Let's face it: K-pop dominates Asia's music scene. Tickets for last Saturday's concert by Big Bang member Taeyang sold out on the first day. And this year 2NE1's Crush became the first Korean album to get on Billboard's 2014 year-end World Albums chart, showing that K-pop is becoming more popular around the world.
So it's no surprise that local music groups are trying hard to learn from their Korean counterparts.
As One members Ng Sze-kai (or Shin as she's known on stage), 20; Chan Yuen-ching (Nata), 20; and Yau Nim-yan (Elfa), 21, were very excited to go to Korea to record their newest single. They also shot a big budget music video with the producers of Big Bang and 2NE1.
"When Oli [Wong Kai-yi, a former member] decided to leave the group to concentrate on her studies, we thought it'd be time for a fresh start," says Nata.
As One was formed in June 2012 by Sun Entertainment and choreographer Sunny Wong. At the time, the girls had just completed their DSE and had the image of a cutesy, schoolgirl group. Not many people took them seriously. Even Nata, who studied classical and hip hop dance, was not sure of the image. "I was like, what kind of dance is that? I can't do it!" she recalls. "Fans would expect me to be like, 'yeah' [does the V sign] all the time, and I'd be thinking, oh please."
The song New Girl was released in November, and the band hoped it would redefine them as a mature, edgy dance pop group. Last August they worked non-stop in Korea, first recording the song and then polishing their moves for the video. They practised the dance routine every day for eight hours, in four-inch stiletto heels.
"It was impossible. Our legs hurt really bad and were all swollen," says Nata. Elfa adds: "But you realise that you can actually achieve so much."
New Girl's catchy melody suits the girls' flashy K-pop dance moves. Shin, whose mother is half-Korean, also did a Korean rap.
A fan of K-pop boy band Winner, Shin says she hopes to be as good as them someday. "What are we working so hard for?" she asks. "To perform alongside Winner!" exclaim the others.
Many people doubted the girls at first. Even their close friends asked them why they wanted to do music. "They told me they were disappointed in me, like I just wanted to be famous," says Elfa.
But they kept working at it. "My friends that are in university are living a normal, conventional life, and I'm in this completely different world," says Nata. "But I know I'm experiencing other things, and doing what I like."