.