WINNER is a boy group formed by YG Entertainment in 2013 through the reality survival program WIN: Who is Next, where the members competed as part of “Team A” against other trainees from the label. The then five-member group officially made their Korean debut on August 15, 2014 at the YG Family Concert and their broadcast debut on August 17, 2014. They are currently composed of four members – Seungyoon, Jinwoo, Seunghoon, and Mino.
2010 to 2013: Pre-debut
Prior to their formation as a group, the members of WINNER have each been active in the music industry one way or another.
In 2010, their leader Seungyoon appeared as a contestant on the singing contest Superstar K2 and reached the final four. A year later, he signed with YG Entertainment and made his acting debut through the sitcom High Kick: Revenge of the Short Legged. He debuted as solo artist in 2013 and released multiple track, including “It Rains”.
Seunghoon was a product of another reality singing contest, “K-Pop Star 1,” in 2012. He placed fourth on the show and was recruited by Yang Hyun Suk. On May 16, he was announced to have signed under YG Entertainment.
Minho began as an underground rapper under the name “Mino” and collaborated with other underground rappers-turned-idols such as Block B’s Zico, Kyung, and P.O, as well as SPEED’s Taewoon. He was initially meant to debut with Block B, but he left the group due to personal reasons. In 2011, he debuted under Y2Y Contents Company as part of the group BoM, which disbanded after two years. He officially joined YG Entertainment through an audition in 2013, after being scouted from his acting appearance in the 2012 series “The Strongest K-Pop Survival”.
Prior to joining YG Entertainment, Jinwoo attended the Joy Dance Plug In Music Academy where he was seen by Bigbang’s Seungri and brought to the agency. He became a trainee in 2010.
Taehyun, meanwhile, was recruited in 2011 through an audition. He and Jinwoo performed as backup dancers at the 2011 YG Family Concert.
2013 to 2014: WIN: Who Is Next and Official Debut
All five original members formed the “Team A” that competed on the reality program WIN: Who Is Next, which aired on Mnet. In the final episode on October 25, 2013, it was announced that they emerged as winners of the competition and will be debuting as “WINNER”. They are set to be the opening act for labelmate Bigbang’s upcoming Japanese dome tour beginning on November 15.
From December 13, the group starred on their own reality program, “Winner TV”, with 10 episodes that also aired on Mnet.
In 2014, Seungyoon and Mino were featured on a track for Yoon Jong Shin’s March project. From June to August of the same year, the group were re-introduced to the public through a series of teaser images and videos in anticipation of their debut.
WINNER officially made their debut with a showcase held on August 6. They performed songs from their album 2014 S/S, which was released digitally on August 12 and physically on August 14. The group’s first music show appearance was on SBS’ Inkigayo on August 17. It was followed by their debut stage on Mnet’s M! Countdown where they won a music show trophy, making WINNER the fastest male group to win on a music show.
The album charted at number 1 on the Billboard World Albums Chart, while the lead single “Empty” achieved an all-kill in South Korea, becoming the group’s first number 1 hit on the Gaon Chart.
On September 10, WINNER released the Japanese version of their debut album, 2014 S/S: Japan Collection, which peaked at number 2 on the Oricon Daily Album Chart. The following day, the group embarked on their first Japanese solo concert in Tokyo. The tour ended on October 11, gathering 50,000 fans in total.
On December 9, WINNER placed #11 on Fuse’s list of 13 Top Breakout Artists of 2014 and was the only South Korean artists to do so. On December 17, the group placed 10th on Dazed Digital’s Top 20 K-pop Tracks of 2014 with their song “Color Ring”.
2015 to 2016: Solo activities, Taehyun’s departure
In 2015, WINNER went on a temporary hiatus to pursue solo endeavors for a while. Taehyun took on several acting roles in dramas including MBC’s Midnight Girl, SBS’ Late Night Restaurant, and the Chinese-Korean production Under the Black Moonlight.
Seungyoon also returned to acting with his role on the hit web drama We Broke Up, which garnered over 16 million views.
Jinwoo also appeared in a Chinese-Korean production, Magic Cellphone, while Mino joined the reality program Show Me the Money 4, where he finished as a runner-up. Some of his digital releases from the show were also commercially successful, including the song “Fear,” featuring BIGBANG’s Taeyang. The song became the show’s most downloaded single with more than one million digital sales.
