COVID-19 ravaged the world in 2020, but not even a pandemic could halt the machine that is K-pop. Under extremely controlled conditions, K-pop groups continued to promote new music, and new groups even continued to debut. One of the biggest debuts of 2020 was certainly that of Aespa, the then-long-anticipated new girl group of SM Entertainment, the home of Girls’ Generation and Red Velvet. It was a unique debut both because of COVID and also because of the group’s concept, which incorporated the “metaverse” in a more pronounced way than had been seen in the industry to that point. So let’s talk about all the details of the debut of Aespa, including when they debuted, their first song, and the immediate impact it had.
Aespa Debuted on November 17, 2020 with the Single “Black Mamba”
Aespa debuted as the first new group from SM Entertainment since NCT in 2016, and “Black Mamba” was released as a standalone single with an accompanying music video on November 17, 2020. The video pairs real-world settings with special effects and sets that imply a separate, virtual world. Likewise, the four human members of Aespa appear — Karina, Giselle, Winter, and Ningning — but the video also offers glimpses of digital avatar versions of the members. Upon its release, “Black Mamba” reached 100 million views on YouTube faster than any other K-pop group’s debut video had to that point.
In the weeks prior to Aespa’s official debut, SM had released individual teaser videos introducing the four members of the group and their corresponding digital avatars. In fact, the earliest teaser, released on October 27, 2020, simply consisted of a conversation between Karina and her avatar, “æ-Karina,” to establish the idea that the avatars are their own personas. Aespa is sometimes stylized as “æspa,” with the group name referring to the concept of “avatar x experience” and also the English word “aspect,” and it refers to a duality between the self and meeting the self that exists as an avatar in another world.
These ideas may seem a bit abstract, but they firmly ground Aespa in SM’s unique metaverse, called SM Culture Universe. This universe has its own expanding mythology, in an oddly similar way to that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it incorporates two worlds: our real world and a fictional digital world called “KWANGYA.” Meanwhile, in this mythology, Black Mamba is an actual villainous character, in addition to being the name of Aespa’s debut song. SM groups beyond Aespa are incorporated into SM Culture Universe to varying degrees as well, but all of that is beyond the scope of this discussion.
In any case, two days after debut, on November 19, 2020, Aespa released a so-called “‘Black Mamba’ The Debut Stage” video, an edited performance of “Black Mamba” that again incorporated the group’s digital avatars alongside the actual human members. A day later, on November 20, 2020, Aespa genuinely performed for the first time with “Black Mamba” on Music Bank.
Despite COVID, Aespa had an extremely successful debut when it arrived on November 17, 2020 with the single “Black Mamba,” and it has been a major force of fourth-generation K-pop girl groups ever since. (Check out our archive of all the Aespa music videos for more.) In time, it was joined by the likes of IVE, Le Sserafim, and NewJeans.
For more about Aespa, check out how old all of the members currently are (or how tall they are), where the members are originally from, or who speaks English or other languages in the group. Or for another group that debuted in November 2020, check out the debut of StayC. Or if you just really love SM, you can step a bit further back in time to brush up on when Red Velvet made their debut.