After helping launch Blackpink’s new single into the YouTube record books, Interscope Records is expanding its K-pop roster with one of the scene’s fastest-rising young stars, Somi.
Variety can exclusively share that Somi’s Korean company The Black Label — a subsidiary label of YG Entertainment that’s home to groups like Blackpink, BigBang and iKon — has teamed up with Interscope in partnership for the singer. The 19-year-old will be represented by Interscope and Universal Music Group worldwide, outside of Asia.
It’s probably safe to say that Blackpink will welcome Somi to Interscope with open arms: The singers” regularly support to one another’s projects on social media: Somi posted the single cover to “How You Like That” upon its release to her 6.9 million Instagram followers, while Blackpink member Lisa appeared on the “I Am Somi” webshow earlier this year.
With half a decade in the K-pop industry already, Somi (full name Jeon Somi) originally rose to prominence after appearances on popular Korean TV singing competitions. The Korean-Canadian star most notably competed on the girl-group competition show “Produce 101,” where she finished in first place and debuted in the highly anticipated-but-temporary troupe I.O.I that produced chart-topping singles including the No. 1 hit “Very Very Very” in 2016. Before breaking out on her own as a soloist, Somi appeared on collaboration singles, hosted television shows, acted in a Korean web drama and scored high-profile endorsement deals.
In 2019, Somi made her official debut as a soloist with “Birthday” (below), the single produced by Blackpink’s go-to producer Teddy that was also used in the trailer for Awkwafina’s Nora From Queens series. Somi makes her musical return this week with the racing, rambunctious track “What You Waiting For” on July 22.
“I’m very excited to join the Interscope and Universal Music family,” Somi tells Variety in an exclusive statement. “They have a great roster of artists I love and a long history of breaking acts. I’m looking forward to the next steps in my career and can’t wait to share my music with the world!”
Sam Riback, EVP and Head of A&R at Interscope, adds, “Somi stands-out with her unique and worldly approach to pop music. She is poised to be the next international breakout artist and is yet another great addition to the blossoming relationship we continue to build with Teddy Park, Black Label and the entire YG family.”
Meanwhile Black Label co-founder Teddy, who wrote and composed “What You Waiting For” with Somi, says: “Somi is an incredible artist and we look forward to showcasing her many talents to the world together with Interscope and UMG. She is a global star in the making and we believe that this partnership will take her career to new heights.”
Somi’s signing marks the latest, larger global move for YG Entertainment. While former YG artists like Psy, Se7en and CL all aimed to break the U.S. market, Psy was the only artist to sign a full-fledged record deal (with Republic Records, which has since ended) leading him to four chart entries on the Billboard Hot 100. Since signing with Interscope, Blackpink has broken through in the U.S. with their own singles and recently teamed up with labelmate Lady Gaga on the track “Sour Candy” from her “Chromatica” album.
Somi also marks a rare solo K-pop act to strike a deal in the U.S. While several boy bands (including BTS, NCT 127, Monsta X, ATEEZ) and girl groups (like Twice and (G)I-DLE) have teamed up with American partners, Somi is among the first soloists.