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Winner (Hangul: 위너) is a South Korean boy band formed in 2013 by YG Entertainment and debuted in 2014. It currently consists of four members, Jinwoo, Seunghoon, Mino and Seungyoon. Originally a five-piece, Taehyun later departed from the group in November 2016.
The group was formed through the 2013 reality survival program WIN: Who is Next, where they competed as "Team A" against other trainees from YG Entertainment for the chance to debut as the first YG boy group in eight years, since the debut of Big Bang. At the conclusion of the program, the name "Winner" was given to Team A after they won all three rounds of public voting.
After several delays, the group made their Korean debut at the YG Family Concert on August 15, 2014. Their broadcast debut was on Inkigayo on August 17. On September 10, the group debuted in Japan. They won a number of awards for Best New Artist in 2014, including at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, the Melon Music Awards, and the Golden Disc Awards.
In 2010, the group's leader Kang Seung-yoon was a contestant on the singing contest Superstar K2, reaching the final four. The following year, he signed with YG Entertainment and made his acting debut in the sitcom High Kick: Revenge of the Short Legged. In 2013, he debuted as a solo artist and released multiple tracks, including "It Rains".
Lee Seung-hoon was also a former reality-show singing contestant, competing in K-Pop Star 1 in 2012. He came in fourth place and was recruited by Yang Hyun-suk. It was announced that Seung-hoon had signed under YG Entertainment on May 16.
Song Min-ho began his musical career as an underground rapper under the name "Mino", collaborating with other underground rappers-turned-idols such as Block B's Zico, Kyung, and P.O and SPEED's Taewoon. Mino was initially meant to debut with Block B, but left the group before their debut for personal reasons. In 2011, he debuted under Y2Y Contents Company as part of the group BoM, which disbanded two years later. In 2013, he joined YG Entertainment through an audition, after being spotted from his acting appearance in the 2012 series The Strongest K-POP Survival broadcast on Channel A.
Kim Jin-woo attended the Joy Dance Plug In Music Academy prior to joining YG, where he was seen by Big Bang's Seungri and brought to the agency. He became a trainee in 2010.
Nam Tae-hyun was recruited to the agency in 2011 through an audition. He and Jinwoo performed as backup dancers at the 2011 YG Family Concert.
2013–2014: WIN: Who Is Next and debut
The five trainees competed as "Team A" on the reality television program WIN: Who Is Next, broadcast on Mnet, in order to debut as a group. During the finale episode on October 25, 2013, it was announced that they had won the competition and would be debuting as "Winner", and would perform as the opening act for Big Bang's Japanese dome tour beginning on November 15. From December 13, Winner appeared in their own reality program, Winner TV, which had ten episodes aired on Mnet.
In 2014, Seungyoon and Mino featured on a track for Yoon Jong-shin's March project. Between June and August of that year, the group members were re-introduced to the public in anticipation for their debut, through a series of teaser images and videos.
Winner's official debut showcase was held on August 6, with their album 2014 S/S digitally released on August 12 and physically on August 14. Their first music show appearance was on Inkigayo on August 17, and they became the fastest male group to win on a music show by taking first place on M! Countdown during their debut stage. The album charted at number one on Billboard World Albums Chart while their lead single "Empty" achieved an "all-kill" in South Korea, becoming the group's first number one hit on the Gaon Chart.
On September 10, the group released the Japanese version of their debut album, 2014 S/S: Japan Collection which peaked at No.2 on the Oricon Daily Album Chart. They embarked on their first Japanese solo concert on September 11. The group successfully concluded the tour in Tokyo on October 11, drawing 50,000 fans in total. On December 9, 2014 Fuse announced their 13 Top Breakout Artists of 2014, with Winner coming in at #11 and being the only South Korean artists on the list. On December 17 Dazed Digital published their top 20 K-pop tracks of 2014 with Winner placing tenth with "Color Ring".
