After competing in online contests and Korean TV shows, the 22-year-old Oklahoma native finds her place with Zanybros, a top K-pop video production team.
Thanks to years of important successes and growing visibility in the mainstream pop world, becoming a K-pop star has increasingly turned into one of the most sought-after dream careers, with one Oklahoma native spending years navigating to find her place — until today.
For more than three years, AleXa has been pushing her way into the K-pop scene in whatever way she possibly could — with it all culminating in her official debut on the scene Sunday (Oct. 20) with “Bomb.” Billboard is sharing the exclusive premiere of the single and music video that showcase the 22-year-old as a powerful, cyborg-pop diva, who’s at first seen discarded in a pile of dead dancers before finding her awakening and leading an army of fierce females in a post-apocalyptic world. If it sounds unconventional for a female K-pop star, well, this isn’t a conventional K-pop star.
AleXa’s journey took its first step onto the international K-pop scene when she was a standout contestant on “Rising Legends,” an online audition contest with Korean-pop powerhouse JYP Entertainment and long-running Korean-English news site Soompi.com. AleXa was named No. 1 in the dance category both in 2016 and 2017, when Soompi teamed up with Cube Entertainment, but didn’t ultimately land a spot in either company. Fast-forward a year later and the fans who supported the “rising legend” were reintroduced to her as one of the competitors on Korea’s sensational Produce 48 singing competition show that eventually created Billboard-chart favorite girl group IZ*ONE.
Now, AleXa is debuting on her own under ZB Label, the artist-management subsidiary of famous K-pop music video production company Zanybros, who have helmed visuals for BTS, EXO, HyunA and hundreds more acts. The move for Zanybros to sign AleXa as their first act marks an additional unexpected step in how one can find themselves in the K-pop scene.
“The reason we chose AleXa as the label’s first artist is because Zanybros’ core value has always been about innovation and driving new creative ideas in new areas,” Angelina Foss, head of ZB Label, tells Billboard of the company’s first release. “AleXa will be a multidimensional artist in a multiverse world created by ZB Label.”
Even on the set of “Bomb,” which Billboard attended for a day of shooting on location in Seoul earlier this month, AleXa was a bag of mixed emotions and sentiments.
While her voice was under the weather from spending the night at another K-pop concert (adorably croaking and coughing in between takes), her attitude was undeterred as she nailed impassioned take after take — with the directors only sometimes needing to call cut to have her fix her go-to “duck lips.” Even after the most fierce of shots — like when the young star would sprint across an old factory in chunky, multi-platform, thigh-high boots — AleXa would wind herself down and deliver a quick Fortnite dance move, all of which seemed to go over the staff’s head but made the 22-year-old smile.
AleXa’s parents were on the set of “Bomb” too, with both parents embodying that same positive energy that their daughter undeniably has throughout her career — one that’s moved in so many directions, with this shoot seemingly marking the day things were truly moving forward.
“The concept of AleXa and ‘Bomb’ is to create a thrilling escape for the listener and viewer,” adds Foss. “With the powerful performance of A.I. rebels as backup dancers and a bombastic music video, ZB Label’s goal is to create a distinct debut of a female solo artist. ZB Label wants to push the boundaries of international influence — experimenting with Latin rhythms and electronic elements to create a unique track with ‘Bomb’ that is both rooted in K-pop traditions and catered to the new global scale of K-pop.”
Kim Junhong, CEO of Zanybros, adds that this project was a long time coming for his company. “I am beyond excited to release a project we have been planning for so long. We found the perfect artist to work with for this concept that we are so fond of. We are a small and very diverse team of fantasts of the arts that makes us daydream, but we work hard together to be able to provide these exciting experiences to the audience.”
When it comes to AleXa, the rising star has only gratitude for those following her on this long, unconventional journey as it makes its big breakout moment. “Whether you have been with me for five years or five days, thank you so much for the support,” the starlet shares. “If you’ve been with me since the beginning, thank you for hanging onto me and believing in me. If you’ve recently found me, thank you for taking an interest in me and for showing your support!”
AleXa’s “Bomb” is out everywhere at Sunday, 11 p.m. EST/12 p.m. KST. Watch the full music video above as well as an exclusive behind-the-scenes video from the shoot below.