As a group, Winner was created through the reality WIN: Who Is Next, a battle between Team A (Now Winner) and Team B (Now iKon). Following their win on the show, Team A was promised that they would debut as Winner under YG Entertainment. Winner then went on tour with Big Bang, where they opened for the Japanese Dome concert and also featured as backup dancers in Taeyang’s Ringa Linga music video. Before releasing their debut album, Winner took part in a reality show called WINNER TV that showcased their run up to their debut.
Winner is composed of five members namely: Leader Kang Seungyoon who joined YG Entertainment after appearing on the TV audition program Superstar K2 and finishing in fourth place. Before becoming part of Winner, Seungyoon acted in the 2011 drama High Kick: Revenge of the short legged and in 2013, made his solo debut with Wild & Young. Like Seungyoon, another member that went through a TV audition program is Lee Seunghoon, who prior to the debut with Winner appeared on K-pop Star Season One and like his bandmate also won fourth place. Seunghoon wanted to join YG from a young age as he lived near the YG building and dreamed of making it big there. Kim Jinwoo is the eldest member of Winner. He joined YG as a trainee in 2010 and was known as one of the eldest trainees in YG at the time. Song Minho, the rapper of the group has a rather different pre debut story. He started out in the underground rapping scenes and almost debuted as part of Block B. Minho later debuted as part of BoM, though they were disbanded in 2013. He has also had some experience in acting in the drama The Strongest KPOP Survival. Nam Taehyun is the youngest member of the group who has previously performed as a backup dancer at the 2011 YG Family concert and has a special interest in writing and composing.
Their debut album, titled 2014 S/S was released digitally and physically on August 12th and 14th respectively, followed by their debut stage on 17th August on Inkigayo. Not a month later, the group began their Japanese promotions for the Japanese version of their album, 2014 S/S: Japan Collection and started a month long solo Japanese tour – their first- on September 11th rounding the tour up on October 11th in Tokyo with approximately 25,000 fans.
Most recently Winner has released their mini album, EXIT:E. However, the time between albums was not spent idly. During their year off, the members took on various solo activities. Taehyun, Jinwoo and Seungyoon all took on various acting roles. Taehyun was cast in web drama: Midnight’s Girl, drama: Late Night Restaurant and Chinese- Korean collaboration drama: Under Black Moonlight. Seungyoon stared alongside YG Entertainment sunbae, Sandara Park, in the web drama, We Broke Up. Like Taehyun, Jinwoo also starred in a Chinese- Korean joint drama known as The Magical Cell Phone. Unlike the other members, Minho took part in season four of Show Me The Money and released various songs through the show.
Eventually, Winner’s comeback was announced to be spread over five projects and started with a duet song, Pricked by Minho and Taehyun. Following this, artists from YG Family and other celebrities released covers of Winner’s unreleased songs to build hype for the album. The album was released on February 1st and contained two title tracks Baby Baby and Sentimental. Impressively the album was produced by Taehyun, and has been extremely successful, ranking second in the Billboard World Album Chart and fourth in eleven countries iTunes charts. This album is the first release to be expected from Winner this year, the future albums Exit:X, Exit:I and Exit:T do not yet have expected release dates but are expected to follow a similar release pattern to Big Bang’s MADE albums.
Lauren, March 2016