2015–2016: Solo activities, EXIT:E, and Taehyun's departure
In 2015, the group went on hiatus while the members pursued solo endeavors. Taehyun appeared in several acting roles, including in MBC's web drama Midnight's Girl, SBS's Late Night Restaurant, and the joint Chinese-Korean production Under the Black Moonlight. Seungyoon also returned to acting with the successful CJ E&M web drama We Broke Up, which garnered over 16 million views. Jinwoo appeared in the Chinese-Korean drama Magic Cellphone, while Mino competed on the fourth season of Mnet's rap contest Show Me the Money and finished as runner-up. A number of his digital releases from the program were commercially successful, including "Fear" featuring Taeyang, which became the show's most downloaded single with over one million digital sales. In September, the group embarked on their second Japan tour which wrapped up in October with over 36,000 attendees. In December, it was announced that the group would be returning from hiatus in 2016, with a comeback spread over five 'project releases'.
The group's first release in 2016 was a "warm-up" duet featuring Mino and Taehyun, titled "Pricked". Although the single was not promoted, it charted at #2 on MelOn and #1 on iTunes in nine countries. In the lead-up to the group's official comeback, a number of musical covers of their title tracks were released as promotional teasers, featuring artists including Lee Hi, Zion.T, Epik High, Taeyang and G-Dragon. The mini-album EXIT:E was released on February 1, and served as Winner's return after an 18-month break since their debut. Exit:E debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's World Albums Chart and at No. 3 on the Heatseekers Album chart. Lead singles "Baby Baby" and "Sentimental" topped eight music charts in Korea and received a real-time all-kill. Winner held their first concert, "WINNER Exit Tour in Seoul" on March 12 and 13 at Olympic Gymnasiums Arena in Seoul with additional stops in Gwangju, Daegu and Busan in April.
In April, Winner appeared on the JTBC variety show Half-Moon Friends. The show was popular in China, garnering 75 million views via the Chinese platform Miaopai. They were also named as celebrity ambassadors for 2016 Korea Brand & Entertainment EXPO by KOTRA. In June, the group then commenced on their third Japanese tour which drew 36,000 fans in total.
On October 12, YG Entertainment announced that Taehyun would be taking a hiatus from the group, and that the rest of the Exit Movement series would be delayed indefinitely. On November 25, Taehyun's departure from the group was announced. It was decided that Winner would continue as a four-member group, without any addition of new members.
In November, Jinwoo was announced as the lead in the production of The Little Prince by the Korea National Contemporary Dance Company. He is the first K-pop idol to be part of contemporary dance production. Also, it was announced that Seungyoon and Jinwoo will be starring in the web drama Love for a Thousand More. The web drama is a joint production of CJ E&M, YG Entertainment and YGKPlus.
2017: Fate Number For and Our Twenty For
Throughout January the members started hinting at an upcoming comeback, later it was confirmed by their agency YG Entertainment that the group would be releasing new music on April 4, with the single album Fate Number For. In late-March, several promotional teasers were released, ultimately unveiling the double title tracks, "Really Really" and "Fool". "Really Really" debuted at No. 3 on Billboard World Digital Song Sales, marking the group's best position to date; while "Fool" debuted at No. 4. "Really Really" was also chosen as one of the songs on Apple Music's "Best of the Week" list. As part of their promotions, Winner held a three-day "concept showroom" showcase, on April 2 to 4, at Club NB in Seoul's Mapo District, owned by YG founder/CEO Yang Hyun-suk. In May, Winner released their debut Japanese single, which contains Japanese renditions of "Really Really" and "Fool".
On August 4, Winner made a comeback with the single album Our Twenty For. Two singles, "Love Me Love Me" and "Island" was released. "Love Me Love Me" was chosen by Dazed Digital as one of the 20 best K-Pop songs of 2017.
As of December 2017, "Really Really" surpassed the 100 million stream mark, making Winner the first ever male idol group in history to surpass 100 million streams, while keeping their 'Chart-In' status.
2018: Japan tour and EVERYD4Y
In February 2018, Winner released their second Japanese single, "Our Twenty Four", which contained two new original Japanese songs, "Raining" and "Have a Good Day". They also embarked on their fourth Japan Concert Tour.
On April 4, the group's second studio album EVERYD4Y was released along with the title track "Everyday".