BIGHIT MUSIC and HYBE IM have teamed up to introduce a brand new kind of artist.
MIDNATT, which means "midnight" in Swedish, unveils himself as the alter-ego of Korean soloist Lee Hyun. Taking on physical and sonic transformations, the artist MIDNATT is an artist ready to welcome new changes and champion evolution.
Embracing innovation, MIDNATT emerges with his first single, 'Masquerade'. Produced by famed K-pop producer Hitchhiker, MIDNATT's official debut showcases the artist's vocals aided by Supertone, an articial intelligence-based audio company recently acquired by HYBE.
The synthwave pop track is sung by MIDNATT in six languages – Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese – utilizing AI to help with the pronunciation and intonation in the different versions. The voice design technology has also allowed MIDNATT to be heard in different voices, while still staying true to his own unique vocal style.
In this interview, we had a chat with the artist on why he decided to unleash a new persona now, what it took to transform into MIDNATT, and how to balance the use of technology in creating music.
Hi, MIDNATT! How are you these days?
Many people now know me as MIDNATT and have shown me so much love. So I’ve been feeling very grateful these days and I’m also thinking a lot about what else I can share with my fans.
You’ve had a steady and successful career as a part of a group, and later on as a solo artist. Why is now the time to introduce an alter-ego in the form of MIDNATT?
My fans have shown me so much love and support throughout my career as Lee Hyun, and I’m very thankful for that. It’s what drove me to continue to make music and be on this path as long as I have. At the same time, I also had this longing inside me to try out a new style of music and challenge myself as an artist. And HYBE IM had the technology to bring this idea into fruition. So it was very natural for me to make a return as my alter ego MIDNATT now and show my fans a side of myself they’ve never seen before.
You’re HYBE’s first artist to make the use of AI to aid your craft, how did you make the decision to do so?
As I mentioned, I had this desire to explore a new direction, and this thought eventually led to this collaboration project with HYBE IM and BIGHIT MUSIC. While I was thinking about how I can show a new side of me in a more unique, untraditional way, I learned about the voice technology that HYBE IM had. I saw the use of technology as a tool that artists can use to freely express their message and develop their sounds in much more diverse, unlimited ways. Knowing this, I was very eager to be a part of this project.
What kind of work went into your transformation from Lee Hyun to MIDNATT? What distinguishes Lee Hyun from MIDNATT?
Along with the style of music, I tried to change up my looks as I’m taking on this new project with a new state of mind. For example, I have a beard now (laughs). I think the fans who are used to seeing me as Lee Hyun would have been quite surprised to see me as MIDNATT. Music-wise, MIDNATT is outside the box and all about innovation. Also, with the multilingual track 'Masquerade,' I think more fans around the world can easily enjoy and relate to my music now without language barriers so I’m very happy about that.
Where did you look for inspiration to transform into MIDNATT? Who were some of the artists you listened to for this project?
I think many things influenced my transformation as MIDNATT. Some quotes from the novel Demian and lines from the film Good Will Hunting were among what gave me the courage to take on this project. I don't know if you'd believe it, but I also listened to Jungkook of BTS, The Weeknd, and Frank Ocean, whose vocal styles are quite different from my previous style.
There’s a lot of talk and controversy about the use of AI in creative work, but MIDNATT’s strategy and approach is promising where in a way, it doesn’t fully replace the human element. Here, you specifically use AI as a tool to overcome language barriers and create a second (female) voice. In your years of experience in the industry, what do you think is the balancing act you must do in your craft with new technology and music-making as we’ve always known it?
This might sound like a cliché, but I reminded myself that I have to be conscious of the essence of this project. I think that it’s an artist's fundamental responsibility to bring fans a more immersive experience through music, and music ultimately exists because of that. So I tried not to forget this responsibility I had. There will be still more endeavours and challenges to come, but I believe that I can make positive changes if I don't forget the things that I shouldn't forget.
You’re on the lineup for Weverse Con Festival this June. Will you be performing as both of your artist personas – Lee Hyun and MIDNATT? What can fans look forward to about this exciting performance?
Yes! You’ll be able to meet both Lee Hyun and MIDNATT. I would love for the audience to understand the reason for my existence as Lee Hyun and MIDNATT with my festival performances. It might seem like a person with two different faces, but I’m preparing the stage so that each performance will have its own unique charms and the fans can enjoy both.
Go behind-the-scenes of MIDNATT's 'Masquerade' MV here.
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