In September, the group reunited for their second Japan tour, which wrapped up in October with over 36,000 fans in attendance. And in December, it was announced that WINNER will officially be returning from their hiatus in 2016 with a comeback spread out in five ‘project releases’.
Their first release in 2016 was the song “Pricked,” a duet featuring Mino and Taehyun. Despite not being promoted, the song charted at number 2 on Melon and at number 1 on iTunes in nine countries.
In the lead-up to their official comeback, WINNER released musical covers of their title tracks featuring various artists such as Lee Hi, Zion.T, EPIK HIGH, and BIGBANG’s Taeyang and G-Dragon.
WINNER released their mini album, EXIT: E, on February 1, 18 months after their hiatus in 2015. The album debuted at number 2 on Billboard’s World Albums Chart and at number 3 on the Heatseekers Album chart. The lead singles “Baby Baby” and “Sentimental” also topped eight music charts in Korea, being a certified real-time all-kill hit.
On March 12 and 13, the group held their first concert, “WINNER Exit Tour in Seoul,” at the Olympic Gymnasium Arena, followed by additional stops in Gwangju, Daegu, and Busan the following month.
They also appeared on the JTBC variety show Half-Moon Friends, a show that was popular in China and garnered 75 million views in the Chinese platform Miaopai, and were named as the celebrity ambassadors for the 2016 Korea Brand & Entertainment EXPO by KOTRA.
In June 2016, WINNER embarked on their third Japanese tour, drawing 36,000 fans in attendance with stops in Chiba, Fukuoka, Nagoya, and Kobe.
On October 12, YG Entertainment announced that member Taehyun will be taking a hiatus from the group due to mental health problems and that the rest of the group’s Exit Movement series would be delayed indefinitely. On November 25, the agency announced Taehyun’s departure from the group. It was also decided that WINNER will continue as a four-member group and will not be adding any new members.
Also in November, member Jinwoo was announced as the lead in the production of The Little Prince by the Korea National Contemporary Dance Company, making him the first K-pop idol to be part of a contemporary dance production. It was also announced that Seungyoon and Jinwoo will be starring in the web drama Love for a Thousand More, a joint production of CJ E&M, YG Entertainment, and YGKPlus.
2017: Fate Number For and Our Twenty For
In January 2017, the four remaining members of WINNER started hinting at an upcoming comeback, which was later confirmed by YG Entertainment to be scheduled on April 4. In late March, several promotional teasers were released for the single album, ultimately unveiling double title tracks – “Really Really” and “Fool”.
Upon the release of Fate Number For, “Really Really” debuted at number 3 on Billboard’s World Digital Songs Sales, their best position to date, while “Fool” debuted at number 4. “Really Really” was also chosen as one of the songs on Apple Music’s Best of the Week list.
As part of their album promotions, WINNER held a three-day “concept showroom” showcase from April 2 to 4 at Club NB in Seoul’s Mapo District. In May of the same year, they released their debut Japanese single, containing Japanese renditions of “Really Really” and “Fool”.
On August 4, the group made a comeback with another single album, Our Twenty For, featuring two singles “Love Love Me” and “Island”. “Love Me Love Me” was chosen by Dazed Digital as one of the 20 best K-pop songs of 2017.
By December 2017, “Really Really” surpassed the 100 million stream mark, making WINNER the first ever male idol group to surpass 100 million streams, with the song still being on charts.
2018: Japan tour and EVERYD4Y
In February 2018, WINNER released their second Japanese single, Our Twenty For, featuring two new original Japanese songs – “Raining” and “Have a Good Day”. They also embarked on their fourth Japan concert tour, titled “Winner Japan Tour 2018 – We’ll Always Be Young”, which ran until April. A total of 11 shows were scheduled in 7 cities (Chiba, Osaka, Kobe, Kawasaki, Fukuoka, Nagoya, and Tokyo).
On April 4, the group released their second studio album, EVERYD4Y, featuring the title track “Everyday”. The album consists of 12 tracks in total, most of which were produced by the members themselves with the help of other in-house producers at YG Entertainment, Airplay, Millenium, and Future Bounce, among others.
The album peaked at number 1 on Gaon’s Albums Chart and number 6 on Billboard’s US World Albums Chart, while the lead single “Everyday” charted at number 2 on Gaon’s Singles Chart and number 3 on Billboard Korea’s K-pop 100 chart.
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